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Leadership and Media Literacy in The Age of Fake News and Big Data

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
July 09, 2018 - July 20, 20182M-F 9A-3POpenJames McGrath
11182not currently available for registration

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Course Description

Our phones, tablets, and laptops connect us to a seemingly-endless supply of information: ebooks, newspapers, social media, blogs, digital archives, encyclopedias. How do we stay afloat in this constant stream of media? While digital networks provide us with new modes of access and communication, they also present us with new challenges. In a media landscape dominated by fake news, viral content, bots, algorithms, and crowdsourced knowledge, how much time have we spent examining the ways technology has transformed the ways we learn about, inhabit, and critique the world around us? What does the prevalence of “Fake News” in our current cultural moment tell us about the importance of media literacy in the twenty-first century?

This course challenges students to pay closer attention to the media they create and consume on a daily basis. It also invites them to consider educational and professional contexts that benefit from the ability to read and write across various forms of media. In addition to focusing on the questions of argument, audience, and identity informing the conditions in which information and misinformation spreads and thrives, we’ll also consider the material conditions of knowledge production in these new media landscapes: the changing state of journalism in the age of clickbait and digital advertising, the role social media data and algorithms plays in shaping the news feeds we read, the impact of smart phones on what, where, and how we read about and document the world, and the rhetorical strategies that have proven effective in shaping public discourse in the digital age.

A survey of the long history of “Fake News” in pre-digital media (from examples of “yellow journalism” to Orson Welles’ “War of The Worlds” radio broadcast) as well as an overview of more recent projects (from Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency work on video game culture to social media activism like #BlackLivesMatter) will inform student work on an Action plan, wherein they will collaborate on the creation and publication of a “Fake News Fact Sheet.” Students will demonstrate their growing familiarity with how facts are created and debated online by analyzing and imitating several forms of popular digital writing: Wikipedia articles, Buzzfeed listicles, and internet memes (among other forms).

An understanding of media literacy is essential in professional fields where digital sites of communication and publication are prevalent, from marketing to journalism to work in the creative arts (among other contexts). This course provides a comprehensive foundation for future studies in a wide range of interdisciplinary humanities and social science fields including Media Studies, Communications, Digital Humanities, American Studies, Literary Studies, and History. Students with a wide array of career interests will find the course material relevant and applicable. While an interest in digital media is expected, students are not required to have prior experience as digital content creators. Students are not required to bring laptops or smartphones to class.

Please Note:

This course is part of the Leadership Institute, a two-week academic program that helps students cultivate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with effective and socially responsible leadership. This unique program consists of three integrated elements: academic content, leadership development, and the Action Plan. Our students are thoughtful and compassionate youth who are interested in social issues and creating positive change. Participants can look forward to full days in a community of engaged and curious learners.

Additional programmatic information may be found here:

Prerequisites: None required.

Instructor Bios

Jim McGrath, PhD (Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Public Humanities, John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage) is interested in new media, digital storytelling, digital archives, and internet culture (among other topics). He has written on topics ranging from public memorials to the history of internet memes to augmented reality. At Brown, Jim has taught courses in Digital Storytelling and supports student and faculty digital initiatives. Jim received his PhD in English from Northeastern University, where he was also Project Co-Director of Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive, an award-winning community project that collected stories and reflections on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Jim is interested in teaching a course on media literacy because he wants to help students learn effective ways of navigating the quickly-changing digital world we inhabit in the twenty-first century. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York (not the cool part). Jim's best friend is his dachshund, Charlie.