Previous Research Guide
Researching political candidates' policies in regards to health care, immigration and the War on Terror
While cassettes and CDs may increasingly be media storage devices of the past, their relationship to a person expressing him- or herself through song echoes even into the 21st century. These mixtapes are a material expression of love or remembrance in the same way chick-flicks are fodder for date night at the movies. They are art forms in and of themselves, of course, but they can also act as vehicles to say things that simple words can't. In short, they're arguments. Giving that special lady the right mix of fun and lovelorn songs can have the same emotional impact as reading a particular short story can remind of that perfect guy.
This course interrogates this interaction of media and relationships across multiple platforms: social (new) media, mass media, and personal media. While music is foregrounded, writing and visual arts will be equally viewed through a complimentary humanistic and scientific lens. Students will consult academic texts from the fields of neuroscience, sociology, and composition (among many others) as well as read excerpts from popular authors like Nick Hornby and Helen Fielding, and view clips from popular movies and television shows like The Notebook and Sex & The City. Ultimately, students will examine the relationships that people have to other people, places, and memories that are expressed as multiple media.
You may have feared that being a scientist required presenting your work in darkened auditoriums or sterile hotel conference rooms, where you read your paper aloud to colleagues snoozing in their chairs. Or, perhaps you worried that the only way to discover new scientific knowledge entailed a late-night visit to the library where you had to paw through piles of dusty peer-reviewed publications from official government or university organizations.
Luckily, those days are gone! Not only are libraries increasingly digital, so is the discussion. Also, long passed are the times when science was a one-way conversation. Social media have greatly enlivened and democratized science communication so that it now moves between scientists and various audiences. Scientific content is no longer static, nor is it merely for advanced researchers. Students can enter at any level and learn about research at university labs, exchange ideas with scientists, policy-makers and journalists, find their own publics, participate in online citizen science projects, wiki writing and crowd-sourced fact-checking.
Because the changing the social dynamics of science has also lead to many unreliable sources that compete with more accurate ones, scientists using social media are learning to assess content collaboratively to help provide better science in public communication. One of the particular obligations of university science students is to join the conversation, help review and revise content in the public sphere. Students in this course will actively engage in the evolving world of science communication and practice their scientific writing, research and oral presentation skills.
Drawing upon the ideas of Steven Johnson's book of the same name, this course explores how popular science writing enters public debates concerning issues of social and cultural welfare. In this course we will use readings from popular science writers like Johnson, Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers), Francis Collins (The Language of God), and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion>/i>) as a means investigating how popular science informs discussions about issues like video games and violence, economics and the common good, and the role of faith in the work of science, subjects that will inform our research projects.
Students in this course will have the opportunity to create a number of non-traditional, multi-modal texts, including short films and collaborative presentations, as well as learning to compose more traditional academic texts like the research paper and, most importantly, how to deliver scholarly findings in an engaging, innovative fashion. Overall this course will encourage students to interrogate the writing of science, while simultaneously learning about the science of writing.