Project #35773 - Alternative Media Analysis

Lesson 12 Assignment: Alternative Media Analysis

Outline of Assignment:

Basic Description:  In a short paper, written in a standard essay format and of 4-5 pages in length, you will analyze a medium of persuasive discourse other than the printed word. These alternative media could include visual messages, such as magazine advertisements; mixed media messages such as one might find in a commercial or on a website; or televised spectacles such as a political campaign event, a publicity stunt, or a protest action. This paper is worth 15% of your final grade.

The Medium: The medium should have a strong visual component. Ideally, it would also be clearly delimited and reasonably concise; that is, you should know where it begins and where it ends, and you should be able to select a coherent portion that can be fully analyzed in the time you have to complete this assignment. A single print advertisement will suffice for this assignment, as will a short commercial, or a 20-30 second news report, with video clip, of a political or marketing event. I would, however, encourage you to look at national as opposed to local media; you want a message that has been crafted by “experts” who have the means to fully research, develop, and then execute their plans. 
            You should also be careful to choose a piece that is complex enough to sustain an analysis of this type. (But you should also keep in mind that many instances of visual communication are far more complex than they appear to be on the surface!)


Detailed Description:

Your analysis should have four basic elements. These elements need not be labeled or divided explicitly in the manner described below, but you should ensure that all four are covered in your paper.

Part One – The Message:

Your first step will be to describe the particular example you have chosen, as clearly and objectively as you can. If it is a single image: what do you see? What are its dimensions? How is the image laid out? What’s in the background? The foreground? How is the eye drawn across the image? What are the colors? What text accompanies or is incorporated into the image? What elements of visual design appear to be operating in this image? Likewise, if it is an event you should describe the basic parameters of the event as presented or portrayed in the media. How long did it last? What sections or components did it have? What was the first image you saw? What was the last?

Part Two – The Message Maker:

Your second step will be to research the company, organization, or agency that has crafted and communicated this alternative media message. You will want to gather information at three different levels. First, what are the general objectives that this company, organization or agency wants to accomplish any time it communicates with the public?  But, second, were there any special problems, opportunities, or objectives it specifically wanted to address with this message? And, third, how are these objectives/problems represented by the audience demographics for the source in which you found this message? What evidence can you find to support these claims?

Part Three – Interpretation:

In this section of your paper you will attempt to integrate the two components of your analysis into a reply to the following questions: How does the message you have described meet the exigencies you have identified, both general and specific, of the company, organization, or agency that produced it? Can you find any secondary sources that support this interpretation?

Your goal should be to “reverse-engineer” the message: you must think about it as its designers did, and try to figure out why they made the decisions they have made. Visual suasions are often very complex, even though they usually appear very simple and immediate; there can be as many working elements, and as many compositional decisions to be made, in the design of a magazine ad or a TV spot, as there are in an editorial or a short essay. Advertising, design and public relations professionals are highly skilled (and highly paid!) technicians of verbal and non-verbal persuasion, so you can be sure that every detail of a piece has been carefully considered, and that everything is there – or not there- for a reason. Nothing is left to chance, and nothing it what it seems. What exactly is the “product” or message that is being conveyed to the audience? Are they selling an object? An idea? A feeling? What is the “text,” and what is the “sub-text”? These are the kinds of questions you must ask in order to grasp the mechanics of your image or images.

And so your job is to figure out why the designers made their particular choices. In short, what are their motives, and how do they specifically implement them in the message?

Part Four – Conclusion:

Do you consider this to have been a successful piece of communication in/through an alternative medium? You should summarize all your previous observations, analyses, and outside sources so as to provide the strongest possible justification for your conclusion.

Note that you should not conclude your paper by saying something like: “This was a great ad – it was really funny. The intent of the advertiser was to get my attention and make me aware of their product, and they succeeded in this effort. So I think this was a very effective ad.” This is not a very interesting analysis, and it does not show a very sophisticated approach to the question of non-verbal persuasion. It is relatively easy to get someone’s attention, and humor is a tried-and-true means by which to do this – but a good question is: Why is this ad funny? Who does it appeal to? Why use humor, as opposed to other possible tactics? Etc., etc.

You must include a clear copy of (in a standard file format) or a precise website address for your ad or image. If you do not provide access to the piece you analyze, your analysis will not be graded.

This assignment is worth 15% of your final grade.


Criteria for Evaluation

Accuracy and completeness of your description

Have you fully, but “objectively,” described what’s there?

Quality of your research

Are you aware of the basic profile and current news regarding the message maker?

Coherence and consistency of your interpretation

Does your interpretation make sense? Does your interpretation account for the elements you yourself have described as dominant in this message?

Effectiveness of your argumentation

Is your conclusion warranted by the evidence and arguments you have assembled? Have you presented your final argument in an effective arrangement?

Grammar, Style, and Citation

Is the paper clearly written, in college English w/appropriate citations?

Subject Philosophy
Due By (Pacific Time) 07/25/2014 12:00 am
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