Sunday, January 29, 2012

family guy

cant touch me

women in the workplace

Ethos: does knowing she is a student make her less credible?

What's the point of the East of Eden/Oprah's book club illustrate?

not self-serving or easily manipulated ppl: viewers of family guy

FG intelligently satirizes some aspects of American culture

point out weaknesses and defects of U.S. society in mocking and sometimes intolerant way
reflecting the reality, commenting on it

thus, the instructional video not only funny but insightful

viewers recognize the sickly sweet and falsely sensitive sexism of the 1950s by observing just how self-serving the speaker of the video is

the messages denouncing and ridicules sexism rather than condoning it

Taking these comments at Face Value would be as foolish as taking Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal at Face Value

SATIRE, candor

typical critique of family guy: bigoted and crude

put bigoted words into the mouths of characters, but these characters not represented positively.

not all of it offensive

is it true that no one would want to emulate Peter?

FG does not aim to hurt, creators take certain measures to keep it from hitting too hard
--what are these measures?

FG breaks down taboos, but do these taboos exist for a reason?

does she do a good job trying in the Freud theme?

the funniest jokes are those that hit home the hardest. the ones that let our animalistic and aggressive impulses surface from the unconscious.

1.      How would you characterize Antonia Peacocke’s argument about the television cartoon Family Guy? What does she like about the show? What doesn’t she like? What would you say is her overall opinion of Family Guy?

As Peacocke writes in paragraph 8, “Family Guy intelligently satirizes some aspects of American culture”; this is essentially the argument she is making. What she likes about the series is what she sees as its generally amusing depiction of suburban life, which she is quick to point out is not meant to be realistic but rather outrageous as a means of revealing “the weaknesses and defects of U.S. society” (par. 12). She admits, however, that she doesn’t care for some of the more violent scenes (see her next-to-last paragraph), but her overall opinion is positive.

2.      Find two places in the essay where Peacocke puts forward arguments that she herself disagrees with. Analyze what she says about these arguments. What would you say are her reasons for including these opposing views?

Peacocke refers to arguments with which she disagrees in paragraphs 3 and 10, as well as paragraph 17. In the first instance, she initially acknowledges some merit to critical objections to Family Guy, but she later (par. 8) makes the point that such criticism results from a lack of familiarity with the show. In the other instances, she immediately argues against the position she presents. Including such opposing views makes clear that she has considered other arguments and reasonably rejected them.

3.      While making a serious argument, Peacocke frequently uses humor to make her points. Identify two or three examples where she does so, and explain the role that such humor plays in helping her develop her argument.

Peacocke uses humor in two ways, both in her own voice (note the wryly self-deprecating tone in paragraph 2) and in dialog snippets she excerpts from the series itself. The first example helps establish her relationship to the series, while the excerpts from the series serve to illustrate her thesis.

4.      Peacocke cites a number of authors with selections in this chapter, including Dana Stevens, Douglas Rushkoff, and George Will. How does she weave their ideas in with her own ideas? How fairly does she represent their views?

Peacocke uses Rushkoff’s analysis of young television viewers and The Simpsons as a way of supporting her own points about Family Guy; she intersperses his words with hers. She cites Stevens and Will for the opposite reason—in order to refute them.  Most students will say she represents their views fairly.

Friday, January 27, 2012

small change

starts w/example of a sit in
"it was like a fever, everyone wanted to go"

why this example?
no FB/twitter

activists once defined by case, now by tools

digital evangelist critics

Iran: ppl tweeting were in the West, they know b/c tweets in English!

activism pre-dates twitter

why take the risk of changing stauts quo when so dangerous?

what makes ppl willing to engage in this sort of activism?

degree of personal connections

high risk activism is a strong-tie phenomenon

the more friends critical of regime, more likely you are to join

social media activism based around weak ties

acquaintances are our greatest source of new ideas and info

weak ties don't lead to strong activism risk taking

Help Sameer campaign

how did it succeed? by not asking too much of ppl

not the same kind of activism, no risk involved

increase participation, less motivation

Save Darfur: 9 cents each!

no real sacrifice

Another distinction: no hierarchy in social media activism

they're networks
decisions made by consensus. thus difficult to reach consensus and set goals
example: occupy wall st.

ex. wikipedia
PLO began as a network

1970s germany, left-wing terrorists, hierarchy
al-qaeda a hierarcy once, now a network

if you want to make systemic change, if you take on a powerful and organized establishment, you need hierarchy

boycotts/sit ins: high risk strategies

twitter wouldn't have helped MLK/civil rights movement, only discipline, strategy, people with strong ties

DIFFT than yesterday--internet isn't as powerful as we think

instruments of social media don't challenge the status quo, only to make existing social order more efficient

last line



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

dana stevens, thinking outside the idiot box


videos (sept.)

1) In her opening paragraph, Stevens summarizes Steven Johnson's argument from "Watching TV Makes You Smarter". How can you tell Stevens is not speaking for herself here, but rather, describing a view she disagrees with? What clues within the text can you find that signals her intent?

2) What sepcific criticisms does Stevens make of the Johnson essay? Which one is most persuasive to you and why?

3) While strongly disagreeing with Johnson's view that tv viewing can be intellectually enriching, Stevens insists that she also does not like the "wet blanket Puritanism of the anti-TV crowd. What exactly is Stevens' position?

4) How do you think Steven Johnson might answer Stevens' objections?

response to Johnson's piece

What's going on in first paragraph?


reduces his thesis to: tv shows have grown more complicated

great leap forward in human cognition: multi-threading

Her take-away: "watching TV teaches you to watch more TV"


1) problem with the way he defines intelligence. If intelligence is in fact "Attention, patience, retention, parsing of narrative threads, then it is a solid argument.

But does that make us smarter?

2) fails to account for commercials (16 minutes worth)

3) dismisses Muslim terrorist and torture controversies

4)  24 challenges audience with intricate plot lines while discouraging them from thinking too much act ethics

"It's really good at teaching you to think act future episodes of 24"

wet blanket Puritanism of the anti-TV crowd

endumbening effect of TV-viewing

TV B gone: a tool of social control, content-based censorship

who decides what is offensive/controversial?

patronising: adults should be able to decide for themselves

should choose shows b/c we like them

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Watching TV Makes You Smarter


Why the Woody Allen quote at the beginning?

things we normally think of us bad for us, like deep fat/cream pies/hot fudge, are in fact not (and things good for us are in fact bad)

Starts with 24. What's controversial about 24?

Depiction of Arabs, terrorists, violence. ("Explicit violence, post-9/11 terrorist anxiety")

Whats changed about television over the last twenty years?

-content and form

What is the view he is arguing against?

-common thinking: mass culture appeals to lowest common denominator b/c masses want dumb simple pleasures ((example: Kardashian). media gives masses what they want. why? ratings!

an episode of 24 suggests the culture is getting more cognitively demanding.

to keep us with 24, you need to make inferences, track shifting social relationships, PAY ATTENTION

multiple characters and story lines

What's the trend in TV?

must pay attention, make inferences, track social relationships.

Sleeper Curve: most debased forms of diversion (video games, violent tv), are in fact nutritional. Pop culture has improved our minds.

enhance cognitive abilities, not dumb them down/

THE USUAL Argument?

 lose moral clarity, gain in realism




p. 25--skeptics might argue that he's focusing on highbrow shows, when in fact everything is now reality t.v.

but if you're talking about joe millionaire, need to compare it to its equivalent

shows more demanding, even the junk has improved!

how to test the Sleeper Curve: watch a show from the past and see how bored you get

--a change in the criteria we use to determine what really is cognitive junk food and whats nourishing

the true test: does a show engage or sedate the mind?
does it map a complex social network?

What about DVDs? How does that change things?
-watch shows multiple times

Steven Johnson, Watching TV Makes You Smarter (p. 213)

1.      Steven Johnson makes clear in his opening paragraphs what view he is arguing against. What is that view (his “they say”)? How does the dialogue from the Woody Allen movie Sleeper relate to that view?

Johnson is arguing against the conventional wisdom that television viewing has mostly negative consequences. The opening dialog from Sleeper comically skewers similarly conventional wisdom about nutrition.

2.      Johnson’s own argument relates to the intellectual effects of television viewing. Find his thesis statement, locate his supporting discussion, and write a concise summary of the whole argument.

Johnson states his thesis at the beginning of paragraph 4. His argument could be summarized as follows: Television programming today makes increasingly complex cognitive demands of viewers and so has the effect of requiring greater attention and enhancing people’s cognitive facilities. Support for this view includes the fact that the best contemporary dramatic programs are made up of “multiple threading” (that is, many different plot lines involving a wide variety of characters) and are less likely than before to provide “pointing arrows” (detailed explanatory or background information), thus asking viewers to detect subtleties in their storylines. At the same time, so-called reality programs such as Survivor and The Apprentice keep viewers on their toes by constantly introducing new challenges and changing what seem to be the rules; they also test social networking skills by requiring that viewers pay close attention to participants’ personality traits.

3.      Pick an example of popular entertainment that Johnson discusses or another one of comparable quality that you are familiar with, and imagine how someone could use it to make a case against Johnson’s argument.

Student responses will vary, but you might initiate discussion by having students estimate what percentage of current programming reflects the kinds of cognitive challenges on which Johnson bases his argument. In addition, you might refer to program ratings. Wildly popular reality shows such as Dancing with the Stars and American Idol are clearly not challenging in terms of Johnson’s characteristics.

4.      Compare Johnson’s view with that of Dana Stevens, whose essay “Thinking Outside the Idiot Box” follows on p. 231. Which piece do you find more persuasive, and why?

Again, student responses will vary. They should recognize that Stevens criticizes Johnson’s argument on the grounds that it is based purely on cognitive science, doesn’t make accurate comparisons with programming today and that of the past, ignores the presence of advertising throughout, and dismisses the negative content—as opposed to the narrative structure—of a program such as 24.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Who is Buffett?

--philanthropist, world's wealthier people, investor, personally frugal

What's unique about this piece?

Arguing against interest

Super-Rich, because we hate them, incites anger

coddle = spoil


Middle low-class Americans


12 members of congress going to restructure taxes, reduce deficit by 1.5 trillion (p 3)


incites anger. p1
humor p1 (sarcasm)

"Shared sacrifice"--ethos

on page 2, who is he speaking to?

--opponents of raising taxes for mega-rich

Who does he invoke?

--his mega-rich friends (p 3)

--Offers specific recommendations

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Everything's an Argument

Why the Zimbabwe and Iraq example?

What is an argument?

--any language--written, spoken, visual--that expresses a P.O.V.

Difference b/w argument and persuasion?

use evidence and reason to discover some version of the truth

lead an audience toward conviction

persuasion: to change a point of view, move an audience toward a course of action

--discovering truth v. trying to convince

Mad Men lipstick scene

All language persuasive?

Hawkeyes T shirt? Sorority shirt? Livestrong bracelet? Red Sox cap? Bears cap?

Audience? Intended v. invoked

Appeals to audiences

Pathos: arguments that generate emotions in readers to shape their responses (anger, fear, jealousy, empathy, pity, love)

Ethos: writer's presentation of self, seeming trustworthy

build credibility by expressing shared values, demonstrating expertise, being even-handed, showing you respect both sides

conveying respectability and authority

What was Romney's ethos? Obama?

Logos: facts

use of reasons and evidence

Rhetorical situation. Each element has the power to affect the others