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Social Movements and Community Change

SOCI 360 - Morrisville State College
Prof. Kurt Reymers

Media Interpretation Assignments:

Media Interpretation Due Dates:

MI#1: DUE NO LATER THAN Thursday Sept 13

MI#2: DUE NO LATER THAN Thursday Oct 4

MI#3: DUE NO LATER THAN Thursday Nov 1

MI#4: DUE NO LATER THAN Thursday Nov 29

In reflecting on the readings, it’s not hard to come up with an example of a point made or theoretical understanding developed in the assignments. You will be asked to periodically complete a short reaction to the weekly reading assignments in the form of a “media interpretation.” This means you should find a book, website, TV show or movie, song, poem, piece of art, or some other form of media that you can interpret using the concepts developed in the readings. This reaction should include a summary/outline of the main theme(s) of the reading and the media interpretation written as a brief (fewer than 200 words) email to the professor, and must include source, author and basic citation information (so that I can get to the media source myself should I choose to review it). Students are required to submit four media interpretations in total throughout the semester at your convenience (however, no more than one per topic or chapter that we are covering, basically no more than one per week), which should be spread throughout the course. Students should be prepared to discuss their media interpretation in class. To receive full credit, the reaction must be emailed to with all of the inclusions noted above (citation, explanation and relevance).

Here's an example of what this assignment might look like:

Dear Professor Reymers,

To go along with the section of the textbook on the social contagion theory of Herbert Blumer, particularly his ideas about "milling" and the "circular reaction," I found this website that goes along with those ideas:


According to the author of the website, which is titled "Battle of Ferguson II: How protest turned to riot and what you aren’t being told," by Justin King, the traditional media portray the events at Ferguson, Missouri, using the now outdated ideas of social contagion. In doing some investigative journalism though, King puts the events into a better context, showing that the events did not take place in the manner told by law enforcement and that is assumed to follow the "circular reaction" of protestors by which riots are thought to start. Instead, the author describes the protestors being provked into action by the police. "The first few seconds of the footage shows a relatively peaceful protest that grows angry as the march is stopped by law enforcement up the road. It also shows a window being broken and protesters expressing their disapproval. The tear gas comes down on what is obviously not a riot. There are no burning buildings. After the initial blast from law enforcement, suddenly broken glass is everywhere. One of the people in the video mentions the sound of gunfire. Given that nobody was shot during the riot, the rounds he heard were either the police firing bean bag rounds or shots fired into the air." So, it seems as though rather than 'milling' about and circularly reacting to one another, the protestors were prompted to violence through an "emergent norm" of violence created by those who were supposed to be keeping the peace - law enforcement. Of course, this could just be one person's perspective on the Ferguson riots, but how the description differs from the mainstream media descriptions is certainly revealing to how interpretation and 'framing' is an important element of understanding collective behavior.

This media clip has showed me that the mainstream media often make assumptions rooted in social contagion theory based on now outdated ideas regarding how protests and riots start.

Thanks, Joe Student


Group Project - Voter Registration

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. - Plato

Group Project 4: In-Class Presentations (5 Points)

2018 Midterms Voter Awareness Project Presentation

For the in-class presentations, you should prepare a discussion of your experience with this project involving all group members that lasts at least 15 minutes and does not exceed 35 minutes. Each group member shoud speak for approximately the same amount of time. In your presentation you should discuss:

- Research: What sources did you (collectively) use to inform yourselves during the project?
- Methodology: What methods did you use to complete the project objectives (voter registration and turnout)?
- Political Education: What did you learn about the political scene?
- Course Integration: How did you understand the project with the help of the ideas and theories we have been learning in the course?
- Conclusion: What are your final general thoughts about the project and its success or failure, as well as about youth voting and political involvement in general?

I will be using a rubric to grade the presentation based on your inclusion of the above elements in each presentation.

Here is a SCHEDULE I made up (group order was chosen randomly) for the presentations:

Thursday Nov 29: Group 3, Group 4

Tuesday Dec 4: Group 1, Group 2

Thursday Dec 6: Group 5

Group Project 3: Due Thurs Nov 15 (10 points)

2018 General Election - Voter Turnout

Where is the polling place of each group member, specifically, and how will you get there?
(you can use this website: https://www.vote.org/polling-place-locator/)

Who is on the ballot? Have each group member identify ALL of the candidates and their parties for at least the state and national races of Governor, State Attorney General, Congress and Senate. Hint: You should be able to find a sample ballot for your polling place at your County's Board of Election website.

What strategies could be developed to "get out the vote" on a college campus? What motivates the youth vote?

Take an informal survey BEFORE November 6th of fellow students (n>30) to see if they are (a) registered to vote and (b) intend to vote.

Take an informal survey AFTER November 6th of fellow students (n>30) to see if they voted. Note reasons why or why not.

Do you think that this project was successful in getting out more people to vote than would have without this project? What is the value in participating in democratic politics? When does politics fail and when are social movements necessary to advance the causes of citizens?


Group Project 2: Due Thurs Oct 25 (10 points)

2018 General Election - Voter Registration

First, learn about what it takes to get registered to vote in NYS. Check out these websites and glean from them what you need to know to communicate to fellow students.

Rock the Vote

Campus Vote Project

Brennan Center for Justice

SUNY Voter Registration

Next, the group should develop a quick strategy based on what we have learned about collective behavior to get as many students as possible registered to vote before October 12. Using some of these techniques might help:

5 Steps to Running a Campus Voter Registration Program

Campus Election Engagement Project

How to Organize a Voter Registration Drive

Assess the effectiveness of your strategy to acquire registrations from fellow students after the period has ended on October 12 and answer the following questions in the report due Oct 25.

Report Questions:

What strategy did you use to get people to register to vote (where did you go, how did you approach, did you have any props or tools, etc.)? Was your strategy influenced by what you know of collective behavior?

Where did your strategy come from (a website, fellow student, past knowledge/experience, just made it up, etc.)?

What is the national percentage of U.S. citizens who vote in midterm elections?

How many people did you get to pledge to register to vote? How many do you think will follow through?

How successful do you think your strategy was? What were the difficulties you encountered?

If you could do it again, how would you change your strategy to be more successful?

Report will be due Thursday Oct 25 in class.


Group Project 1: Due Thurs Sept 20 (5 points)

Answer the following questions completely. You may wish to divide the questions amongst the group members, but note that some tasks may take significantly more time to complete than others, so divide fairly.

2018 Elections, New York Primary

What is a primary election?

When is the New York Primary Election?

Where can you register to vote?

What is the deadline to register to vote in the general election (on the first Tuesday in November)?

Where and how does each member of your group vote?

What voting district(s) does each member of your group reside within?

Who are the candidates in each of your districts?

Create a list of vetted, accurate, and impartial election information websites. Include source/citation information for each site.

How would you manage/dispense this information if you wanted to educate someone you know on the importance of voting?

Choose a group liason for this assignment to collate your answers into a single document and turn that document into me as a group.
Due in class on Thursday Sept 20