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Social Movements and Community Change - SOCI 360

SOCI 360 - Morrisville State College
Prof. Kurt Reymers

Media Interpretation Assignments:

Media Interpretation Due Dates:

MI#1: DUE NO LATER THAN Thursday Sept 19

MI#2: DUE NO LATER THAN Thursday Oct 10

MI#3: DUE NO LATER THAN Thursday Oct 31

MI#4: DUE NO LATER THAN Thursday Nov 21

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, news story, poem, piece of art, or some other form of media that you can interpret using the concepts developed in the reading. This reaction should include a summary/outline of the main theme(s) of the reading and the media interpretation written as a brief, but concise (at least 500 word) paper handed in as well as posted on the course Blackboard page. Students are required to submit four media interpretations in total, which should be spread throughout the course (a schedule will be created in the first week of the course). Students should be prepared to discuss their media interpretations 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 a brief example of what this assignment might look like (yours should be a bit longer):

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you aren’t being told," by Justin King, the traditional media portray the events at Ferguson, Missouri, using the now outdated ideas of social contagion.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.

-- Joe Student


Group Project - TBA

Group Project: 30% of course grade

The project component will involve the development of a “social movement” on campus. The project will be developed over several steps and should be related to the theoretical understanding of social movements discovered in your readings and class discussions. The report on your project will take the form of group oral presentations to the class at the end of the semester. More information will be given in class.

Group Project 1: Due Tues Sept 24 (5 points)

Group Project 2: Due Thurs Oct 24 (10 points)

Group Project 3: Due Thurs Nov 14 (10 points)

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