Digital & Media

Digital and media literacy demonstrated by the ability to create and evaluate content on at least one digital or media platform related to a specific communication initiative and audience.

The instructors pushed us in unanticipated directions, toward developing a range of technical communications skills in audio and video production. Although these assignments tended to be the highest anxiety-producing, they also resulted in some of the most memorable and fun experiences.

My personal favorite output was the digital project for COM 613 – “Constructing Messages and Audiences”, where I analyzed the press conference to announce the 2015 firing of Tom Ross as president of the University of North Carolina. Titled “22 Minutes of Doublespeak,” the video applied Peter Berger’s motifs for social constructionism to explain why the example of strategic communication failed so spectacularly.

Producing podcasts was another way to demonstrate digital literacy. To demonstrate branding concepts in COM 664 – “Organizational Identity and Brand”, I created a podcast that explored the distinctive identity of my favorite men’s clothing store, Bruce Julian Clothiers in Charlotte, NC. For COM 655 – “The Mediated Self and Changing Relationships,” I produced a podcast to enable teenagers to examine whether and how they adopted different face in their online and digital communications.

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Learning Outcomes

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Bookshelf over my desk, with MA Communications texts

Following are program curriculum and goals for the online Masters of Arts program at the Knight School of Communication. Click on the link for each goal to see examples of my related coursework.

Theoretical literacy within the communication discipline demonstrated by the ability to articulate at least one theoretical framework and use it to illuminate a real-life communication problem, strategy, or initiative.

Research literacy within the communication discipline demonstrated by the ability to create and complete at least one inquiry project that:

  • Articulates a communication problem, strategy, or initiative to be analyzed and evaluated
  • Adopts an epistemological standpoint
  • Locates, aggregates, and analyzes credible research
  • Drafts a literature review that supports and illuminates a chosen area of inquiry
  • Composes and supports arguments using at least one theoretical framework

Digital and media literacy demonstrated by the ability to create and evaluate content on at least one digital or media platform related to a specific communication initiative and audience.

Writing literacy for chosen audiences, including the ability to draft and format an essay in an appropriate citation style.

Ethical consideration within a communication situation demonstrated by the ability to identify, analyze, and evaluate at least one ethical dilemma or scenario related to communication and advocate a specific course of action.

Global awareness and understanding of international issues and practices related to communication demonstrated by at least one activity or assignment that asks students to explore a communication situation or problem from a global/international perspective.

Integrated theory and content learning by developing and completing a comprehensive communication project.

 

Graduate Coursework

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My MA Communications workspace for the past two years

Summer 2015
Social Creation of Organizing – COM 610 / Elizabeth Stephens
Communications Fluency – COM 601 / Tracy Schaeffer

Fall 2015
Communicating Mindfully – COM 616 / Leanne Pupchek
Constructing Messages and Audiences – COM 613 / Jaime Bochantin

Spring 2016
Creativity and Networks – COM 658 / Stravoula Kalogeras
The Mediated Self and Changing Relationships – COM 655 / Stravoula Kalogeras

Summer 2016
Communication and Culture in a Networked Society – COM 624 / Daina Nathaniel
Strategic Communication for Global Audience – COM 638 / John A. McArthur

Fall 2016
Organizational Identity and Brand – COM 664 / Renee Cowan
Leadership, Empowerment, and the Management of Meaning – COM 629 / Jaime Bochantin

Spring 2017
Expanding Communication Boundaries – COM 680 / Renee Cowan
Launching Passion into Practice – COM 681 / Renee Cowan

Ethics

Ethical consideration within a communication situation demonstrated by the ability to identify, analyze, and evaluate at least one ethical dilemma or scenario related to communication and advocate a specific course of action.

Produced during COM 616 – “Communicating Mindfully,” a paper and related video about conspiracy theories were good examples of addressing an ethical consideration within a communicative situation. My conclusion:

Conspiracy theories are a symptom of the broader problem for our political system, and to some degree others around the globe, of extreme polarization of viewpoints that is paralyzing decision-making, dividing the electorate and preventing the nation from addressing the most pressing needs and progressing. Decreasing levels of civic engagement and informed opinions among citizens have created a vacuum of public understanding, which cynical interests have exploited.  Until this trend is reversed, conspiracy theories are likely to remain a bothersome but potent force in our society.

Another example was a blog post for COM 616 – “Communicating Mindfully”, during a unit about health care communication ethics. I applied the principles found in our text to my family’s contrasting experiences during the deaths of my parents. This was a poignant example of the intersection between real life and my studies.

Research

Research literacy within the communication discipline demonstrated by the ability to create and complete at least one inquiry project that articulates a communication problem, strategy, or initiative to be analyzed and evaluated; adopts an epistemological standpoint; locates, aggregates, and analyzes credible research; drafts a literature review that supports and illuminates a chosen area of inquiry; and composes and supports arguments using at least one theoretical framework.

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With each paper assignment, the research regimen would begin anew. We learned to distill the topic for analysis, identify parameters and criteria from which to structure our research, then go hunting among online databases for peer-reviewed articles and other sources. The findings became the raw material from which to construct and prove the argument.

During COM 616 – “Communicating Mindfully”, I explored conspiracy theories as examples of abusive discourses that violated the communicative commitments inherent in public accountability ethics, most notably the “good” of integral learning from exposure to diverse ideas and positions in the public realm. The inquiry paper’s methodology was based on Michele Foucault’s concepts about society’s dominant system of power/knowledge dictating what is considered truth or “common sense,” using conspiracy theories about Common Core academic standards as the evidence. Here’s a video presentation of the inquiry paper’s findings.

Theory

Theoretical literacy within the communication discipline demonstrated by the ability to articulate at least one theoretical framework and use it to illuminate a real-life communication problem, strategy, or initiative.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 4.41.20 PMThroughout my studies, there were many opportunities to explore the practical applications of communications theories in real-world situations. One of the best examples came early on during COM 610 – “Social Creation of Organizing.” I applied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to analyze the effects of crisis on internal culture, using paid advertisements by Duke Energy in the aftermath of its infamous coal-ash spill in 2014. Among other learnings, I demonstrated that although such “mea culpa” texts ostensibly target public or external audiences, a major organizational goal in using them is to shore up internal culture. A crisis disrupts employees’ progression along Maslow’s hierarchy, and such ads are designed to restore a sense of unity, pride, and interdependence between management and workers.

In COM 613 – “Constructing Messages and Audiences,” a research project was the basis for creating a strategic communications plan based on Robert Putnam’s theories about social capital. The Charlotte, NC chapter of the Public Relations Society of America Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 10.20.15 PMgave me permission to survey its members with 15 or more years of experience in the field, to assess why their participation in chapter activities had waned. (In exchange, I gave the finished plan to the chapter board to use for its program planning.) Applying Putnam’s ideas, particularly the concepts of bonding and bridging capital, provided a theoretical framework strategy to increase participation by senior PRSA members in more substantive and sustainable ways.

Here’s a copy of the paper.

Writing

Writing literacy for chosen audiences, including the ability to draft and format an essay in an appropriate citation style.

The coursework required versatility in writing, in many forms and for different audiences. Of course, standard fare were academic papers of varying lengths that adhered to convention including structure, APA citations style, etc. Here’s one of many examples: a study that used Benoit’s Theory of Image Restoration to examine how Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors, attempted to address a crisis situation involving one of its products.

But we also expanded our writing to video and podcast scripts, presentation decks, blog posts — even haikus. Following are three examples.