However, I think I've scared the shit out of my TAs by declaring that the students will write their essays on wikis, find the subject matter for their assignments online, and be required to include images with their wiki-essays.
UPDATED to add: Why a wiki? Because then the TAs and I can track how much each student contributed to the writing and editing of the essay. Making the division of work transparent has always been a problem of mine, as I find the students don't self-report particularly well, even when asked to report on their group members' contributions to a project.
Anyhow, here's the draft of assignment's core:
Perform a cultural analysis of one of the following:
Where can you find commercials? On corporate web sites, on TV (tape or digitally record them yourself), on YouTube, and elsewhere. For example, here are a couple I found on YouTube. They’re both from Carl’s Jr., are recent, feature celebrities, and raise similar issues:
- a series of food commercials or print advertisements from the same corporation/organization (e.g. Carl’s Jr. or the Dairy Board), from the same time period and on a similar theme (e.g. 1980s coffee ads), or advertising the same kind of product (e.g. fast-food chicken). You should cover three or four commercials or advertisements.
- a series of advertisements (print, web, and TV, for example) for a single non-food product (e.g. SUVs or pharmaceutical products) that incorporates food literally or as a metaphor. Again, you should use three or four ads or commercials.
If you go the YouTube route, be sure you are using real commercials, not parodies or remixes.
Here's the tricky part, oh bloggy academicians: We won't be reading any articles that deal with analyzing ads, and the students did a pretty lousy job of analyzing that damn movie in their first paper. I could require them to do a traditional, albeit lightweight, research paper based on some of the course readings on food-n-culture, but I'm afraid that's asking for trouble, too--and it might mean a LOT more work for the TAs, as of these 100 students, I'm guessing maybe 7-10 have any facility in the library (and that's being generous).
So: What would you do to help the students make the bridge between food-n-culture readings that discuss race, ethnicity, class, and gender (and more) and advertisements that may use race, class, and gender (and a bunch of other things) to sell food or other products?
I'll perform a sample analysis for them, but in the past I've found that students stick a little too closely to the template I provide--that is, if I talk about the way an ad uses sex appeal or Americans' desires for higher class status, they'll all write about sex and status.
As always, many thanks for all your fabulous help. Your advice to me on the TA situation has helped me better think through it.