Bone crackin’ cold Monday, 4 January 2010!!!

The year in media —  Time for a little review.

Let’s take on the Tiger Woods story:

What really happened?

Remember the template? It’s a tool we have used all year, or at least some of us have used it. I keep coming back to it, and for good reason, in fact the same reason. Snap!  It’s the only way to see through the fog of information, the garble of data and all the blowback of modern culture. Remember the “template” comes in five parts:

1.  Research. First you  must do your research in order to understand any medium or event. Today, in this class, we can skip the research because we know a lot about out subject:  the Tiger Woods story.  At the beginning of class, we looked at two items in class, one from Saturday Night Live, the other the actual emergency transmission from the accident scene: a goofy TV, satire and a frightening emergency call.

2.  Description. Once we’ve completed our researcher — and maybe while it is still in progress,  we can describe what the subject and the substance of our media inquiry.

3.  Analysis. Here, in this phase, we want to examine the information that we have collected through our research and in our description. It is important to work methodically, to separate information and data into its parts, so they may be arranged, rearranged and conisdered. As well, we should then think of other similar instanceswe know about that we can use for comparison. Here is the key to critical thinking: compare and contrast. We must think critically about relationships between the events we are considering and other events we already know about. It is a way to gain perspective, which leads us to the next element of our template: interpretation.

4.  Interpretation. The idea here is to think critically about the things you’ve described.  In some cases analysis can take the place of interpretation; and in other cases interpretation can come about as a result of analysis. You may remember that earlier in the semester we described interpretation as explaining what happened; whereas we described analysis as why something happened. When you engage in analysis, you are considering information for yourself. When you engage in interpretation, you are preparing to present your efforts to others.

5.  Evaluation. It may be the case that any one of these elements — analysis, interpretation, evaluation — can be used interchangeably or group together for added synergy. However, when we talk about evaluation, we might want to think about summarizing our ideas, to consider out conclusion, and make a determination about how the media operates, how it treated the subject at hand. And why. In this case we want to end our work by evaluating why the Tiger Woods story grew to be so large, so unwieldy and so damaging to such an enduring and successful figure in the public culture.

NOTE: After having had a chance to grade your papers describing the plot points in the movie “Gladiator,”  I decided it was time to raise the ante, to narrow our definition of what it means when we talk about plot points. Let’s get subtle. From now on, we’re going to talk about minor plot points and major plot points. Got that? The time has come to look at this notion of “plot points” in a little more detail.  Here’s a good definition I found while browsing the web:

“A good screenplay will have minor plot points sprinkled throughout the story, occurring a minimum of every ten minutes or so. Without these changes of direction, the story would drag between the main plot points. The turn of events must also be causal, however. If a plot point seems to come out of nowhere and makes no sense, feels contrived or is too convenient, the story is weakened. A turn of events should ideally catch us by surprise, and yet make sense in afterthought.”

And, of course, there is my standby —   Wikipedia: “In television and film, a plot point is a significant event within a plot that digs into the action and spins it around in another direction. It can also be an object of significant importance, around which the plot revolves. It can be anything from an event to an item to the discovery of a character or motive. The plot point is usually introduced at the exposition of the movie.

Noted screenwriting teacher Syd Field teaches that the ‘ideal’ movie plot has the first plot point occurring around the 30th minute of the film. Others say that two plot points define the three acts of a movie, and that, if this is a 120 min one, those plot points must be located around the 30th minute and the 90th minute.”


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