A PDF overview of the assignments for COM 327 is available here.

The overall grade breakdown is as follows:
Participation & quizzes: 15 marks
Portfolio assignment #1 (due Jan. 22): 10 marks
Portfolio assignment #2 (due Feb. 26): 10 marks
Group presentation: 10 marks
Mid-term (in class on Feb 28): 15 marks
Final project: 40 marks



Participation in this course is mandatory, and includes both attending class and doing the assigned readings.

Each class will feature a quiz based on that day’s reading(s). You have to be in class to do the quiz, and you have to have done the readings to do the quiz correctly. You will start with a perfect attendance score (15/15), and lose ½ mark for each quiz you either missed or got incorrect.

Do the readings and show up and you should be OK for the quizzes.

Portfolio Assignment #1: “Go Meta.”


Due before midnight on Tuesday, January 22

Choose 2 articles, from different critical approaches, that deal with the same media franchise.

For example, choose an article that does a political economic reading of World of Warcraft, and an article that uses queer theory to analyze World of Warcraft.

Note: Do not select articles that we are reading in class! See below for a list of journals you can draw from.

Create a 4-page report that compares the two approaches. The emphasis here is not on, “what does each say about [the franchise]?” but rather, “how do the different arguments and perspectives, applied to the same franchise, illustrate the differences in these two approaches?”

The report should include the following:

i) Introduction (2 marks):

Explain the franchise, the central argument each article makes about the franchise;

ii) Chart (2 marks):

Create and fill in a chart comparing the two articles, with the following headings:

Franchise being studied;

Research question (what specific issue are they trying to address?); 

Approach (which critical theories are they drawing from?);

Limitations of study / approach

** Note: we will model this same approach in class on Tuesday, January 15.

iii) Analysis (5 marks): Analyze this comparison with reference to specific parts of each article. Focus on the differences in perspectives.

Drawing from course readings and in-class discussion, talk about which critical approach YOU would use to study this franchise, and why.

iv) Perfectly formatted Works Cited section (1 mark).

Good sources for journal articles (either free online or available through the NCSU library):


First Monday

Critical Studies in Media Communication

Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies


Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies

New Media & Society

Surveillance & Society

Games and Culture


Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

Communication, Culture & Critique

Portfolio Assignment #2: Power Map.


Due before midnight on Tuesday, February 26

Conduct a (small-scale) political economic study of a media franchise.

Choose one “trans-media” franchise.


■      Harry Potter
■      Ironman
■      Walking Dead
■      The Biebs
■      Halo
■      Twilight

Using Prezi, make a “map” of this franchise connecting it to the corporations that own it, the audiences that watch it, and the issues it is associated with in the news. Use a combination of text, images, and links to videos or audio clips.

Your ‘map’ should cover the following:

i) Ownership and production

What corporation owns the franchise? What else does that corporation own? Where are their offices located? Where are their factories located?

ii) Audience

Who is the intended audience? What other media franchises are popular among this audience (in other words, what else does this media franchise have to compete with for the attention and money of the audience?)

iii) Public

Look for this corporation in the news over the few (5-10) years. Summarize the major controversies they have been associated with: labor issues? Legal battles over copyright? Moral outrage over the franchise?

Group Presentations.


In groups of 3, prepare and deliver a 15-minute presentation focusing on 1 of the articles for that specific class.

Form your own groups. Only 1 group can present per class. Presentations are assigned on a first-come first-serve basis (e.g. if you want to cover a particular assignment, act quick).

Presentations should involve a multi-media “close reading” of the article.

i) Provide the context (3 marks):

What media franchise, practice, community, or communications technology is the article about?

ii) Outline the approach (2 marks):

What theoretical traditions / disciplines are the authors working in?

iii) Unpack the article (3 marks):

Review the article’s central argument & discuss its implications for your own everyday communicative practices; the way you understand communications technology and/or popular culture; the kinds of work you do or want to do.

iv) Discuss the limitations (2 marks):

Based on your group’s reflection on the article, and on other readings & discussions we’ve had in class, review some of the key considerations or perspectives that the article misses.

The same mark will be given to the each member of the group. It is the responsibility of group members to notify the instructor, well beforehand, if any other member(s) are not contributing to or communicating with the group in a satisfactory manner.

In order to get the best mark possible, groups are encouraged to do the following:

– practice beforehand;

– divide speaking roles evenly;

– make effective use of ‘real life’ examples through multi-media;

– connect your presentation to other course readings & discussions.



In-class on February 28th

Choose 1 from 4 possible questions and write an essay-form response to it.

We will be doing a mid-term review in class on February 26th to go over possible questions and work out ways of preparing and responding to them.

Final project: Critical Making


Proposal evaluations: 5%

Presentations: 5%

Write-up: 10%

Final product: 20%

Make a MULTIMEDIA TEXT that uses one or more critical perspectives/theories covered in the course to analyze some specific ways that media (and media industries) shape our everyday lives.

You are required to work in pairs.


  • A Lego stop-motion animation about gender and identity in video games
  • An ‘interactive fiction’ (text-based adventure game) about media ownership
  • A short mockumentary about intellectual property laws
  • A game prototype or game design document about racial stereotypes in advertising

Proposal evaluations (5%)

Prepare a 1 page, point-form overview of your final project, due IN CLASS on Thursday, January 31. Your overview should include:

– Purpose & rationale for the project

– How it links to course themes (what makes it “critical” and what theories/perspectives you’re drawing from)

– Description of the final project (what is it supposed to do)

– Timeline for completion

Bring your proposal to class on January 31. During class, you will i) present your idea to 2 other groups, and ii) give feedback on 2 other groups’ proposal.

Use this form to give feedback.

Presentation (5%)

On April 23 & 25, each pair will present their final project to class. Presentations should be no longer than FIVE minutes!

This is basically a chance to show your final project. Presentations should cover the following:

1) The background and rationale for the project (1 mark);

2) A short demonstration of the project (2 marks);

3) What makes this “critical”, and what theories/perspectives you’re drawing from (2 marks).

Write-up (10%)

Due May 9

To go along with the final project, write a report (min 7 pages) that does the following:

1) States the purpose & rationale for the project (2 marks)

2) Links the project to course themes and to SPECIFIC readings (3 marks). This section should answer the question, “how is this project critical?”

3) Discusses the difficulties and challenges you had. These should include both practical difficulties (like learning a software program) and conceptual difficulties (for instance, if you’re making a feminist video game, what makes it feminist?) (3 marks)

4) Breaks down who in your group did what (1 mark)

5) Has a complete and perfect Works Cited section (1 mark)

Final product (20%)

Due May 2nd

The final product should make use of one or more critical perspectives/theories, applied to an analysis of a popular culture franchise or communications medium. The key is to present this analysis in the form of a multimedia text: game prototype, short film, website, podcast, etc.

Some general guidelines:

1) Make sure whatever you do, that you can connect your work to class readings & themes.

2) One key outcome of this should be teaching yourself a new technological / production skill.

3) Satire and creativity are your friends; be creative. Let South Park, science fiction, etc inspire you.

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