COM 203 Observational Writing


What I want you to do in this writing exercise is first a focused, close observation, and then to write in a thorough, descriptive, and objective way about it. You will be graded on completeness and clarity. Whichever option you choose, make sure that you set aside time for careful observation, and take notes while you do that. Then, as soon as you can– and definitely within 24 hours– type these up with as much detail as you can recall/reconstruct. The longer you wait, the less you will recall, so its good to do this right away. The last step is then to turn this into a focused, organized piece of observational writing about media/communication. You will refrain from editorializing/judging except for your final “reflection” section at the end. Your completed observation should be written in clear, grammatically correct language, 11 or 12 point font, normal margins and formatting. Your name should be at the top of the page, as well as the date, which observation you did, and a brief descriptive title (as in: “Observation B: Staten Island Ferry, 9/20/2002” or “Observation A: Comparison of ​New York Times ​front page 09/11/2019 and 09/11/2020”). The finished assignment should be at least one page single spaced (or two, if double spaced). It can be longer. Re-read and edit for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If this is an area of challenge for you, utilize the virtual tutoring services BEFORE you turn it in (papers will be returned to you ungraded with instructions to use tutoring if needed). Observation A, Fully Remote– comparing media before and during Covid. Choose your subject: Choose a pair specific media texts– something in which you can make a direct comparison between pre-Covid and now. This could be a daytime talk show, a favorite radio program or youtube channel, a daily newspaper, an awards ceremony, a news cast, a live sporting event, an advertising campaign, etc. Make sure you select something where you can access and compare two like examples, so if its an NBA game, make sure you can watch one from before the league shut down, and one from the NBA covid bubble. If it is an episode of ​The Late Show​, then it should be a complete episode before and after production moved out of the studio. This may limit what you can choose; before you start make sure you have identified something where you can make a direct comparison between them. Take time for focused observation: This might require you to watch/engage with the media text once, and then go back to look again, or to stop and start as you go. Reduce your distractions and watch these in their entirety. If you find yourself bored, resist the temptation to skip, to multi-task, etc. Make a real effort to be open to observing what is there (and not what you expect to see, or remember seeing, etc). If you are a fan of something, that is okay, but take yourself emotionally out of it if you can– and really try to notice what is going on. Before you start, make a list of a couple of aspects you plan to maintain focus on, but also just be ready to see/hear/experience what is there. After you have spent time in observation, look back at your notes and fill in/expand anything you can. Notice what is the same, and what is different– about the content, format, and technical execution. Write it up:​As soon as is practical, write up a more formal observation. Citation: ​Cite both texts using MLA format. Overview: ​Summarize and give a quick overview of these media examples. Also, if relevant, you can include some notes about how you engaged/interacted with them. (where were you? Was this your first time with these media examples or is this something you are already familiar with?) Observations: ​Here, give as much detail as you can about each of the examples. Use descriptive, accurate language. Don’t assume we know a lot, don’t generalize or editorialize. Instead, focus on the objective things you can describe. This should be the longest part of what you write. It is up to you to organize what you have to say in a way that makes sense, but it shouldn’t just be your stream of consciousness. Reflection: ​This is where you get to share your own reactions, and tell us what you think- this is the space for your interpretation. Some things to consider: did anything surprise you? What do you think has changed not just about the delivery and execution, but about who the audience is or is imagined to be? Do you think there are aspects of the new “pandemic production” methods that might stay with us? What are the pros and cons of how this particular media maker is dealing with restrictions? (you don’t have to answer all of that, just some things you could talk about)

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