Crowdfunding in the Classroom



image via TechCrunch/Shutterstock


I’ve been struggling for a while now to incorporate a meaningful, interesting segment on crowdfunding and crowdsourcing into one of my social media theory classes. So far, those efforts have resulted in middling explorations of Trinbagonian Kickstarter projects and reiteration of the “social media empowers audiences” theme. It’s a topic I was beginning to dread covering, but this semester, I have an opportunity to add a lot more substance to my illustrations.

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Why study media?

The following is an example post for students of my introductory media theory courses:

image via Shutterstock


A few years ago, while speaking to other students at a graduation, I jokingly remarked that due to my programme of choice, every movie I watched, every video game I played, and even every podcast I listened to could be considered research. I was only half joking, though. I had, after all, been studying mass communication.Time and time during my studies, I was able to illustrate concepts and deepen my discussion of theory by using examples of everyday media. I explained convergence and consolidation using Sony’s virtual monopoly of Spider-Man-related electronic media in the early 2000s. A page of Vladimir Putin memes sparked a discussion that I later referenced in an essay on public relations. Critical observation of media has always reaped rewards for me professionally, whether as a teacher, a former reporter, or a freelance writer. And media studies has remained a fresh and exciting field to me because it’s based on an ever-developing, ever-changing media landscape.

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On heroism and representation in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The following is an exemplar blog post for COMM 365 (Audience and Reception) students.

I’m conflicted about Finn.

Like most moviegoers, I was fooled by JJ Abrams’ mystery box marketing and went into Star Wars: The Force Awakens expecting to see the character established as the new Luke Skywalker of the series. As a black nerd, even an older, jaded one, the idea of a young man of colour becoming the central figure of that fabled universe was…exciting.

Finn is not that sort of hero.


I want this poster, though.

Finn is not the gifted, hypercompetent Chosen One who is fated to vanquish the Great Evil in one-on-one combat. In a bit of a twist, that honour went to Rey, the female co-lead whose role in the story remained obscured in trailers and posters. So while we were teased by images of John Boyega wielding a lightsaber, it was Daisy Ridley who used it to devastating effect in the film’s climactic duel.


I have to admit: I was a little disappointed. And I wondered whether that made me a hypocrite. The film had, after all, delivered on its promise of a more diverse cast. But instead of appreciating the cultural shift that made a woman the center of the Star Wars universe, I sat there feeling deflated that Finn wasn’t the hero.

But Finn is still a hero.

And I’d argue he’s the most heroic figure in the movie. He’s a character who instinctively knows the right thing to do, who overcomes his own fear, even in the face of overwhelming odds. It makes him stand out as the most relatable character, the everyman, in a movie where most of the other characters seem almost superhumanly fearless. Played wonderfully by Boyega, the character brings energy, humor, and a sense of wonder to every scene, and, more importantly, brings out the best in his co-stars*. At least, that’s how I see him. Others, not unreasonably so, are less impressed, and see problematic aspects in the character. The debate rages on.

One of the problems with feeling underrepresented in film is the all-or-nothing attitude audiences often unwittingly adopt towards characters. A woman is either a badass or a damsel. A black character with a sense of humor is automatically a minstrel. Every character of colour carries the hopes and fears of an entire group on his or her shoulders, and it often prevents us from appreciating nuanced performances or portrayals. Every minority character needs to be “perfect”, whatever that might mean to the millions of different perspectives that make up minority audiences. But perfection is boring. And if the end goal is simply to be represented as “normal” people, sometimes we need to appreciate “normal” characters.

finnmill1So Finn is not the unerring badass that Samuel L Jackson’s Mace Windu was in the prequel trilogy. He’s not that super-negro cliche, the
token minority character of immense power or skill, but little to no personality. Neither is he the magical variant, as his growth and change are, along with Rey’s, central to the movie. And he’s not (or not yet) the black jedi superhero I wanted to see. What he is, though, is a great character whose journey I’m still excited to witness.

*In this regard he reminds me a lot of Michael B Jordan’s character in the movie Chronicle, a portrayal that’s worthy of its own blog post in the future.

(550 words)

How to Market on Social Media and get away with it

(This week’s post is a guest column by my colleague and fellow COMM 351 lecturer, Ms. Nikita Yorke.) 

1A wise man once said “One of the greatest challenges companies face in adjusting to the impact of social media, is knowing where to start.” Social media is an ever-changing, multifaceted, collaborative medium that can either make or break you. It can be the greatest evil or the most beautiful advantage; it depends solely on how you choose to use it.

One of the greatest benefits of social media is the relaxed environment of communication. It creates a voice for the voiceless, an image for the invisible and confidence for the shy. Is it any surprise that organisations want to capitalize on this magic medium?

Social media has now come to be one of the main building blocks of a company and allows them to strive as an organization. Here are some essentials to making sure your business is social media ready and can gain a wealth of attention.

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What makes your work worth sharing?

In our first class, I told you that bloggers and vloggers should have a unique voice. There should be something special about what they share, or how they present it.

This is what I meant.

Let’s talk about what we can learn from Zach Anner’s YouTube channel.

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Widgets and gadgets: The building blocks of your blog’s layout

What’s a widget?

image courtesy CPA Training Vault.

image courtesy CPA Training Vault.

Aside from templates, widgets will be the most important choices regarding the look and functionality of your blog. Widgets (called gadgets on Blogger) are small visual utilities that display specific content or connect your blog with another social media service.

You most likely already have a few widgets on your blog. Those little boxes with About Me, Archives, Recent Posts, Categories are usually added to your left or right sidebar by default, and they’re some of the simplest and most ubiquitous examples of widgets. But widgets can range from calendars to small games to background music players to, as we discovered last class, a picture of a puppy that changes every day.

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Moderating comments

This is social media, so I’ll be expecting all of you to provide feedback on your classmates’ blogs, like and join their various pages, collaborate, and otherwise interact and connect with each other. In this post, we’ll quickly run through the basics of moderating the many comments you’ll be receiving from your classmates this semester.

By default, WordPress and Blogger are both somewhat restrictive in terms of allowing readers to comment on your blog. This is due to potential abuse of the commenting system by advertising spambots or malicious readers. To comment on your blog, readers usually have to be signed in to their Google or WordPress account. For this course, I encourage you to decrease that security level a bit to allow your classmates and readers to more easily leave comments on your posts. The options in both services are extensive and fairly self-explanatory.


Discussion settings in WordPress

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