Directed Research Paper


Now that you have begun to hone your visual literacy skills, approach this final project with a critical eye and apply what you have learned in class while finding meaning in imagery and addressing the sociology of perception. You have two options for this Final Project:

· Option 1: Directed Research Paper

· Option 2: Visual Essay

Option 1: Directed Research Paper

If you create a Directed Research Paper, the paper should be to 5 to 6 typed double-spaced pages, not including Title and Works Cited pages. You must select one rhetorical strategy (either Informative, Argument/Persuasion, or Critical Analysis). This research paper MUST include reliable and verifiable outside research and must be properly cited using MLA format. Any project that does not contain source attribution or parenthetical citations INSIDE THE PAPER will be returned with a zero for plagiarism. Your paper should be PREDOMINANTLY your own observations (approximately 60%), supported by research (no more than 40%). Also, be sure to incorporate thumbnail images where necessary as well as the interdisciplinary aspect of the course by exploring the “sociology of perception” when addressing your topic.

List of Topics

Select one of the following topics for your final project:

1. Research and demonstrate how the U.S. government utilized photography and made the camera a “weapon of war” to motivate citizens to support U.S. involvement in WWI (1914-1918). Or, demonstrate how the government used photography to “glamorize” WWII rather than reveal the truth about what U.S. soldiers were experiencing in the trenches.

2. Compare the photojournalistic coverage of World War II to that of Vietnam to that of the contemporary U.S. wars in the Middle East.

3. Explore how and what images have idealized – and distorted – the concept of the American family and/or the American Dream. Do not replicate any research already discussed in class.

4. Critically analyze the representation of ONE marginalized group (African Americans, women, LGBTQ, Native Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, Appalachian, little people, autistic individuals, gypsies, or bikers, etc.) in film and television, deconstructing these stereotypes.

5. Go back to the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement and make a study of the myriad photographs that documented racism in the Deep South. What impact did these images have on the American psyche and how did these photographs accelerate the fight for equality and desegregation across the country? Be sure to include the photos in your paper.

6. Critically examine a prominent documentarian, such as Ken Burns, Werner Herzog, Barbara Koppel, Oliver Stone, or Errol Morris and identify the techniques that he/she uses and the effectiveness of those techniques as well as their impact on society.

7. Step into the world of American photographer and “modernist” Paul Strand and explore how his work established photography as an “art form” in the 1920s, thereby changing the view of photography forever. Be sure to include examples in your paper.

8. Research stereotyping in comic books/comic strips OR video games. What misnomers do they convey, how have they changed over the last 40 years, and is there any place for them in a modern, pluralistic society? Be sure to include these examples in your paper.

9. Explore and analyze photographer Matt Black’s 100,00-mile trek through the U.S. as he documents the “Geography of Poverty.” What “statement” is he attempting to make, who is listening, and can his work make a difference?

10. Look at the media’s portrayal of feminism and leading feminists starting in the late ’60s and track it to today’s representation (be sure to include political cartoons). Observe, and discuss, how the images and media messages have changed — and distorted — the meaning of the very word feminism and the movement itself. Be sure to address the sociological impact as well.

11. Select a topic and find both a documentary and a fiction film that address that topic. Compare and contrast these genres, analyzing techniques used by each and address the sociological impact that each one had. An example might be American History X and recent documentary White Right: Meeting the Enemy.

12. Select a controversial “still” photographer, such as Diane Arbus, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joel-Peter Witkin, Guy Bourdin, Jan Saudek, or Mary Ellen Mark and analyze the relationship between the photographer and his/her subjects, addressing issues of ethics, responsibility, pride vs. exploitation, as well as the subject’s “awareness” of society’s view of the content of the photographs. Be sure to include the photos in your paper.

13. Explore the powerful photography of Lewis Hine who published thousands of photographs of children working in factories and mills in the early 1900s. What impact did his photography have on the American viewpoint and the subsequent changes in child labor laws? Be sure to include some photos in your paper.

14. Explore the contributions of Marshall McLuhan whose work in the 1970s was viewed as an important “cornerstone of the study of media theory” particularly in the world of advertising and television. Not only did he coin the expressions “the medium is the message” and the “global village,” but he predicted the invention of the World Wide Web close to 30 years before its introduction. What would Marshall McLuhan say about “the medium is the message” (later transformed to the tongue-in-cheek “the medium is the massage”) if he were alive today?

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