Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brad Pitt in "Sherlock Holmes" sequel?

After I finish the Women's Murder Club research project, I'm thinking about doing some detailed analysis of Sherlock Holmes.

So, I couldn't help but post these videos about the new Sherlock Holmes movies.

New movie updates classic view of Sherlock Holmes (AFP)

Video Games 2009: Stats and Stories

In his review of 2009 video games, Mike Snider at USA TODAY, brought up some interesting points.  These points further confirm the importance of video games as an area of study and as a form of storytelling.

  • "About two-thirds of Americans now play on traditional game systems, cellphones, websites or social networking sites, according to market trackers at The NPD Group. And six out of 10 U.S. households now own at least one console system, consulting firm Deloitte says."
  • "Games not only looked bigger, but they also told bigger, more complex stories. 'The storytelling got really great,' Keighley [Geoff Keighley of Spike's GameTrailers TV] says. 'Batman: Arkham Asylum and Uncharted set the high bar in terms of storytelling.'"
  • "Sci-fi role-playing game Mass Effect 2 (Jan. 26, Xbox 360 and PC) has a 'very convoluted narrative with a lot of morally ambiguous choices left open, (and) no two games will play alike,' he [Scott Steinberg of] says. 'Now that developers have the power to tell that deep, more absorbing narrative and create a sense of personalization for every player, they are going to continue to tap into that.'"

* Sources for this post at Delicious.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Prologue & Purpose

This is a research blog about mystery writing for television, novels, video games, etc.. This research blog and companion web site serve as my set of notes and data for my research projects on mystery writing. Look at this research blog as a work-in-progress, as an online draft of my final papers. In this case, you get to look over my shoulder as I work through these research ideas. See my profile to send email or post comments to the posts below.

The overall purpose of this research blog and companion website is to better understand how mysteries are written. Over time, this research blog and site will cover a variety of research topics related to mystery writing. 

The current focus of this research blog is on the portrayal of women in mysteries. Specifically, the focus is on how the women crime-solvers are portrayed in the Women's Murder Club novel series and in the WMC TV series. Ultimately, from a feminist perspective, the questions are how are women portrayed in the WMC stories and, more broadly, how should women be portrayed in mystery stories?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where Does Patterson's Short Chapters and Compactness Come From?

Mrs. Bridge: A NovelOn NPR a few days ago James Patterson discussed a novel that influenced him, Mrs. Bridge: A Novel.

Patterson notes in the audio that Mrs. Bridge: A Novel "certainly helped inspire [his] writing style. Short chapters, compactness, and clarity."   Listen to the full audio of James Patterson below.

In the audio does it sound like James is channeling Andy Rooney or is that just me?  :)

Note also the mention of "mysteries" in the audio.  Patterson writes mysteries, right?

* Sources for this Post at Delicious.
Listen to the full audio of James Patterson below.

Patterson's "Private" Novel to be Adapted for TV

Variety reports that James Patterson's upcoming novel "Private" will be adapted for a TV drama on CBS.  Jason Cahill will write the adaptation.  Cahill has written for "Fringe," "The Sopranos," "NYPD Blue" and "ER."  Cahill will also serve as producer along with Brian Grazer, David Nevins and Patterson.

According to Digital Spy the main character of the upcoming "Private" novel is Jack Morgan, a former Marine and CIA agent.  In the novel Morgan has his hands full.  He takes over his father's private investigation and security business.  He investigates a NFL gambling problem.  He tries to track down the murder of 18 school girls and he also works on the murder of his best friend's wife.

Maxine Paetro co-authored "Private" with Patterson.

*Sources for this post at Delicious

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Patterson Writes Mysteries?

Earlier tonight I dropped by my local Barnes and Noble to see what James Patterson books they had.  I first searched the mystery section of the store, but didn't find any Patterson there.  I asked the salesperson at the information desk where I'd find Patterson's work and why.  Well, I actually knew the where.  It was in the "Literature and Fiction" section.   

It was the answer to the why-question that was more interesting.  The salesperson said the publisher decides (at least in B&N's case) what section of the store in which the book is placed.  The salesperson mentioned also just a few weeks ago the publisher told B&N to move Patterson's teen novels to the "Literature & Fiction" section. However, they moved the teen novel back because, I assume, sales went down.

What section should Patterson's Cross and WMC novels be placed?  Mystery?  Are these mysteries novels?  What is a mystery?

To be continued...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Theory and praxis in this research project.

In this paper we will address both theory and praxis.  The two research questions show this.

Information Theory and Adaptation

I wonder how information theory (from the fields of computer science, mathematics and communication studies) can be applied to transmedia adaptations.  Information theory focuses on how information is transmitted with special attention given to the errors/data loss in the process.  Is data lost in adaptations?

Is this comparison mere metaphor or something more?  

Types of Transmedia Adaptations

comic book
video game
e.g. modern update of older novel


film adaptation of novel

e.g. films based on Marvel comics

comic book

video game

Women's Murder Club games

Initial thoughts.  More to be worked out later.

Three Levels of Analysis in Transmedia Narratology

When moving a story from one medium to another there seems to be 3 areas (or levels?) to focus on.
  1. Is the original author's style preserved?
  2. Are the particular aspects of original genre preserved?
  3. Is the story preserved?
There appears to be 3 levels of analysis (author, genre, story)

In game studies, it appears that the focus is on level 3.  But, what about genre characteristics and author style?

Of course, this is assuming that the goal is to preserve characteristics of the original.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

James Patterson on Exposition and Character

In this short clip from the site Patterson talks about his style of writing about his characters.  He says his style is colloquial storytelling in which there is not an excess of information shared about the characters.  Some authors give a lot of background information, but Patterson does not.  This works especially when you can spread out background information over a series of novels.

Find more videos like this on The James Patterson Community

Abstract/Proposal for Paper (Draft 2)


Transmedia Narratology, the Mystery Novel and Video Games

by William Hart and Akeem Caffee

By means of narrative criticism this paper aims to answer the following questions: (1) How do mystery narratives change when being adapted from novels to video games? (2) How should mystery video games be designed?

The specific texts analyzed are the Women’s Murder Club series of novels written by James Patterson and the four recently released Women’s Murder Club video games (3 PC and 1 DS). In the past three years Patterson’s books have sold 170 million copies worldwide, more books than any other author. In addition, Patterson has had nineteen consecutive #1 New York Times bestselling novels. However, there is very little scholarly analysis of Patterson’s work compared to the work of Stephen King, for example.

While video games have been around since the 1970s, only in the past decade has video game studies carved out a niche of its own. Within the growing video game studies literature there is some general study of adaptation, however, there is little attention given to adaptation within specific genres. Given that the mystery genre is especially defined by “rules” for how best to construct a mystery, adaptation from a mystery novel to a mystery video game is especially challenging. Thus, a study of how Patterson’s mystery novels have been adapted to mystery video games is worthy of some attention.

The paper concludes with some theoretical insight for transmedia narratology and some practical advice on mystery video game design. Additionally the paper gives some insight on the narratology-ludology debate found in the video game studies literature.

(Note: This paper will be written over the next couple of months.)

Abstract for Paper (Draft 1)

Texts to be Analyzed:
  • James Patterson's 8 Women's Murder Club novels.
  • The 4 Women's Murder Club video games (3 PC and 1 DS).
Justification for Artifacts/Texts:
  • James Patterson novels popular.
  • No or very little scholarly attention to Patterson's "light" novels (as opposed to say King's).
  • Video games new.
  • Study of video games relatively new.
  • Video games more and more popular.
Justification for Study
  • Offer practical advice on video game design, specifically for mystery game design.
  • Provide some theoretical insight on transmedia narratology in the context of mystery narratives.
  • Give some insight on the narratology-ludology debate in video game studies.
Research Questions
  • How best to design mystery video games?
  • How do mystery narratives change when going from novel to video game?
  • Are video games stories/narratives?
  • Narrative analysis (diegesis, storyg, storyc, narrative cohesion, narrative fidelity, preferred reading, etc.)

Photo Info: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

26 Million People Play Farmville on a Daily Basis

According to software developer, Zynga, 26 million people play Farmville, the Facebook-based farm simulation game, on a daily basis. There are 65 million users total. My 2 youngest daughters are 2 of the 65 million users.

Online casual video games deserve some attention, yes?


Legends & Legacies: James Patterson (YouTube Video)

A 4 minute + video giving some good background on James Patterson.

Call to Attention: The Call of Duty Video Games

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2According to a recent Activision press release the six video games in the Call of Duty franchises have sold over 55 million units worldwide. After you do the math that is $3 billion in retail sales worldwide.

We need some points of comparison. The Call of Duty sales do not, for example, match the total world-wide box office earnings for the 6 Star Wars films or the 6 Harry Potter films but, they are getting closer. The Call of Duty franchises does, however, surpass the 3 Pirates of the Caribbean films or the 3 The Lord of the Rings films in gross sales world-wide (see top grossing film franchises).

Also, according to the press release, the latest installment in the series, Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 2, earned $550 million in world-wide sales in the first five days, "the biggest entertainment launch in history." As another point of comparison, the recent release of The Twilight Saga: New Moon only reached $338 million in world-wide sales in 8 days.* New Moon is "the third highest-grossing opening behind only The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 3."
More interestingly, Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, Inc. said "If you consider the number of hours our audiences are engaged in playing Call of Duty games, it is likely to be one of the most viewed of all entertainment experiences in modern history."

With numbers and statements like these, video games deserve some attention, yes?

An extra: A Video Review of Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 2

* In fairness, New Moon was not released in all countries on the same day. However, even considering this staggered release Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is at least comparable.

Possible Titles for Transmedia Narratology Paper

  • Transmedia Narratology in the Mystery Genre
  • Mystery Novel to Mystery Video Game: .....

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What is Transmedia Narratology?

Transmedia narratology is defined here as the study of how story and story structure change in the process of moving from one medium to another (e.g. from novel to film, from novel to video game, from scientific publication to print news story).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

My Approach to EE - Reverse Engineering

I am interested in studying past stories (on TV & film) that have tried to treat health and social ills. I'm focusing specifically on the social ill of prejudice (racism, etc.). I am attempting to reverse engineer these programs to see what can be learned.

To reverse engineer is "to study or analyze (a device, as a microchip for computers) in order to learn details of design, construction, and operation, perhaps to produce a copy or an improved version." (

Put another way: Reverse engineering is "The analysis of a completed system in order to isolate and identify its individual components or building blocks" (Sci-Tech Dictionary).

I am analyzing television programs and films in order to learn their structure in hopes of bettering our understanding of entertainment education. What can we learn from past programs?

See also: Merriam-Webster, Wikipedia, Reverse Engineering (ComputerWorld), Reversing by Eilam (p. 3-4), Reverse Engineering by Raja (p. 2-5), "A Methodology for Reverse Engineering," "Reverse Engineering: A Roadmap," "Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) about Reverse Engineering" (see specifically: What is reverse engineering? How does reverse engineering differ from other types of engineering? What stages are involved in the reverse engineering process?)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stephen Duncan on Theme

Duncan (2006) identifies five types of story conflict themes:
"1. Man versus Man
2. Man versus Nature
3. Man versus Self
4. Man versus Society
5. Man versus Fate" (p. 26-27).
In individual movies the screen writer "puts a face" on the abstract titles. Nature = Jaws.

"The next step is to find the one word that is the theme of the story. Then, find a cliche that best articulates your one-word theme" (p. 27, Duncan's emphasis).

Duncan gives the following example from Shrek: "Tolerance: Don't judge a book by its cover." [Very relevant example for this particular research blog.]

"Every single scene in these films explores the one-word theme in some way, whether it is a pure exploration, antithesis, or an unusual facet of it" (p. 27).

Duncan also identifies some common sources for themes (in cliche form): the Bible (e.g., from Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not kill.").

According Duncan a writer can establish a theme in two ways in a script (i.e., physical and metaphysical). The "physical central question" is: Does the protag accomplish the task (e.g., catch the killer). The "metaphysical central question" takes the form of "spiritual, humanistic, universal" question (Can true love conquer all?) or a "hypothesis"/"thesis". Example from Chinatown: Main character says early on "Only a rich man can get away with murder" (p. 28). What does Duncan mean here? I'm not sure I understand the distinction made here between the metaphysical question and the hypothesis. A hypothesis can be easily be turned into a question. Violence begets violence. Will more violence continue. ???

According to Duncan a writer can also establish a theme by using the "moral imperative" approach. The protag and associated characters must accomplish a task because it is the right thing to do, for the greater good, etc.

Duncan says the theme should be established within the first 10 pages of a typical film script by "using a thematic device" (p. 53).

Howard: Theme vs. Thesis

According to Howard (2004) a story's theme is "the aspect of the 'human dilemma' that it will explore (p. 131). Two examples he gives are jealousy and ambition. We could also add hate as an example. He stresses that there are no verbs or value judgments in a theme as he defines it.

Howard makes a distinction between a theme and a thesis. "Once a verb is added, once value judgments are hung onto a theme, then it becomes a thesis that the story is obligedto prove." (p. 131, emphasis mine).

In an earlier post (
Theme According to Epstein) we covered the example "Hate kills". Note the verb and the value judgment here. Human dilemma + verb = value judgment.

Howard seems to preach against this verb/value judgment approach to theme. "This is a deadly, story-killing mistake. it skews the story away from art or entertainment and puts it squarely in the realm of propaganda.... A story saddled with the chore of proving a thesis relegates all its characters to 'positions.' Their words and actions are subordinate to the author's goal of proving this thesis to be true." (p. 131).

Howard does admit that there must be a resolution to the story (hate kills, greed destroys a community), a writer does eventually make a statement, but the "statement should be buried in the action, in the moment of the resolution. It is there to be discovered..." (p. 132).

Finding Theme and Exploring the Theme with Howard

Howard (2004) suggests that a script writer should first do some writing and try to discover the theme in the early drafts by asking some questions: "what kind of change does your protagonist go through? What part of his life or being is challenged or threatened or transformed? How have you thought of ending the story? How do you want us to feel at the end of the story? Will it have a happy ending, a sad or tragic ending, or a bittersweet ending?..." (p. 132-133).

Note in this approach you don't start with a theme (or worse yet a thesis). The theme is discovered by the writer after some writing. So, you can't (according to Howard) start the writing process without a theme (or worse yet a thesis) in mind? Why not? Is it a waste of time to eventually discover the theme?

Howard also points out that other characters should relate to the protagonist in terms of the theme (p. 132, 421). If the story is about ambition and perhaps the protagonist lacks it. The antagonist would be very ambitious (perhaps an over-achieving sister). The protagonist's friends ("reflective characters") may "pull" or "push" him in different directions. So, other characters explore the theme (or reflect the theme) in their connection to the protag or in a subplot, the protag "carries [the theme] in a bigger way than any of the other characters. That means she has to learn or overcome, is more resistant to change" (p. 421).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Anthropologists and War

This entry was originally posted on my InterculturalU blog (

Anthropologists and War

Submitted by William Hart PhD on October 14, 2007 - 10:26pm.

Armed with their knowledge of culture, anthropologist are now assisting the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The U.S. military is now sending teams of anthropologists and social scientists out to assist all combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan. The effort has reportedly helped troops improve relations with local populations and avert casualties, while raising a hearty debate among anthropologists over the ethical boundaries of their profession. A look at the so-called Human Terrain Teams and larger questions of how the military is adapting to new expectations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond" (The Dianne Reams Show notes).

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Cultural Pedagogy

There may be a relevant link between pop entertainment ed and cultural pedagogy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Moritz on Theme in Scriptwriting

Moritz (2001) writes about the two schools of thought regarding themes in scripts. One school of thought says that you should have a clear theme before writing a script and another school of thought says you can find it later. Moritz takes that latter position. He says that having a theme before can actually get in the way of "the framing of a specific story..." (p. 25). It can stifle creativity he says "by being intent on checking that every bit of what you put down conforms to the line of argument in your premise" (p. 25, my emphasis). However, is this workable advice for an E-E researcher? An E-E researcher begins with the argument that is being made, right?

Moritz seems to say in a good story, you'll discover the truth of your story, the theme as you work through your story.

Moritz suggests: "it's far more important to find out the way a story is going to go rather than worry too much about what it means" (p. 25).

Theme According to Epstein

Theme, according to Epstein (2002), is "the underlying, human question your story deals with. Your main character, stakes, jeopardy, and obstacles give us reasons why we care about how the story turns out. The theme gives us a reason why we should care" (p. 53, Esptein's emphasis).

Epstein also makes a distinction between good and great movies. Great movies have a theme, while the "sheer popcorn entertainment" would not. If you want your movie to have "a lasting effect on people," then you want a theme (p. 53, my emphasis).

"What gives a picture a theme is that the major scenes in it touch in some way on the question the theme raises. It doesn't have to actually answer that questions" (p. 54). Epstein offers A Clockwork Orange as an example.

Some of Epstein's examples of movie themes:
  • Bladerunner: "What does it mean to be human?"
    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: "Decency is enough to defeat corruption."
  • Star Wars: "Faith can defeat empires."
  • American History X: "Hatred kills." [This one is highly relevant to this research blog.]
"If you are working with a theme, then try to make each scene tell a truth about the theme. All the main characters, with their goals and their flaws, should in some way reflect the theme... Your theme comes to light in their conflict with one another" (p. 55). Interesting verbs he uses: "reflect" and "comes to light." I would use the verb "show," but what does that mean? How exactly do your put theme into a script?

Epstein writes that the theme should "underlie the story," and not "come to the surface" (p. 55). "Let the story take care of the theme. You don't need characters to talk about the theme" (p. 56). So, I guess, it should be built into the plot, not something that is beat over the head in dialogue. Is this the most effective way to persuade an audience? Does this approach work?

Howard, 2004

Howard, D. (2004). How to build a great screenplay : A master class in storytelling for film. St. Martin's Press.

Carlson, 1985

Carlson, J. M. (1985). Prime time law enforcement : crime show viewing and attitudes toward the criminal justice system. Praeger.

Duncan, 2006

Duncan, S. V. (2006). A Guide to Screenwriting Success: Writing for Film and Television. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Moritz, 2001

Moritz, C. (2001). Scriptwriting for the screen. Media skills. Routledge.

Epstein, 2002

Epstein, A. (2002). Crafty Screenwriting: Writing Movies That Get Made. Holt Paperbacks: New York.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What are the ethical issues of promoting prosocial messages in popular media?

Brown & Singhal (1997) ask this interesting question. They are writing about all prosocial media, but what would be the ethical issues here? Would there be ethical issues to address when using popular media to promote anti-prejudice messages? In their book chapter Brown and Singhal explore the general ethical issues and suggest some guidelines for writers, producers, etc.

They write: "Producers of prosocial messages need an ethical framework for social influence" (p. 212). They go on to give the 7 ethical dilemmas that they writers, producers, researchers, etc. may face. They offer up a framework -- 7 dilemmas to consider.
  1. prosocial development dilemma -- "how to respond to those who argue it is unethical to use media as a persuasive tool to guide social development"
  2. prosocial content dilemma -- "how to distinguish prosocial from antisocial media content"
  3. source-centered dilemma -- "who should determine the prosocial content for others"
  4. audience segmentation dilemma -- "who among the audiences should receive the prosocial content"
  5. oblique persuasion dilemma -- "how to justify the 'sugar coating' of educational messages with entertainment"
  6. sociocultural equality dilemma -- "how to ensure that the prosocial media uphold sociocultural equality among viewers"
  7. unintended effects dilemma -- "how to respond to the unintended consequences of prosocial media" (p. 212).
Borrowing on Lasswell's old maxim describing communication, Brown and Singhal summarize these dilemmas in one question: "Who is to determine for whom what is prosocial and what is not?" (p. 212)

O.K. let's look at these one at a time in the context of the anti-prejudice research discussed in this research blog. First, would it be unethical to use the media to fight prejudice (i.e., promote an anti-prejudice message)? Personally it seems to me to be unethical not to use the media. If you see injustices in the society shouldn't you do what you can to help right the wrongs (including using the media)? I guess maybe the problem is in what is an injustice and who determines that. Are there some types of prejudices that it would be unethical to fight because some groups of people would not see the message as being prosocial? What can be said of these more specific examples: a TV program that fights racial prejudice and a TV program that fights gay prejudice? If a group in society did not see a TV program that fights gay prejudice as acceptable (or prosocial), then the producer of the message can found to be unethical? In terms of a TV program that fights racial prejudice, what if a group, say the KKK, objected to TV program, would that then mean the creators of the TV program committed an unethical act?

In a short paragraph about this Brown and Singhal only bring up the example of abortion. Would a TV program that promoted a pro-abortion message offend a segment of the audience and thus be unethical? Is prejudice different than abortion?

More on this later.

Brown & Singhal, 1997

Brown, W. J., & Singhal, A. (1997). Ethical guidelines for promoting prosocial messages through the popular media. In G. Egerton, M. Marsden, & J. Nachbar (Eds.), In the eye of the beholder: Critical perspectives in popular film and television (207-224). Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tammy Bruce and "Barkie"

I like to yell at the radio. One way to guarantee this is to listen to right-wing talk radio. I was listening to Tammy Bruce on the way home today and I kept hearing her refer to President-Elect Barack Obama as "Barkie." I've done some searching on Bruce's site and find at least two references to "Barky" and "Barkie." I understand this can be said to be short for Barack, but... Is it just me or are others bothered by this? Does this sound awfully close to "darkie?" Is this an example of conscious or unconscious deniable racism? Am I reading too much into this?

It is especially helpful to think of this in the context of other examples from talk radio. Over the summer and through the fall, Rush Limbaugh refered to Obama as a "man-child." He didn't refer to him as "boy," but what is a "man-child?" Listen to some of this on Joe Lyles' podcast.

I'll post some more on the Limbaugh example a little later. Stay tuned.

Hollywood Shuffle

I just noticed that MGM put some full-length films on YouTube for free. One of the films available now is Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle. This film is Townsend's satirical look at the stereotypical roles played by African Americans in Hollywood films. See especially the "Black Acting School" section starting at about 16 minutes into the video.

See the video below or check out the full-screen version at YouTube.

YouTube asks the viewer to confirm their age before viewing, so the video may not work automatically. Just follow the full-feature link above.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Testing Roger's Diffusion of Innovation Concepts"

What similar research has been done on students as the adopters?

Abstract: "Our exploratory study investigated Roger’s diffusion of innovation framework (Rogers 2003) that in an academic setting. We hypothesized that the adoption of software and hardware will be influenced by the faculty member’s perceptions of its (1) relative advantage, (2) compatibility with current teaching methods and technologies, (3) complexities, (4) trialability, (5) observability, and (6) variables reflecting the nature of the social system including reward structures, technical support, and demographic categorical data. We surveyed faculty (n = 306) in liberal arts and sciences departments using a mail survey using the total design method and obtained a 56% response rate. Perceived relative advantage, perceived compatibility, observability, and years teaching at the university produced an R2 of .202 for the adoption of hardware. Perceived relative advantage, perceived compatibility, observability, rewards, years teaching at the university, and percentage of time devoted to research produced an R2 of .30."

Zimmerman, D. and Yohon, T. , 2008-05-22 "Testing Roger's Diffusion of Innovation Concepts: Faculty Adoption of Information Technology for Teaching" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Online <PDF>. 2008-12-10 from

Diffusion of Innovations & Online Courses

Diffusion of innovations was one of the key topics that I studied while I was working on my Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico. Diffusion of innovations is the study of how new ideas/technologies spread throughout a group of people. Everett Rogers, the man who literally wrote the book on the topic, was my UNM advisor, my mentor. (I wrote about his role in intercultural communication study -- see this article.)

Right now my particular DOI research interest is in the diffusion of online courses. I've taught online courses in the past, but teaching a course this semester has rekindled that interest. I've also been talking about this topic with Dr. Mamie Johnson, a friend and colleague at NSU.

Some specific RQs of interest:
  • What leads a student to adopt (enroll in) an online course?
  • What factors leads a student to continue taking online courses?

Topics for this Semester (Sp 09)

This semester in this blog I'm going to focus on the following topics.
  • Online Teaching
  • Critical Thinking
  • Items in the News Related to This Semester's Courses

A Secret Education

"Industrially produced fiction has become one of the primary shapers of our emotions and our intellect in the 20th Century. Although these stories are supposed to merely entertain us, they constantly give us a secret education. We are not only taught certain styles of violence, the latest fashions, and sex roles by TV, movies, magazines, and comic strips; we are also taught how to succeed, how to love, how to buy, how to conquer, how to forget the past and suppress the future. We are taught, more than anything else how not to rebel" (Dorfman, 1996, ix).

Cited in Cortes, 2000, p. 22-23

Dorfman, 1996

Dorfman, A. (1996). The Empire's Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes Do to Our Minds. Penguin (Non-Classics).

Cortes on Plato and Poets

Cortes (2000) also comments on Plato.
"This is hardly a contemporary idea. After all, Plato recognized the power of fictional narratives when he asserted, 'Those who tell the stories also rule the society.' In his Republic, he expressed particular concern with the impact on children."
The focus of Cortes' book is on children.

Lewis & Jungman, 1986

Lewis, T. J. and Jungman, R. E., editors (1986). On Being Foreign: Culture Shock in Short Fiction, An International Anthology. Intercultural Pr.

Summerfield, 1993

Summerfield, E. (1993). Crossing Cultures Through Film. Intercultural Network.

Cortes, 2000

Cortes, C. E. (2000) The Children Are Watching: How the Media Teach About Diversity, New York: Teachers College Press.

Vogler, 1998

Vogler, C. (1998). The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 2nd Edition. Michael Wiese Productions, 2nd edition.

Truby, 2008

Truby, J. (2008). The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. Faber & Faber, 1st edition.

An Anti-Prejudice Genre in TV and Film

Preliminary results of this study show that there is so much TV programming about prejudice that I would argue that we could speak of this type of programming as a genre.

Marriage of the Narrative Rhetoric Lit with Screenwriting Books

What do you get when you marry the narrative rhetoric lit with screenwriting books?
You get the theoretical mixed with the practical.
How to "marry" the two? Look for the common elements mentioned in both.
In the narrative rhetoric lit, Rowland (1999) writes that narrative rhetoric functions in six ways to persuade.
"1. Narratives add interest;
2. Narratives create identification;
3. Narratives function aesthetically to persuade;
4. Narratives encapsulate claims;
5. Narratives can be used to create an emotional response;
6. Narratives can transport us to another place and time." (p. 83).

Functions #2 and #5 are often mentioned in screenwriting books -- identification of the audience (Frensham, 1996, p.78-80), evoking emotion in the audience (Miller, 1998).

Frensham, 1996

Frensham, R. (1996). Screenwriting. Chicago: NTC Publishing Group.

Miller, 1998

Miller, W. (1998). Screenwriting for Film and Television. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Rowland, 1999

Rowland, R. (1999). Analyzing Rhetoric: A Handbook for the Informed Citizen in a New Millennium. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Aristotle, 335 BCE

Aristotle, Poetics.

Original online: The Internet Classics Archive, Project Gutenberg
Summaries: GradeSaver and SparkNotes

Plato on the Danger of Poetry

"all poetical imitations are ruinous to the understanding of the hearers" (Plato, 360 B.C.E., Book 10)

Plato, 360 B.C.E

Republic (Book 10)

Online:, Project Gutenberg

Summaries of Republic (Book X)

See CliffNotes, SparkNotes and GradeSaver.

More on Plato and the Power of Poets

In Republic Plato condemns storytellers (epic and tragic poetry).
Ironically, Plato's famous student Aristotle defends storytelling in Poetics.


McKee, 1997

McKee, R. (1997). Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting. New York: ReganBooks.

Plato and the Power of Poets

"In 388 B.C. Plato urged the city fathers of Athens to exile all poets and storytellers. They are a threat to society, he argued. Writers deal with ideas, but no in the open, rational manner of philosophers. Instead, they conceal their ideas inside the seductive emotion of art. Yet felt ideas, as Plato pointed out, are ideas nonetheless. Every effective story sends a charged idea out to us, in effect compelling the idea into us, so that we must believe. In fact, the persuasive power of a story is so great that we may believe its meaning even if we find it morally repellent. Storytellers, Plato insisted, are dangerous people. He was right" (McKee, 1997, p. 129-130).

Note: Begin paper/article with this story of Plato and Poets (1st paragraph). 2nd paragraph on Aristotle.

First Post

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