Thursday, 27 May 2010

More revision blogs

I'm going to post any revision blogs here that I think could be useful to students for either AS or A2 Media

Here is a start:

Dave's blog- collective identity for A2 but also useful for AS TV Drama
Nick's blog- music industry for As or for A2 online age

Monday, 24 May 2010

How to do an exam answer

With three weeks to go to the G325 exam, it's time to see how the material you have gathered might be used in answering the questions. First we will look at questions 1a and 1b, then at the questions on Media in the online age.

These were the questions in January, so obviously the June exam will not feature the same ones (!) but the general principles which I shall explain here will still apply.
The first steps for these two questions is to read the instructions! You also need to consider the number of marks available relative to the time for the exam as a whole. It's two hours long and worth 100 marks, so a 25 mark question should be completed in a quarter of that time (30 minutes). that's how long you should devote to each of these questions. If you prefer to do Section B (the 50 mark question) first, that's fine- you can answer questions in any order. Just make sure you do answer all three and you devote the right amount of time to each.

So in terms of instruction, the main things to note here are that for 1a you write about ALL of your work across the course (and you can write about anything else you might have made on other courses or in your spare time too!) and for 1b you just write about ONE of your productions. Try not to overlap too much, so that each answer is different.

1a is entirely concerned about skills development, but the area that comes up will be quite specific. So as you can see, in January, it was about development of skills in research and planning; the other areas which can come up are skills in:

digital technology use
post-production
use of real media conventions
creativity

It is possible that a question might refer to two of these categories, so be prepared to talk about any/all of them!

a few tips on what they mean:

digital technology refers to hardware, software and online technology, so the cameras, the computers, the packages you used and the programs online that you have worked with. It is worth considering how all this inter-links.

post-production would actually fall under digital technology as well, so if that comes up it would probably represent an expansion of points you'd make in one section of digital technology. It is really about everything you do after constructing the raw materials for your production; so once you have taken photos and written text, how do you manipulate it all in photoshop or desktop publishing for a print product or once you have shot your video, what do you do to it in editing.

research refers to looking at real media and audiences to inform your thinking about a media production and also how you record all that research; planning refers to all the creative and logistical thinking and all the organisation that goes on in putting the production together so that everything works and again gives you the chance to write about how you kept records of it.

Creativity is the hardest one in many ways because it involves thinking about what the creative process might mean. Wikipedia describes it as "a mental process involving the discovery of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the existing ideas or concepts, fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight." For your projects it might involve considering where ideas came from, how you worked collaboratively to share ideas, how you changed things or even how you used tools like the programs to achieve something imaginative.

Use of real media conventions involves consideration of other texts that you looked at and how skilfully you were able to weave their conventions into your work or ways in which you might have challenged them.

You will notice that most of the above were areas that you covered in the evaluation task at the end of each of your productions. This time, you are putting together ideas from evaluations and standing a bit further back to look across your production work and reflecting on how you developed across the course. You should feel free to acknowledge weaknesses and to reflect upon how you learned from them and how you overcame problems. It is not a place to be defensive about your work but to really reflect on it!

so how would you organise an answer?

paragraph 1 should be an introduction which explains which projects you did. It can be quite short.

paragraph 2 should pick up the skill area and perhaps suggest something about your starting point with it- what skills did you have already and how were these illustrated. use an example.

paragraph 3 should talk through your use of that skill in early projects and what you learned and developed through these. again there should be examples to support all that you say.

paragraph 4 should go on to demonstrate how the skill developed in later projects, again backed by examples, and reflecting back on how this represents moves forward for you from your early position.

paragraph 5 short conclusion

Remember it's only half an hour and you need to range across all your work!

Question 1b

I like to think of this question as being about moving a couple of steps away from your production work and imagining you are someone else looking at it for the first time. How would you analyse this music video, this magazine or whatever? Imagine you didn't make it but that it is a real media production.

Again the question will specify an area/concept for you to apply. The areas that could come up are:

Audience
Narrative
Genre
Representation
Media Language

For each area there are theories or ideas which your teachers will have introduced you to which you need to know a bit about and then you have to apply those ideas to ONE of your productions and analyse it accordingly. Decide in advance which piece you will write about and make sure that whatever the concept, you can actually do it. Again, here is a bit of a breakdown of what the five concepts might involve.

Audience can refer to how media products target audiences, which audiences actually consume media products, but most interestingly how media audiences actually read or make sense of media products and what they might do with them. There is a lot of interesting material on all this and you should certainly be familiar with some of it.

Genre is all about the ways in which we categorise media texts. Whatever you have made will in some way relate to other examples of the same genre, whether it be in print, audio, video or online. Again a lot of different media critics have written their own 'take' on genre and this would be useful to apply to your work.

Narrative is about how stories are told. Applying different models of narrative structure to your work may reveal unconscious things that you did in the way you have constructed it. Again a familiarity with some of these models or theories will be helpful in the exam.

Media Language is probably the most open one if it comes up, because it allows you to talk about the other areas as well (genre, narrative, audience) as it is about the techniques and conventions of different forms of media (how shots are organised in film, how text is laid out on a page).

Finally, representation particularly focuses on the ways in which particular social groups are presented back to us by the media. So in your case how have you portrayed young people or females or males in your work? what messages are implied in what you have constructed and what would particular types of criticism (e.g. feminism) make of it?

so again, how do we write about this in half an hour?

para 1 Intro: which of your projects are you going to write about? briefly describe it

para 2: what are some of the key features of the concept you are being asked to apply? maybe outline some of the theories briefly

para 3; start to apply the concept, making close reference to your production

para 4: try to show ways in which ideas work in relation to your production and also ways in which those ideas might not apply/could be challenged

para 5; conclusion

So there's the first part of the exam! Next is part B- media in the online age!

How to do an exam answer: Media in the online age

Here are the January questions for this topic (click on image to enlarge)

At the top of the paper, for all topics, there is an instruction that you need to refer to the past, contemporary media and future possibilities and that you should use case study examples to support your arguments. You also need to have some reference to media theory and to refer to examples from at least two media areas. Since 20 of the marks are for explanation, argument and analysis (EAA), twenty are for use of examples (EG) and 10 are for use of terminology (T), you can see that this is not an easy task. In this post, I am going to try to show how you can make the most of your material (including examples from previous posts on this blog) to do a good answer.

So how would we go about answering these questions? Links refer to examples used previously on this blog so you can read more

Step 1: Identify what the question is about.

Exam questions are often written to a bit of a formula- 'to what extent...' 'how far...' '...discuss' - you'll see these a lot in G325. what they are all doing is asking you to consider a debate and to look at both sides of something, not just to prove a point. So when Q.8 asks for a discussion of whether the impact of the internet is revolutionary, it is not setting it as a statement of fact, but asking 'how far' this is true. Similarly, q.9, which refers to distribution and consumption, is asking whether the internet has made these things very different. So there are similarities between the two questions, though the second one gives you more to tie your answer to, where the first one is quite open. In both cases, though, what you use for case studies is really open to your choice!

Step 2: decide which of the two questions to do

Step 3: note down a plan, with the main points you want to cover and the examples you want to use. Break this down so you cover all the areas needed

Examples
Media areas x2 or more
Which theory/critics to reference- it just means whose ideas do you want to mention
Main arguments
Past?
Present?
Future?
terminology

If you run out of time, the examiner can at least give you credit for where you would have gone.
remember, you could answer this section before you do 1a and 1b if you want.

Step 4 Write an Intro

keep it short and simple. for example- 'In this essay I shall consider how far web microseries and internet memes demonstrate the changing nature of distribution and consumption of the media'

This intro already uses two bits of terminology (microseries and memes) and shows you are going to address the question (distribution and consumption).

If you know that you are going to use the ideas of contemporary critics, you could go on to say 'I shall refer to the ideas of David Gauntlett and Michael Wesch to consider whether the arguments they make about Web 2.0 really do suggest that the media has changed dramatically.'

Step 5 get on with it: case study 1

this is where you discuss your first example- microseries. First define the term. Second, outline some examples and show what their conventions are (episode length, typical content, how distributed, type and size of audience). Third, start to suggest why this might be something different from TV (no scheduling, small budget, no big institution making it- sometimes, watch anytime, chance to comment or even interact) for the audience. Draw upon Gauntlett to contrast this kind of production with conventional Tv production/distribution. Maybe note that actually some of this stuff is made by big companies anyway...Note that in drawing comparisons with TV you have addressed your second media area, the web being your first.

Step 6 case study 2

your second example- internet memes. Define the term, outline some examples and how they spread (via social networking, youtube, viral e-mail etc). talk about how they evolve as other people make new versions of them (see the coppercab videos and click on various links on youtube to see this evolution in action). Bring in Wesch's ideas about how these spread (the first five minutes of his video talk about numa numa guy as an example).

Step 7 pull your ideas together, preparing for conclusions

... an attempt to ensure that you explicitly address past, present and future and that you argue with the critics rather than just accepting their view.

make some points about the audience changing - we spend more time online, informal distribution of media is growing via social networks and e-mail, maybe some of us make stuff ourselves to distribute (as Gauntlett and Wesch suggest). Maybe speculate that this could grow even further in the future. But... the sting in the tail is that Tv is still going strong, these online communities we belong to are still owned by big companies and much of what is being consumed is actually just transferred from one medium to another; Wesch argues that it is all getting more democratic, but is contributing to memes really democracy in action or just a form of play with no wider significance? Gauntlett's 'the media were like Gods..' - has that really changed? were audiences ever as passive as his model characterises them? Are they really that much more active now? isn't it just a tiny percentage who actually make stuff to put online?

This essay model just uses stuff from a few of my posts. You could take a totally different approach, using other posts as a starting point- for example talking about collaborative texts as a new role for audiences or about the changes to the music industry illustrated here and in much more detail here. Or you could answer the question about revolutionary change by reference to technology and consider whether it makes any difference at all.

Remember- your choice of case studies is up to you. What you know about them and how you are able to relate them to ideas is where the marks come in!