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Teaching Context (Juxtaposition) with Video Mash

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Students juxtapose two YouTube videos for a lesson on context
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Brief Assignment Overview: 

By doubling a class text video with another seemingly unrelated video, students learn about how context (or juxtaposition) can affect a text's meaning. 

Type of Assignment: 
Pedagogical Goals - Rhetoric: 
Pedagogical Goals - Digital Literacy: 
Additional Pedagogical Goals: 

This is a nice icebreaking way to discuss the effect a context can have on the reception and interpretation of a text. 

The assignment can also be used to teach more formal devices, such as juxaposition in literature or montage in film.

Media Requirements: 
Required Materials: 

Computer console to show assignment and then review work the following day. 

If you use this as an in-class activity, then the students will all need their own computers. 


Timeline for Optimal Use: 
Full Assignment Description: 

At the end of a class in which you have discussed a short piece of writing (I use a poem, but this could really work with anything that you can find in a video... a speech, scene from a play, etc), pull up a video version of the piece. You could either have shot this, made the students make it, or found it on youtube. Ideally you would have discussed this writing and done a formal reading of it.

Discuss how the reading you had come up with as a class is based on certain contextual elements, such as the history you have been reading, the history of the genre, or the conventions of the Literature/Rhetoric classroom. Ask the students how they might react differently to the text/poem if they encountered it on a billboard, greeting card, horror film, etc. Would they read it? Would they respond to it differently? Would its meaning be different?

Finally, tell the students that their assignment it to try to radically change the meaning of the text/poem by placing it in a different context through juxtaposition. How would it change if set to heavy metal music? Played over a speech by Obama? A speech by Hitler? How would the text be different in World of Warcraft? Encourage students to be creative and find contexts that are relevant or interesting to them. This is their chance to take the academic or esoteric and recontextualize it. (This is especially interesting/worthwhile if you are teaching "old" literature). Show your sample video and how youtube doubler works. Tell them that they need to come in the next week with the videos doubled and an explanation as to how the primary text's meaning changes in the new context.

The next week, take volunteers to show their youtube videos. Most of the assignments will be funny, so indulge in the humor but then ask why the juxtaposition is funny. What does Shakespeare have to do with Katy Perry? What do the two texts say about each other? Why? If you like, you can also examine juxtaposition, quotation, or montages as rhetotical or literary strategies. Ideally you should go through 4+ student examples, taking 1/2 a class to a full class period.

Suggestions for Instructor Preparation: 

Make sure you have the video of the primary text ready to show the class... maybe you have been using it already before you give the assignment. It is also helpful to come up with your own youtube doubling, to show them how the website works and give them ideas as to how they might juxtapose the videos. Ideally this should be a funny example to loosen things up. 

Instructions For Students: 

We have just spent the day discussing the formal elements of [name of text]. But we have been doing so from a particular perspective, as college students considering [x] or looking for [y]. How might you interpret this text differently if you saw it in another context, or compared it to something seemingly . For our next class, I want you to juxtapose the video of this text with another video that makes some commentary on the text's meaning. Youc an select a music video, political speech, anything... just as long as you think it affects the meaning of the primary text in an interesting way. Bring in your own Youtube doubling and be ready to explain to the class why you made the selection that you did. Again, your secondary video can be as close or distant to your primary video as you like, as long as it says something interesting about it. Have fun!

Evaluation Suggestions: 

This assignment is so tiny that I use it wholly as a conversation starter. I do make sure that all students have completed the assignment though. 

Notes on Reception, Execution, etc.: 

Students generally love the assignment because they get to display their proficiency in a technology they all know well: Youtube. Most of them try to be as funny as possible with their juxtaposition, with mixed results. This creates a friendly, open discussion environment, though, which is the primary benefit of the assignment. It is pretty easy to get helpful discussion of context even out of the poorly done assignments. I do think it is important to require them all to use the same first video, though, to keep things grounded. 

Course Description: 

I have this in mind for a tech-ready literature (poetry) class, but the assignment is broad enough for any class, really. The relationship between text and context is something to discuss in any literature or rhetoric class.

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