TOPIC: Critical assessment of a web site of your own choosing.
LENGTH: 1,500 words ( 12pt font face). This is not a great deal of space, so be concise and to the point.
FORMAT: You may use either MLA or APA style, depending upon which you are more familiar with.
SOURCES: You need not use outside sources for the paper. But should cite any lectures or other readings for the course that have specifically informed your analysis.
GOAL & NATURE OF THE ASSIGNMENT: The goal of the assignment is to let you apply concepts and kinds of analysis you have learned via readings, lectures and discussions, by engaging in your own study of some aspect of race, gender, sexuality, class or other digital diversity issue. You may choose a site because it does a poor job of dealing with these issues, because you think it does an exemplary job, or, as is most often the case, one that does a mixed job of dealing with diversity., It could be a site by or about a specific ethnic group (AfroCanadians, for example), a site focused on gender or sexual equality (like GLAAD), or it could be a “mainstream” site that does or does not do well in representing or reaching out to a particular group of users, or in appealing to a diverse set of users.
Part 1. IN PROGRESS POST: You should create a post for the course forum, with the name and URL address of the website you intend to analyze, and a few paragraphs about the issues you intend to analyze about it in 300-500 words.
Part 2. THE ESSAY:
Your task is to look critically at how well the site addresses or fails to address the kind of substantial issues of access and representation that make up the digital divide or technology for social inclusion.
Documents to view first: you will need to go into detail with analyzing the site. In addition to following the guidelines below, you will want to carefully review the lecture on “How to Analyze Websites” from Week 2 first (2 word document about this lecture will be provided in the attachments). You also need to check out the Sample Essays from previous students in this course that I have uploaded for you.
1. Decide the genre of web site you wish to analyze (mainstream portal, gender or ethnic portal, corporate, media, game, personal homepage, educational, self-help, social network, etc.
2. Review the elements of web page style (fonts, color, layout, use of multiple media, interactivity, personalization, etc.) in the “How to Analyze Web Sites” mini-lecture. Analyze how these elements contribute to the message(s) of the site, and shape/limit its audiences.
3. What “subject position(s)” (see “Keywords” mini-lecture) does the site represent? Does it presume “default norms” of unspoken or assumed whiteness, or maleness, or straightness, or middle-classness in its visitors, or does it reach out significantly to other subject positions? What particular features (words, images, links, etc.) of the site let you know to whom it is, and is not, directed? Does it seem to intentionally limit its target audience, or do the limits you note seem to result from not thinking about diverse audiences?
4. If the site seems mainly or seriously aimed at a marginalized group, what assumptions about the target audience does it convey? Does it unintentionally stereotype, commodify (turn into an object of consumption), exoticize, homogenize or otherwise fail to deal with the complexity of the group(s)? Does it do well with gender diversity, but poorly with class, or vice versa? Does it treat racial minorities carefully, but ignore or insult sexual minorities? Does it celebrate urban folks but ignore of condescend to rural ones, or vice versa? Is it accessible to people with disabilities etc.
5. To the extent that the site offers “personalization,” what kind of “menu” of personalization does it offer? What possibilities and what limits does the menu offer in terms of social attributes?
6. Remember that the meaning of a site is determined not just by what is present, but also by what is absent, by what or who gets left out.
7. It is very important that you think about and include in your analysis the issue of how your own “subject position” and your own values shape your response to the site.