Culture Through Time
Summary: For this assignment, you will experience parts of the archival research process by scouring the archives for clues about cultural change. This hunt begins by finding advertisements in print from magazines, newspapers, or other media. You will need a total of six ads from six different decades. Try to make your research as specific as possible by choosing one product and manufacturer.
If you use printed resources, provide brief bibliographic data like source, year, and author if available. If you use electronic resources, include the URL and retrieval date of the resource as an addendum (Links to an external site.) to your paper. These references will not count toward your two page maximum. You should attach your ads to the back of the paper–do not include your ads within the text of your paper. Failure to do the above will result in my treatment of the advertisement as missing. This paper may be no more than 2 pages, must adhere to the guidelines for written work in the syllabus, and does not require any extra outside reading. Single-spaced papers will not be accepted.
Observations: Describe your archival data. Make sure that your observations are rich enough to support your responses to speculations below. While you will not have space to include your notes on all of the following, you may want to detail as much as you can about the following questions so that you have a lot of data to work with to construct your hypotheses:
(1) Notice the people in the ad. Based on what they are wearing or what they are carrying, what might they be doing, and what norms or values are expressed? If people are not in the ad, explain who you think the ad is intended for. What norms do they abide by? Which symbols have meaning?
(2) Notice the ages, genders, class status, and race/ethnicity of people in the ad. Who seems to be in ads, and does this change at different points in time?
(3) Notice the design elements of the ad. What do the taglines tell you about the intended audience for the ad? What types of norms and values do these taglines promote or uphold? How is language used? How is space used?
Speculations: Using your archival data, generate three hypotheses about how social variables (like the elements of culture, income, race, age, family/relationship characteristics, occupation, and education, etc.) have changed over time. Hypotheses are of the highest quality when they speculate about how variables are related and are clearly drawn from observations. Hypotheses that are unrelated to observations and hypotheses about company sales are of low quality.
Hint: Focusing on the changes in culture or society that the ads reflect is way more interesting than thinking about product sales, or even the product itself.
Hint: After you create your three hypotheses, look back at your observations and cut everything that is not needed to support your hypotheses. This will help you get under the two page max.
Ideas about Falsification: Explain what it means to say that your hypotheses are falsifiable, and what type of study you could use to test them.
Conclusion: In the final paragraph, use the information you provided to sum up the paper by developing a theme. What are commonalities among the ads? Are there trends of change, or forces of continuity?
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