Okay, so if you’ve been reading any a few of my previous posts, you’ll know about some of the pretty cool things I’ve done while I was at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study – like my tutorial (group independent study) on New Media, New Politics and the Future of Democracy and my colloquium (senior capstone) on the Role of Propaganda in Modern Democracy. One of the other tutorials that I worked on while I was there was a social marketing venture that we called the Ademos Project. The Ademos Project arose out of a final project I did for a Gallatin class my sophomore year called “Walter Lippmann and the Manufacture of Consent.” Little did I know when I took the class that it would end up shaping most of my college career.
In the spring semester of my junior year, I took a class called Communication and Public Relations in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. In case you didn’t click on any of the links above, here’s the course description:
Public relations means different things to different people but it has one undeniable element: communication. This course is concerned with arranging, handling, and evaluating public relations programs. Students work with actual case histories and deal with contemporary topics such as the use of the computer in public relations.
So what does this mean? Basically it was a course that taught you how to write a press release. Now for those of you who haven’t written one before, the press release is unlike other forms of written material. It’s written in AP style, which is also used by journalists; the logic being that reporters won’t have to rewrite your release for their publication. It’s a bit tricky to learn, and I’m not sure I could just jump back into writing press releases – in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a fan of using semicolons and multi-part sentences, and press releases require short, clear writing. But I’d probably be able to muddle through if I had to, I suppose.
Anyway, I do remember two things that my professor (who shall remain nameless) insisted upon. The first was the fact that there is no such thing as the “first annual” event. You have the first event and the second annual, but she continually reminded us that there is no such thing as the first annual. Now the web seems to be on the fence, but I’m kind of okay with this. But what she stressed even more was the frequent usage of the so called “Harvard comma.” The Harvard comma, also known as the serial comma, is the comma used before the “or” or “and” in a series. Example:
The dog, the cat, and the bird
I’m someone who was taught to use the serial comma in grade school, so this aggravated me a little bit. It took a while for me to get used to not using it when I was writing press releases, but eventually I got the hang of it. But in the year or so since this class ended, I’ve found myself jumping back and forth – sometimes using it, sometimes not. It gets kind of frustrating when I’m writing a paper (or a blog post) and in the span of a couple of paragraphs my hands type this supposedly superfluous comma just before the conjunction in a series to not including it at all. Which isn’t really a big deal I suppose, but it’s just something I happen to notice. So which one do you use?
Over the course of my college career, I’ve taken classes across NYU; I’ve studied marketing in the Stern School of Business, politics in the College of Arts and Sciences, communication theory in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and public service in the Wagner School of Public Service. But quite possibly one of the most intriguing academic opportunities I’ve had has been the chance to take a number of tutorials within Gallatin. Tutorials are group independent projects – two to five students will spend the semester working together and with a professor of their choice to examine an issue or topic they find interesting. It’s a pretty unique opportunity to study almost anything you want to. During my time at Gallatin, I’ve had the opportunity to take three tutorials. The first two took place during my junior year; they were focused on social marketing, and ultimately led to the creation of “Are You Sustainable?,” a pilot project designed to promote environmental sustainability at NYU. The project ultimately fell apart for a variety of reasons, but it was quite an interesting experince nonetheless.
The third tutorial I’ve participated in has taken place during this semester. It’s title is the rather abmbitious “New Politics, New Media, and the Future of Democracy” (then again the first two were the equally ambitious “Advertising Democracy I and II). We’ve been focusing on the role of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) on politics, and over the course of the semester we’ve examined a number of diverse topics including the role of new media during the 2004 Howard Dean presidential campaign and President Obama’s campaign (and his first 100 days in office), network theory, and the role of ICT in civil conflict. Anyway, the whole point of this post is to discuss the class website, http://newmediatutorial.wordpress.com – it’s the place to go to read some of our work and take a look at what we’ve been working on. Also, if you go back far enough, you can even see some of videos taken from class discussions at the beginning of the semester.