• A Plan For What Time We Have Left

    The Spring Festival has eaten up a our remaining classtime for Week 11, but not before I could assign some homework to you. However, I was approached by a student who told me his group was VERY confused about what the homework was.

    The homework, to  be clear, was to figure out or design an “anatomy” of the conspiracy theory. That is: make a list of criteria that a conspiracy theory needs to fulfill if we are supposed to expect it to “succeed” — that is, to attract followers.

    (A similar example I gave in class was regarding the criteria for an American rock band. Rock bands need to:

    • play music in a group that usually includes bass, drums, guitar, and a singer, but sometimes other instruments; the music should have a simple, repetitive structure, whether or not the music itself is complex or simple.
    • dress like rock musicians: their clothing usually must be casual, often with rock music T-shirts, long hair, and so on. This is not necessarily required (The Ramones always wore suits to perform) but it is a common criterion.
    • communicate standard teen-oriented messages of rebellion, resistance to authority, sexual freedom, and so on. (There are exceptions, like Christian rock bands, but they are the exception that proves the rule.)
    • perform in places where young people go to see live music.
    • “act the part” of rock musicians. If they act timid on stage, they will not be respected and will be seen as a joke.

    As you can see, I don’t want you to design your own conspiracy theory — that can be fun, but that isn’t your homework. Rather, I want you to make a list of the things a conspiracy theory seems to require in order to be successful.

    This is similar to thinking about what the different conspiracies mentioned in your group have in common: the difference is, I challenge you to think about other conspiracy theories you’ve heard about and check whether they fulfill the criteria you outline as well. (That is, test your theory against a larger sample of conspiracy theories — more than just three of them!)

    For Week 12 (21/23 May) I will be discussing some different “conspiracy theories” (modern and historical), the difference between imagined and real conspiracies (because there are also real conspiracies; the mainstream accepts that the 9-11 attack was the result of a conspiracy by Islamist terrorists, for example; I will mention other, less-known “real conspiracies” in the history of the Anglophone world), and talk about the significance of both conspiracies and conspiracy theories to understanding Anglophone cultures. I will also show you some popular culture material involving conspiracy theories.

    The remaining time we have in class will be used for presentations of the ideas you’re developing for your final essays. Bear in mind: our schedule is going to be a bit upset by some national holidays: May 28 is Buddha’s Birthday, and June 6 is Memorial Day: both these holidays will rob us of classtime together. However, we still have time to get everyone’s presentation in, as far as I can tell. Since we will be doing three presentations in an hour, your presentation should be between 7-9 minutes in length, to allow for some questions and discussion after each presentation. You do NOT need to use a powerpoint presentation, though you are allowed to do so if you want. However, make sure to test your ppt file before class, as we are on a very tight schedule.

    There are currently two presentation slots available on 13 June, in case anyone missed class on the day of the sign-ups. (If more people need to present, we may need to add a class meeting on 18 June.)

    Our presentation schedule is as follows:

    Wed. 30 May:

    • Nayoung Kim
    • Jinsoo Kim
    • Hyeja Cho
    • Moonsoo Song
    • Jisun Noh
    • Younggyu Kim

    Mon, 4 June:

    • Heejeong Wang
    • Imjung Ha
    • Jaehyun Kim

    Mon. 11 June:

    • Seong Wook Park
    • Mikyung Lee
    • Sungho Shin

    Wed. 13 June:

    • Jeong-gu Yeo
    • Hyoeun An
    • Jiyeong Kim
    • Minjung Kim
    • Daniel Kim
    • Nayoung Kim

    If you are not on this list, please speak to me after class next week so I can add you to the list for 13 June.

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