Classy Classes: COMM 114S: ‘Media and Identities in the Globalizing Era’

Aug. 4, 2016, 1:00 a.m.
(ANGIE WANG/The Stanford Daily).
(ANGIE WANG/The Stanford Daily).

COMM 114S: “Media and Identities in the Globalizing Era” gathers a diverse group of students to examine media, culture, and global trends from varying standpoints, especially non-Western ones.

“I hope that [students] are able to be exposed to different perspectives and happenings in different parts of the world,” said instructor Sheng Zou, Ph.D candidate in communications.

COMM 114S consists of a lecture on Mondays and discussion and presentation portion on Wednesdays. In one recent lecture, Zou discussed the concept of national identity with a series of real-world examples such as the Euro Cup, Brexit and the upcoming Olympic Games. Students collectively defined the nation-state as a group of sovereign people with a definite sense of identity.

Zou contrasted the nation-state with the idea of an “imagined community” and a “borderless world,” where media and internet make the globe a more interconnected place.

Zou encourages students to think about the role of non-Western countries in globalization.To give students a more nuanced view, Zou emphasizes the costs of globalization as well as its benefits. To Zou, this complex view of globalization is especially relevant to Stanford and Silicon Valley, where new innovations in technology and media are making the world increasingly interconnected.

“When we’re thinking about innovation, do we just think about progress?” Zou said. “Do we also think about slowing down and looking at people who are left behind in the process?”

During his lecture on nation-states, Zou also showed the class several variations on the world map to emphasize that the world can look vastly different depending on your point of view.

He explained that the ubiquitous world map with the United States at the center, with its U.S.-centric bias, was likely created by an American mapmaker. In contrast, another map made by Australian mapmakers inverted the image to place Australia at the top.

“Sometimes what matters is not what you’re looking at, but where you’re looking from,” Zou said.

Beyond maps, Zou hopes that students will realize that globalization connects, rather than homogenizes, diverse perspectives. Fittingly, class discussions in COMM 114S showcase the range of opinions that students from all over the world bring to the class.

High school student Jennifer Vizzueh, a visiting student at Stanford this summer, enjoyed hearing the thoughts of international students.

“I like that there are so many people from so many different parts of the world that I think discussions are riveting, and people have a lot of different perspectives to share,” Vizzueh said.

Elaine Qian, an international student from the University of Toronto, also felt that the diversity she and her classmates brought to the discussions enriched discussions about globalization.

“I think it is very interesting that the theme of the class overlaps very well with the student body,” Zou said. “A lot of them are coming from different parts of the world… It’s a really energetic and diverse mixture of people.”


Contact Angie Wang at 19awang ‘at’

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