Topic: In this paper you will analyze a sample of contemporary public discourse about the challenges facing our political institutions, paying particular attention to the stresses caused by the transformation to a network society. 

Public discourse includes academic writing, professional writing, political speeches or press releases, journalism, social media and popular culture (fiction, movies, TV). 

American institutions we have discussed in class clustered around five areas: academe, journalism, business/markets, politics/government and diplomatic/military. Distinct institutions within those categories would include newspapers, social media, Congress, the police, the courts, political parties, and the like. For this paper we will limit our examination to those institutions that most directly affect the health of our democracy, so choose accordingly. If you are not sure whether your selection qualifies, check with me. 

Discourse samples. You have wide latitude in choosing your sample (the sample is the set of writing or other types of expression you will analyze). The number of individual pieces in your sample, depends on the format/genre of those pieces. If you choose longer formats/genres, such as magazine essays, it is probably best to use only 2-4 examples. If you choose to work with shorter formats/genres, such as letters to the editor or social media sources, you will need more examples in order to have a sufficient discourse to analyze. Your sample must include pieces which express differing viewpoints. (The viewpoints do not need to be diametrically opposed; but they also should not be expressing identical ideas). 

Analysis. This will be primarily a descriptive analysis: you will be focusing on accurately describing, comparing, and contrasting the viewpoints expressed in the discourse, paying special attention to the underlying cultural constructs such as democracy and justice. You should also provide a brief historical context for the issues addressed in the discourse. For instance, if you select examples from the debates about voter identification, you should include a paragraph giving the background of voting rights. You may include discussion of the projected outcome of the current stresses on the institution and proposed responses to the problem. 

Format: The essay should be typed, double-spaced, minimum 12-pitch font, and 3-7 pages pages long. 

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