Communications Culture Coursework Aqa

Section A: Readings (50% of total marks) 

Investigation into Communication, Culture and the Individual 

500 word study (Topic chosen from Site A) 

This piece of work provides an opportunity for candidates to explore aspects of their own cultural identity. Every year AQA will set a range of three topics from which one must be chosen for this study. These topics will form part of a rolling programme, with each topic available for a minimum of two years. Each topic will relate to the ways in which individuals utilise codes of culture and communication to perceive themselves and others. 

The onus should be on the candidate to interpret the chosen topic for their individual study within the following parameters: 

  • Based on individual, personal experience 
  • Engagement with one or more of the following cultural codes: 
    • Verbal and/or non-verbal communication 
    • Identity and self-presentation 
    • Group communication

Exploration of Cultural Contexts and Practices 

1000 word study (Topic chosen from Site B) 

This piece of work provides an opportunity to explore the ways in which cultural meanings and messages are embodied in cultural practices and cultural products. Every year AQA will set a range of three topics from which one must be chosen for this study. These topics will form part of a rolling programme, with each topic available for a minimum of two years. Each topic will relate to the ways in which cultural products and/or cultural practices address individuals. 

For this study candidates should collate material from appropriate secondary sources and integrate this with material drawn from their own direct observation. The term secondary source does not necessarily imply, but does not exclude, academic/theoretical texts, but rather suggests that part of this task is to consider other perspectives on the chosen topic. These sources may include popular and quality journalism (newspapers and magazines), websites, film, radio and television and the testimonies of others. 

The onus should be on the candidate to interpret the chosen topic for their individual study within the following parameters: 

  • draws on appropriate secondary sources 
  • based on the meanings and practices of everyday life 
  • engages with techniques of 'reading' cultural practices and/or products.

COMM2: The Individual and Contemporary Culture: Portfolio

Submission date 15 May 2017

Section A: Reading

Guidance for teachers

Teachers are advised to refer to pages 7-16 of the Communication and Culture specification.

There are four topics for Site A and four topics for Site B.

Each candidate must select one topic from Site A for their Investigation. A title must be devised, appropriate to the chosen topic from Site A.

Each candidate must select one topic from Site B for their Exploration. A title must be devised, appropriate to the chosen topic from Site B.

Further clarification, if required, is available from your Coursework Adviser. Please contact the Customer Support Team for your Coursework Adviser's contact details.

Site A: Communication, Culture and the Individual

Investigation

This must be on personal identity and once a Site A Topic has been selected, it is important to create a title which allows candidates to demonstrate engagement with key concepts from the course within the scope of a 500 word reading. Titles which are too vague or overly ambitious will prevent candidates from achieving this. It is good practice to make use of the personal pronoun and a phrasing of the title in two steps, as exemplified below to encourage a personal and focused response.

Education: All I learnt at school?

Education can have a profound effect on our sense of who we are. Education can be seen in the broad sense of experiences that have a formative effect on the individual or more specifically as the system by which society formally transmits knowledge, skills, attitudes and values through institutions such as schools and colleges. This topic asks you to investigate the relationship between aspects of personal identity and the many ways in which we are influenced by the contexts of education. Areas for investigation might include your experience of the curriculum ('national' and 'hidden'); the social dimension of education; the many ways in which you are represented at school and college (for example through dress codes and uniforms, photographs, reports, roles, group membership) or of influential people, relationships and experiences within an educational setting.

Sample titles
  1. Reading my school photographs: what do they reveal about me?
  2. Language rules: how school influenced the ways I talk
  3. Class clown and teacher's pet: investigating my differing roles
  4. (Anti) social spaces: me in the playground/common room
  5. Single sex: how being at an all-girls/boys school shaped who I am
  6. Dress codes: fitting in and standing out at school/college
  7. Level playing field? How my race/ethnicity/gender/social class/disability/learning need influenced what I learned
  8. High flyer? Investigating the impact of labelling on my identity
  9. Subject matters: what I really learnt in French/History/etc.
  10. The new kid: the effect of moving schools on my identity
  11. School's Out: leaving school and moving on
  12. (Proudly) representing the school/desperate to be picked: playing a part in school activities (sport, drama, music etc)

Food

You are what you eat: "Food touches everything important to people: it marks social difference and strengthens social bonds. Common to all people, it can signify very different things from table to table." Our relationship with food communicates a lot about the construction and development of our personal identity in terms of food choices, the importance of food preparation and meal times in defining our identity within the family and food as a representation of national, regional or ethnic identity.

*Food and Culture: A Reader by Carole Counihan and Penny van Esterik, (Routledge 1997)

Sample titles
  1. I'm not eating that! Me as a faddy eater
  2. Meat is Murder: how my vegetarianism defines me
  3. Supersize me: investigating my fast food addiction
  4. Soul food: why I value my family traditions
  5. Turkey and Pumpkin Pie: Why I celebrate Thanksgiving
  6. Muesli for breakfast doesn't make me middle class
  7. What the Contents of our Fridge Says About Us
  8. My favourite meal: what it is and what it is (theory and practice)
  9. Fish and chips on Friday: my week in food
  10. Meat and two veg: food and the gender agenda

Virtual Selves: Projections and Representations

Projections and Representations: Virtual worlds can allow us to more freely explore facets of our personalities in ways that are not easily available to us in real life. Partly this is due to our capacity to invent, modify and exaggerate attributes and abilities within these contexts. In one sense we can be whoever we want to be. Online identities are flexible to the extent we can easily alter the seemingly fixed markers of self such as race, ethnicity, gender, age and socio-economic background. Another characteristic of virtual environments is the anonymity they provide. Virtual contexts give the individual the ability to express themselves free from social norms and the pressures or expectations within family and friendship groups, personal relationships or within the education system or work place. However the freedom to experiment and the capacity to remain anonymous have other consequences for our sense of who we are. Maintaining an alternative identity can cause feelings of disconnect and dissatisfaction and can lead to issues of trust in the interactions that we have with other virtual selves. When identity becomes ambiguous and disembodied how do we know what is real? This topic invites you to investigate the relationship between aspects of personal identity and the many ways in which we are influenced by the virtual environment that we interact with and through. Areas for investigation might include your presentation of self on social networking sites; the modifications you make to your identity as an online gamer; the construction of yourself through blogs and vlogs or your own experience of the more negative aspects of virtual communication, such as trolling. Whichever focus you choose remember that this piece of writing is specifically asking you to investigate your own personal identity.

Sample titles
  1. Real friends vs Facebook friends: how social networking affects my personal relationships
  2. Virtual forums: how I express myself online
  3. Me and my avatar: the real me or the ideal me?
  4. Me and You Tube: how I present myself to a mass audience
  5. My Sims family and me: what my virtual family reveals about me
  6. The gamer in me: how RPGs have shaped my identity
  7. "Who is it who can tell me who I am?" How easy is it to identify the 'real me'?
  8. Second Life and first life: how are mine connected?
  9. How I construct my ideal self with Instagram
  10. Mixed messages – the language of texting

Heroes and Idols

'Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.'

David Copperfield

This topic allows you to investigate your relationships with the people you admire, aspire to be like or even 'worship'. In doing this you might want to consider how your personal identity is shaped by your comparison to and identification with others. What do you value about these role models, heroes and idols? Do they embody your ideals for human behaviour or your aspirations in terms of physical appearance, talent or abilities? To what extent are they also embodiments of your cultural values?

Sample titles
  1. Tainted Love: losing faith in my fallen heroes
  2. Broken Heroes: why I admire the flawed 'genius'
  3. The hero in me: investigating my heroic potential
  4. Just the same as I am: What makes my heroes/idols authentic
  5. My superhero fixation: why I value the caped crusader
  6. Special powers: my imagined superhero identity
  7. Idol ideal: how my role model represents my aspirations
  8. Chip off the old block: why mum/dad is my role model
  9. Learning By Example. How my heroes have taught me cultural rules and values.
  10. 'You Should Be Setting an Example': The expectations of being an older sister/brother

Site B: Cultural Contexts and Practices

Exploration

In contrast to the investigation, the second reading asks the candidate to move away from the personal to an examination of their culture and the cultural practices within it. Best responses achieve a critical distance which is informed by the opinions and views of others, rewarded through Assessment Objective 4.

Rubbish: The culture of junk

Our understanding of 'rubbish' is culturally constructed. What is regarded as waste reveals changing attitudes towards consumption and sustainability. This topic encourages you to explore the meanings to be found in the ways in which societies, subcultures and individuals conceptualise, discard and dispose of goods. The range of issues you might address include the process by which objects move from having value to being valueless; the reclaiming of rubbish as an anti-consumerist act; the scavenging and trading of trash; rubbish as art and as fashion. It is often said that we live in a disposable culture. Are material goods the only things that we dispose of so readily? You might also want to consider the other things we discard or devalue: people, relationships, education.

Sample titles
  1. Vintage Chic: exploring the rise of retro fashion
  2. Mend It? Forget It! : why throwaway society replaced 'make do and mend'
  3. Redefining Junk (or A Fortune in the Attic): the devaluation and revaluation of rubbish
  4. (Yesterday's rubbish; today's heirloom)
  5. Junk Identity: how the language of rubbish is used to label people and places
  6. Bin Liner Fashion: the symbolism of rubbish in clothing and appearance
  7. Bin It! : Behavioural change and cultural messages
  8. So Last Year: the design of obsolescence
  9. "I Just Haven't Got the Space": the relationship between waste and affluence
  10. This Product is Recyclable: How corporations muscled in on green culture
  11. It's NOT rubbish: hoarding and the need to accumulate
  12. To infinity and beyond: dumping junk in cyberspace (in limbo no-one can hear you scream)
  13. Kitsch: the art of bad arts

Rites of Passage: Moving on

A rite of passage is a cultural practice that marks a time when a person reaches a new and significant change in his/her life and such moments of transition are often acknowledged through ceremonies or other formal or informal rituals. These rituals can be anything from a high school prom or a birthday party, to a funeral. Most rites help people to understand their new roles in society and can also help to bring about a change in the way others perceive them. This is an opportunity to explore significant rites of passage and the cultural products and practices through which they are experienced, narrated and represented.

Sample titles
  1. Princess for a day: consumerism and the modern wedding
  2. Five go to Newquay: the teenage holiday as a "coming of age"
  3. "Naughty boys in nasty schools": exploring the rituals of starting 'big school'
  4. The key to the door: is 18 the new 21?
  5. Bunny ears, tutus and strippers: exploring stag and hen dos
  6. Rebel with a cause: exploring the signifiers of teenage rebellion (clothes, skateboards, music etc.)
  7. First Date: exploring the changing rituals of dating
  8. When Hollywood Comes to Bash Street: exploring the rituals of the High School Prom
  9. 'Thinking young and growing older is no sin'. How popular music deals with growing up.
  10. Virtual adulthood: exploring on-line environments (Me Tycoon, Second Life, etc.) and what they teach us

Entertaining Ways: Amusing Ourselves?

The entertainment industry permeates our culture in many ways. It shapes the cultural practices of billions of people around the world, through cinema going, watching television, DVDs or downloads, listening to music, playing computer games and reading magazines. However, at the same time as advances in technology have enhanced and expanded the forms of entertainment available to us, the entertainment industry has been criticised for its negative effects on society. Some of the issues at the heart of recent debates include: the trivializing of culture, the dumbing down of audiences, the damaging effects of screen violence and the increasingly individualised way in which we consume entertainment and the consequent undermining of communities and social interaction. This topic encourages you to explore an aspect of these debates or any of the numerous issues, which an examination of the entertainment industry reveals. Whichever focus you choose, you will need to identify a range of relevant sources that will help you to produce an informed and discursive argument.

Sample titles:
  1. Reality TV: real life art or mindless consumption?
  2. Gossip magazines: harmless trivia or a damaging invasion of privacy?
  3. From monsters to heroes: exploring the popularity of vampires in popular culture
  4. 24/7: exploring the effects of perpetual news
  5. Consuming beauty: exploring the rise of the fashion magazine
  6. Amusing ourselves to death? Is entertainment making us increasingly passive?
  7. "Here we are now! Entertain us" Are we the generation who can't amuse ourselves?
  8. Access All Areas: Is the idea of age-restricted entertainment a thing of the past?
  9. "I want my MTV": exploring the role of music videos in constructing gender identity
  10. Soap operas – a harmless slice of life or subtext for social conditioning

Age Matters

This topic asks you to explore the cultural significance of age. Aging is a biological process but what it means to be a particular age or to be 'young' or 'old' or 'middle aged' is socially constructed. The range of issues you might address include the representation of age in the arts and media; how cultural tastes are influenced by age; how different ages are 'read' by our culture – what it means to be a child, an adolescent or an OAP; the commodification of youth and the 'othering' of old age. This topic encourages you to explore an aspect of these debates or any of the numerous issues, which an examination of the cultural construction of age and aging reveals. Whichever focus you choose, you will need to identify a range of relevant sources that will help you to produce an informed and discursive argument.

Sample titles
  1. "When I'm sixty-four': a cultural reading of retirement
  2. "No country for old men": representations of age in our youth-obsessed culture
  3. The real value of experience: age and socialisation
  4. 'If you are good enough, you're old enough': when is age important?
  5. Rites of Fashion: age and clothes
  6. Coming of age: exploring the rituals of adulthood
  7. Hoodies or goodies? Exploring the roles and representations of teenagers
  8. Teens on Screen: exploring the representation of youth culture in film or TV
  9. The death of adulthood: are we being infantilised? "Live fast die young": the cult of youth

Section B: Presentation

This is not directly related to Site A or Site B topics, however, candidates must address both the personal and the cultural within this audio/visual presentation. The specification states that the purpose of the presentation is to consider the 'struggle' between 'who we want to be and who we are allowed to be.' Best responses considered this conflict through close examination of two of the four key concepts and once selected these should drive the direction of the argument presented. Furthermore personal identity is considered through the cultural practices which bear down on it.

Possible titles with two key concepts explored

Title

Key concepts

Aston Villa and me.

Identity and Representation

Eating disorders and me.

Identity and Power

Me and my guitar.

Identity and representation

Me and my little black dress.

Identity and representation

Me as a piano player.

Identity and value

Me and gaming.

Identity and representation

Me and my Hijab.

Identity and representation

Me and my role in a Muslim household.

Identity and power

The Actor in me.

Identity and representation

Rugby and me.

Identity and representation

Not just a blonde.

Identity and representation

Ballet and me.

Identity and value

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