Friday, February 16, 2007

Shake That Content Analysis

Today it came time to teach content analysis in the undergraduate research methods class.

Talk about a party on a Friday afternoon.

A colleague suggested playing an Eminem song and having the students code it for sexual references.

A great idea.

I toyed with the idea for more than an hour, settling on his Shake that song (read the quite controversial lyrics here).

We talked about defining sexual references and obscenity and indecency, as this is a current topic of concern.

I also tried to make sure that any student who wanted to could leave before we played the song.

The educational exercise worked quite well as the students struggled with the definitions.

"This is hard," one said.

Another fell back on Potter Stewart's "I'll know it when I see it."

After the song, the counts for sexual references ranged from 6 to almost 60. Exactly the point! Content analysis based coding is quite difficult.

In the end, I hope no one was needlessly offended.

Perhaps most interestingly, almost the entire class agreed that the printed lyrics (which we did not look at) would be more offensive than the song.

Hmmm. Context can make something less offensive. I think that means something.

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