Today is the second of a series of posts by a guest contributor, Casey Delehanty, doctoral candidate in political science at Florida State University
In my previous post, I argued that larger classes are an opportunity and not a drawback for using simulations: existing roles can be expanded and made more intricate, lending more depth. Large classes also allow instructors to experiment with new roles that can further deepen a simulation while taking some of the work off of the instructor’s hands. In this post, I will share some of my experience with one of these roles: media actors.
Roles for media actors can fit into almost any preexisting simulation and enhance students’ experience in multiple ways. First, making the media a playable actor can help demonstrate the idea that information is limited and that biases held by media actors can drive opinions and behavior. Second, introducing a media actor can bring more “eyes” to events within the simulation, which encourages students to more fully embrace their roles and allows the instructor to more easily keep tabs on a larger classroom via news updates. Finally, media actors can create a written record of events during the simulation, which serves as a reference during debriefs.
Embrace technology: In my simulations, I allow media actors to create Twitter accounts, which are displayed in real time at the front of the classroom for all to see (a helpful suggestion picked up from the 2014 APSA TLC Simulations and Role Play Track). This feed allows the entire class to be aware of important events happening around the classroom, and it forces media actors to roam freely with smartphones to cover the latest news.
Make the media relevant: In larger simulations, instructors must often adjudicate the various events from a simulation session and release the results to the classroom. When operating a simulation with media actors, make sure to release as much simulation-related information through the media as is possible. This reinforces the political importance of the media and can help to empower the actors themselves to adhere more closely to their roles. Instructors can also strategically release information through the media that can keep other actors within the spirit of the simulation. For example, if the leader of State X is acting out of character, the instructor can ask the media to cover the growing unrest of State X’s citizenry, encouraging its leaders to react to their constituents.
Create multiple perspectives: While many of the above-described tasks can be accomplished via one media actor, it can also be helpful to create multiple media sources with differing perspectives. This eases the burden on any particular media actor and introduces competition to the media landscape. Differing media perspectives can be included ex-ante within actors’ position descriptions.
Allow room for creativity: Beyond the Twitter feed, I allow each media actor three minutes of “air time,” wherein they can command the attention of the class to present “the news.” Uses of this space can vary from interviews with notable figures in the simulation to investigative pieces on the plight of the downtrodden. The “air time” allows people with media roles to showcase their creativity, inform fellow students, and add realism to the simulation.
Don’t be afraid to require a bit more: In my experience, media roles are some of the most sought-after positions within simulations. As such, instructors can lean on the media actors a bit harder to produce relevant material for the class (for example: a short bulletin-style news brief to be shared with the class). Generally, the same impulses that led students to desire a position as a media actor will drive them to put in a little extra work within the simulation itself.
Feedback is welcome. Questions can be asked by posting a comment here or people can email me directly: cpdelehanty[at]gmail.com.