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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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Making Media Critically

Download: The Knotted Line Curriculum

Foundational Understandings 

  • Media is “constructed.” Media messages are shaped by the ideologies and interests of the media makers and their values and points of view are embedded within the media they make.
  • Media is a powerful tool for maintaining, changing, controlling, challenging, or expanding people’s understandings of the world around them. It has also been central to resistance movements and imagining more liberated worlds. 
  • Media plays a key role in shaping the way identities such as gender, race, class, and sexuality are formed and enacted in society.

Essential Questions

  • What story do you want to tell?
  • How can media makers transform a dominant narrative? 


Participants will…
...develop a deeper understanding of the role and purpose of media in society. their media literacy—the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.
...explore ways that media has been used as a form of resistance to counter dominant narratives.

Common Core Standards

    Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
    Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
    Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
    Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
    Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
    Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Facilitator Preparation


Length of Time:  Two 55-minute sessions
Recommended Age Range: 14-23
Ideal Number of Participants: 15-30

Materials Needed

Session 1

  1. Pre-load this clip (9:00 - 14:10) and the slideshows Flipping the Story and Media from the Dominant Culture.
  2. Print out Power Words list and Flipping the Story worksheet (and pdf’s of slideshows if no computer access).
Part 1: Personal Connection & Reflection, Developing the Reason to Learn

Who do you love?

15 min
Each participant takes a few moments to write an answer to the following: What is a brand that you identify strongly with? Why? When did this begin?
Next, play this clip (9:00 - 14:10) about the invention of marketing, focusing on Edward Bernays and cigarettes from the documentary “Century of Self.”
The facilitator initiates discussion:
What happened?
What was the ideology that Bernays was appealing to? (ex. Independent and daring women, patriotism, cigarettes are attractive)
How did Bernays use media to frame a story about smoking?
Think back about the brand that you identify with. What are the ideologies that the brand appeals to?

Part 2: Develop the Concept, Move from the Personal to the Theoretical

Flipping the Script

30 min
Facilitator transitions the group:
Now we are going to analyze different pieces of media from the “Dominant Culture” and how people have “flipped” or innovated on them. Check for understanding of Dominant Culture (viewpoint, needs, customs, laws etc that reflect those who hold the most power).

Hand out the Power Word list  and Flipping the Story worksheet and check for understanding if participants haven’t worked with the power words before.
We will be using the Power Words list to help us identify the ideologies that are in the media and make connections between the different works. 
Participants then begin working with the Media from the Dominant Culture  and Flipping the Story slideshows (digitally or as PDF) to fill in the worksheet. Participants should take time to explore the media before beginning the worksheet.

As participants finish the worksheet, ask participants to share and explain some of the connections they made.

Part 3: Active Experimentation with new knowledge and concepts

Other People’s Projects

10 minute
Facilitator transitions the group:
Now that we’ve looked at these examples, what are examples of songs, books, movies, art that you like that “flips the script”?

Collect a bunch of responses. If there is a particularly popular example, focus on it and unpack it with the following questions: 
How are they transforming dominant culture stories, images or ideas to “flip” the story?
Who do you think the intended audience is?
What is the ideology they are responding to?
What is their message?

Session 2

  1. Magazines, construction paper, permanent markers, scissors, glue sticks, colored pencils or computers and printers (Facilitator note: If your group has experience with image editing programs, video editing or other digital forms, this is a great opportunity to build on this). 
  2. Access to past participant examples if needed: Flipping the Story participant work created with The Knotted Line.

Part 4: Integration of Concepts & Experience, Learners Representing New Knowledge in their Own Voice

Identification of an Issue

10 min

Facilitator introduces the topic:
What is a story told in the media that is meaningful to you? Think back to the examples from the previous workshop—representations of Native youth, racial profiling...etc. What is an issue or story that you want to “flip”?

Participants should reflect on the following, jotting down quick notes if needed:
What is the story or issue you are interested in and passionate about?
What are the forms of media that the story is told in?
What are the POWER words that inform how this story gets told?

Now think about your own experience with this story or issue. What expertise and experience do you bring in order to tell a different story?

Flipping the Story

35 min
Facilitator introduces the next steps:
Now we are going to experiment and play with flipping the story. Using magazines, the internet or your memory, find a specific piece of media that relates to the issue you are passionate about. 

Using the available materials, you should either 1) alter the language or image of the piece of media you found, or 2) create a new piece of media. Whatever you choose, your goal is to flip the dominant culture story that is in the original piece of media you are responding to. 

If needed, participants can view the following examples created by people working with The Knotted Line. 


10 min
Share out a few examples, asking participants how they would create a polished version if they had more time. (Facilitator note: If you are doing this as part of the Flipping the Script Project, this exercise gives participants an opportunity to play and make mistakes).

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