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[UIUC] MACS364: Food Networks - S2014

Anita Chan, Author

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MACS364 // Food Networks: Media, Technology, & Sustainability

Spring 2014 // M, 2-4:50P  --  Location: Armory 137


Dr. Anita Chan                                                                      Office: Gregory Hall, ICR, Rm. 235

email:                                                      Office Hours: TR, 9:30-10:30A



This course will study principles and practices associated with food production and branding through diverse food-related media networks – looking comparatively at food marketing and production in Sweden and Illinois. The class will focus on the marketing and production networks associated with “environmentally-friendly,” “sustainable” and “organics” food products.  Students will learn how things such as geography, history, culture, local business practices and national policy shape the making and marketing of diverse food products. Students will also have a chance to examine how consumer “experiences” get constructed across diverse media platforms – from magazines and televised cooking shows, to social media and websites. in collaboration with KTH University’s Center for Sustainable Communication. This unique opportunity will allow students to develop cutting-edge skills currently in high-demand in the media and advertising industries: including web-centered analytics, data visualization, and consumer research related to global markets.

In addition, the class will travel to major cities within Sweden and meet with professionals, researchers, producers in advertising, marketing, policy, media industries, and “eco-friendly” consumer product design. The class will also have the opportunity to do the same in illlinois. Students will research food product innovation, branding, and marketing techniques in Sweden through visits to: consumer research centers, organics branding consultants, and organics-focused print and broadcast studios and publishers. Students will also make field visits to sites of consumerism and food production in Sweden: including grocery stores, local farmers’ markets, and rural and urban farms. During their field research in Sweden, students will identify and explore how innovative media uses and strategies can help shape national markets in food and organics production. 

Course Requirements and Grading:

Weekly readings will be posted online and should be completed prior to the following class. You will also be asked to complete short writing assignments or composition exercises that will be posted to the coursesite. These will generally require short answers of no more than 1 page of single-spaced text, and/or the collection of image or sound files; and will be due at 5P on the night prior to the following class. Responses are worth up to 3 points each. Be prepared to discuss your assignments in class. No late assignments will be accepted. 


There are no Midterm or Final Exams for the class. Instead, you will complete Research Projects that will allow you to use independent research to explore a contemporary debate in food production systems and markets, focused on media strategies for communicating transparency and sustainability in food consumer products.


For our final week on campus, Week 8: you'll prepare a short visual presentation (10 minutes) on the online Scalar platform representing the first part of your project. This will focus on the results of your independent research on a leading Food Brand and its development of Sustainability in Product Lines and Production Practices -- and will involve one of the following top food brands: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Dole (fruit), Chiquita (fruit), Dean Foods (dairy), Kraft/Nabisco (dairy), Kellogs (bread), General Mills/Pillsbury (bread), McDonalds, Tyson (meat), or Cargill (meat). Presentations on Part 1 of your Scalar site will be given in class on Monday 5/5. This will be accompanied by a written essay (5-6 pages, 1-inch margins, Times 12-point font, double-spaced, and excluding your bibliography and end notes), also due in hard copy at 2P in class on 5/5A guide for citing sources in MLA, APA, or Chicago style can be found at:

UPDATE: The first (midpoint) portion of your project's essay and Scalar site will address the topic of your company's development of Sustainability Practices, addressing both the history of your company and comparison to Sustainability Practices being developed in comparable companies/industries (including those covered in Gary Hirchberg's Stirring It Up.

  • The first (midpoint) portion of your Scalar site, to be presented in class on 5/5, should include a minimum of 10 pages, a min. of 10 media/visual items (including 1 Youtube video with annotations), and 1 linear path connecting your pages. Feel free to draw from your previous take-home exercises' visualizations for this for *up to* 5 media items and pages, and to draw in text from your essay for text segments for your Scalar page. (for a refresher on Scalar steps, see the QuikStart Guide)
  • For this part of your project: make use of at least 1 class reading in both your essay and your Scalar site.

For Part 2 (Sweden) of Your Projectyou will build upon your research, and focus on the development and communication of Sustainability in the Swedish Food market (in a product line parallel to your US Food Brand). This will be presented in Sweden on the Saturday afternoon, May 24, prior to our final departure. You will also compose a written portion for your final project that will place your findings in dialogue with course readings. Papers are due via email by Wednesday, June 4 by 2PM, and should be 5-6 pages long, (with 1-inch margins, Times 12-point font, double-spaced, and excluding your biblography and end notes, and 1-page long reflection essay on using Scalar). Details on projects will follow.


Your in-class participation will also be evaluated as part of your final grade. Punctual attendance is obligatory.


Assignments:                   30%

Short Presentation:         15%        Due: 5/5

Short  Paper:              10%        Due: 5/5

Final Presentation:            20%        Due: 5/25

Final Paper:                      15%        Due: 6/4 at 2PM

Participation:                    10%


Also: Students with special needs or academic deadline sensitivities (including graduating seniors) should inform me immediately. I will do my best to make sure that accommodations the University makes available will be granted in these cases.


Attendance Policy:


Attendance will be recorded for each class, so please be on time. Persistent tardiness may diminish your grade for class participation. If you must be absent, it is your responsibility to inform me beforehand or submit a valid excuse immediately upon returning to class. Excuses for absences during the course will not be accepted at the end of the semester.


Accumulating three unexcused absences will automatically lower your final grade by a letter grade (ie. a B to a C). Accumulating six unexcused absences will automatically result in automatic failure.


Late and Written Work:


Late work will not be accepted except in very special circumstances. If you feel that your situation qualifies, contact me as soon as possible and certainly before the assignment is due.  


Academic Integrity:


UIUC Student Code of Policies and Regulations specifies that students must refrain from violations of academic integrity (cheating, plagiarism, fabrication and others); from behavior that may lead to suspicion of such violations; and from behavior that helps others commit such violations. You can read the Code at:

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