This Course at MIT

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 21A.506 The Business of Politics: A View of Latin America as it was taught by instructor Maria Vidart-Delgado in Spring 2014.

This course examined the birth and international expansion of an American industry of political marketing with an emphasis on Latin America. It focused attention on the cultural processes, sociopolitical contexts and moral utopias that shape the practice of political marketing in the US and in different Latin American countries.

By looking at the debates and expert practices at the core of the business of politics, the course explored how the "universal" concept of democracy is interpreted and reworked through space and time. It also examined how different cultural groups experimenting with political marketing understand the role of citizens in a democracy.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Identify the main features of liberalism and liberalization in Latin America.
  • Learn key debates about public formation and civic engagement in the age of mass media.
  • Acquire research skills to relate specific ethnographic material to broader political and cultural processes.
 

Curriculum Information

Prerequisites

None.

Requirements Satisfied

Offered

This course was only offered in Spring 2014.

The Classroom

  • A well-lit, medium-sized room with open windows and four rows of desks and chairs.

    Seminar

    This course was taught in a medium-sized classroom equipped with a chalkboard and a LCD video projector.

 

Assessment

The students' grades were based on the following activities:

The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by written reports. 60% Written reports (Tasks 1-3)
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by a campaign strategy report and presentation. 15% Campaign strategy report and presentation (Task 4)
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by the final report. 20% Final report (Task 5)
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by class participation. 5% Class participation
 

Read more of the instructor's thoughts on assessing the research project below.

Student Information

Fewer than 10 students took this course when it was offered in Spring 2014.

Breakdown by Year

1/2 freshmen, 1/2 juniors

Typical Student Background

Students who took this course were also participating in other courses about Latin America; they had a strong interest in Latin America and its culture.

Ideal Class Size

Having between five and ten students is ideal for a course like this one. The class was very interactive. Much time was spent discussing readings, viewing media, and talking about how various themes were related. Having a larger class would reduce how much interaction could occur.

 

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 13 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

Seminar

3 hours per week
  • Met twice a week for 1.5 hours per session; 26 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
  • All students were expected to complete the readings, and participate in class discussions and activities. Activities included exercises, such as explaining how one would design political polls and surveys to understand the political culture of a particular country.
 

Out of Class

10 hours per week
  • Readings in preparation for class sessions
  • Five written reports
  • One presentation
 

Semester Breakdown

WEEK M T W Th F
1 No classes throughout MIT. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
2 No session scheduled. Screening session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
3 No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled.
4 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
5 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
6 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
7 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled.
8 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
9 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
10 No session scheduled. Screening session scheduled. No session scheduled. Screening session scheduled. No session scheduled.
11 No session scheduled. Screening session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled.
12 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled.
13 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Screening session scheduled. No session scheduled.
14 No session scheduled. Student presentations; assignment due date. No session scheduled. Student presentations; assignment due date. No session scheduled.
15 No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled. No session scheduled. Seminar session scheduled; assignment due date. No classes throughout MIT.
16 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
Displays the color and pattern used on the preceding table to indicate dates when classes are not held at MIT. No classes throughout MIT
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when lecture sessions are held. Seminar session
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when students presentations are held. Student presentations
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when no class session is scheduled. No class session scheduled
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when screening sessions are held. Screening session
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when assignments are due. Assignment due date
 

Instructor Insights

The wonderful thing about a class like this one is that it focuses a lot on media.

—Maria Vidart-Delgado

Below, Maria Vidart-Delgado describes various aspects of how she taught 21A.506 The Business of Politics: A View of Latin America.

Engaging Students in Discussions

The wonderful thing about a class like this one is that it focuses a lot on media. One strategy I used to engage students in classroom discussions was to show YouTube clips of different Latin American politicians—mainly presidential candidates—so that students could observe different political communication styles. I routinely asked them questions, such as “Why do think, in this campaign, they chose this specific image? Who are they talking to? Who is the audience? Why does this message make sense in this country? Let’s think about the history of the country. Why is this relevant?” These questions were automatic conversation starters. In fact, students shared that before taking the class, they did not know how much went into producing political campaign ads; after the course, they began to see political ads with new eyes.

Assessing the Semester-Long Research Project

I established grading criteria for each of the assignments and provided feedback that aligned with the criteria. For example, I commented on the clarity of students’ work and the thoroughness of their research. I communicated this feedback in writing. Using rubrics in this way seemed to work well.

During the class, I also provided feedback about how students were analyzing the political materials. It was helpful to point out how they could move beyond replicating what the media was saying toward generating more of a critical analysis.

Improving the Course

If I teach this class again—and I would love to teach it again—I would be more explicit about how the themes of the course are connected. This is especially important for classes in which students with varying levels of experience are learning together. For example, I had both freshmen and juniors in this iteration of the seminar. They came with different levels of exposure to the themes in the curriculum. Being more explicit about how the themes are connected would make the class more accessible to a variety of learners.