Global Agenda 2011

Perceptions of America Abroad

Spring 2011

Meets: Wednesday 3:35pm - 4:50pm

and other times Wednesday evenings outlined below

Class location: Gore Hall 219

Speaker location: Mitchell Hall

See detailed schedule in separate schedule document

Course Internet pages (bookmark them):



Professor Ralph J. Begleiter

Office: 201 Elliott Hall (26 E. Main St.)

Phone: (302) 831-7771

Office Hours:

Monday 1pm-3pm

Thursday 1pm-3pm

and by appointment

Assistant: Luci Coumatos

Teaching Assistant

Rebecca Riley

The Honors section of Global Agenda will have several unusual characteristics this year.

In addition to our regular Wednesday afternoon classes, Honors will meet on Tuesday mornings from 9:00am - 10:15am. This section will meet together with a similar class of undergraduate students at Zayed University in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, by live videoconference. For the Dubai students, of course, it will be early evening because of the time-zone difference. You will get to know your Dubai Arab counterparts in discussion during this videoconference, as well as through direct email and social networking media. The Honors section will share some assignments, projects and presentations with your counterparts in Dubai.

Zayed University is an all-women’s institution, and a relatively young one (established in 1998). Perhaps you will discover why it’s so young. Your counterparts there are focusing on Communication, but also have an interest in international affairs. The students you will meet in Dubai are not “Honors” students. Previous members of the Dubai class have visited the University of Delaware during the past three years. Last year, the entire Dubai class visited UD, and our Honors students accompanied them to New York and Washington, DC.

Our videoconferences will be conducted in English, but it’s important to remember that your counterparts in Dubai will be challenged to express themselves in a second language to accommodate our inability to speak theirs. I believe the Dubai students have had more experience speaking English than they have writing it. Internet access in the Middle East generally is neither as prevalent nor as fast as it is on the UD campus. And the time-difference is another factor to consider. (When it’s 9am in Delaware, it’s 6pm in Dubai.) Please be kind and understanding if these factors prove challenging in communicating with your counterparts in Dubai.

There is a possibility that the Dubai students may be able to raise enough funds to visit us at the University of Delaware during the first week of May. If this opportunity develops, our Teaching Assistant, Rebecca Riley, may ask for volunteers (women only) to offer to host our guests in their apartments during that week. We will also plan at least one field trip with our Dubai colleagues during that week, probably on Tuesday, May 3, to Washington, DC. Other field trips are also likely during the Dubai students’ visit. And the Dubai students will, of course, be welcome in our Wednesday Global Agenda class - and others at UD - as well.

The Honors section will use a separate part of the Global Agenda web site, in Sakai. Your counterparts in Dubai will share the same site for our collaboration. Here’s where we will post assignments, papers, projects with your peers in Dubai. But you are welcome – in fact, encouraged – to use other social networking technologies (i.e. Facebook, Skype, Twitter or various chat options) to communicate with your fellow students in Dubai. You’ll find it works best to make an “appointment” to get online at the same time, rather than just ‘taking a chance’ you’ll find them; the time difference makes a big difference.

Topics discussed in the Honors section collaboration with Dubai will diverge a bit from those we’ll experience in Global Agenda. With Dubai, you’ll focus on cultural and media connections and clashes with the Arab world. It’s worth remembering that the guest speakers you hear in Delaware won’t be heard by the students in Dubai at the same time. (We’re making the speakers available of course, through the web, but this will delay their access by a couple of days each week.)

Some topics we may explore with students in Dubai include (not necessarily in this order, and not necessarily an inclusive list):

  1. Events in Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere this winter, and their impact on others in the Arab world and on the United States.

  2. U.S. politics and the Middle East: Expectations and Reality. Students describe their expectations of how the U.S. administration of Barack Obama is handling the Middle East. What are your hopes and dreams? What are your expectations? What do you think is most likely to actually occur?

  3. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Discuss media portrayals in each region. Embedding. Perceptions of the US role. Perceptions of the Arab role. Perceptions of “progress” (toward what goals? democracy? control of “terrorism?” something else?)

  4. The role of Wikileaks in diplomacy and foreign affairs. How does public disclosure of classified or embarrassing diplomatic information affect diplomacy and public understanding of issues?

  5. “Global policeman” & “clash of civilizations” - What role do students think the US has in the world? Should have?

  6. Media and public opinion perceptions of each other: evidence from public opinion polls in the US and the Arab world; separating perceptions of ‘values’ from perceptions of foreign policies; how perceptions change over time, and why; media’s role in this process; how much do the media form people’s perceptions of the other? Has the explosion in media outlets and forms made people’s perceptions of the other more or less accurate?

  7. The United Nations and the Middle East - What role does the UN play in the Middle East? What role should the US have with respect to the United Nations?

  8. Public diplomacy and the mass media: How Arabs and Americans practice public diplomacy and public opinion manipulation via the media; the motivation and conduct of Al-Hurra, Radio Sawa, Manar and Future TV, Al-Jazeera, Fox TV, etc., and assessments of their professional and political dimensions. Is mass media a tool for understanding or a weapon of war?

  9. The new media and their impact on domestic and international politics: how the internet, satellite TV, FM radio, blogging, podcasting, SMS phone messaging and other media have impacted on domestic political action and also on political communication between the Arabs and the West. Have these media qualitatively changed political trends, or simple speeded things up?

  10. Globalization and its impact: How trade, finance, communications, travel and other dimensions of globalization have impacted on the mass media, and, in turn, on politics; is globalization a one-way process or is there a backlash to it? Are we moving towards a single global culture and value system?

  11. The Arab-Israeli conflict and its impact on the media and politics: Arab and Western perceptions of the conflict and their impact on media coverage; the bias or accuracy of media coverage; do the Arab and American media tend to cover the same story in relation to the conflict? Convergences and divergences in media coverage and what these tell us about political attitudes.

  12. Freedom and democracy in the Middle East: perspectives from the Middle East and the West; the media’s role in promoting American and Western policies in this field, and the parallel behavior of Arab and Middle Eastern media in addressing the issue of promoting freedom and democracy in the region. Assessments of specific American and Arab attempts to promote media independence and professionalism in the Middle East as part of the drive for democracy.

  13. The role of social networking technologies in the U.S. and the Middle East. How are the similar? How different? Consider the role of governments and citizens vis-a-vis social networking.

  14. Terrorism and media coverage of it: how do Arab and American media cover the terrorism story? Convergences and divergences in their attitudes to the terror problem and its causes. Do the media in both societies accurately reflect political attitudes about terrorism? Does media coverage tend to exacerbate terror or lessen it? How do terrorists and counter-terrorism forces use the media as a professional tool?

  15. Human rights, politics and the mass media: how media in both societies deal with human rights issues in their own societies and in the other; how both societies define human rights issues and assess the behavior of the other. Does this issue promote shared values and political action, or is it simply another arena of dispute? 

  16. Youth and demography: young people under the age of 25 make up about half of Arab society and are a major driving force of political and social trends; does the mass media cover youth-related issues and perspectives adequately? Fairly? Are young people’s political and personal views captured in the media, or ignored? What is the political impact of the media’s treatment of youth?

We will never have enough time to discuss all these topics. Videoconferencing is expensive, so our time together is limited. But we’ll do the best we can. Because this videoconference collaboration is still somewhat experimental, there may be times you feel this course is a bit “on-the-fly;” that’s because it is. We’ll do our best to help make it a worthwhile and interesting  experience. You can do your part by actively participating and engaging with your U.A.E. counterparts, and by being understanding of technical and other glitches in the transglobal classroom setting.

Honors section grading: Students in Dubai will be graded by a Zayed University professor. Students at UD will be graded by Prof. Begleiter. UD Honors section writing assignments will differ from those in the non-Honors section. But Honors students are required to participate in all classes and guest speaker events associated with the non-Honors section of Global Agenda.

At the end of this syllabus is a combined class schedule, showing all meetings of the Global Agenda class. But here is a summary schedule of just the extra Honors section class meetings. Because UD and Zayed University have slightly different academic and holiday calendars, we must coordinate our videoconference schedules. At UD we will meet on non-videoconference dates also, as noted here:

  1. Tues, Feb 8 - Introduction - NO VIDEOCONFERENCE. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  2. Tues, Feb 15 - NO videoconference. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  3. Tues, Feb 22 - Honors videoconference. First videoconference. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  4. Tues, Mar 1 - Honors videoconference. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  5. Tues, Mar 8 - Honors videoconference. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  6. Tues, Mar 15 - Honors videoconference. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  7. Tues, Mar 22 - Honors videoconference. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  8. Tues, Mar 30 - NO CLASS - UD SPRING RECESS

  9. Tues, Apr 5 - Honors videoconference. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor.

  10. Tues, Apr 12 - Honors videoconference. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  11. Tues, Apr 19 - Honors videoconference. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  12. Tues, Apr 26 - Honors videoconference. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  13. Tues, May 4 - NO videoconference. Class meets in LOCATION TBD. Possible visit to Delaware this week by students from Dubai. UD students host and participate in field trip(s).

  14. Tues, May 10 - FINAL VIDEOCONFERENCE. Class meets in Pearson 304 (Studio C), Pearson Hall 3rd floor

  15. Tues, May 17 - NO videoconference. Final class meeting. LOCATION TBA