SPHSC 308 Social Cultural Aspects of Communication

Writing Assignment #1 - System Paper Winter 2010

Systems Paper - Description

Task Description: Systems and subsystems make up your world. .In this class we are using systems theory to allow us to talk about social context.  Consider the systems in which you participate; define one of these systems.  This should be a system about which you know enough to be able to write about all of the components listed in the content section below.  A system can consist of two or more people. A word of advice: don't select a system with too many people; you'll find it hard to write about all of the concepts that are required in this paper.  If you find yourself considering a large system, like a sorority or fraternity, rather than write about the whole system, isolate a subsystem about which you might more easily write. For example, you might select a committee to which you belong.  This paper should be written in narrative form.  You might elect to use headings and subheadings to organize your writing and assist the reader.

Paper Content:  Your paper needs to minimally address all of the concepts listed below.  I will want to see your knowledge of the meaning of these concepts. 

·        Membership: Start your paper with a drawing of your system. You may use stick figures.  This is to give me a sense of the system and if there are subsystems, how they are related.  Also, include a photo of yourself.  This is to assist me with knowing who you are in and out of class. Following the drawing, start the narrative portion of the paper. Name your system and indicate why you believe this is a system – how does it meet the definition of a system as we discussed in class? Next, clearly delineate the members of the system; include sufficient information so that I understand your relationship to other people in the system.  Ages are often very helpful, as are living circumstances as appropriate.  

·        Goals and Rules: Describe the goals and the rules of this system (think critically about this!).  Remember goals are agreed upon objectives for the whole system. Rules are the way in which the goals are achieved.  These goals and rules may be realized at different levels:  conscious or unconscious, concrete or abstract.  For example, a conscious, concrete goal might be to have a clean apartment.  The rules would be that everyone does his/her dishes.   I'd like to hear about these goals and rules at different levels (conscious, unconscious--concrete, abstract). 

·        Roles:  Describe your primary functional and psychological roles in the system; make sure you indicate which roles are functional and which roles are psychological.   Again consider your roles at different levels (conscious, unconscious—concrete, abstract). Use examples to help explain your roles.  Finally, consider how your roles relate to the goals and rules of the system. NOTE:  You do not need to describe the roles of every person in your system; focus on yourself. If you do describe other members' roles, do so BRIEFLY, and only to help illustrate your own roles.

·        Communication and Power: Describe the communication within your system.  Describe fully the nature of the communication among the members of the system. This means specifying the type of communication that occurs most routinely.  For example, is communication positive/negative? Open/closed?  Does it facilitate/inhibit change? Be clear what you mean when you describe the nature/type of communication…don't just say, "communication is positive".  I won't know what that means.  Finally, in this section discuss your power in the system as it relates to communication with others, and perhaps your roles.

·        Boundaries:  Discuss boundaries; you need to include your personal boundaries as well as the system's boundaries.  Remember boundaries assist in understanding how well a person and a system interacts with people and other systems.  (Personal Boundaries -- How open/closed are you to meeting people, sharing information?  How open/closed are you to letting in information?  System's Boundaries -- How well does the system take in new members, new information, etc? How well does the system let out members and information?).  Don't forget that your personal boundaries and the system's boundaries may be different.  Include examples to help me understand your personal and system's boundaries. 

·        Hierarchical Structure:  Finally, for this paper, consider other systems in your life, and how the one system you have been describing is part of another system.  These other systems should be thought about in terms of hierarchical structure.  As such consider how other systems influence the system you are writing about.  Consider the type of influence.  Because this is a discussion about hierarchy of systems, consider if other systems constrain or facilitate/support your system in any way, if so, how?  Consider your discussion of the system's boundaries as you consider another system in a hierarchical relationship.  Write about these considerations! 

You need to make sure that your paper reveals your knowledge of the concepts that define systems.  Don't just tell me a "story" about the people in your life; rather, you need to make sure that in your discussion of the system, you capture or illustrate the meaning of the concepts.  You might wish to define a term, then illustrate it through your system.  The organization of this paper will be a challenge. The above section describes the information that must be contained in the paper; it may serve to guide your organization, but that's up to you.  Most importantly, the organization should allow the above information to be obvious to the reader. As mentioned earlier, you might consider headings.  Finally, I want you to think deeply and critically about your system.  Be thoughtful and reflective!  Make sure you select a system about which you feel comfortable analyzing and writing a paper.  

Audience: Instructor/TA

Length: Not more than 5 pages

Format: Typed, double-spaced, 1 inch margins, stapled, minimum 12 Font

Sources: Readings or other materials as appropriate

Grading: 50 Points  See general grading criteria and corresponding guidelines.  Print out Systems Paper Grading Form and attach to the front of your paper.   

Drafts: Retain a copy of all drafts and the final paper for your records

Due Date: Draft Due 2/1/10!  Final Due 2/8/10 IN CLASS!

Revisions: Once your paper is returned, you may revise and resubmit it.  You will be able to earn up to half of the points you may have lost.  The revision will be due ONE WEEK after the paper is first returned to you.  You will need to follow specific paper-revision guidelines.