Communication and the Rural Community (Seminar, 2014)

Communication and the Rural Community

Spring 2014

Prof. Kyle Conway
University of North Dakota

Jump to course description, readings, assignments, class schedule.


In this seminar, we will examine the oil boom in western North Dakota through an array of disciplinary lenses: communication, philosophy, sociology, geography, and even petroleum engineering. Our approach will invert that of the typical seminar: rather than begin with a set of thematically linked readings but no predefined object, we will begin with the object and build the readings as we go. We will follow where the research leads us: the challenges people face do not confine themselves to any discipline’s ready-made conceptual containers. Our first question will be, how do people negotiate questions of identity as more newcomers arrive? But even to ask it, we will need to understand the economics and politics of oil, the geographies of migration, the philosophies of hospitality, and so on.

This class will have several tangible outcomes, the most important of which will be an edited volume (to be published by the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota) that talks about issues people find pressing in the oil fields, in the boom towns, at the state capitol, and at the schools and universities that serve North Dakota. One of the university’s responsibilities to the state is to help its citizens understand the challenges they face and find strategies to deal with them. This class will help us make good on that responsibility.


Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Verso, 2006)
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Norton, 2007)
Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange, 2nd ed. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009)

Other readings will include:

  • articles linked to from the syllabus
  • articles/books identified by students to address themes of their choosing
  • submissions to the edited volume


Participation 10%
Class facilitation 20%
Peer review/editing 30%
Book chapter 40%

Assignment descriptions:

Class facilitation: During weeks 2–6, we will ask questions about communication and the social dynamics of towns affected by the oil boom. Students will facilitate these discussions. Their main responsibilities will be 1) to link the readings to the oil boom and 2) to generate discussion questions.

During weeks 7–12, students will become “class experts” who will lead discussions about topics of their choice related to the oil boom. They will facilitate class by choosing readings (at least a full week ahead of time) and generating discussion questions. One approach to choosing topics will be to ask what we should know in order to evaluate submissions to the edited volume competently.

During weeks 13–16, we will perform the first round of peer review for the edited volume. We will devise criteria for evaluating submissions and then collectively debate the merits of each. Facilitators will guide the discussion, and students will be responsible for corresponding with authors as they prepare their revisions. (Once revised, the book will go through a second round of review by an outside reviewer.)

Peer review/editing: We will work together to devise the criteria for evaluating submissions. Students will be responsible for shepherding submissions through the revision process.

Book chapter: Students will produce an article (6000–7500 words) to be considered for inclusion in the edited volume. The topic is open, but students must make its connections to the class material (and the other chapters) clear. It is due by week 13.

Class schedule:

Week 1 (1/15): Introduction: What’s at stake?
Readings: None
Book project: Students complete the IRB on-line educational modules.

Week 2 (1/22): The oil boom and the media: what we see and what we don’t
Readings: Konigsberg, “Kuwait on the Prairie” (HTML)
Brown, “North Dakota Went Boom” (HTML)
Wilcox et al., “Running on Fumes in North Dakota” (HTML/video)
FedGazette July 2013 (PDF)
letters to the editor from the Williston Herald (PDF)
Book project: Brainstorm research questions and approaches and begin IRB approval process.

Week 3 (1/29): The dynamics of globalization: center-periphery
Reading: Robinson, “The Themes of North Dakota History” (HTML)
Hopkins, “The Study of the Capitalist World-Economy: Some Introductory Considerations” (PDF)
Frank, “The Development of Underdevelopment” (PDF)
Shome, “Space Matters: The Power and Practice of Space” (PDF from Chester Fritz Library)
Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy” (PDF)
Book project: Finalize and submit IRB application.

Week 4 (2/5): No class

Week 5 (2/12): The dynamics of globalization: hybridity/Identity and the “imagined community”
Reading: Nederveen Pieterse, Globalization and Culture
Anderson, Imagined Communities
Book project: TBD
Facilitators: Bailey and Josh

Week 6 (2/19): Identity and the “other”
Reading: Appiah, Cosmopolitanism
Book project: TBD
Facilitator: Jessica

Week 7 (2/26)–Week 12 (3/12): Student-led research

During these classes, students will lead discussions about topics that relate to the oil boom. The range of topics is virtually unlimited – they could relate to the technologies involved in fracking, the demographics of newcomers, the geographies of migration, the economics of oil refinement and transport, environmental concerns, and so on.

Students should use the following questions as a guide when selecting topics and readings:

  • What are the causes and effects of the oil boom?
  • What context is necessary for understanding these causes and effects?
  • How can we evaluate the arguments and evidence of the submissions to the edited volume?

Week 7 (2/26): Public health
Facilitators: Heather and Lucy

Articles giving the class a little public health background:
10 Greatest Public Health Achievements (link)
An overview of public health theories (PDF)
Social cognitive theory (link)

Specific North Dakota Health Issues:
On the erionite in the soil (article 1, article 2, article 3, and article 4)
Also, this is kind of cool-public health responding to the oil crisis. A new place to report spills online (PDF)
How North Dakota’s Oil & Gas Boom is Straining the State’s healthcare system (link)
North Dakota’s Oil Boom Results in Population Growth Across the State and Public Health Challenges (link)
Taking a stand on their sacred land (link)
Powerpoint, but such great info! Public and Environmental Health Impacts of the North Dakota Oil Boom (PDF)
ND Oil Boom Brings Students Boom and Schools struggle to accommodate (link)
Photos of the oil boom in ND (link)
Rural North Dakota’s Oil Boom and Its Impact on Social Services (PDF)

Week 8 (3/5): Crime
Facilitator: Naomi
Readings: North Dakota Attorney General, Crime in North Dakota, 2005 (PDF) and 2012 (PDF)
White, “A Tale of Two Shale Plays” (PDF)
Altheide, “Mass Media, Crime, and the Discourse of Fear” (PDF)
John Howard Society of Albera, “Fear of Crime” (PDF)
Brazier, “Negotiating Fargo: Janteloven, How Fargo of You, and Lived Reality” (PDF)
Other articles (Word document 1 and Word document 2)

Week 9 (3/12): Women in the Bakken
Facilitator: Angela

Exotic dancers
Springer, “Male-dominated workforce shapes ND demographics” (HTML)
Monchelin, “Motivations of Professional Strippers” (PDF)
Ellis, “Earn $2,000 a night as a boomtown stripper” (HTML/Video)
Dalrymple, “Stripper says don’t believe everything you read about Williston” (HTML)
Sheperd, “Wildcatting: A Stripper’s Guide to the Modern American Boomtown” (HTML)

Working women
Martin and Barnard, “The experience of women in male-dominated occupations: A constructivist grounded theory inquiry” (PDF)
Crane-Murdoch, “The Bakken oil fields: ‘No place for a woman’” (HTML)
Dalrymple, “Woman packs it in after rough go in North Dakota oil patch” (HTML)
Tode, “The bold, the brave, and the beautiful: women in the Bakken” (HTML)

Wives, Husbands and Families
Mosko et al., “Commitment predictors: long-distance vs. geographically close relationships” (CFL link)
Kirk, “The Effect of Newer Communication Technologies on Relationship Maintenance and Satisfaction in Long-Distance Dating Relationships” (PDF)
Macleod, “Can ‘Oil Patch Marriages’ Ever Work?” (HTML)
Killelea, “Oilfield wives unite for support” (HTML)
Carrns, “How far would you go for a comeback?” (HTML)
Holdman, “Bloggers sharing their North Dakota oil patch experiences” (HTML)
“My Life in Williston” Blog (HTML)

YouTube clips
Faces of the Oil Patch
Lady roughnecks in North Dakota man-camps
Boomtown Girls
It’s A Scary Place For Women


Week 10 (3/26):
Facilitator: Karin
Readings: A Brief History of North Dakota Oil Production (HTML)
Davies, “After the Oil Rush” (PDF)
King, “One More Oil Boom” (HTML)
Forsyth et al., “Framing perceptions of oil development and social disruption” (CFL link)
Brown et al., “Qualifying the Boom-Bust Paradigm: An Examination of the off-Shore Oil and Gas Industry” (PDF)
Smith et al., “Growth, Decline, Stability, and Disruption: A Longitudinal Analysis of Social Well-Being in Four Western Rural Communities” (CFL link)
Brown et al., “The Boom-Bust-Recovery Cycle: Dynamics of Change in Community Satisfaction and Social Integration in Delta, Utah” (CFL link)
Ellis, “When a boomtown goes bust: ‘Sudden desertion'” (HTML)

Week 11 (4/2):

Week 12 (4/9): The Visual Narrative of Fracking
Facilitator: Bruce

Regrounding the Discourse
Pacific Institute, “Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources: Separating the Frack from the Fiction” (PDF)
New York Times, “The Halliburton Loophole” (HTML)
Public Accountability Initiative, “Fracking Industry’s Answer to ‘Gasland’: Devised by Astroturf Lobbying Group and Political Ad Agency” (HTML)
Chomsky, “Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda” (PDF)
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, “Resolution Number TMBC627-II-II of the Duly Elected and Certified Body of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa” (PDF)

Visual literacy, environmental photojournalism and education
Farnsworth, “Conservation photography: Focus on the pedagogues” (HTML)
Carre, “Environmental Justice and Hydraulic Fracturing: The Ascendancy of Grassroots Populism in Policy Determination” (PDF)
“This is Mandaree,” the Facebook group (HTML)
“Introduction to Visual Thinking Strategies” (PDF)

Week 13 (4/16)–Week 17 (5/7): Peer review/editing

After establishing the criteria for evaluation, we will read and discuss the submissions to the edited volume. Our goal will be to give authors feedback to strengthen their articles and to make the volume cohere. Students will correspond with authors and shepherd their chapters through the revision process.

Questions to ask will include:

  • Are there gaps to fill?
  • Is there some aspect of context the authors fail to consider?
  • Are there other conclusions we might reach based on the evidence authors provide?

One thought on “Communication and the Rural Community (Seminar, 2014)

  1. Pingback: The Bakken Goes Boom: A Collaborative Book Project | The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s