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Disasters: Reality and Myths (SS 238): Home


Instructor: Dr. Laurie L. Gordy
Office Hours:MW 11-11:30, TU 2:15-3:15, or by appointment
Office Location: HH 205
Telephone Number: 617-730-7258
Class Day/Time: MW 12:45-2:10
Class Location: HH 002
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: SS107

Disaster coverage

Twice winner of the FOCAL Footage Library of the Year Award, AP Archive provides you with an unrivalled collection of video footage that is quick and easy to access, all backed up by a commitment to provide the very best personal service.  From natural disasters and political debates, to sports highlights and entertainment headlines - if an event happens anywhere in the world, you can be sure that AP will cover it and you will be able to access it. 

Partners include: ABC News, British Movietone, CCTV, CelebrityFootage, SNTV, TV-AM, TV Globo, Democratic Voice of Burma, KRT North Korea, N-TV Germany, Newzulu, Nine Network Australia, RTL Germany, RTR Russia, Tech TV, Thailand PBS, United Nations TV, Vatican TV, and WWF .

Course Description

Image: Karl Brullov - The Last Day of Pompeii - Google Art Project.jpg

A complete study of disasters necessitates an investigation of the social factors which contribute to the causes, responses and effects of disasters. There are also many cultural myths which surround disasters, as seen not only in fictional portrayals, but evidenced also in news coverage. In this course, we will as "myth-busters," examine how the data on disasters challenge popular beliefs by exploring behavioral responses, the role of the media, the impact of social inequality, and the functions of planning and

Course Objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to

  1.  Analyze how social inequality affects social groups’ experiences with and responses to disasters.(Knowledge, Critical Thinking and Information Literacy, Social Responsibility)
  2.  Demonstrate knowledge of research findings on the behavioral responses to disasters and on the functions of disaster planning. (Critical Thinking and Information Literacy, Social Responsibility, Ethical Behavior, Professional Competency)
  3.  Assess the presentation of disasters in contemporary culture and media. (Knowledge, Critical Thinking, Ethical Behavior, Communication)
  4.  Analyze the role of human factors in contributing to disasters. (Social Responsibility, Ethical Behavior, Communication)
  5.  Evaluate the effects of disasters on communities and social change. (Critical Thinking, Social Responsibility, Communication)



Solnit, R. 2009. A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster.

New York: Viking Penguin Group

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Anthony Viola
(617) 730-7255