This module approaches the question of how to write more effectively through a topical investigation of the nature and value of modern consumer culture. Do the barrage of advertisements and the relentless marketing of global brands lend themselves to the satisfaction of needs or the endless proliferation of unfulfilled desires? Is waste an inevitable feature of consumer capitalism, and if so, is it beneficial or detrimental? Why are corporations increasingly turning their attention to a younger demographic, and what are the implications of this shift? This course will explore how an advertising industry that promotes consumption—and the waste that results from this pressure to buy—is increasingly focused on reaching consumers as early as possible in their lives. We will begin by examining the nature and function of modern advertising with the aim of developing interpretive skills to enable us to decode the often complex connotative meanings within individual ads, and we will explore a special relationship between youth culture and the modern corporation that seems to result in the near-instantaneous commercial marketing appropriation of youth subcultures. Next, we will consider the connection between consumption and waste, and whether waste plays a positive role within society in addition to its less laudable modern manifestations: landfills and pollution produced by incinerators. The final unit of the module will focus on the corporate penetration of the youth market, and the colonization of youth culture in that endeavor. We will conclude with a practical guide on how to develop an independent, multi-source project, where students will be asked to explore a topic and research question of their own design that is related to the module’s three units.

Course Objectives

This seminar aims to provide you with the critical reading and writing skills necessary to develop and expand your potential as a writer and thinker. Whereas much of your previous training may have involved the memorization of various kinds of information, this class will help you develop your ability to evaluate written arguments made by others and foster your capacity to create creative, rigorous, and compelling written arguments of your own. The ability to work productively with other people's ideas, and to use them as a departure point for your own thinking, is a skill of paramount importance both in the university classroom and in the dynamic, information-based economy that awaits you after graduation, an economy that increasingly values creativity, analytic rigor, and original thinking. Regardless of your intellectual interests, your course of study at NUS, or your future career plans, this class aims to provide you with the critical thinking, reading, and writing skills that will not only contribute to your future successes, but will also enrich your understanding of the world around you and improve your ability to communicate those understandings to others.


Here are the critical reading and writing skills that the module will cover:


This course will teach you how to

  • Identify main claims in written arguments.
  • Evaluate the evidence that supports those claims.
  • Search for key terms in an argument.
  • Learn to interpret written and visual texts for their hidden meanings.
  • Articulate the main point or stance of a particular essay.
  • Discern and evaluate the underlying assumptions in analytical arguments.



You will learn how to

  • Invent an effective thesis for your argument.
  • Create strong analytical claims and support them with evidence.
  • Acknowledge the limitations of your claims by using qualifications.
  • Deploy counterarguments effectively.
  • Master the mechanics of creating flowing text.
  • Incorporate sources in the service of your own argument.
  • Utilize the conventions surrounding the documentation of sources.