ICM836 Day 4 (6/8): Finding Theories and Concepts for Research

Research, Teaching

Today, we take another step  of research. We will start to search for resources and sources.

1.One More Self-Reflection! Simple and Telling.

Remember last week’s discussion on situated knowledge and “feminine” and “masculine” (perhaps arbitrary?) norms. You may have already seen Lauren’s self-assessment – mapping of her characteristics. Try it out yourself — and think about what the results of your mini auto-ethnography (self-analysis) might mean. Surely that the reality is more complex than stereotypes. But are stereotypes also changing? How culture-specific are they? (Might this list pertain beyond Western cultures?) Beyond gender, these attributes also have positive and negative connotations, and different ones in different contexts (what attributes would you like your teacher, your president, your doctor, your loved ones, to have?). And so on…

This is me, for better or worse (from my own perspective):

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 8.52.16 AM.png

This is an extra task the result of which you don’t need to share if you don’t feel like it. But try this as an intellectual exercise, even by just looking at the options and what they mean for you. Share your analysis or your thoughts on your blog, if you like!


2.Inspiration for Your Research: Search for Ideas, Concepts, Theories.

If you are still pondering about what to research for this course, no problem. Take a look at your colleagues’ posts and get inspired. There are clearly some common themes:

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 8.17.40 AM

The more focused you are, the easier the final project. So now we are going to work for a couple of days on getting more concrete by illustrating those themes with different kinds of materials.

  1. Choose 3 of the common themes.
  2. Find, for each team:
    1. A news story or (journalistic/expert) commentary
    2. An image (picture, or a video that, to you, symbolizes the theme)
    3. A scholarly-academic-professional text that would help you to theorize /analyze the specific theme. (Start with our course book Current Perspectives – the texts are short and showcase an array of global approaches; you might find a usable concept there! Also, go online. Many feminist academic journals are open access. And you can find many book chapters, and articles online as well. For example, here is a good introductory chapter on GENDER AND POPULAR CULTURE!)

Write a blog post on your own blog that briefly documents the above: the 3 general themes you chose of our common interests, and for each: one concrete empirical realization that relates to the theme (news/commentary), one visualization (image/video), and one academic inspiration (text – short description what you learned and what you can probably use in your research work). If you are interested in advocacy and campaigning (Nicole, Jehan?), you can naturally also use academic/professional PR literature.

Then, in a couple of sentences, reflect on how these three modes of knowing –(1) empirical, current issues; (2) symbolic, visual; (3) academic – conceptual —  inspired you and perhaps took you closer to your research focus and specific research questions.

So, the themes once more:

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 8.19.34 AM.png

NOTE: If you think I have missed a common theme, feel free to include that one in your chosen 3 themes!

This assignment is due 6/13 midnight in your own blog. Then check out and comment – help everyone else by Thu 6/15.

3. Optional Google Hangouts to Discuss Your Research

This is entirely optional! But if you want to brainstorm about your research work, or ask any other questions, I’ll be on Google Hangout:

Thursday 6/8  8-9pm

Friday 6/9 6-7pm

I will email you the link 10 min. before. You can join at any point during those times.

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Theories of American Media Failure: A Post-Election Map

learning, Teaching
Reposted from MediaPowerMonitor.
Everybody agrees that media helped, to a great extent, make Trump president. So what went wrong? The week after election day, theories about media failure flooded American public sphere. 
Everyone has become a political scientist today: the United States elections have sparked a cascade of theories about why few people within the country and abroad anticipated the outcome. Equally, many commentators, on TV or in the pub, claim that they saw it coming, but that no one listened to them.
Judging from the public debate in America and abroad after the elections, no other institution or phenomenon is as much to blame as the media for how badly informed the public was, which in the end was what led to the election of Donald Trump. When citizens, pundits, and the media themselves are all calling for the reinvention of quality journalism, reform of news organizations, and rethinking of social media algorithms, looking back and mapping the explanations of how it all went wrong is a useful, and in some ways cathartic, exercise.
The Elitists
The most often invoked explanation is that the old-school, legacy media are no longer the Fourth Estate, the watchdog that informs citizens about the actions of the Power Elite. The media have become elitist themselves, focusing on the rich and famous instead of covering the concerns of Middle America. Instead of policy proposals (if there were that many), headlines captured Clinton’s health and Trump’s relationships with ladies.
The Media Are Profit-Driven Pollsters
The essence of this theory is that, to keep the news going and the eyeballs stuck on their broadcast or websites, the mainstream media focused on bombarding their audiences with data, but did not properly analyze those data or put them into context.
The week leading to the elections featured 40+ polls a day during the weekday and some 20 polls on Saturday and Sunday each, according to Realclearpolitics.com. No wonder that after the elections, media analysts kept browbeating the media for throwing on readers data that eventually failed them. “It was a rough night for number crunchers,” the New York Times wrote on 10 November 2016. “And for the faith that people in every field — business, politics, sports and academia — have increasingly placed in the power of data.”
Some theorists say that perhaps the trust of media in polls was too exaggerated or even bordering on naïveté, or journalists were too eager to write yet another election story and thus needed some numbers.
The Media Are Bullies
A third explanation of the failure of media in the past elections is that they acted like bullies.
However, there are, in fact, several opinions about who the bully was. One is related to polling and public opinion. It claims that the mainstream media ridiculed Mr Trump so much that that many of his supporters were silenced (but did not change their political views). They did not want to admit their views to journalists or talk to the pollsters. That massively distorted the media depiction of reality.
Another version of the bully theory is that Mr Trump used mainstream media to publicize his outrageous statements, and media happily obliged as they made great headlines. And we know that great headlines bring audience and ad cash.
The third, but related strand blames semi-independent, sometimes semi-professional trolls who could now mobilize fringe groups by shouting ugly things very loudly in social media.
Finally, many consider the Wikileaks revelations right before the elections as targeted bullying. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks mastermind, sees in WikiLeaks a new kind of journalistic organization. As America was embroiled in the campaign for president, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails and documents related to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  Mr Assange said that they decided to do so because they believe in the right of the public to be informed. He said that they didn’t publish anything on Mr Trump simply because they didn’t receive anything.
The Media Are Liars
What is worse: to be a bully or a liar? By taking a strong stance for their preferred candidate, many mainstream media outlets are said to have alienated audiences, especially of the opposite camp. At the same time, they did not fact-check enough, or early enough, to push candidates to respond on air.
The trust was gone. Some say Mr Trump’s supporters didn’t even care. They did not take the content seriously, but rather trusted the spirit, the intent, and the core mission of his campaign. Social media reinforced this by fostering bot-created tweets and fake news, and by promoting them through algorithmic selection.
The Media Create Filter Bubbles
Maybe the worst, or fundamentally saddest theory of social media failure in the past election, is about the social division they created instead of building a common, transparent, equitable public sphere for rational debate.
While social media was hailed as the mobilizing and unifying force for Barack Obama in 2008, now these platforms helped to form very distinct camps that hardly ever conversed beyond insults. The division, so sharp as also shown by the vote split, seems to go on, a week after the election, spilling over to the physical world: #notmypresident.

{ICM820} Global Fusion 2015_Some Intriguing Themes

Discovery, learning, Research

I’m attending a fantastic conference called Global Fusion, this year hosted by Texas A&MU . Every panel I’ve attended has featured intriguing themes and great presentations. One particularly wonderful aspect of the conference is that graduate students are warmly welcomed, and encouraged to present. So take note for the next year’s conference at Temple University in Philly!

Here are four take-aways especially relevant to our course ICM820 at SJU:

1. Castells & Digital Public Diplomacy

Remember this reading by Manuel Castells: Week 4_Castells – The New Public Spehere_Global Civil Society? Marco Ehrl is using that very theory of Global Public Sphere in concretely analyzing Germany’s current diplomatic efforts to engage nations as well as civil societies of different countries.

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2.  Online campaigns – when do they support democracy?

Eduardo Villanueva Mansilla is about to begin a research project in Peru on why some campaigns online, especially in social media, catch on, why others don’t. He notes that institutional support is crucial to get some off-line action to happen (e.g., Union civil ya!). He also notes that often behind a campaign that seems spontaneous, viral, and citizen-driven (e.g., Parejas reales) is a lobbyist group with $. And then, there are the cases when a campaign goes viral for real, and takes multiple forms for people to express their support or dissatisfaction (e.g., Chapa tu choro). The big question is, is the last one merely slacktivism, expression rather than action.

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3. Cybercrime

Katharine Hodgdon is researching forms of cybercrime and how they are governed.  NOTE! International agreements are very good at addressing crimes that relate to commercial activities; harassment of individuals is less covered.

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4. Cosmopolitanism

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Finally,  we saw a video on popularizing the ice and ideal of cosmopolitanism (remember Delanty: Week 4_Cosmopolitan Comm_Delanty).  Miyase Christensen — a professor from Sweden — has tried to understand the concept of cosmopolitanism  as an ethical stand: trying to understand one another in everyday situations, via the media and face-to-face. Here’s a short excerpt.

{discovery, research} Bridges Global and other forms of collaboration

Discovery, Friends involved..., Good News, Research, Teaching

Screen shot 2014-06-13 at 8.50.03 AM This post is inspired by the brand new venture, Bridges Global, by my friend Elizabeth Soltis. Her organization provides workshops and other kinds of training regarding empowerment, leadership, and collaboration, including:

  • Partnership Negotiation:  Practicing Nonviolent Communication
  • Service Excellence:  Exceeding Client Expectations
  • Trust and Innovation:  Developing Accountability and Creativity
  • Complaints:  Transforming Breakdowns into Inspired Action


In terms of media and development, social-media induced collaboration and participation have become crucial aspects, in many regards, as the below graph shows: Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 8.36.35 AM [Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oscarberg/ under Creative Commons license.]


Doing Good Together Online

In this field, we need much more research and education to harness the potential of participation fully. While collaboration is more possible than ever, it also causes challenges. Clay Shirky, in Cognitive Surplus, outlines three important aspects of online participation for common good:

  • Motive (think of, e.g., passionate fans — how to create that kind of motivation?);
  • Opportunity (This does not only mean access to technologies that allow participation. Shirky writes: “While treating one another well…we can create environments where the group can do more than the individuals could do on their own”); and
  • Culture (for Shirky, this means the trend dominating online communities: The opening up of knowledge, bypassing old definitions of who is an expert, the collaborative spirit).

But not so fast. As Shirky  also notes, there are different values of participation: Some forms of participation are motivated by mere joy and fun, some participate to engage with friends, some participate to make the world a better place. One question is, what kind of participation value due we want to and need to create? This may be very different for a brand of sneakers and a non-profit fundraising for micro-loans. Also, we should perhaps not expect the creation of ‘Cognitive Surplus’ from everyone, in every situation. There are questions of access, skills, even (self)censorship as to how we can and do participate. For instance, Henry Jenkins et al. (a team of famous scholars of fan and online participation) argue in their new book titled Spreadable Media (pg. 194) that:

[T]he nature of participation in the digital age is a complicated matter. For even those groups who have greater access to digital technologies and have mastered the skills to deploy them effectively…our capacity to participate can be complicated by issues of who owns the platforms through which communication occurs and how their agendas shape how those tools can be deployed. And, even if we get our messages through, there is often the question of whether anyone is listening.

Scholar-Activist Collaborations The other aspect is: How do we collaborate to support (democratic) media development in today’s comlex media environment? The past decade has seen a notable increase in public interest–oriented civil society activism and advocacy around media-related change. These activities represent a distinctive, developing social movement. These efforts have become a developing point of intersection between scholars and activists. And there are numerous examples, some of them known world-wide: Robert McChesney is the co-founder of  Free PressLawrence Lessig is the co-founder of  Creative Commons. Until lately, the practices of engaged research by academic researchers in collaboration with movement actors has been sparse, and such collaborations have been subjected to relatively little attention. Communications Research in Action: Scholar-Activist Collaborations for a Democratic Public Sphere (a volume is a collection edited by Phil Napoli and myself)  highlights the multitude of ways in which scholars can participate as members of the MR movement/s. This (latter) kind of collaboration is needed to promote (the former) opportunities for collaboration and participation to everyone.


[More about participation, collaboration, media development, and governance to follow!]