Cultural and Critical Studies 2017 Abstracts

Judging the Masses: The Hutchins Commission on the Press, the New York Intellectuals on Mass Culture • Stephen Bates, University of Nevada, Las Vegas • To qualify as an intellectual, according to Edmund Wilson, one must be “dissatisfied with the goods that the mass media are putting out.” This paper dissects and compares two prominent midcentury critiques of the mass media that have rarely been considered together: the critique of the news media by Robert Maynard Hutchins and the Commission on Freedom of the Press, and the critique of mass culture by Dwight Macdonald and other New York intellectuals.

Detecting Black: Urban African American Noir • Ralph Beliveau, University of Oklahoma • A critical and cultural perspective leads to the notion that Film Noir’s sense of location is tied to urban spaces. The context of post-WW II cities, depicted as an expressionist play of revealing light and disguising shadow, defines the cultural universe for these stories of crime and conflict. However less attention has been paid to the notion of race in relation to noir, though the varieties of stories that are discussed under noir (and neo-noir) include significant treatments of African American characters in these urban contexts. The relationship between cities and black culture(s), therefore, offers an opportunity to explore American cities at the intersection of race and the concerns of noir. A deeper noir context is presented in the Los Angeles of Carl Franklin’s Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), the Hughes Brothers’ neo-noir Brooklyn in the film Dead Presidents (1995), and the adaptation of a Chester Himes story in the “Tang” episode of the anthology pilot Cosmic Slop (1994), by Warrington and Reginald Hudlin. In these examples the noir setting is increasingly constrained, the urban landscapes, through racially inflected noir terms, are a shrinking labyrinth. The uncomfortable politics of race that are just beneath the surface of noir are brought to the forefront. Where mainstream (i.e., racially transparent) noir finds threats in how the system is perverted by evil men and femme fatales, by shifting attention to attitudes about race, these evil actions are matched by injustices and evil in the epistemology of ignorance in the systems themselves.

Athleticism or racism?: Identity formation of the (racialized) dual-threat quarterback through football recruiting websites. • Travis R. Bell, University of South Florida • This study uses racial formation theory to explain how football recruiting websites oppress high school quarterbacks of color through the “dual-threat” code word. Analysis of 125 top-rated quarterbacks from 2012-2016 is explicated as a sporting racial project. Inequality is embedded in the coded difference between predominately white “pro-style” quarterbacks and “dual-threats.” Racialization of the quarterback position reduces upward mobility and serves as a site of new struggle for quarterbacks of color to overcome as teenagers.

Faith and Reason: A Cultural Discourse Analysis of the Black & Blue Facebook Pages • Mary Angela Bock, University of Texas at Austin; Ever Figueroa, University of Texas at Austin • Highly publicized deaths of Black men during police encounters have inspired a renewed civil rights movement originating with a Twitter hashtag, “Black Lives Matter.” Supporters of the law enforcement community quickly countered with an intervention of their own, using the slogan, “Blue Lives Matter.” This project compared the discourses of their respective Facebook groups using Symbolic Convergence Theory. It found that the two groups’ symbol systems are homologous with America’s historic secular tension.

Deconstructing the communication researcher through the culture-centered approach • Abigail Borron, University of Georgia • The culture-centered approach (CCA) model, as a research methodology, critically examines the contested intersections among culture, structure, and agency, specifically as it relates to marginalized communities. This paper examines how CCA challenged the researcher to personally evaluate ethical and academic responsibility, recognize marginalizing practices on behalf of the dominant paradigm, and integrate elements of CCA into course design and student mentorship regarding future journalism and communication careers and scholarly work.

Differential Climate: Blacks and Whites in Super Bowl Commercials, 1989-2014 • Kenneth Campbell, University of South Carolina; Ernest Wiggins, University of South Carolina; Phillip Jeter • A content analysis of Super Bowl commercials from 1989 to 2014 finds that Blacks as primary characters exceed their proportion in U. S. population. However, they appear much more frequently in background roles and are associated with less prestigious products more than with higher-status products, which is consistent with the presence of Blacks in other TV commercials and findings of a climate of difference in commentary about Black athletes and White athletes during sporting events

“Trust me. I am not a racist”: Whiteness, Media and Millennials • chris campbell, u. of southern miss. • This paper examines “whiteness,” a contemporary form of racism identified by Critical Race Theorists, in media created by and/or designed for the Millennial generation. Partially through a textual analysis of white comedian-actress Amy Shumer’s peculiar take-off on superstar Beyonce’s “Transformation” video, the paper argues that even politically progressive Millennial media reflect similarities to racially problematic media produced by previous generations — especially the notion of post-racialism. The paper raises the possibility that post-racial whiteness will continue to haunt media texts and delay yet another generation of Americans from arriving at a more sophisticated understanding of racism and its impact on our culture.

“We’re nothing but the walking dead in Flint”: Framing and Social Pathology in News Coverage of the Flint Water Crisis • Michael Clay Carey, Samford; Jim Lichtenwalter, Georgia • This framing study uses news coverage of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis to examine representation of social pathology. Ettema and Peer wrote that the use of a “language of social pathology to describe lower-income urban neighborhoods” has led Americans to “understand those communities entirely in terms of their problems” (1996, p. 835). Urban pathology frames discussed in this study suggest a lack of agency among residents and may distract from broader questions of environmental justice.

Navigating Alma’s gang culture: Exploring testimono, identity and violence through an interactive documentary • Heather McIntosh; Kalen Churcher, Wilkes University • Testimonios bring oppressed voices to the masses, motivating them toward political engagement. Alma: A Tale of Violence is an interactive documentary that draws on this tradition. It tells the story of a Guatemalan woman who joined a gang and struggled with marianismo expectations within gang culture machismo. This paper argues that while Alma provides expansive information unavailable in other mediated testimonio forms, it offers a limited experience in terms of audience participation and interactivity.

Of “Tomatoes” and Men: A Continuing Analysis of Gender in Music Radio Formats • David Crider, SUNY Oswego • The 2015 radio controversy “SaladGate” revealed a lack of female music artists gaining airplay. This study expands a previous gender analysis of music radio into a longitudinal study. A content analysis of 192 stations revealed that airplay is increasing for females; however, it is mostly limited to the Top-40 format. The results suggest the existence of a gender order (Connell, 1987) in music radio, one that works hand-in-hand with the music industry to exclude women.

Considering the Corrective Action of Universities in Diversity Crises: A Critical Comparative Approach • George Daniels, The University of Alabama • Using both the theory of image restoration discourse and critical race theory, this study takes a critical comparative examination of the university responses to diversity crises in 2015 at The University of Missouri, The University of Oklahoma, and The University of Alabama. All three institutions took “corrective action” by appointing a “diversity czar” and a committee or council to investigate concerns of students protests.

Preserving the Cultural Memory with Tweets? A Critical Perspective On Digital Archiving, Agency and Symbolic Partnerships at the Library of Congress • Elisabeth Fondren, Louisiana State University – Manship School of Mass Communication; Meghan Menard-McCune, LSU • In recent years, the Library of Congress has announced plans to archive vast collections of digital communication, including the social media tool Twitter. A textual analysis of white papers and press briefings show the Library is trying to make born-digital media accessible by increasingly partnering with private vendors. This study attempts to narrow the gap in understanding why cultural organizations have an interest in preserving social media as part of our collective memory.

A Seven-Letter Word for Leaving People Out: E L I T I S M in The New York Times Crossword • Shane Graber • This study examines the discourse that The New York Times crossword puzzle uses to define, protect, and exclusively communicate with the culture elite, a privileged group of people who tend to be wealthy, male, and white. Using a critical discourse analysis to study clues and answers, findings show that puzzles in the world’s most important newspaper skew favorably toward the culture elite and often portray marginalized groups such as women, people of color, and the poor negatively—or ignore them altogether.

When Local is National: Analysis of Interacting Journalistic Communities in Coverage of Sea Level Rise • Robert Gutsche Jr, Florida International University; Moses Shumow, Florida International University • This study examines the interaction of journalistic communities from local and national levels by examining moments when local issue for local audiences was thrust onto a national stage by national press for wider audiences. Through this analysis, we argue that local press positioned themselves as authorities on local issue, ultimately positioning national press as “outsiders” so as to reaffirm local news boundaries, a process we refer to as boundary intersection.

Silly Meets Serious: Discursive Integration and the Stewart/Colbert Era • Amanda Martin, University of Tennessee; Mark Harmon, University of Tennessee; Barbara Kaye, University of Tennessee • This paper traces political satire on U. S. television. Using the theory of discursive integration, the paper examines the satire of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and the scholarship about their respective programs, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Discursive integration explained well the look and sound, as well as societal function, of such programs. Each blurs lines between news and entertainment, and helps audiences decode meanings from the hubris often in the news.

Remote Control: Producing the Active Object • Matthew Corn; Kristen Heflin, Kennesaw State University • This study argues that remote control is not merely a human capability or feature of a device, but a type of human/device relation and agency with deep roots in broader attempts at control from a distance. This study discusses the concept of active objects and provides an historical account of the emergence of remote control as the means of producing active objects, thus revealing the insufficiency of Enlightenment/empiricist divisions between acting humans and acted-upon objects.

Social Identity Theory as the Backbone of Sports Media Research • Nicholas Hirshon, William Paterson University • The impacts of group memberships on self-image can be examined through social identity theory and the concepts of BIRGing (basking in reflected glory) and CORFing (cutting off reflected failure). Given the interaction between sports media narratives and identity variables, this paper charts the simultaneous developments of social identity theory and BIRGing and CORFing and examines how social identity can serve as the theoretical backbone for sports media scholarship.

Challenging the Narrative: The Colin Kaepernick National Anthem Protest in Mainstream and Alternative Media • David Wolfgang, Colorado State University; Joy Jenkins, University of Missouri • In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, stirring debates in the media over appropriate methods of protest. This study used textual analysis to compare mainstream and black press coverage of Kaepernick’s protest and also analyzed forums on black press websites. The findings show how mainstream media focused on a protest narrative, while the black press struggled to promote racial uplift and to use forums for productive discourse.

National Security Culture: Gender, Race and Class in the Production of Imperial Citizenship • Deepa Kumar, Journalism and Media Studies, Rutgers University • This paper is about how national security culture sets out, in raced, gendered, and classed terms, to prepare the American public to take up their role as citizens of empire. The cultural imagination of national security, I argue, is shaped both by the national security state and the media industry. Drawing on archival material, I offer a contextual/historical analysis of key national security visual texts in two periods—the early Cold War era and the Obama phase of the War on Terror. A comparative analysis of the two periods shows that while Cold War practices inform the War on Terror, there are also discontinuities. A key difference is the inclusion of women and people of color within War on Terror imperial citizenship, inflected by the logic of a neoliberal form of feminism and multiculturalism. I argue that inclusion is not positive and urge scholars to combine an intersectional analysis of identity with a structural critique of neoliberal imperialism.

Searching for Citizen Engagement and City Hall: 200 Municipal Homepages and Their Rhetorical Outreach to Audiences • Jacqueline Lambiase, TCU • U.S. cities rely on their websites to enhance citizen engagement, and digital government portals have been promoted for decades as gateways to participatory democracy. This study, through rhetorical and qualitative content analyses, focuses on 200 municipal homepages and the ways they address audiences and invite participation. The findings reveal very few cities have: platforms for interactive discussions; representations of citizen activities; or ways to call citizens into being for the important work of shared governance.

California Newspapers’ Framing of the End-of-Life Option Act • Kimberly Lauffer; Sean Baker; Audrey Quinn • In 2014, Brittany Maynard, 29, diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, moved from California to Oregon, one of only three U.S. states with legal physician-assisted death, so she could determine when she would die. Three months after her Nov. 1, 2014, death, California lawmakers introduced SB 128, the End-of-Life Option Act, to permit aid in dying in California. This paper uses qualitative methods to examine how California newspapers framed the End-of-Life Option Act.

When Cognition Engages Culture and Vice Versa: Conflict-Driven Media Events from Strategy to Ritual • Limin Liang • Amidst the recent turn towards power and conflict in media ritual studies, this article proposes a new media events typology building on Dayan and Katz’s (1992) classic functionalist model. Events are categorized according to how a society manages internal and external conflicts in ritualized/ritual-like ways, and at both formal and substantive levels. This leads to four scenarios: rationalized conflict, ritualized trauma, perpetuated conflict and transformed conflict, all of which can be subsumed under Victor Turner’s useful concept of “social drama”. Further, to bridge ritual and cognitive framing studies, the article compares the two fields’ central frames for studying social conflict – “social drama” vs. “social problem” – and their mechanisms of achieving effect, namely, salience-making and resonance-crafting. The article tries to move beyond the “media events vs. daily news” binary to study communication along a continuum from strategy to ritual.

Re-imagining Communities in Flux, in Cyberspace and beyond Nationalism: Community and Identity in Macau • Zhongxuan LIN • Based on four years of participant observation on 37 Macau Facebook communities and 12 in-depth interviews, this paper inquires the research question that how Macau Internet users resist legitimizing identity, reclaim resistance identity and restructure project identity thereby constructing re-imagined communities in cyberspace. This inquiry proposes a possible identity-focused approach for future community studies, especially studying re-imagined communities in flux, in cyberspace and beyond nationalism.

Clustering and Video Content Creators: Democratization at Work • Nadav Lipkin • Much has been written on the democratizing potential of YouTube and other video-sharing sites, but scholarship generally disregards professional independent video content creators. This article explores these content creators through the concept of clustering that suggests firms and workers benefit from co-location. Using a case study of video content creators, this study suggests these workers are less positively affected by clustering due to political-economic conditions and the digital nature of production.

“Kinda Like Making Coffee”: Exploring Twitter as a Legitimate Journalistic Form • Zhaoxi Liu, Trinity University; Dan Berkowitz, U of Iowa • Through an eight-week field research, the study provides an in-depth inquiry into journalists’ use of Twitter and what it means to their craft, foregrounding the issue of artifact boundary while exploring its deeper meaning from a cultural point of view. The study found journalists had contradicting views on the issue of artifact boundary, and faced contradictions and uncertainties regarding what Twitter meant for their craft. The paper also discusses the finding’s implications for democracy.

Editorial Influence Beyond Trending Topics: Facebook’s Algorithmic Censorship and Bearing Witness Problems • Jessica Maddox, University of Georgia • In 2016, Facebook found itself at the intersection of a controversy surrounding media ethics and censorship when it removed Nick Ut’s famous “Terror of War” photo for violating its community standards policy regarding child nudity. The social media giant defended its decision by decreeing its image scanning algorithms had functioned correctly in policing the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph. This contentious situation highlights many nebulous issues presently facing social media platforms, and in order to assess some of the dominant forms made available from press coverage of this issue, I conducted a textual analysis of the top ten international newspapers with the highest web rankings. This research shows that one, blurred boundaries of media, communication, and content are even more tenuous when considering social media, technology companies, and algorithms; two, that with great media power comes great media responsibility that Facebook does not seem to be living up to; and finally, that a fundamental flaw with algorithms, writ large, lies in their inability to bear witness to human suffering, as exemplified by international news coverage of the censorship of “Terror of War.” By regulating all human duties to computers, individuals absolve themselves over moral duties and compasses, thus presenting a perplexing ethical issue in the digital age.

Intellect and Journalism in Shared Space: Social Control in the Academic-Media Nexus • Michael McDevitt • This paper highlights interactions of journalists and academics as deserving more scrutiny with respect to both media sociology and normative theory on the circulation of ideas. Three sources of social control that impinge on the academic-media nexus are examined. A final section contemplates the implications of risk-aversive communication in higher education for public perceptions of intellect and its contributions to policy and politics.

Blending with Beckham: New Masculinity in Men’s Magazine Advertising in India • Suman Mishra • This study examines the representation of the “new man” in men’s lifestyle magazine advertising in India. Using textual analysis, the study explains how certain kinds of western masculine ideals and body aesthetics are being adopted and reworked into advertising to appeal and facilitate consumption among middle and upper class Indian men. The hybrid construction of masculinity shows a complex interplay between the global and the local which overall acts to homogenize the male body and masculine ideal while simultaneously creating a class and racial hierarchy in the glocal arena.

Digital Diaspora and Ethnic Identity Negotiation: An Examination of Ethnic Discourse about 2014 Sewol Ferry Disaster at a Korean-American Digital Diaspora • Chang Sup Park • This study examines how the members of a Korean-American online diaspora perceived a homeland disaster which took 304 lives and to what extent their perceptions relate to ethnic identity. To this end, it analyzes 1,000 comments posted in MissyUSA, the biggest online community for Korean Americans. This study also interviews 70 users of the ethnic online community. The findings demonstrate that the diasporic discourse about the disaster was fraught with discrete emotions, particularly guilt, anger, and shame among others. While guilt and anger contributed to reminding Korean Americans of their ethnic identity, shame has resulted in the disturbance of the ethnic identity of some Korean Americans. This study advances the ethnic identity negotiation theory by illuminating the nuanced interconnection between online ethnic communication, emotions, and ethnic identity.

Non-Representational News: An Intervention Against Pseudo-Events • Perry Parks • This paper introduces a journalistic intervention into routinized political “pseudo-events” that can lull reporters and citizens into stultified complacency about public affairs while facilitating highly disciplined politicians’ cynical messaging. The intervention draws on non-representational theory, a style of research that aims to disrupt automatic routines and encourage people to recognize possibilities for change from moment to moment. The paper details the author’s coverage of a routine political rally from a perspective untethered to normalized journalistic or political cues of importance, to generate affective and possibly unpredictable responses to the content.

Is Marriage a Must? Hegemonic Femininity and the Portrayal of “Leftover Women” in Chinese Television Drama • Anqi Peng • “Leftover women” is a Chinese expression referring to unmarried women over 30s who have high education and income levels. Through a textual analysis of the “leftover women” representation in the television drama We Get Married, this study explores how the wrestling of tradition and modernity exerting a great impact on the construction of the femininity of “leftover women.”

Every American Life: Understanding Serial as True Crime • Ian Punnett, Ohio Northern University • Serial (2014), a podcast in 12 episodes on the digital platform of the popular NPR radio show, This American Life, reached the 5 million downloads mark faster than any podcast in history. Although a few scholars identified the podcast as part of the true crime literary convention Neither the producers nor the host ever referred to Serial as true crime. Using textual criticism, this analysis proves that it was.

Journalist-Student Collaborations: Striking Newspaper Workers and University Students Publish the Peterborough Free Press, 1968-1969 • Errol Salamon • Building on the concept of alternative journalism, this paper presents the Peterborough Free Press as a case study of a strike-born newspaper that was published by striking Peterborough Examiner newsworkers and Ontario university students from 1968 to 1969. Drawing on labor union documents and newspapers reports, this paper critically examines how this alliance collaboratively launched the Free Press to fill a gap in local news coverage, competing with and providing an alternative to the Examiner.

“You better work, bitch!”: Disciplining the feminine consumer prototype in Britney Spears’s “Work Bitch” • Miles Sari, Washington State University • Using Baudrillard’s theory of consumption as a theoretical framework, in addition to support from Horkheimer & Adorno, Foucault, and Bartky, this paper examines how Britney Spears’s 2013 music video “Work Bitch” articulates a violent capitalist narrative of consumption. Specifically, the author argues that the clip advocates for a collective submission to the sadistic, social discipline of the female consumer body as a means of accessing the social and material luxuries of the bourgeoisie.

Color, Caste, and the Public Sphere: A study of black journalists who joined television networks from 1994-2014 • Indira Somani, Howard University; Natalie Hopkinson, Howard University • “Grounded in critical and cultural studies this study examined the attitudes and experiences of a group of Post-Civil Rights black journalists who face some of the same newsroom issues their predecessors faced, despite what was recommended in the Kerner Report in 1968.

Through in-depth interviews, the researchers uncovered the organizational and cultural practices of 23 black journalists aged 23-42 working in television network newsrooms, such as NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and Fox. The participants included executives, anchors, reporters, producers, associate producers and assignment editors, who reveal how anti-black cultural norms are re-enforced by mentors, colleagues as well as superiors. Participants talked about culture, hair, skin color, grooming, and African American Identity and how conforming to white hegemonic norms were necessary for career advancement. This study also examined the degree to which color and caste continue to influence both the private workplace and the public sphere.”

Sights, Sounds and Stories of the Indian Diaspora: A New Browning of American Journalism • Radhika Parameswaran; Roshni Verghese • Using the concept of cultural citizenship, this paper explores the recent growth and visibility of the Indian diaspora in American journalism. We first begin with an analysis of the South Asian Journalists Association to understand the collective mobilization of this ethno-racial professional community. Gathering publicly available data on Indian Americans in journalism, we then present a numerical portrait of this minority community’s affiliations with journalism. Finally, we scrutinize the profiles of a select group of prominent diasporic Indian journalists to chart the professional terrain they occupy. In the end, we argue that Indian Americans may be a small minority, but they are poised to become a workforce whose creative and managerial labor will make a difference to journalism.

The securitization presidency: Evaluation, exception and the irreplaceable nation in campaign discourse • Fred Vultee, Wayne State University • This discourse analysis uses securitization theory to examine the maintenance of the Other in the discourse of the 2016 US presidential campaign and the early stages of the Trump presidency. The taken-for-grantedness of American exceptionalism, combined with the general orientation of the press toward narratives of power, explains the maintenance of identity through the construction of Iran, Islam and the spectre of “political correctness” as existential threats. This paper advances the understanding of the specific mechanisms by which “security” is invoked; securitization is a fundamentally political move, though its goal is to move an issue like Iran beyond the realm of political debate and into the realm of security.

SNL and the Gendered Election: The Funny Thing About Liking Him and Hating Her • Wendy Weinhold, Coastal Carolina University; Alison Fisher Bodkin • Feminist theories of comedy guide this analysis of journalism in the New York Times and Washington Post dedicated to Saturday Night Live’s 2016 election coverage. The analysis reveals how SNL’s election sketches and news about them focused on the candidates’ celebrity, appeal, and style in lieu of substantive critique of their positions, policies, or platforms. The personality-based comedy and resulting news emphasized gender stereotypes and missed an opportunity to put real-life political drama in perspective.

Emotional News, Emotional Counterpublic: Unraveling the Mediated Construction of Fear in the Chinese Diasporic Community Online • Sheng Zou • Examining a popular news blog targeting Chinese diaspora living in the United States, this paper explores how emotionally-oriented digital news production sustains the Chinese diasporic community online as an emotional counterpublic sphere. This paper argues that the mediated construction of fear as a predominant emotion holds civic potentials, for it bridges the political life and everyday life, and connects a potentially more engaged diasporic counterpublic with the dominant public sphere of the receiving society.


Print friendly Print friendly

About kysh