MEA @ ICA

The Media Ecology Association had the following panel accepted at this year’s International Communication Association Conference, which will take place at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. from May 24–28, 2019.

“Media Ecology Within, Across, and Beyond Boundaries”
Chair: Thom Gencarelli, Manhattan College
Sunday, May 26, 2019
9:30–10:45 AM, DuPont (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)

  • “Crossing the Generational Divide: Digital Technology as a Bridge”
    • Brecken Chinn, Generations Communication Centers
    • Pablo Bley, Incubator.org
    • Zack Brooks, Generations Communication Centers
    • LaToya Hinton, University of Arizona
    • Yuxi Liu, The George Washington University
    • Yang Liu, University of Arizona
      • Abstract: Tucson-based Generations Communication Centers (GCC) have been working for over 20 years bridging disadvantaged youth and senior citizens through technology education partnerships that cross boundaries of generation, culture, race, class, and nation. Youth in Southern Arizona, Mexico, and the Pascua Yaqui Nation work with seniors needing assistance with digital technology and social media. These intergenerational partnerships foster skill-based interaction and work skills, allowing participants to expand horizons and prepare for new frontier careers or hobbies. The project utilizes a qualitative self-report tool, Incubator.org, a web-based learning management platform that captures narrative commentary as the pairs interact and renders the data into meaningful patterning to investigate the “unknown unknowns” of how the partnerships evolve. How does the “medium” (evolving digital communications technology) work as a locus of communication between aging individuals for whom the Internet is “new,” and teens for whom the Internet has been a “given” ever since they were born?
  • “Synecdoche, Aesthetics, and the Sublime Online: Or, What’s a Religious Internet Meme?”
    • Scott Haden Church, Brigham Young University
    • Gavin Feller, Southern Utah University
      • Abstract: Hoping to court young people increasingly distancing themselves from institutional religious affiliation, some religious organizations are creating and circulating aesthetic short-form videos (memes) rife with existential cinematic tropes aimed at invoking a sublime, affective viewing experience. Unlike the destabilizing cinema of Terrence Malick that inspired them, however, these religious memes do not have the luxury of equivocation. Religious messages online must aim to instill divine experiences in spectators even while transcending the constraints of mobile media that circulates them. Responding to this exigency, religious messages overcome these restrictions by using synecdoche to create a necessarily incomplete iteration of the sublime. “Earthly Father, Heavenly Father,” an example of a short video religious meme by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, lets the familiar cinematic tropes innovated by Malick do the work of the sublime in order to represent the much larger, transcendent experience of personal communion with God.
  • “Rethinking and Restricting ‘Free’ Speech: New Media and their ‘Clear & Present Danger’ to Democracy”
    • Sam Lehman-Wilzig, Bar-Ilan University
      • Abstract: New forms and capabilities of media technology — especially involving Artificial Intelligence in Digital mode — are rendering untenable the concept of “free speech” as historically understood in the democratic world. We are now (or in the very near future) at the point where anyone can, in video or audio, put false words or sounds in anyone else’s mouth; fake pictures that are virtually unfalsifiable; virally spread outright lies/fabrications to millions of people with potentially fatal results (e.g. “Pizzagate”), not to mention undermining the very basis of democracy. As a result, we have come to a historical crossroads in which there is a palpable need to reexamine the concept of “free speech,” and if/when it should be restricted. Five centuries ago, the advent of a “new medium” called “print” led to a political struggle between those who wished to maintain the Old Regime by censoring and restricting speech, whereas those pushing for greater democratization called for expanding Free Speech. Ironically, today the wheel has turned: saving democracy and the open society might well entail increased restrictions on unfettered speech (of very specific types), whereas social reactionaries are all for unfettered speech without restriction. If the medium is the message, today’s digital/AI media necessitate a reevaluation of the limits to message permissibility.
  • “Social Networks Beyond Boundaries: How the Brain is Guided in the Contemporary Era and its Impact on Human Behavior”
    • María-Teresa Nicolas-Gavilan, Universidad Panamericana, Campus México
    • María-de-los-Ángeles Padilla-Lavín, Universidad Panamericana, Campus México
    • Laura Trujillo-Liñán, Universidad Panamericana, Campus México
      • Abstract: Today, social networks and big data have broken the boundaries between humans and their media. The information we use and share is no longer private. However divided, it is used to manipulate us for marketing and manipulation purposes. The information we provide and generate is used against us. There is no more privacy in our media use because of the network that is the Internet, which makes us vulnerable all the time. Moreover, social networks are conditioning our mind to think and act in accordance with what we listen to and see. Recent brain research has shown the plasticity we have to adapt to new conditions easily. We live this way daily: the more media we use, the more they may change our behavior and values. We shape our media, and then our media shape us. Is this purposeful? Or are we allowing our media to grow without order and control? This paper analyzes the important role social networks play in our behavior and the way we think nowadays. We focus on this issue with the help of media ecology theorists Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, and Lance Strate.
  • “Shifting Boundaries: Reconceptualizing Agency for the Social Media Environment”
    • Judith E. Rosenbaum, University of Maine
      • Abstract: Using phrases like “Twitter revolutions”, scholars and laypeople alike are quick to point to social media platforms as sources of individual empowerment and global change. At the same time, individuals’ social media-based activities are shaped and restrained by the technological affordances and cultural values that delineate these platforms, raising questions about the extent to which social media users are fully agentic actors. This paper aims to address this issue by reconceptualizing agency to better reflect the shifting boundaries between self and environment that characterizes social media. The study starts with a theoretical consideration of media ecological perspectives and structuration theory, re-defining agency as encompassing individual choice and socio-technological reflexivity. An empirical analysis of responses to social justice hashtags on various platforms is then used to refine this reconceptualization. A final integration of theoretical analysis and empirical findings construes agency as reflexive action that bends or circumvents technological and cultural boundaries.

Other Presentations by MEA Members

  • Friday, May 24, 2019

    • Preconference: #Communicationsowhite: Discipline, Scholarship, and the Media
      • 10:15–11:30 AM, Carolin Aronis, Colorado State University, USA, Disabled Voices
  • Saturday, May 25, 2019

    • Panel: Witnessing, Advocating, Memorializing: Religious and Secular
      • Carolin Aronis, Colorado State University, USA
      • 8:00–9:15 AM; Oaklawn (Washington Hilton, Lobby Level)
      • Session Notes: This set of papers is brought together by theoretically-informed, and -building analyses of cases involving advocacy, witnessing, and idiosyncratic memorializing—criss-crossing religious and secular contexts.
  • Sunday, May 26, 2019

    • Interactive Poster Session: Philosophy, Theory and Critique
      • Carolin Aronis, Colorado State University, USA, Communication as Travel: The Genre of Letters to the Dead in Public Media
      • 5:00–6:15 PM; International Terrace (Interactive Posters) (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)
      • Abstract: The phenomenon of personally addressing the dead through letters, notes, poems, and songs published in public media, is a prevalent communicative practice that has earned only little academic notice. This practice disrupts some common communication principles and provides us with new understandings of how communication works—by traveling, rather than reaching an end. To encapsulate and characterize this phenomenon, this paper focuses on an Israeli case study of letters written to the dead and published in popular newspapers. I use a Media Ecology approach to phenomenologically classify five sets of characteristics in order to stimulate future discussion and analysis.
  • Monday, May 27, 2019

    • Panel: Theorizing Modes and Uses of Contemporary Scopic Technologies: Aero-Visuality, Immersiveness, and Multi-Layered Visual Realities
      • 3:30–4:45 PM; Oaklawn (Washington Hilton, Lobby Level)
      • Julia M. Hildebrand, Communication, Drexel U, Philadelphia, PA, USA, Seeing Like a Consumer Drone
      • Abstract: Drawing from twenty-five in-depth interviews with camera drone users, visual analyses of drone-generated images, and autoethnographic drone flying and image-taking, this paper lays the groundwork for a typology of the camera drone gaze. This analysis opens up what drone-generated visuals convey, in what ways they mediate space that is distinct to other aerial modes of image capture, and finally towards what directions those drone images encourage users to think and feel. Drones afford new ways of remotely seeing and moving. An exploration of drone user motivations, practices, and experiences along with a qualitative visual analyses of drone images helps assess those medium specifities.

For more information, see the Online Conference Program on the ICA website.

Thom Gencarelli is the MEA’s liaison to the ICA. Please contact him with any questions you might have: thom.gencarelli@manhattan.edu.

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