Student Research Presentations and New DE Welcome

ThumbnailCelebrate the admission of our latest graduate students into the BCNM program, then discover the cutting edge research our students undertake! BCNM Designated Emphasis candidates Jen Schradie, Reggie Royston, and Irene Chien will each introduce the critical questions at the heart of their current projects, and explain the conclusions they’ve been able to draw from their work before opening the floor to discussion. A small reception will follow the talks.

Jen Schradie is a candidate in Sociology. She will be discussing “The Myth of Digital Activism.” Over the last decade, scholars of digital activism have argued that the Internet has created more participatory social movements that do not require organizations. Most of this scholarship, however, selects on the dependent variable of digital activism, often focusing on emergent, ephemeral, left-wing online movements of the elite. Therefore, we have known little about offline practices nor how structural differences across different types of organizations shape digital activism. Funded by the National Science Foundation, her research avoids these biases by analyzing 34 existing organizations on opposing sides of a single political issue: Should public employees have collective bargaining rights in the American state of North Carolina? These groups range widely from Tea Parties and rank-and-file unions to government associations and chambers of commerce. Jen travelled to a dozen cities for 65 interviews and conducted ethnographic observations of meetings, events and protests. She also collected social media data to create an original data set of 50,000 Tweets, Facebook posts and Web site metrics to compare quantitative differences in the groups’ Internet use. Given the existing literature, we would expect that groups that have high levels of Internet use with broad online participation would be less hierarchical and bureaucratic. However, she found that more hierarchical, conservative and reformist groups have higher levels of Internet engagement and online participation than their counterparts.

Irene Chien is a candidate in Film & Media Studies. She teaches and writes about the politics of race and gender in film, digital media, and video games. Her research focuses on the intertwined history of fighting and dancing games not only because of the enduring popularity of these major game genres, but also because they both foreground the body in exceptional ways. Her dissertation is titled “Programmed Moves: Fighting and Dancing Videogames, Embodiment, and Race.” It argues that fighting and dancing games point to a key dynamic in videogame play – the programming of the body into the algorithmic logic of the game. Moreover, these games do this by investing players in familiar racial, sexual, and national identifications. “Programmed Moves” points to the connection between technological and social coding in videogames.

Reginold Royston is a candidate in African Diaspora Studies. His dissertation, “Trending in Ghana: Homeland, Diaspora and New Media Publics,” investigates how diaspora is deployed in discourse on development; in news, social and entertainment media; and in the social imaginary of Ghana. It has centered around the concept of digital diaspora, in particular, the virtual communities constructed by those from Ghana where discourse around diaspora is central to national identity. Using both traditional ethnographic methods and digital forms of participant observation, he investigates how identity is constructed in increasingly mobile and ambient environments, such as Facebook and networked-gaming sites for World Cup Football. He also researches the role of online classrooms in promoting global Internet Citizenship. He incorporates insights and methodology from sociology and anthropology; cultural and textual analysis from Africana Studies; and critical insight on networks and IT development from New Media scholars.