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Student Research Presentations

BCNM was excited to celebrate the research of its graduating Ph.D. candidates on Thursday, April 10th, at its Student Research Presentations Reception.

The research talks provided a stunning cross-section of the interdisciplinary and varied work for which our students are known. From the digital divide to race in video games to the influence of the Ghanaian digital diaspora, the presentations offered careful critiques of new media and its influence on our society.


ThumbnailJen Schradie, a candidate in Sociology, began the evening with a discussion on “The Myth of Digital Activism.” Jen addressed the argument made by many scholars over the last decade that the Internet has created more participatory social movements that do not require organizations. Pointing out that this scholarship selects on the dependent variable of digital activism, often focusing on emergent, ephemeral, left-wing online movements of the elite, Jen sought to offer new insights on both offline practices and the structural differences across organizations that shape digital activism. She explained how her research avoids such biases by analyzing 34 existing organizations on opposing sides of a single political issue: whether public employees should have collective bargaining rights in 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, Jen expected 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.

Jen’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation. Next year, she will be traveling to the University of Toulouse in France to undertake a post-doctoral position.


Irene Chien, a candidate in Film & Media Studies, discussed her dissertation: “Programmed Moves: Fighting and Dancing Videogames, Embodiment, and Race.” She argued that fighting and dancing videogames point to a key dynamic in videogame play – the programming of the body into the algorithmic logic of the game. Displaying ads for early videogames and demonstrated their play mechanic, Irene was able to evidence how games succeed at programming the body by investing players in familiar racial, sexual, and national identifications. In the process, Irene pointed to the connection between technological and social coding in videogames.

Irene has accepted a position as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Media and Communications Department at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.


Reginold Royston is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of African American Studies. He brought to life his dissertation “Trending Ghana: Homeland, Diaspora and New Media Publics” for the audience, by displaying how the rhetoric of diaspora is deployed in IT-driven development; in global news, social and entertainment media; and in the social imaginary of Ghana. Reggie described the traditional ethnographic methods and digital forms of participant observation he used to investigate how a diaspora identity is constructed in increasingly ambient environments such as Twitter, online radio, and mobile devices.

Reginold has been a HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Fellow. He will be teaching at Williams College in Fall 2014 as a two-year postdoctoral Mellon fellow in African Studies.


Check out the photos below!

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