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RTF Media Studies graduate students win awards at NCA Convention

November 19-22, 2015

At the National Communication Association (NCA) 101st Annual Convention (Las Vegas, NV), several UT Austin RTF media studies doctoral students and alumni presented papers, participated in panels, and received awards:

Religious Communication Division
PhD student Charlotte Howell received a top student paper (four were selected for a panel), presenting: "Fantastic Visionaries: Gendered Revelation in Telefantasy."

In the possibilities of the fantastic, one may find alternatives to patriarchal constructions of God and religion. This presentation studies the fantastic visions of Laura Roslin in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (SciFi, 2003-2009) and of Eli Stone in Eli Stone (ABC, 2008-2009). Both characters, their visions, their context, and viewer reception of their visions inform my ideological analysis of the--fantastic, feminist, queer, and/or patriarchal--representations of religion through visions on these shows. I argue that Battlestar Galactica and Eli Stone utilize the fantastic mode to create a "space-off" for non-patriarchal characters to access religious power through visions. This "space-off" for feminist work, however, may also reify a character's marginal position in relation to both power and religion. To frame this study of fantastic visions, I use William James, Ann Taves, and Thomas A. Tweed's religious scholarship, Tsvetan Toderov's definition of the fantastic, and a cultural studies approach to representation within the television genre's expectations and allegorical symbolism.

Instructional Development Division
“Embracing Opportunities of MOOCs,” was accepted for presentation at the top panel. Panel members included alumni Holly Custard (PhD ’12) and Carolyn Cunningham (PhD ’09), and current PhD student Bahaa Gameel.

MOOCs have changed the higher education landscape with grandiose claims of their ability to bring high quality education to the masses, creating a paradigm shift in the academy's business and educational models. Many, however, are left wondering about the viability and sustainability of MOOCs and are skeptical of their importance or impact. Some of these concerns are about the student audience (is it really reaching those in most need of education?), the effectiveness of instruction (is it too traditional and not dynamic?), or it's cost (does it take too much time and money to produce?). While the verdict is out on how successful MOOCs are, the emergence of this model offers opportunities to discuss instructional strategies, learning styles, and access to education for diverse students. This panel will discuss the development of MOOCs as well as these key questions.

International and Intercultural Communication Division
PhD student Bahaa Gameel also presented a paper, “Putting Out Fire with Gasoline in Tahrir Square: Revisiting the Gamson Hypothesis.” The paper was co-authored by Moody College journalism graduate students Shuning Lu, Hyeri Jung, and Thomas Johnson.

This study situates Gamson hypothesis in a non-Western country with an attempt to explore the relationship between the Gamson typology and political behavior in a country that has traditionally been under authoritarian regime – Egypt in particular. Furthermore, this study suggests that additional factors might play important roles in the traditional relationship; it examines a possible link of media use, political corruption and political rights to the Gamson typology based on a representative national survey conducted in Egypt. By looking at one of the Arab world with the Gamson model, which previously has been applied largely to Western countries, the current study found interesting results that can possibly modify the model. This study aims to contribute at not only enriching the model, but also enhancing our understanding of the diverse nature of the relationships among the Gamson typology, political systems, media use and political activities in a democratizing country.

American Studies Division
PhD student Lucia Palmer presented the paper, “The 1491s and American Indian Satire: Problematizing Media Power and Flow through YouTube Sketch Comedy.”

Since 2010 members of the 1491s, an American Indian YouTube sketch comedy group, have created videos that challenge dominant narratives about contemporary indigenous life and agency, and attracted a sizeable following while garnering media attention for their fusion of social activism and comedy. Because the 1491s utilize YouTube as a platform for distribution of their videos, their work is not limited by local, national or regional borders, and in fact targets audiences across these lines. Does the popularity of the low-budget and politically subversive work of the 1491s problematize ideas of global media flows, in particular theorizations of imperialism (Schiller, 1991) and asymmetrical contraflow (Thussu, 2010)? Utilizing a critical discursive analysis of a selection of the 1491s's videos (limited to those with 50-thousand or more views), this paper investigates the group's work as textual acts that challenge the status quo and undermine assumed dichotomies in society. This questions the viability of the concepts of imperialism and contraflow to understanding creative work that is simultaneously underground and readily available, local and global, and inside and outside of the mainstream. The 1491s use satirical strategies that juxtapose mainstream imaginings of "traditional" Native American culture against "modern" settings and situations in an effort to explode these boundaries. I argue that the 1491s should be conceptualized as contact zones in which encounters between hegemonic perceptions and alternative voices expose the inconsistencies and destructive tendencies in U.S. mainstream imaginaries of American Indian peoples, cultures, and histories.

For Media and Communication Section of Research in Progress Roundtables
PhD student Swapnil Rai presented the paper, “Why did the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans love "3 Idiots"? Global Bollywood's Reception in Lateral Asian Markets.”

Today's global mediascape is defined by dispersion in the sites of media production, reception and translation. Each site is shaped by unique global/ local assemblages of capital, language and state and corporate interests. This paper is focused on the Bollywood film 3 Idiots (2009) produced and distributed by India's emerging global media organization Reliance Entertainment most notable in the western media discourse for its fifty percent stake in Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks. 3 Idiots received unprecedented success in Asian markets like China, Japan and South Korea. The film, an adaptation of the book Five Point Someone, delved into the competitive academic world and job market that young students face in developing countries.

Through a close textual and discursive analysis of the texts surrounding the film in journalistic, industry trade and online forums this paper addresses the following questions: 1) What are the ways in which the narrative of 3 Idiots becomes "commensurate with" (Larkins) an Asian audience and a uniquely Asian sensibility. 2) Why did the narrative of 3 Idiots traverse these specific geographic and cultural circuits, culturally and otherwise ? 3) What affiliations do the Asian audiences make with 3 Idiots 4) What are the range of audience positions offered by the film and how are these forms designed to interpellate audiences or are they? 5) What types of cultural hybridities result from this kind of circulation? And lastly, since this film emanates from an emerging economy like India, 6) does the circulation of this film create or address the question of "parallel modernity" among these countries, and what are the industrial and cultural implications of such lateral media flows? Lastly, the paper also examines and frames this film within the broader discourse of Bollywood's popularity in lateral markets and the Indian film industry's attempt to establish itself globally.

Scholar to Scholar: Public Relations; Organizational and Group Communication; Human Communication and Technology; Theater, Film and New Multi-Media; Lambda Pi Eta, Pi Kappa Delta, and the National Forensic Association
PhD student Swapnil Rai presented the paper, “Cultivating Audiences on Social Media: Bollywood, Hollywood: A Comparative Perspective.”

This research project investigates the consumerist discourses fostered by Bollywood and Hollywood film industries by examining the content and packaging of their social media messages on industry generated official Facebook film pages. Through this analysis the project seeks to ascertain the preponderance of consumerism on these pages and analyze the ways in which film related consumerism operates in social media environments like Facebook. The celebrity star (usually actor or director) is one of the central figures through which film related consumerism operates. The study will closely examine the ways in which the star/celebrity persona is performed on official FB film pages and how is it transformed into a vehicle for consumerism. Looking at user responses to the marketing messages on the film pages, the study also seeks to analyze how audience/ users are factored into the creation and perpetration of the dominant capitalist discourse. Another goal of this project is to assess the similarities or differences in the consumerist discourse generated by the world's two leading film industries (Bollywood and Hollywood) on their official Facebook (FB) film pages. Does it reflect synergies in marketing strategies, business models etc.? How do the two industries engage with the audience on their FB pages?