Top Student Papers in Media Ecology

Sponsor: Media Ecology Association
Sat, 11/21: 3:30 PM  - 4:45 PM 
Virtual Event 
Room: Zoom Room 03 
This panel celebrates the top student paper submissions to the Media Ecology division. Please join us to celebrate a round of presentations about such issues as: online pedagogy, the political ergonomics of smartphones, the outsourcing of "free will" to external devices, a figure/ground analysis of Trumpism, and enactments of anonymity and the time perspective.

Intrigued? So are we. Join us for a rousing panel of student presentations.


Michael Plugh, Manhattan College  - Contact Me


Media Ecology Association


Live for the Moment: Exploring the Relationship Between Enactments of Anonymity and Time Perspective

Identity is inherently temporal. This paper starts by showing how the connection between time and identity by detailing how several dimensions of our identity (Marx, 2001) each have a temporal nature. This is followed by a review of the anonymity literature using a sociomateriality perspective to recognize how anonymity is enacted (Scott and Orlikowski, 2014). Specifically, this paper will focus on how anonymity is a disconnection from both the past and the future. To better understand how time shapes our habits and attitudes, this paper will address the concept of time perspective (Zimbardo and Boyd, 2015). All of this is to build to a discussion of two relationships. The first is a connection between the temporal structures of anonymous environments and a present-hedonistic time perspective. The second is a connection between the temporal structures of identified environments and a future time perspective. 


Brad A. Haggadone, College of Media and Communication, Texas Tech University  - Contact Me

Analyzing the E-Learning Environment: Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas and the Pedagogy They Produce

As of 2019, at least 34% of college students took one or more classes online, a rate double that of just three years earlier (Lederman, 2019). Now given the abrupt shift to online-only teaching in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend will only accelerate. Given the speed and scale of these changes, educators must think beyond the technical concerns of adjustment and towards a more critical question: How does the move to teaching online affect not only the mode of instruction but the way in which we teach? Working from crossroads of media ecology and critical pedagogy, this study tracks this question by investigating the medium through which online courses are facilitated, or learning management systems (LMS). In focusing on the three most popular LMSs in the U.S - Blackboard, Moodle, and Canvas - this analysis explores the degree to which these platforms support or inhibit concepts central to critical pedagogy. How do LMSs structure the encounter between student and teacher? How do they alter our ability to engage in classroom dialogue around critical issues? Can they offer students the chance to form new communities and locate new opportunities for transformation? Or do they pose the risk of further surveillance and isolation? Critically appraising online teaching tools is a difficult task, one requiring an understanding of the technical, ethical, and legal forces that shape these environments. It is through this understanding of how pedagogy operates within LMSs that educators might move toward establishing critical teaching practices capable of flourishing in these new spaces. 


J.D. Swerzenski, University of Massachusetts, Amherst  - Contact Me

Is Big Data Threatening Our Humanity?

This paper seeks illuminate an important, yet previously under-pondered question surrounding the effects of social media technologies and their collection of nearly infinite bytes of data on individuals at an atomistic level. After considerable reduction to lowest terms, the purpose of this paper is simply to pose the following question. Have we as humanity made the conscious decision to outsource our "Free-will" to external devices? If so, does this action undermine the very elemental essences that make us human? This work examines the effects of social media on the human condition from a myriad of perspectives and what consequences mankind may face in a temporal moment where human freewill is lost to a technological oligarchy. In conclusion, this paper offers suggestions for navigating the future landscape of social media and data collection that might promote a positive communicative ethic. 


Gregory "Scott" McCown, Duquesne University  - Contact Me

Instrumental vs. environmental explanations of media contribution to Trumpism: figure/ground analysis

Instrumental vs. environmental explanations of media contribution to Trumpism: figure/ground analysis This paper probes into Trumpism using McLuhan's idea of figure/ground analysis. To make visible the hidden ground behind a salient figure (or figures), the dichotomy of instrumental and environmental approaches to media effects is introduced. The widely used instrumental approach is rooted in the long-standing Lasswellian tradition of communication studies ("Who says what, in which channel, to whom, with what effect?"). The instrumental explanations of Trumpism are unavoidably reductionist, as they focus on figures and, therefore, overemphasize rationality and agency in media use. On the contrary, the environmental approach focuses on hidden ground and explores what environmental forces originate from new media's proliferation and how these forces reshape habitat and inhabitants. To apply this view, the paper examines the environmental factors within the news industry and social media that are favourable to Trumpism: the commodification of Trump by the media, the morphological conflict between broadcasting and engaging modes of agenda-setting, the built-in polarization of social media and others. 


Andrey Miroshnichenko, York University  - Contact Me

Ergonomics and the Multi-Scalar Design Politics of the Smartphone

Following Langdon Winner (1992, 1980), I will argue that ergonomics is a productive way to think about the politics of technological artifacts, and a particularly insightful way to ground a critical analysis of the power relations that a particular technology can bring into being through multiple scales of design choices and the ways in which it gets functionally deployed, taken up, and used in everyday life. Ergonomics is a field of study historically developed and based in worker exploitation and military buildup, but it can (and should) be turned on itself, re-made into a tool of critical analysis that allows us to see the political implications of design choices. My intentions are twofold: first, to articulate a political ergonomic framework that functions to both critique the formal field of ergonomics and provide a way to address the design politics of artifacts and systems generally; and second, to show how this political ergonomic framework can reveal the design politics of smartphones specifically. To these ends I will first summarize and critique the formalized field of ergonomics and use that critique as an entry point to sketch the contours of a political ergonomics. I will then dissect the myriad ergonomic scales of smartphones, revealing as I do the various political implications of smartphone design. 


Cole Stratton, Indiana University  - Contact Me