Grad conference to address Finding Common Ground

Ellen Glover • March 28, 2017
Mona Malacane
Grad student Mona Malacane will share her research and receive feedback at the conference. She said she’s interested in hearing more about other grad students’ research. (Michael Williams | The Media School)

The Media School’s first Graduate Student Conference will look at the interconnections in media and related research across IU through its theme, Finding Common Ground.

Students will gather April 7 in Franklin Hall for a series of panel discussions and presentations on topics ranging from gender or race in media to cognitive science to game design theory.

“The general idea is to position the Media School as a nexus on campus,” said Cole Stratton, a graduate student and one of the organizers.  “’Media School’ suggests that the world intersects with media in some way, so we want to bring all media research together on campus.”

Research conferences often require lengthy summaries and a rigorous review process. But this one is was constructed to be a bit more inclusive and less formal. This, Stratton explained, is to encourage more graduate students to share their research and interact with others.

“Conferences like these are key professional experiences and resume builders,” he explained. “Also, participants will be able to get behind the scenes of what it takes to put something like this together.”

The organizers received more than 30 submissions for presentations from grad students across campus. Jess Tompkins, a third-year doctoral student at the school, will present her video game research, which is a textual analysis of fan fiction based on the popular game Call of Duty, a first-person shooter game in which the players are soldiers at war.

The game, Tompkins explained, is extremely male oriented and depicts a very specific type of persona known as “military masculine.”

“Fan fiction is a pretty active subculture, and it negotiates ways that contrast the main stream ideas imposed in the game, particularly around gender,” she said. “Authors insert female characters or create romantic relationships between two current male characters to get their own enjoyment out of the games.”

Tompkins took about 40 pieces of Call of Duty fan fiction and, using social psychological theories, examined the stories and wrote an analysis. Her work is set to be published as a chapter in a new book, Call of Duty Essay Collection.

Another presenter at this year’s conference is Mona Malacane, a third-year doctoral student studying the relationships between sexual socialization and the media. She will participate in a workshop discussing sex and media, and then she will discuss what will become her dissertation. This research looks at parents’ involvement and oversight of their teenagers’ media consumption.

“The study involves a content analysis of adolescent media and general audience media, looking at the presence of sexual talk, behavior and physical sexualization,” said Malacane. “It turns out adolescent media is more physically sexualized than the shows you will find on ABC. Discussing sex is natural and expected, but the extent parents know about this is probably not at all. They are missing key opportunities to teach their kids about sex.”

Malacane focuses on television because that is still the most important medium to teens, but she’s also looking at technology. Most of what she has now is conceptual but she hopes to collect more qualitative data, she said.

Until then, Malacane said she is excited to participate in the school’s first grad conference, not only to polish her presentation skills but also to learn more about other research at IU.

“This will be a great opportunity to come together and mind-share,” she said. “As a grad student, not being in classes can be very isolating. It will be great to step out of my own bubble and talk to others about their research — get input on my own.”

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