Communication - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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“To Fight the Battles We Never Could”: The Militarization of Marvel’s Cinematic Superheroes

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-06-16
Abstract: 

The Marvel comics film adaptations have been some of the most successful Hollywood products of the post 9/11 period, bringing formerly obscure cultural texts into the mainstream. Through an analysis of the adaptation process of Marvel Entertainment’s superhero franchise from comics to film, I argue that a hegemonic American model of militarization has been used by Hollywood as a discursive formation with which to transform niche properties into mass market products. I consider the locations of narrative ambiguities in two key comics texts, The Ultimates (2002-2007) and The New Avengers (2005-2012), as well as in the film The Avengers (2011), and demonstrate the significant reorientation towards the military’s “War on Terror” of the film franchise. While Marvel had attempted to produce film adaptations for decades, only under the new “militainment” discursive formation was it finally successful. Using a framework of genre, myth, and intertextuality I argue that superheroes are malleable icons, known largely by the public by their image and perhaps general character traits rather than their narratives. Militainment is introduced through a discourse of realism provided by Marvel Studios as an indicator that the property is not just for children. Ultimately, this results in shifting superhero ethics towards the goals of the American military and a concomitant militarization of mainstream popular culture.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Zoë Druick
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Oppression in the Reddit Hivemind: Tracing Patterns of Misogyny in Electronic Public Spaces

Date created: 
2016-08-19
Abstract: 

My research specifically analyzes patterns of misogynistic discourse on the social bookmarking site Reddit, well-known for its tagline “The Front Page of the Internet.” Under that banner, Reddit is widely regarded as a neutral and universal source for news, and is often seen as being more democratic than legacy mass media. The website is also male-dominated and widely believed to foster a community that exhibits internal cultural and social biases rooted in specific power structures of hegemonic masculinity. This causes male experiences to be universalized and issues and perspectives pertaining to women to be ignored or even stigmatized within the community’s practices. These contradictions can be linked to a persistent culture of practices tracing back to older online platforms such as Usenet and more current ones such as 4chan involving meritocratic principles that inextricably form Reddit’s architecture. As a popular and influential social media platform, Reddit has potentially dangerous implications for public discourse. However, Reddit is also unique in that its open-ended nature allows for a multitude of independently functioning spaces. This includes the existence of alternative safe spaces, such as /r/TwoXChromosomes, which offer a more nuanced understanding of the site’s overall contributions to democratic public space. Using critical discourse analysis, I analyze popular subreddit communities including /r/worldnews and /r/TwoXChromosomes to see how prominent these patterns of misogyny are, how alternative spaces can function within its ecosystem and how these factors affect Reddit as an electronic public space and a contributor to democratic news discourse.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Stuart Poyntz
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Journalism as myth: Representing the Chinese stock market crisis of 2015

Author: 
Date created: 
2015-09-30
Abstract: 

The tumults within China’s stock markets in the summer of 2015 riveted the international news media, which converged to speculate on the events' significance for the Chinese real economy and China's unorthodox adoption of market capitalism mixed with command-style economics. Stock markets, however, never signify by themselves – to see causality, sequence and higher-order signification in each day’s closing numbers is to find meanings beyond what is manifestly indicated by the represented event. That non-literal meanings appear self-evident to producers and consumers of the journalism indicates the operation of mythical meanings in the text, fulfilling Barthes’s (2012) famous prediction that no artefact of verbal production is ever safe from myth. A content analysis of journalism pertaining to the Chinese stock market shows the linguistic and semiological processes that operated in the text to transform stock market news into myths about the perils of betraying free market principles

Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Alison Beale
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Extended Essay) M.A.

The Dialectic of Open Technology

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-04-01
Abstract: 

This paper explores the concept of openness in the technology domain. In contrast to the common notion of openness as transparent access, I define the concept as the degree of liberation or suppression of potentiality. To develop a theory of openness as potentiality, I draw on the works of Gilbert Simondon and Umberto Eco. Simondon’s theory of individuation explains the potentiality of incompatible relations between disparate domains. Resolving the incompatibilities actualizes the underlying potentiality, which is the energy source of constant, ambivalent changes in the lifeworld. Eco suggests that the semantic codes in contemporary art are unstable. They constantly oscillate between the rejection and the preservation of conventional systems. By appropriating Simondon’s and Eco’s theory to the realm of technology, I formulate a theory of openness in technology. I conclude with an inquiry on the significance of openness in practice and propose a design approach for developing open technologies.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Andrew Feenberg
Frédérik Lesage
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Disconnected realities: An analysis of the DrugsNot4Me campaign and its impact on street-involved youth in Vancouver, Canada

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-04-15
Abstract: 

Given the popularity of public service announcements, as well as the broader implications of risk associated with illicit drug use, this study sought to identify potential disconnects between drug prevention messages espoused by the Canadian government’s DrugsNot4Me anti-illicit-drug public service announcement campaign and how high-risk, drug-using street-involved youth perceive the campaign. A qualitative content analysis was undertaken to examine the framing of illicit drug use among youth, and a series of qualitative interviews was conducted with a group of street youth to explore their perspectives on the campaign. Results indicate that not only did drug prevention messages not address the needs of this population, including providing resources for support, they also did not translate to youth and rather caused undue emotional harm and suffering. Rigorous evaluation of public service announcements are necessary to mitigate negative outcomes for youth with increased vulnerability to illicit drug use.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Martin Laba
Thomas Kerr
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

The Turn to Practice in Medicine: Towards situated drug safety

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-03-31
Abstract: 

Research in medicine is often undertaken with the aim to produce abstract knowledge. This thesis is concerned with how this aim relates to the on-the-ground practice of medicine and the influence that conceptualizations of care have on the ways that we do research, identify problems, and design and implement solutions. Following the work of scholars in science and technology studies, I outline and argue for the turn to practice, an approach to research that takes an interest in “situated action” and knowledge as practiced (Suchman, 1987/2007). Drawing on an action research intervention in clinical care related to medications, I demonstrate how practice-oriented research can be done in medicine. I contrast mechanistic conceptualizations of care with ethnographic accounts, showing how drug safety proceeds through the situated and local activities of providers, and that improvement initiatives might be reappraised to enable rather than constrain or interrupt this work.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Ellen Balka
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

The Right to Authentic Political Communication

Date created: 
2016-01-22
Abstract: 

Increasingly, governments communicate strategically with the public for political advantage, seeking as Christopher Hood describes it to “avoid blame” and “claim credit” for the actions and decisions of governance. In particular, Strategic Political Communication (SPC) is becoming the dominant form of political communication between Canada’s executive branch of government and the public, both during elections and as part of a “permanent campaign” to gain and maintain public support as means to political power. This dissertation argues that SPC techniques interfere with the public’s ability to know how they are governed, and therefore undermines the central right of citizens in a democracy to legitimate elected representation by scrutinizing government and holding it to account. Realization of that right depends on an authentic political communication process that provides citizens with an understanding of government. By seeking to hide or downplay blameworthy actions, SPC undermines the legitimation role public discourse plays in a democracy. The central questions that shaped this dissertation are first, why citizens in a democracy have a right to understand government and second, what role does communication play in realizing that right? The arguments rely on national and international rights jurisprudence; communication rights theory, in particular concerning communicative action (Habermas); authentic deliberation (Dryzek); arguments for and against critical citizenship (Tully, Norris and Schumpeter); and political studies, including deliberative democracy and legitimization of government (Dewey). Methodologies include multi-disciplinary literature reviews; primary records obtained through the Access to Information Act (ATIA); media monitoring; database analysis and process tracking through elite interviews with scholars, government actors and political journalists. Chapter two considers rights history, philosophy, and jurisprudence in arguing that access to authentic information is both a right and is essential to the informed, reasonable public deliberations (Young) central to democratic legitimation (Dunn). Chapter three considers SPC, including the positivity bias of partisan SPC actors, and the countering “negativity bias” (Hood) of political journalists. Chapters four and five examine SPC practices of politically-appointed partisan staff in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) of Stephen Harper. Chapter six concerns secrecy, and resistance to Canada’s ATIA. The conclusion makes recommendations for greater transparency and accountability.

Document type: 
Thesis
Senior supervisor: 
Peter Anderson
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Re-examining Herbert Schiller’s cultural imperialism thesis with cases of chinese and korean cultural industries and China’s quest for soft power: A comparative study of chinese film and online gaming industries’ going-out efforts

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-01-14
Abstract: 

First essay: In the climate of a new orthodoxy foregrounding de-centralization and cultural diversification in globalization since the 1990s, Herbert Schiller's theory of cultural imperialism has been largely discredited in communication studies. Schiller's cultural account of U.S. imperialism is considered unsatisfactory for explaining emerging markets and rapid developments in global cultural industries. Both the Korean wave and the rise of China’s soft power seem to support this proposition. This article goes back to Schiller's thesis with the challenge represented in the successes of China and Korea. To be sure, real-world developments and current global power shifts challenge Schiller’s state-centric analysis of “imperialism”. However, Schiller's core-periphery framing of “domination” and “subordination” in power relations is still adaptable to today's environment. Additionally, his observation of the global cultural dominance of transnational corporate authorities and their dependence on class exploitation remains valid. Cultural imperialism successors need to account for both the state and class relations when studying contemporary cultural and economic exchanges among established powers and new powers. Second essay: China’s rapid growth over the last several decades has reshaped the international economic and political order. Against the backdrop of ongoing global power shifts, China’s steps to develop and increase its soft power have attracted immense attention. This essay continues Yuezhi Zhao’s study of global power shifts and communication in China by locating China’s quest for soft power within its historical and geopolitical contexts and addressing the complexities of Chinese cultural industries’ global integration through a political economy of communication (Zhao, 2013; Zhao, 2014). This analysis foregrounds the identical nature of capital accumulation in the domestic and global developments of China’s film and online gaming industries. If China’s cultural revitalization is to be understood as offering an alternative to the current capitalist order, then the global commercial expansion of China’s online gaming and film industries do not represent soft power breakthroughs. Rather, they represent the market imperatives and business strategies underpinning China’s cultural integration into global capitalism.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Yuezhi Zhao
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Tweeting Tsunami: Early Warning Networks in British Columbia

Date created: 
2015-12-15
Abstract: 

Influential Twitter users can enhance disaster warning by diffusing risk awareness through networks. While Twitter networks are frequently active during disaster warning, little work in social network analysis has been applied to the Pacific Northwest Coast, encapsulating British Columbia in Canada, and Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California in the United States. This region is vulnerable to tsunamis, and Twitter’s speed, reach, and volume could enhance early warning. This thesis locates a 1,932 follower network for @NWS_NTWC, this region’s source tsunami warning account. Profile content analysis identifies stakeholders and network analysis describes their interconnections by country, community, influence, and embeddedness. Opinion leaders were identified and surveyed (n=125) on Twitter usage and opinions for tsunami early warning. This mixed methods approach assesses how stakeholders can optimize warnings in Twitter. Key outcomes include a longitudinal baseline, network driven decision-making techniques, and strategies for alerting at-risk areas.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Peter Anderson
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Comment Space

Date created: 
2015-11-18
Abstract: 

Reader comments are an online communication format defined by their marginality relative to a primary news or blog article. To investigate their distinctive technical features and social dynamics, I studied large-scale discussions in response to articles about two stories: the death of Aaron Swartz, and the outing of Edward Snowden as the NSA leaker. Using frame analysis and drawing on Hannah Arendt’s theories of judgment and public action, I describe how the these comments by ordinary people give meaning to political action and define a space of political legitimacy.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Andrew Feenberg
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.