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

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Creativity within constraints: Encoding, production, and representation in Battlestar Galactica

Date created: 
2015-12-10
Abstract: 

Using the lens of feminist production studies, I examine the television show Battlestar Galactica through interviews with show creators to explore the contexts of production. Writers, actors, and producers experience constraints on their creativity. Media producers encode meaning into the texts they create and form their own understandings of social issues and stories. I examine the day-to-day processes and constraints operating in the work lives of television creators as well as their political and social goals for the show. I pay particularly close attention to their understanding of intersecting areas of identity, such as race, sexuality, and gender. My analysis is situated within production studies, postfeminist media theories, and science fiction scholarship.

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

Music-Based TV Talent Shows in China: Celebrity and Meritocracy in the Post-Reform Society

Author: 
Abstract: 

Meritocracy refers to the idea that whatever our social position at birth, society should offer the means for those with the right “talent” to “rise to top.” In context of celebrity culture, it could refer to the idea that society should allow all of us to have an equal chance to become celebrities. This article argues that as a result of globalization and consumerism in the post-reform market economy, the genre of music-based TV talent shows has become one of the most popular TV genres in China and has at the same time become a vehicle of a neoliberal meritocratic ideology. The rise of the ideology of meritocracy accompanied the pace of market reform in post-1980s China and is influenced by the loss of social safety nets during China’s transition from a socialist to a market economy. By allowing celebrities created by profit-seeking industries to represent and arbitrate the “talent” that should be rewarded by society, TV talent shows normalize the neoliberal notion that all under the market system have the “equality of opportunity” to compete with one another. Thus, the cultural industries of China become dissociated from the working class to fit hegemonic models of culture and market logic. By studying the social and economic context of music-based reality TV talent shows, we can understand the changes of class and market dynamics of China in the last 30 years.

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

"Shopping for change": An ideological retelling/retailing of charitable aid in World Vision Canada's charity gift catalogue

Author: 
Date created: 
2015-09-25
Abstract: 

Since the early 2000s, a growing number of charitable organizations has introduced gift catalogues from which donors “shop” through tangible goods (e.g. livestock, mosquito nets) for recipients in need. Building upon the work of Susan Willis, I approach the charity gift catalogue as a form of ideological packaging. This thesis critically analyzes World Vision Canada’s gift catalogues to explore how the consumption-oriented language and format of the catalogue commodify charitable aid and its recipients. Specifically, I examine how the catalogue transforms charitable aid into “products” by a) standardizing quantities b) creating an appearance of use value and c) aestheticizing charitable aid as a “shopping” experience. This project aims to establish an understanding of “shopping” from a charity catalogue as more than a playful metaphor; rather, it is an ideological representation that may negatively shape the way in which donors conceptualize and participate in charitable aid in the long term.

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

“Now Playing. You”: Big Data and the Production of Music Streaming Space.

Author: 
Date created: 
2015-11-03
Abstract: 

This dissertation begins from the premise that Dallas Smythe’s attempt to develop a Marxist ‘materialist’ political economy of media remains a critically important - and unfinished - project. To-date, the debate has largely been concerned with locating the central commodity produced by ad-supported media. This commodity has been at various times identified as either ‘audiences’, ‘watching-time’, ‘ratings’, and more recently, ‘prosumers’ or ‘data’. Building from the late philosopher Henri Lefebvre’s insight that Marxists have too often focused on the production of commodities in capitalist space, leaving them blind to the production of capitalist space itself, this dissertation proposes a different approach. Ad-supported media, I argue, generate rents from the spaces that are produced by media audiences/users around media content. The question of how ‘media space’ is produced and shaped by the stipulations of rent extraction is examined through a case study of the ad-supported music streaming sector. From terrestrial radio to P2P file sharing, music has long facilitated the production of mediated “social space”. Contemporary music streaming services such as Spotify, SoundCloud and Pandora Internet Radio, represent the latest attempt to transform the spaces of listeners into spaces of capital: what Lefebvre referred to as “abstract space”. This dissertation investigates the perceived, conceived, and lived dimensions of the struggle to produce abstract space on music streaming platforms. In particular, the role played by data mining and analysis, as typified by the music intelligence company The Echo Nest, is examined. I argue that the drive to increase advertising revenues leads to the further segmentation and ordering of listeners and content, as sociability is turned upon itself to fulfill the dictates of capital. While social space is never entirely dissolved, abstract space increasingly shapes the potentialities of social space, as our examination of SoundCloud demonstrates. In short, this dissertation develops an alternative materialist political economy of media that shifts focus from the production of commodities to the production of spaces. Music streaming services provide a window into the dynamic and unstable process through which mediated social space is made abstract in the commercial media economy.

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

Chinese Square Dance, Media, and Ideological Dynamics in Contemporary China

Author: 
Date created: 
2015-08-20
Abstract: 

In China, square dance refers to a dancing activity named after where it usually occurs, a public square. Contemporary Chinese square dance started in the 1980s, in the wake of the Chinese Communist Party’s Reform and Opening Up policy. My paper explores Chinese square dance as a collective method of expression under contemporary ideological dynamics, which combine earlier socialism and the more recent neoliberalism. It entails the study of Chinese domestic news media, which represent the dialectical tensions of socialist and neoliberal ideologies when presenting the image of square dance. Using Chinese square dance as a focal point to study the interplay between media, society and the party state, we see a dynamic struggle occurring between the often despised, orthodox socialism and the arguably heterodox, yet penetrative neoliberal way of life.

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

Communicating Communes: A Case Study of Urban Communing Movement in South Korea

Date created: 
2015-09-08
Abstract: 

Bin-Zib [in Korean, empty/guests’ house] is an urban housing movement in Seoul, South Korea. In a society where, like many others, home ownership has increasingly become a matter of financial speculation rather than residency, the founders of Bin-Zib attempted to overturn the idea of private property associated with housing by turning housing from a form of property to what this thesis theorizes as the common. Starting out with one rented apartment in 2008, Bin-Zib members have expanded the scope of their communing experiment to include a network of homes, a café, and a cooperative bank, by inventing an array of strategies founded on the primacy of radical politics in everyday life. Based on an extended period of participant observation, analysis of online and print texts, and in-depth interviews with 32 residents, this thesis explores how Bin-Zib’s residents have struggled to create different practices of housing in a thoroughly neoliberalized urban setting. The community’s emphasis on heterogeneity, egalitarianism and openness has both departed from traditional left politics and propelled them to create an experimental and highly successful commune within and against capitalism. Drawing on Jacques Rancière's theory of subjectivation, this thesis investigates the politics of everyday life and expanding communism.

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

Promoting Women’s Awareness towards Change in Nigeria: the Role of Literature

Date created: 
2015-08-07
Abstract: 

This paper examines women’s struggle to overcome marginalization in a sexist and a patriarchal Nigerian society. It argues that fictional literature can be an effective tool for creating awareness, learning and dialogue among Nigerian women from various cultural, religious and ethnic background towards transformation. Literature, like any medium of communication, can be used to mobilize social change. This argument is illustrated through a literary analysis of three novels by three renowned female Nigerian writers: Efuru (1966) by Flora Nwapa, Second Class Citizen (1974) by Buchi Emecheta and Purple Hibiscus (2003) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The authors project womanhood in a positive light, upholding the potentials of women by making role models out of each female protagonist. Women’s efforts to free themselves from the bondage of tradition, politics, marriage and most importantly male dominance are what makes these three novels extremely powerful. This paper intends to show how literature tries to open up the neglected subject of women oppression in Nigeria and create awareness.

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

The Terrorists are Coming! The Terrorists are Coming! (or are they?): A Critical Discourse Analysis of The Anti-Terrorism Act, Bill C-51 in Canadian Newspapers

Date created: 
2015-08-07
Abstract: 

This paper argues that the Canadian mainstream print news media helps to legitimate the increase in security measures, government agency powers, and new legislation in Canada through the dissemination of a discourse of terrorism, as well as through legitimation of the types of questions being asked about terrorism, and Canada’s response to it. To reflect on how the mainstream print news media are using the discourse of terrorism news articles from The Globe and Mail and the National Post about Bill C-51 were analyzed using critical discourse analysis. The analysis shows that there are inherent assumptions present within the discourse of terrorism related to race, nationality and causation. How terrorism is conceptualized and spoken about needs to be changed. The role of the Canadian military in provoking violence against the state, the hegemony of counter-terrorism responses and the discourse of terrorism, and the existence of counter-terrorism measures need to be critically analyzed for the future.

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

From Militant to Military: The Ambivalent Politics of Liberal Feminism in the American War on Terror

Author: 
Date created: 
2015-08-07
Abstract: 

The widespread use of feminist, human rights, and international development discourse for justifying military intervention is part of a long and storied tradition of imperial feminism – a tradition which is deeply embedded into the normative Western ideologies of neoliberalism and modernization. However, the narrative of feminism that has been appropriated by the US military in order to justify the war on terror is that of liberal feminism; it is a discourse of feminism that privileges a white, middle-class, Western audience. In other words, it is blind to the historically disproportionate experience of oppression faced by women of colour. On a global scale, liberal feminism undermines the agency of women’s movements in the global south by assuming the universality – as well as the superiority – of Western human rights discourse. This paper will examine how the liberal feminist discourse became a dominant narrative in the war on terror. It will also analyze the implications of that dominance – both global and local.

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

How Social Media Users Negotiate Self-Censorship in the Online Public Sphere

Author: 
Date created: 
2015-08-21
Abstract: 

Research about the public sphere and social media often focus on what is being posted, rather than examining what is being omitted or why. The aim of this research is to explore this gap by providing ethnographic, qualitative research on how social media users negotiate self-censorship while engaging in the online public sphere.

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