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

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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.

Shaping the genohype: A cautionary tale of overpromise

Date created: 
2015-12-03
Abstract: 

This thesis examines the mechanisms at play in the hype of genomic science. While media are the primary conduit for scientific information, scientists and scholars claim that a variety of social forces shape this genohype. This in turn is driving unrealistic expectations about the potential application of genomic discoveries. This study will add qualitative empirical evidence about these social forces by examining the scientific process itself, as well as the role of the media and the public opinion. I conducted 12 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with genomic researchers, scientists and clinicians in British Columbia, Canada and used thematic analysis to explore how various social forces are shaping scientific work and the genohype. This study discovered evidence of a third-person effect and highlights how PR departments of universities and research facilities play an important role in ‘pitching’ genomic science to the media. Understanding these mechanisms at play can help manage expectations about the potential application of genomic discoveries. This research will ultimately benefit the media, scientists, decision makers, and members of the public by increasing knowledge and decreasing communicative barriers.

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

Waste media pedagogy: Soundscape composition as responsive spatial practice

Date created: 
2015-12-16
Abstract: 

Historically, the primary aim of modern recording technique has been to control the social context in which recording happens. Modern recording technique implements a way of listening that conceptually and spatially suppresses noises that indicate the social context of studio production. While this provides technical efficiency, it displaces political questions and ethical considerations, discursively rendering production practice an activity without social consequences. Rather than teaching recording as nothing more than the technical task of operating devices and “engineering” sound, it is possible for the production studio to support a listening public and become hospitable to a wider range of social concerns. This thesis combines the fields of soundscape composition and media education to explore pedagogical opportunities encountered by focusing on "waste"—the spatial practices, material possibilities, and social meanings gathered around it. The thesis explores “disposability” and “responsibility” as ways that recording practices negate and engage the social production of Vancouver’s livability and the immateriality of the digital realm on which it depends as a global city. Researching a youth art project, this thesis reports how waste figured as a thing for organizing improvisation, and how composing with waste brought together people and places normally kept separate. It is proposed that composing with waste can focus media production as a public practice, encouraging producers in the studio to listen out to compose with those people, things, ideas, and histories that are regularly excluded, displaced, and forgotten in striving to keep intact the cohesive social space supporting Vancouver’s current formulation of a livable city.

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

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.