Research at the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication revolves around four key themes. These themes are grounded in our vision of understanding how local, lived experiences of people and communities are profoundly shaped by global media, cultural, and political-economic forces.
Our research projects are shaped by CARGC-affiliated faculty, postdoctoral and doctoral fellows, and undergraduate students in collaboration with academic institutions as well as civic and community partners in the Greater Philadelphia region and across the world.
I. Mobile Borders: Media, Migration & Diasporas
Media play a key role in shaping migratory processes, migration policies, and public understandings of migrants and refugees. Our research in this area explores how journalists, filmmakers, artists, and other media practitioners use media technologies in creative ways to shape public understandings of migration and the condition of being a migrant. We are keen to examine how media make visible the violent bordering and detention practices of nation-states in different world regions. What new analytic frameworks and methods can we bring to bear on understanding how media and communications technologies contest, (re)produce, and/or destabilize various borders around the globe? By the same token, how do we grasp and theorize the role that varied media forms – from documentaries and television programs to video games and extended reality (XR) artifacts - will play in shaping public affect and shifting political discourse on the issue of migration in the coming decades?
Funded by the British Academy, Curating New Ethnicities is a four-year project that examines the unfolding impact of media and technological change on migration, race, and ethnicity in Britain. With a focus on the British South Asian community, we analyze archival and trade press materials, industry and policy reports, and media artifacts to explore the dynamic production of ethnic and racial identities. Exploring key turning points in British South Asian cultural history - from the late 1940s through the current moment - we explore how varied technological, industrial, political, and policy shifts have shaped practices of media production and circulation across film, television, and the digital media sectors. This work draws on and makes connections across multiple fields of study including media history, media industry studies, postcolonial studies, race and ethnicity, and digital platforms.
II. Critical Currents: Media Environments and the Climate Crisis
This research theme is oriented towards bringing to light the conditions of life–human and nonhuman, mediated and otherwise–that are emergent and resurgent at a time of climate catastrophe. We are concerned with producing media and communication research that generates new frameworks and vocabularies to examine and respond to what mediation, justice, policy, connection, production, history, waste, and culture mean under the condition of the climate crisis. Forging connections with disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, we explore: the politics of climate change communication; the vibrant materiality of nonhuman, organic, and technological actors; the ecological matter and conditions that produce digital infrastructures and networks; the extraction of natural resources essential to media technologies, and by extension, the very process of mediation in a planetary age.
Geographies of Digital Wasting: Electronic Waste from Mine to Discard and Back Again is a multimodal research project that brought together a transnational team of researchers, including recent Annenberg graduate Lauren Bridges (Ph.D. '23) and doctoral candidate Zane Griffin Talley Cooper, for a two-year-long study on the global flows of e-waste. The project culminated in an art exhibit that displays photography from four different research sites, multimedia projects (such as VR and video essays), activist media such as zines, and traditional scholarly research posters. Geographies of Digital Wasting draws connections between the four primary sites that underpin the research project, each related to a section of the tech supply chain, including: extraction of rare earth minerals in Arctic, waste produced in silicon chips manufacturing in Taiwan and Silicon Valley, waste produced by logistics and industrial cloud computing in the United States, to the environmental and health-related impacts of e-waste processing and dumping sites in Zimbabwe. Geographies of Digital Wasting is funded by the Internet Society and supported by the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication at Annenberg. The exhibit initially ran at the Annenberg School for Communication from October 16-25th, 2023, and is scheduled to travel to new locations in 2024. To learn more about the project and exhibit, please visit the Geographies of Digital Wasting website.
III. Re-coding the popular: Media Industries and Cultural Politics
Our research in this area combines deep knowledge of local media industries, popular culture, and communication infrastructures with a multidisciplinary approach to enduring questions of cultural politics, nationalism, and sovereignty. With a focus on media capitals across the world and trans-regional flows (for e.g., the circulation of Turkish and Korean media), we explore the politicization of popular culture, the digital transformation of production cultures and screen industries, shifting notions of popular sovereignty, and the endurance of “the people” as a political category. One strand of research in this theme focuses on how and under what structural conditions, the domain of the “popular” functions as a rich site of political struggles – from progressive activist movements to right-wing appropriations of the cultural industries - in a conjuncture marked by new geopolitical alignments. A second strand of inquiry, intimately connected to the first, draws attention to everyday, ordinary, and deeply affective experiences of media use that shape new cultural imaginaries and worldmaking possibilities in varied social contexts.
IV: Turning Points in Global Media History
Turning Points examines critical moments that shaped the development of media in various parts of the world, circumstances and histories leading to these moments, and their impact on media development in subsequent periods. Reexamining the diverse media developments of various regions allows scholars to establish continuities, highlight fractures, and accentuate resonances while enriching the archives of “global media.” Steering away from Anglophone, north-Atlantic histories of post-WW2 media and communication, we ask: In what ways would our understanding of “global media” shift if we were to draw theoretical insights from media histories, practices, and environments from varied Global South contexts that do not or will not follow an easily comprehensible, linear path toward a seemingly inevitable digital horizon?
We are currently engaged in a year-long project titled The Long 1990s in Global Internet History that will culminate in a satellite event of the annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers on October 16-17, 2023 (Philadelphia, USA). Learn more and register for our symposium, Turning Points: The Long 1990s in Internet History.