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MALS Newsletter

MALS Students and Alumni Present Research at National Conferences

sun shines near belltower

Over the past few months, MALS students and alumni have presented their research at several national conferences.  

In May, MALS student Matthew Wood read a paper at the Rhetoric Society of America Conference, entitled, “Conservative Media and the Fragmentation of Visual Cultures.”  

In August, MALS alumnus Austin Haigler (‘17) presented a paper, “Psychedelic Studies: Towards a Nascent Field of Inquiry,” at the Psychedemia Conference, at The Ohio State University.  Haigler is currently a doctoral student in NC State’s PhD program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media.

Austin Haigler.

Lastly, in October, Haigler also presented his work at the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Conference in San Antonio, as did two other NC State MALS Program alumni:

  • Austin C. Haigler (‘17), “On Drugs and Great Books”
  • Michele Lewis (‘20), “From Caves to Classrooms: Learning about our today and tomorrow by examining our yesterdays”
  • Karyn Chalmers Thomas (‘22), “Bridging the Divide: Access, Inclusivity, and Digital Literacy

For an example of this work, please see this recording of Matthew Wood’s presentation, along with his paper abstract:

Much visual rhetoric scholarship investigates how the meaning and significance of images is inherently tied to the visual culture in which those images are produced, circulated, and received. Over time, images that are ubiquitous within a specific visual culture will come to embody the values and ideals shared by members of that culture in ways that may seem foreign to outsiders. While this process of enculturation once shaped a dominant visual culture within the United States, evolving communication technologies have combined with growing sociopolitical polarization to fragment this dominant culture along partisan lines. This paper explores this fragmentation by analyzing two photoshopped images that appeared in Fox News’ online coverage of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in the United States. The analysis shows how Fox News makes use of visual ideographs that frequently appear within the conservative media ecosystem and embody particular values and ideals shared only by the members of a conservative visual culture. As members of this culture, Fox News’ consumers have developed specific image vernaculars through which they interpret these images as proof of the conservative argument that racial justice protestors, and by extension their liberal supporters, are lawless and anti-American, despite the observed reality that the protests were largely peaceful. This research reveals how the fragmentation of America’s dominant visual culture has contributed to our current “post-truth” moment by effectively creating separate realities for the citizens of a single nation.

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