Theses/Dissertations - Communication Studies

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    Awareness or complicity? : documentaries’ depiction of communities marginalized by Christian Nationalism.
    (May 2023) Kolson, Erica, 1998-; Varda, Scott Joseph.
    The rise of streaming services has made documentaries more accessible than ever before. With this comes the common misconception that the genre is based on truth instead of an interpretation thereof. Due to this broad misconception, it’s important to analyze how the public comes to understand the depicted demographics, particularly those that are not commonly understood and are tied to controversial movements. This thesis engages with three documentaries as case studies, each of which tells the story of an evangelical ministry that targets a marginalized community. Filmmakers construct the narratives of these documentaries in a manner that will entertain audiences, yet neglect to incorporate commentary that brings awareness to how the ministries contribute to the overall power structure of the Christian Nationalist platform and ideology. Attention is drawn to the harms that this practice does to marginalized communities.
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    (S)tumbling blocks : making sense of and creating a model for mental blocks in sport.
    (May 2023) Butterbaugh, Nicole, 1999-; Browning, Blair W.
    The purpose of this study is to contribute to the literature on athletic skill mental blocks (ASMBs) by providing a nuanced theoretical and methodological perspective on the topic. Through sensemaking theory, this study is one of the first qualitative methodological approaches to explain the experiences and sensemaking processes of athletes affected by ASMBs. Following a pilot study with 12 female acrobatics and tumbling, gymnastics, and cheerleading athletes, this research study interviewed 16 collegiate and/or professional athletes in order to describe and provide a model and grounded theory for the experiences and sensemaking processes of ASMBs. This study contributes to the academic literature on ASMBs by employing a nuanced methodological approach for studying this phenomenon. This approach uncovered themes that have not been reported in similar existing research while also contributing to the sensemaking communication literature by extending the theoretical framework to a new context. This research has numerous practical contributions to the coaching practice and sport organizations’ mental health resources, and it has the opportunity for front-facing research about the ASMB experience to reach stakeholders. This study allows increased understanding of ASMBs to surface within the population, while additionally providing advice for coping with and strategies for reintegration into athletic skills.
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    Tools to manage misinformation : measuring the utility of an Internet Bill of Rights and correcting terms and conditions agreements.
    (May 2023) Hastings, Cody Olson, 1996-; Hahner, Leslie Ann.
    The Internet fuels more societal and technological advancement than ever before in humanity’s existence. Its birth brought simple data transfers between two entities, yet now it spans the world connecting people almost instantly. Entertaining any thought of regulation for this system to diminish current harms on the Internet is quickly met with outright rejection for fear of governmental bodies deluding the public to then usher in the destruction of free society. On the other end, lawlessness breeds anarchy when bad actors are not punished. Using the Internet today entails a bombardment of messages and manipulative means to garner attention, and we, in the United States, tolerate this. We refuse to even dream of a better system out of fear. Misinformation led to the insurrection of the U.S. capitol, almost destroying our peaceful transfer of power, perhaps the most sacred facet of our government. We must imagine a better Internet.
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    Space, place and the communicative (re)production of Christian practices.
    (May 2023) Gragg, Sacha E., 1998-; Ford, Jessica Lynn.
    The purpose of this study is to investigate the function of space and materialism in organizing the practices of Christian church members. Using the combined lenses of the Montreal School Model of CCO (Putnam & Nicotera, 2008) and semiotic analysis (Sebeok, 2001) this study examines how the meaning and interpretation of architecture and artifacts of a sacred space, such as a Christian church, can constitutively shape the practices of church members. Using ethnographic observations as a participant-witness and semi-structured interviews (Tracy, 2020), this study produces insights on the effect of designed spaces and furthers a combined CCO-semiotic framework to be applied to religious studies. To accomplish this, this study first reviews relevant literature on different CCO schools of thought, materiality and CCO, semiology, and religious literature on sacred spaces. Following the literature synthesis, participant-witness methods, interview structure, and the coding process for post-data collection are presented.
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    Words into worlds : the role of narrative in identity formation via cultural exploration a qualitative study of college-aged students studying abroad.
    (May 2023) Dulany, Katherine E., 2000-; Rhidenour, Kayla.
    Humans bear the capacity to form worlds from the words we use. As past literature affirms, these words take on the role of story or narrative and constitute our individual and collective identities. As individuals encounter different cultures, and take on the role of ‘cultural other,’ their stories expand, creating room to be more cohesive individuals who in turn become more positive community members. Using a group of eleven participants who embarked on a semester long study abroad in Europe, this thesis followed their identity formation in a new cultural context via narrative tools. Through this, I confirmed that in a new cultural context, individuals will use self-narration to restructure their identities and increase resilience while forming a strong group identity that will help navigate cultural challenges. Results illustrate how the process of identity fragmentation and identity restructuration worked together to produce resilience among the participants. Ultimately, individuals reported feeling more empathetic and open-minded towards others. This research adds to current literature on narrativizing and resilience in communication while promoting practical applications for higher education study abroad programs and offering tools for fostering bridge-building in diverse communities.
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    Personhood, privacy, & profit : rhetorical analysis of data brokerage’s impact on digital citizenship & online privacy.
    (May 2023) Caballero, Chloe N., 1998-; Hahner, Leslie Ann.
    This thesis investigates the rhetorical and legal frameworks which constitute digital citizenship, with privacy at the ideological crux of social, political, and economic discourse related to data-driven technologies. I enunciate the connection between citizenship and privacy, bridging these ideologies with personal digital data. Surveillance capitalism and exceptionalism are economic and political models which have challenged current legal and social understandings of privacy rights. Racial, gendered, and sexual groups are disproportionately affected by digital abuse. Using the 2022 overturn of Roe v. Wade as critical context, I demonstrate how technology facilitated abuse and controlled monitoring of reproductive health information represent exigent restraints to digital citizenship for these groups. Examining the ethical and economic aspects that data brokers specifically have influenced such as surveillance and data mining and how these themes harm women and other minority groups, this reveals the overall gaps of tech accountability and necessity for digital rights.
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    Sympathy for the Devil : American imperialism in film.
    (August 2022) Abel, Gregory Jon, 1997-; Perry, Samuel P.
    While empire-building, and imperialism more broadly, are now generally regarded as unacceptable justifications for military action, the fumes of imperialistic rhetoric that surround military intervention to this day are not so easily dispersed. The post-9/11 age of the War on Terror has reinscribed a worldview steeped in the omnipresence of ill-defined enemies, and a culture of mediated violence required to destroy them. This thesis examines three artifacts of post/9-11 war media: Rod Lurie’s The Outpost, David Simon and Ed Burns’ Generation Kill, and Joe and Anthony Russo’s Captain America: Winter Soldier. Though these media vary greatly in release chronology, content, and contextualization, all contain strains of the same imperialist framing that regards soldiers and soldiering as a point of ideographic support. In exploring how these orientations manifest, I seek a deeper understanding of how post-9/11 war media, whether escapist fiction or dramatized reenactment, participate in information systems that, intentionally or not, positively reinforce the goals of American imperialism, if not its outcomes.
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    We are what we consume : true-crime, podcasts, and storytelling in the 21st century.
    (August 2022) Caldwell, Rachel J., 1997-; Varda, Scott Joseph.
    Podcasts are an evolving technological phenomenon that promises consumers a level of narrative intimacy previously unseen in other forms of media. Their unique storytelling format presents an opportunity for individuals to access news and entertainment that rhetorically structures the world around them. True crime podcasts’ accessibility and popularity imbue their narratives as a site for further social, aesthetic, and qualitative inquiry. Stories told on true crime podcasts restructure the public’s understanding of crime and victimhood based on hegemonic ideologies and institutions of power. Despite podcasts’ increasing saliency, few have paid critical attention to podcasts as agents of oppression and entropy. This thesis identifies harmful master narratives commonly weaponized by true crime podcasts to better understand the evolving definitions of crime and victimhood in the United States. In recognizing true crime podcasts' intrinsically rhetorical nature, I also identify examples of resistance that introduce new ways of understanding the true crime genre.
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    They lie on me : Black resistance in media.
    (August 2022) De Los Santos, Orisley, 1998-; Varda, Scott Joseph.
    Despite its myriad formations in actuality, Black life is often represented within mainstream media in a dangerously distorted fashion, frequently relegating Blackness to the position of symbolic annihilation. Within this constructed reality, controlling images exploit and warp the idea of Black people, especially Black women, and naturalize the actual violence done to them. In such a media environment, the celebration of Blackness can rhetorically function as a disruption. Following Hortense Spillers, perhaps we should allow Blackness to “claim [its] monstrosity,” and rewrite what Blackness can become. As such, this prospectus outlines a thesis that investigates how Black queer narratives can create new identities that subvert the idea of what Blackness can be and do. Revisiting the Black oral tradition, and more specifically, what poet Kevin Young calls the storying ability of art, this proposed thesis considers those notions of Blackness which were never meant to survive. Focusing on music, film, and novels, this thesis would investigate Black created popular art to consider its possibility for stuttering the smooth flow of the hegemonic racial order.
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    Demand/withdraw patterns in organizations.
    (August 2022) Jamerson, Brianna N., 1999-; Ford, Jessica Lynn.
    The purpose of this study is to examine and investigate if demand/withdraw patterns occur in organizations, filling a gap in the literature exploring demand/withdraw outside of interpersonal relationships. Demand/withdraw is a pattern of communication in which one person makes a demand, complains, or nags, and the other relational partner avoids certain conversation(s) by withdrawing and becoming defensive. To date, studies examining demand/withdraw are housed within the interpersonal communication body of literature, but this study seeks to examine whether this pattern also occurs within organizations. Using a grounded theory approach, this thesis explores the phenomenon of demand/withdraw through qualitative interviews. The results of this study support that demand/withdraw patterns occur in the supervisor/subordinate relationship, as well as the coworker relationship, and all demand/withdraw patterns result in generally negative outcomes for the respective individuals. The theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
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    Accommodation in email and the influence of organizational culture.
    (August 2022) Corntassel, Emily P., 1992-; Schlueter, David W. (David Walter), 1954-
    Understanding how organizational members engage with email is essential to facilitating healthy interpersonal relationships and providing insight into the influence of organizational culture on members’ behaviors. Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) recognizes communication as a dynamic process between individuals and explores the intersection of language, identity, and context. Organizational culture defines the context in which organizational members learn to thrive in organizations. This study tested the application of CAT, exploring the impact of context on email behavior among organizational members. Participants identified the culture of the organization to which they belong and responded to randomly assigned email scripts. Six total scripts were used throughout the study, equally containing female and male gender language cues. The mean culture was calculated for each participant and script responses were globally coded. Accommodation to gendered-language cues occurred in two of the four cultures examined, indicating a relationship between culture and accommodation behavior in email among users.
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    What do you think? Applied research in class discussion communication.
    (August 2022) Oliver, Lauren A., 2000-; Browning, Blair W.
    The purposes of this study are to investigate non-credentialed English teachers’ experiences facilitating class discussions and analyze the information communicated in extant discussion facilitation resources targeted towards non-credentialed English teachers. The study created themes from semi-structured interviews with 29 non-credentialed English teachers and eight resources of multiple modalities. First, the study reviews relevant literature related to dialogue, class discussions, and applied research in education. Second, the study methods are discussed. Third, the thematic findings from both research questions are explained. The themes that emerged from interviews include experiences with student participation level, experiences with student participation quality, experiences with student buy-in, experiences with student benefits, and experiences with resources for discussions. The themes that emerged from the resource archival analysis include discussion philosophy, discussion preparation, discussion questions, discussion strategies, and post-discussion assignments. Fourth, the findings are discussed in relation to implications for teacher practitioners, resource developers, and teachers. Study limitations and future directions for research are also discussed.
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    The effects of COVID-19 on women’s work experiences and identity.
    (2022-05-04) Nelson, Azile K., 1998-; Ford, Jessica Lynn.
    The purpose of this study is to explore working women’s response to the changes in their work-life balance practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on Weick’s (1995) sensemaking theory, this study focuses on the ways women experience work and make sense of changes to their identity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using Tracy’s (2019) semi-structured interview structure, this study generates themes from working women’s reflection on their experiences during COVID-19 and pays particular attention to the ways in which the pandemic spurred identity negotiations or tensions. This study first reviews literature relevant to COVID-19 and its impact on organizational practices—namely literature on sensemaking theory, identity construction, and work-life balance practices. Second, the methods chapter will discuss the interview process and the thematic codes that were created during the post-data analyzation process. Finally, this paper will provide a discussion on how COVID-19 effected working women’s work experiences and identity formation processes.
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    Information-seeking strategies for receiving consent : applying the Theory of Motivated Information Management to sexual relationships between college students.
    (2022-04-28) Mendelson, Emily A., 1998-; Ford, Jessica Lynn.
    Drawing from the Theory of Motivated Information Management (TMIM), this thesis applies the process of information seeking to consent utilization during casual sexual encounters between college students. The goal of this study is to (1) test the applicability of the TMIM model to communication during hookups, (2) gain insight into how partners communicate their sexual desires, and (3) identify external consent factors that would affect the TMIM model in this instance. Participants (N = 495) answered questions about their most recent sexual encounter, who their partner was during that encounter, and the ways they understood their partner's desire. Multiple linear regression results demonstrate the applicability of TMIM in explaining how external consent factors—gender, relationship history, and sexual behavior—predict communication about sexual desire during hookups. Data indicate significant results for every relationship in the TMIM model, as well the relationship between information management strategies and this study’s identified consent factors. Implications are discussed in the context of consent education for college students.
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    Personal narratives of gamers : sense of community, social identity, and social support of gaming communities.
    (2022-04-21) Kwon, Adam, 1998-; Schlueter, David W. (David Walter), 1954-
    Online communities play a significant part in an individual’s social wellbeing, so it is important to understand how these communities manifest positive change. The present study utilized qualitative semi-structured interviews with 10 World of Warcraft (WoW) players to examine their experiences in their respective communities. The goal of this study is to contribute knowledge and provide a greater understanding as to how gamers develop social capital in online communities. Analysis of this study revealed that participants did report feeling a sense of community, identity, and support within their WoW communities. Findings indicated that certain gaming environments influenced these relationships. Continued exploration of the player experience could help identify effective strategies to promote positive changes to a gamer’s social capital.
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    An examination of unsolicited support among veterans.
    (2021-08-12) Morris, Eric Robert, 1999-; Rhidenour, Kayla.
    Social support is a topic that garners widespread research and extensive study among communication scholars. There are numerous positive benefits associated with solicited social support. On the other hand, opportunities exist to further explore the potential hazards of unsolicited social support. To date, research that focuses on unsolicited social support within the veteran community—particularly those with psychological diagnosis such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety—has received less scholarly attention than research which examines the benefits of social support for this community. In this thesis, a multimethodological approach deploys a blend of quantitative and qualitative research to illuminate what occurs when unsolicited support is received by veterans. This research provides scholarly insights by extending the existing knowledge related to unsolicited social support, as well as practical guidance for families, friends, and veteran support organizations.
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    Hyperstitional communication and the reactosphere : the rhetorical circulation of neoreactionary exit.
    (2021-04-29) Zoda, Greg Michael, 1996-; Hahner, Leslie Ann.
    This thesis evaluates the communicative means through which neoreactionaries compose a broader alt-right reactosphere. By retrieving the concept of hyperstition from the archives of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit—an experimental poststructuralist collective based at the University of Warwick in the 1990s—I reemphasize the role of mythos in the rhetorical circulation of far-right memes and accelerationist theory. Aspirational nihilism, as the affective nodal point of the reactosphere, coopts structural feelings of disaffection and puts them in service of racial capitalist futures such as transhumanism or the right to exit. Centering research on the mythological foundations of extremist subcultures is key to deflating the collective fervency that sustains neoreaction. I conclude with a call for rhetorical studies to discover its own exits from the dominant social order or else risk ceding a monopoly on future possibility to neoreactionaries.
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    The (Re)emergence of eco-fascism : white-nationalism, sacrifice, and proto-fascism in the circulation of digital rhetoric in the ecological far-right.
    (2021-05-05) Smith, Jacob Kenton, 1997-; Hahner, Leslie Ann.
    Environmentalism is no longer the sole domain of progressive and leftist politics. A recent uptick in violent outbursts by white nationalists espousing eco-fascist political beliefs indicates a troubling trend in environmental politics. Brenton Tarrant, the Christchurch shooter, and Patrick Crusius, the El Paso Shooter, explicitly utilized argumentative strategies taken from eco-fascist literature bases. The virality of a misanthropic Twitter thread sparked the largest discussion of eco-fascism ever. Fascists on the platform Telegram espouse the belief fascism is inherently natural. By studying the rhetorical techniques and appeals of eco-fascist digital rhetoric, this thesis adds to an emerging conversation regarding the (re)emergence of eco-fascism.
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    Sick and tired of being sick and tired : visual rhetorical practices of black feminist clapback.
    (2021-05-07) Nave, Nicole D., 1994-; Varda, Scott Joseph.
    This thesis analyzes the discursive practices of US Vice President Kamala Harris, US Representative Maxine Waters, and US Representative Ilhan Omar. It posits Black femme style as a productive way to analyze the rhetorical performances of these political figures. Exploring a multiplicity of rhetorical performances, I identify rhetorical acts of racialized and sexualized violence directed toward these women by President Trump, while also outlining the “survival strategies” Black femme politicians have enunciated as a form of collective resistance. In so doing, I explain a Black femme style of political clapback as a rhetorical performance. The thesis examines tweets, memes and public debates. It also partially corrects the underrepresentation of Black women in the field of communication. Black femme politicians participate in a radical form of subject-making that counteracts narratives of Black political failure, spotlighting the resiliency of Black femme politicians in the era of MAGA politics.
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    Red power in the age of Nixon : an analysis of the official memory of Native protest.
    (2021-05-04) Egli, Mattilyn, 1996-; Perry, Samuel P.
    The Nixon administration is remembered for being one of the most progressive presidencies in history in terms of federal Native policy, and yet was still thoroughly colonial. One of the easily visible facets of its coloniality was its interactions with Native protesters, wherein government organizations put down protests using physical violence and sometimes lethal force, and repeatedly ignored well-researched and widely supported legislative proposals of Native social leaders. This thesis explores the rhetorical tools that federal officials used to support the official narrative of a progressive and peaceful Nixon administration in a series of interviews conducted for the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in 2007 and 2008.