News and notes from the Communication program @ Fairfield

Archive for September, 2012

Get to Know a Professor: Chris D’Amico

Chris D’Amico is an adjunct professor in Communication. He holds a BA in Communication from Albertus Magnus College and a MS in Communication Studies from the College of New Rochelle. Here’s a little more about him and his approach to the field in his own words:

Why Communication?

We do it all the time! I recall my first “Effective Communication” course as an undergrad, the professor opens the class by saying “We can not not Communicate!” —Most of the students in the room looked at him as if he had three heads but from that moment on, it just clicked for me.  We communicate all the time without even realizing it. I love the fact that we can communicate volumes without saying a single word!

What’s the most interesting thing to you about the field?

I love the diversity of the field. One can study a specific communication context or dig deeper and see how this affects “me” and the world I live in. It really can change a person’s attitudes and beliefs.

What has been your favorite course to teach?

My favorite course to teach is Gender and Communication. It is awesome to take a step back and really examine what men and women are all about. How women and men really do communicate differently! The similarities and differences are absolutely amazing to observe and study!

Another course I love to teach is CO 101: Argument & Advocacy. I remember that this class broke me out of my protective shell. I try to help those who may have a hard time speaking in front of others to overcome these obstacles and utilize what they are feeling and channel it and use it to their advantage.

What’s the best course you’ve ever taken in or related to the field of Communication?

Mass Media Law. It was the hardest class I ever enrolled in but it was worth it. The 1st Amendment is extremely powerful. Having the opportunity to examine past court cases, laws and the many ways it has impacted past and present day society is amazing.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

I am a Canadian and U.S. coin collector. I am also a television game show fanatic. Current day shows are great but I love to watch older game shows such as “Match Game” or ” I’ve got a Secret.” Fun fact: the game show host of “Match Game,” Mr. Gene Rayburn and I have the same birthday!

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Welcome Back (and some Changes)!

Welcome back Communication majors!  We hope everyone is having a great start to the semester.  A few notes and changes as the semester gets underway that you may want to note:

New Chair

Dr. Wills has admirably finished her term as departmental chair and Dr. Gudelunas is now chairing the department.  Consequently, Dr. Gudelunas can now be found in DMH 227 and Dr. Wills in DMH 203.  Stop by and say hello to either!

Faculty on Research Leave

This semester Dr. Searzio and Dr. Arendt are both are both on pre-tenure leave.  They won’t be teaching this semester or available for regular advising/office hours.  Wish them luck as they set the research world on fire with some exciting new scholarship.  They’ll be back next semester, don’t panic.  In the meantime if either is your advisor, please feel free to see Dr. Gudelunas or any other full-time member of the Department that can help you out.

New Internship email contact

Dr. Gudelunas is no longer coordinating the undergraduate internship program die to his chairing responsibilities.  Dr. Serazio will be handling Fall internships (even while on leave), and Dr. Arendt Spring internships.  We know this may be confusing (not really) but we have simplified the contact information.  For any and all internship questions, just email  The right person will get back to you!  As a reminder, everything you could ever possibly want to know about internships can be found here.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @FairfieldComm and bookmark this blog for news and information that majors can use!  Have a great semester!

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Prof. Serazio Presents in South Africa

This summer, Assistant Professor Mike Serazio made the journey to Durban, South Africa to take part in the IAMCR‘s annual conference. The conference, which this year carried the theme of “South-North Conversations,” focused on communication between those empowered by their economic, social, racial, or gender-defined conditions and those who find themselves marginalized by them, all against the backdrop of globalization.

“IAMCR annually gathers together some of the most diverse and international media scholars of any conference around,” Serazio said of the event. “Personally, I was delighted to network with a few new contacts who work in the areas of political economy and global consumer culture and have some exciting upcoming projects planned that I’ll be keeping tabs on.  And Durban itself – and South Africa more broadly – is a rich, complex place for those who study and are fascinated by the intersection of culture and politics.”

He presented two papers that are summarized in the following abstracts, one of which he co-authored with a former Fairfield 2011 undergraduate, Wanda Szarek:

Crowd-Sourcing Consumer Governance:
Social Media Marketing and the Web 2.0 Populism of Viral Culture

This paper offers a production-of-culture exploration of the growth in social media marketing practices witnessed in the past decade.  Through a textual analysis of hundreds of articles in the popular and trade press and in-depth interviews with 48 agency CEOs, creative directors, and brand managers, this study goes behind the scenes to examine the tactics and processes informing this approach to consumer governance – an approach that assumes networked interactivity, as opposed to mass broadcasting, as the organizing principle for contemporary media ecology.  By highlighting a series of case studies drawn from viral and social media strategies, online self-publishing, consumer-generated video contests, and alternate-reality marketing scenarios, I identify a Foucauldian mode of power central to diverse crowd-sourced strategies: the effort to embed promotional messages in ostensibly amateur creative flows and voices so as to authenticate the collaborative, decentralized management ofconsumer subjects.  I further emphasize the presumed persuasive capacity of these new media enthymemes that rely upon a continuum of open-to-closed media content as a way of understanding how brands oblige that engagement.  The paper also represents an opportunity to update and adapt Marshall McLuhan’s taxonomy to reflect the advertising phenomena of our digital era (“the cool sell,” as I term it) and their capacity to conduct audiences through ambiguity, discovery, and engagement rather than that of the aggressively overt practices endemic to interruption marketing (“the hot sell”).  Yet the free labor interpellated that underpins this move toward populist credibility and “brand democratization,” as some have hailed it, equally heralds a dematerialization of the creative industries and a flexible, contingent, if not precarious instability that defines a more heterarchical media world.  In sum, the project contributes to anemerging school of research that seeks to critique both the marketing discourse and practices of “empowerment” and “participation” that function so commonly as buzzwords within the creative industries – and, more broadly, highlights how audience agency is increasingly co-opted by and coded into commercial structure.

The Art of Producing Consumers:
A Critical Textual Analysis of Post-Communist Polish Advertising
(co-authored with Wanda Szarek)

This paper offers a critical textual analysis of Polish advertising at a pivotal historical juncture: following the collapse of communism and at the rise of a capitalist market economy.  With its rhetoric and imagery about goods and services, advertising simultaneously summons into being, through competing parables of social ideology, loaded assumptions and expectations about the consumer subjects it seeks to cultivate.  By investigating the “secondary discourse” or “meta-narratives” that course throughout such textual material, we might better understand the larger cultural, political, and economic undercurrents of a given time and place.
Thus, by deconstructing hundreds of advertisements that appeared in Polish magazines in the late 1980s and early 1990s – an era of radical change – we argue that such commercial messages attempted to conjure a new sense of self for individuals living within an embryonic consumer society.  These messages thrust new demands of status envy upon the Polish psyche – seeking to engineer self-consciousness, to cast judgments about social differentiation, and to nurture elitist exclusivity in contrast to the egalitarian and collectivist exhortations that would have marked communist propaganda.  In a commercial act of strategic amnesia, that heritage of Soviet influence was elided behind a resolutely forward – and westward – looking entrepreneurial ethos, wherein English words tantalized with the cachet of triumph, power, and wealth.  At this critical transition in Polish history in which widespread advertising was effectively being invented from scratch, these daydreams invoked – of techno-capitalist opportunity exploited, post-rationing luxury and excess indulged, and borderless horizons with Europe and the West (indeed, a new sphere of interconnected solidarity) – sought to interpellate the prospective consumer in a “valuable” position.
In this paper, we decode these ideological premises by looking at the “common sense” advertisers attempted to instill through their visual and rhetorical data – excavating the subject advertising minted within an emerging hegemonic model of neoliberal popular discourse.  At that “end of history” moment, new ambitions, envies, and orientations were being inscribed upon these commercial subjects.  By studying the aspirations and apprehensions represented in this symbolic material, we might better understand how new consumers were ideologically shepherded through a moment of profound political transition.  This archival work represents a starting point for future investigations into how advertising “produces” its subjects in the aftermath of communism(s); moreover, it helps clarify the function of popular culture in post-socialist societies.

Congratulations to Mike and Wanda!

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