Annual Report of the Collaborative on Communication and Culture

This year, I formally launched a Collaborative on Communication and Culture, sponsored jointly by the Creative Inquiry program and the Department of Communication at Clemson University. The Collaborative functions as my research hub for undergraduate and graduate students to collaborate in small teams or individually with me to develop research studies and critical writing around timely matters of concern.

The Collaborative reflects the land grant mission of the University in that a majority of the projects we develop must in some way relate to the lived experiences of individuals in the state of South Carolina. It also stems from the projects of Cultural Studies, and is devoted to a conjunctural, contextual analysis of how communication, technology, representation, and more are articulated to culture, and vice versa.

We have had, by I think any reasonable measure, a very successful first year given we were operating in a pandemic that forced the spring iteration of the class to move online very quickly, and kept the fall iteration entirely on Zoom.

In 2020, my research collaborations with students yielded the following results:

One published manuscript

James N. Gilmore and Bailey Troutman, “Articulating water to infrastructure: Agri-culture and Google’s South Carolina date center,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 23, no. 6 (2020): 916-931.

A study of Google’s successful three-year process of securing a permit to extract water from an aquifer to help power its data center, indicating how Google trades on its economic investments to secure access to natural resources from local and state governments.

One manuscript which has been favorably reviewed and is currently in revision:

James N. Gilmore and McKinley DuRant, “Emergency infrastructure and location extraction: Problematizing Computer Assisted Dispatch Systems as public good.”

A study of the RapidDeploy CADS implementation in Charleston, SC, which focuses on how dataist conceptions of “data,” “cloud,” and “information” obfuscate the surveillant aspects of emergency response in favor of uncritically promoting computational location extraction via third party services.

One manuscript which is currently under review:

James N. Gilmore, Bailey Troutman, Katherine Kenney, Madeline DePuy, Jessica Engel, Katherine Freed, Sidney Campbell, and Savannah Garrigan, “Stuck in a cul-de-sac of care: Therapy Assistance Online and the remediation of mental health services”

A platform analysis of a telepsychology service currently being used by Clemson University and others, demonstrating how the platform is predicated more on data extraction than providing structured feedback and care, a problem that has become exacerbated during COVID-19 and a loss of access to face-to-face counseling.

Two manuscripts which are currently being finished, with aims of heading under review in January or February:

James N. Gilmore, Katherine Freed, Emma Shipley, Matthew Painter, and Decker Morrow, “Making do with Zoom: Rearticulating college experiences in the COVID-19 pandemic”

A multi-method interview and survey study of how upper-level Clemson undergraduate students have negotiated the transition to Zoom, with particular attention to how they conceptualize “the college experience” and social relationships. Our findings demonstrate students struggling to make sense of how their everyday lives have had to be reorganized alongside and against videoconferencing platform Zoom.

James N. Gilmore, Janeth Sierra-Rivera, Madeline Grumet, M. Patrick Hayes, and Scout Beddingfield, “Dismantling white supremacy and selling ice cream: Corporate performances of solidarity with Black Lives Matter”

A representational analysis of how four corporations used Twitter, public relations statements, and advertising to incorporate and respond to Black Lives Matter from 2016-2020; we argue for a spectrum demonstrating tensions between co-optation and authenticity in terms of articulating racial justice issues within corporate capitalism.

This is a total of five manuscripts with 14 different co-authors; certainly a testament to the desire of our graduate and undergraduate students to find more intimate and intensive research opportunities.

What’s next?

In the coming year, the Collaborative will continue to function online in Spring 2021 with the hopes of returning to campus in the fall.

Our goals for 2021 include:

  • Produce two more manuscripts
  • Develop an online presence on social media and/or a blog for more provisional analysis and writing from students and myself throughout the semester
  • Identify external grants to sponsor research assistants and support technical infrastructure

Our goals through 2022 include all the above as well as:

  • Identify other faculty and departments at Clemson University to participate in studies on a semester-by-semester basis
  • Build more connections with existing networks at other universities to partner with graduate students and faculty as possible
  • Pursue relevant grant-funding opportunities that allow us to develop more complex studies on critical inquiry in the southeast.

Clearly, much of this is contingent on the resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has slowed our expansion even as we have been able to still perform studies and write manuscripts. I remain hopeful for and excited about the work we will be able to do this coming year and in the years ahead. My ultimate goal is to develop a thriving research center that embraces the complexity of Cultural Studies work in and for the communities of South Carolina and the broader southeastern U.S.

If you are interested in reading our papers or becoming a partner, please reach out. The best place to do so my e-mail, jngilmo@clemson.edu

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