The CMS spring colloquium series on Truth kicks off Feb. 23 with a presentation by Dr. Jenny Rice. Every couple weeks the colloquium committee is bringing in scholars who can speak to various aspects of Truth (see tentative schedule below). All members of the CMS community are invited to attend these events and we’ll update this article with zoom links as we get closer to each presentation date.
The current colloquium committee is Scott Stroud (chair), Jurgen Streeck, Maddie Redlick, Jeff Treem, Abigail Hazlett, and Shuting Yao. They decided on the event theme and have identified the speakers for this spring. Committee chair Scott Stroud explained the importance of the theme. “Those who study communication have always been intrigued by its power and complexity. In this time of misinformation, political spin, partisan echo chambers, and a democracy that’s more divided than ever, the simple theme of “Truth” will guide the launch of our department colloquia series. It aims to be a forum that showcases some of the work being done in Moody and beyond on important topics for our society, one that will invigorate our own research programs and teaching opportunities.”
April 27: "Two Minutes Hate" David Beaver (UT Austin)
Hateful and oppressive communication surrounds us: cat calls and bullshit and (to paraphrase Kamala Harris) dogwhistles through bullhorns. Yet the standard paradigm for analyzing meaning in analytic philosophy of language and generative linguistics involves identifying “content”, the neat and sterile way that a description of the world is "packaged" into words. Orwell saw clearly that the power of propaganda rests not in what it describes, but in how it takes hold of people, and forms them into a mass with collective behaviors and emotions:
Oppressive speech practices must be understood not in terms of how they describe the world, but in terms of their emotional impact, cultural resonances, and power to mark group affiliation. I will outline a model in which the resonances of words help establish collective attunement to communicative practices and to the broader oppressive ideologies. In this model, notions of attitudinal accommodation (from David Lewis) and behavioral accommodation (from Howard Giles) are seen as special cases of a general tendency people have to harmonize attitudes, dispositions and emotions both internally, and with the groups to whom they are affiliated.
My presentation will be drawn from a forthcoming book with Jason Stanley, “The politics of Language”, to appear with Princeton University Press. The view we develop is in line with Orwell and Klemperer: what is central in shaping both short and long-term impacts of oppressive speech is not intentions and truth conditions, but resonance and coherence.
Bio: David Beaver (PhD University of Edinburgh, 1995) has been a faculty member at UT since 2006, with a primary affiliation in the Department of Linguistics. He is also a professor by courtesy in the Department of Philosophy, and a faculty affiliate of the Human Dimensions of Organization program. He works primarily in the semantics and pragmatics of language, with broader interests in cognitive science. He is a managing editor of the LSA journal Semantics and Pragmatics, which he co-founded. Prior work includes the books "Presupposition and Assertion in Dynamic Semantics" (CSLI Publications, 2001) and "Sense and Sensitivity: How Focus Determines Meaning" (Oxford: Blackwell 2008, coauthored with Brady Clark). Current projects include building up a new UT undergraduate program in Applied Cognitive Science.
February 23: “Metaphor’s Keepers: The Mobile Armies of Post-Truth Rhetorics,” Dr. Jenny Rice, Associate Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, University of Kentucky. The talk is co-sponsored by the Center for Media Engagement.
Nietzsche’s well-known aphorism that truth is a “mobile army of metaphors” suggests that rhetorical constructions of truth are only effective insofar as they remain invisible. The metaphors we mistake as truth, he writes, are simply “illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.” Yet, while Nietzsche might have also considered himself living in a “post-truth” era, our present rhetorical landscape is flooded by armies of mobile metaphors that have certainly not lost their sensuous power.
Conspiracy theories and white supremacist discourse, for example, are two specific scenes of post-truth rhetoric that have been shaped by explicit doctrines of metaphor. In this talk, Rice examines the role of metaphor-talk within both 21st century anti-Semitic discourse and conspiracy-oriented Christian evangelicalism. From David Duke’s embrace of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a metaphorical text to Kenneth and Gloria Copeland’s declaration that prayer is a literal inoculation against COVID-19, both cases reflect a kind of “truth” that is grounded in a deliberate and distinct recognition of metaphor’s rhetorical power. Rather than relying on the overly vague label post-truth to engage this discourse, therefore, we might find it useful to start thinking about neo-metaphorical rhetoric.
Dr. Rice’s work has appeared in such journals as Philosophy & Rhetoric, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Quarterly Journal of Speech, and College English. Her book Distant Publics: Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis was published in 2012 (University of Pittsburgh Press). She co-edited (along with Casey Boyle) Inventing Texas: Writing Lone Star Rhetorics (2019, Southern Illinois University Press). Her most recent book, Awful Archives: Conspiracy Theory, Rhetoric, and Acts of Evidence, was published in 2020 by The Ohio State University Press.
March 9: Catalina Toma (Wisconsin)
Abstract: Deception is a fact of everyday life, with people lying frequently to achieve interpersonal goals, such as managing impressions and relationships. As much social interaction has migrated to online environments, so have concerns about the prevalence of deception in these spaces: How much do people lie when interacting with each other online as opposed to face-to-face? How does technology shape the prevalence of interpersonal deception? In this talk, I will review the literature on this topic, with special emphasis on research I and my collaborators have conducted on people's beliefs about the prevalence of deception across new communication technologies, and whether these beliefs reflect actual patterns of deceptiveness. I will pay special attention to how features and affordances of online environments (e.g., recordability, editability) are perceived to either constrain or promote deceptiveness.
Bio: Catalina Toma is an Associate Professor of Communication Science in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research is concerned with how people understand and relate to one another when interacting via new communication technologies (e.g., online dating, social network sites, texting). She examines how relational processes such as self-presentation, deception, and psychological well-being are shaped by the affordances and limitations of mediated environments. She currently serves as Associate Editor at Human Communication Research and Computers in Human Behavior.
March 23: “¡Viva La Raza!: Tracing Formations of De/Colonial Politics in Chican@ Movement(s)" Joe Izaguirre, UT Austin (Rhetoric and Writing)
In this talk, I will be discussing work from a larger book project in which I put into focus counterpublic spaces associated with Chican@ movement or otherwise produced by Chican@ movement activists to examine evolutions in Mexican American racial politics in the late 1960s. Through a series of case studies tracing the aesthetic dimensions of Chican@ discourse(s) reimagining the political figure of “La Raza,” I argue that La Raza was primarily a vacuous term, a sign more than symbol, subject to (re)negotiation, multiplicitous, and malleable yet politically resonant during the Viet Nam War—a global event that exposed the imperial aggressiveness of institutional(ized) whiteness. This rhetorical history reinforces the thesis that “Chican@ Movement” was not a singular movement but rather a series of multiple and, at times, competing Chican@ Movements extending and/or challenging antecedent (re)configurations of La Raza. Moreover, my study of the representational praxis constituting the figure of La Raza suggests an expansive, diffuse, and flexible de/colonial politics made possible by the potencies of aesthetic interventions.
Bio: José G. Izaguirre III is an assistant professor in the Department of Rhetoric & Writing at the University of Texas at Austin. He earned a PhD in Communication and a minor in Latina/o
Studies from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Izaguirre’s work specializes in
public rhetoric(s), rhetorical histories, and the aesthetics of politics, exploring how (de)coloniality, race, and political power influence formulations of Latinx political identities in vernacular spaces and in institutional settings. In his research, he makes use of a variety of theoretical and conceptual tools to revisit, expand, challenge, and “otherwise” conventional
(rhetorical) histories, which situates his work within the fields of Latinx studies, social movement(s), and rhetorical theory. His research program deploys a range of theoretical lenses and methodologies, all of which enable examinations of the rhetorical praxis of marginalized communities and critical assessments of discourse(s) of power.
Dr. Izaguirre’s research has appeared in Journal for the History of Rhetoric (formerly Advances
in the History of Rhetoric) and Rhetoric Society Quarterly. He also has a co-authored chapter on the rhetoric of social movement marches in the recently published The Rhetoric of Social Movements: Networks, Power, and New Media.
April 1: “Truth, Trust, and Tweets: Perceptions and Judgments of Risk in Health Contexts” Dr. Joseph McGlynn, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, University of North Texas,
Bio: Dr. McGlynn received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. Following completion of his Ph.D., he served as a Postdoctoral Fellow for the UT-Austin Center of Identity, a research center addressing online identity management, privacy, and security. Dr. McGlynn is an alumni of UNT, receiving his M.A. in Communication Studies from UNT in 2006 and his B.A. in Psychology from UNT in 2002. Dr. McGlynn's research investigates health communication in emerging risk contexts, with a focus on improving health communication efforts by identifying influential factors that affect risk perceptions and risk judgments. His work has been published in the Journal of Health Communication, Management Communication Quarterly, Communication & Sport, Journal of Sport & Social Issues, and other prominent outlets.
April 6: "Hashtag heroes vs. disinfo dystopia: The left, the right, and the truth about social media activism" Deen Freelon, UNC-Chapel Hill,
Abstract: Recent scholarship has generated two distinct impressions of US-based social media activism, one for the ideological left and one for the right. For the left, the dominant mode of engagement is hashtag activism, which entails coordinated online and offline protest campaigns linked by hashtagged slogans. The right channels its priorities through a densely networked, hyperpartisan media ecosystem that makes frequent use of disinformation and other false claims. The respective empirical records underlying these portrayals are very solid, yet questions remain about how exclusively these strategic repertoires cling to ideological fault lines. In particular, there appears to be little extant research on either conservative hashtag-based activism or on left-leaning disinformation. A comprehensive understanding of social media activism demands further explorations of these possibilities, especially in the critical areas of mis- and disinformation. I pay special attention to how the events of Jan. 6 are likely to change scholarly perceptions of potential asymmetries in activist tactics.
Suggested reading: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6508/1197
April 13: “COVID-19 Information, Misinformation, and Potential Communicative Interventions” Katya Ognyanova (Rutgers University), and Lindsay Young (USC)
Over the past year the internet, social media, and online messages from friends and family have been central sources of information helping us all navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. In this discussion, two health communication and network science experts will share the challenges and opportunities associated with the increased reliance on online networks as sources of health-related information. Specifically, they will share how misinformation can easily spread online and why the nature of networked digital communication makes it difficult for organizations and institutions to intervene to prevent potentially dangerous messages. The talk will explore ways that patterns of communication may have shifted during the pandemic, the consequences of these changes in communication for efforts to share facts and information to publics, and possible communicative interventions that will help community members make evidence-based decisions.
Dr. Katherine (Katya) Ognyanova is an assistant professor of communication at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information. She does research in the areas of network science, computational social science, social technology, media, civic, and political communication. Prior to joining Rutgers, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at Northeastern University and Harvard University. Her past experience also includes work with the Annenberg Networks Network, the Center for the Digital Future, the USC Metamorphosis Project, as well as a fellowship with the Federal Communications Commission.
Dr. Lindsay Young is an assistant professor of health communication and communication networks at USC Annenberg. Her research employs social-network and critical perspectives to identify, characterize, and interrogate the social contexts that contribute to and/or facilitate health disparities, access to critical health resources, and health behavior change in marginalized, resource-restricted communities. She has a particular interest in the contextual factors that affect HIV-prevention engagement among young sexual-minority men of color. To these ends, she applies a rich computational toolkit that includes stochastic network modeling, semantic network mapping, computational text analysis and predictive modeling.