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The doctoral program offers five research areas, which operate as guiding frameworks for intellectual inquiry across the Department. These areas of research are overlapping and interrelated, and we encourage students to take advantage of course offerings in all areas.

Global Communication and Media

This research area explores the challenges posed by the global circulation of media and information with respect to citizenship and identity, immigration and diasporas, ethnic and racial minorities, human rights and social movements, neoliberalism and political-economic inequalities, war and geopolitics, and international media treaties and policymaking. Perspectives include international development and postcolonial studies; comparative media systems; sociology of culture; critical cultural geography; transnational feminism; alternative modernities; critical memory and archive studies; and global ethnography. Faculty regional expertise spans the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, South and North America, Africa, Latin America, and Europe.

Media Industries and Politics

This research area examines the political economy of media and information industries, governance and the use of media to shape and mobilize public opinion, social movements, and electoral politics. Specific themes include state and corporate media manipulation and propaganda; political campaigns and public policy; dissent and censorship; media activism; platform capitalism; and the practices of culture industries such as journalism, social media, marketing and advertising, and entertainment. Perspectives include the political economy of media systems; theories of rhetoric and persuasion; feminist, postcolonial, and critical race analyses of news and information; and comparative media and politics. 

Visual Culture and Sound Studies 

This research area focuses on the ways that visual and sound media shape everyday life on and offline, especially through politics and power. Specific themes include global visual culture with a focus on the role of images (in news, art, advertising, science, fashion, television, film, digital images, architecture, and amateur media); visuality in colonial, imperial, and legal culture; visuality and the body, violence, and war; visual activism; the consumption and production of mediated sound; and the intersections of music and media. Perspectives include media history, media archaeology, aesthetics, cultural analysis, formalist methods, ethnography, technological mediation, and an understanding of social and global activity determined by its auditory, sonic, and communicative materiality.

Technology and Society

This research area focuses on information and communication technologies and their social, political, and ethical implications. Specific themes include the social, political, and ethical dynamics of information and communication technologies; the history of technological systems, devices, and forms of mediation; surveillance, data-tracking, and privacy; communications infrastructures and technologies of the built environment; assistive and wearable technologies; cryptocurrencies; the design of media regulation and policy. Perspectives include infrastructure studies, ethnography of design and use, algorithm and platform studies, media archaeology, philosophy of media, disability theory, and practice-based research.

Interaction and Experience

Courses explore how we relate to ourselves, each other, and the material world in various social, cultural, and technological contexts. Specific themes include communication dynamics and interaction rituals; social identity and a sense of self; creativity and craft; structural violence and human agency; embodiment and affect; the lived experience of algorithms and data. Perspectives include psychoanalysis, phenomenology, ethnography, speech-act theory, gender and queer theory, critical memory and archive studies, and black feminist thought.