On Media

Vol 2 Issue 3

Letter from the editors

20 August 2018

We are delighted to welcome readers to issue 2.3 of Process: A Journal of Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Scholarship, and we are honored to introduce ourselves as the incoming Editors-in-Chief. As we take the reins, we benefit from the outstanding work of outgoing Editors-in-Chief Emily Bald and Alexandra Smith. We are indebted to their vision of this journal as a space for undergraduates across institutions to engage in public scholarship and showcase creative and in-depth work. We also owe a great deal to the tireless work of Process’s Managing Editor, Stephanie Hankinson, and to the support and labor of our entire editorial board. In this editorial transition, our primary goals for the journal remain the same: to publish the best undergraduate work across departments and fields and to facilitate timely, cross-disciplinary conversations on issues of social justice, politics, identity, cultural production, and transformative education.  

The submissions we received for this issue, “On Media,” impressed us with the myriad ways the authors rose to the challenge of meeting these goals. The three essays we are publishing reflect that variety, challenging assumptions about the internet as a democratizing force, examining the way YouTube shapes our thinking, and using the media outcry over family separation at the border as a jumping-off point to explore the less visible horrors of family detention. While the three essays here address everything from the consequences of online videos, to the capitalist logic of search engines, to the history of a family detention center in Dilley, Texas, we are especially intrigued by the way all three authors seek to complicate what could be simple narratives of media impacts. Irene Kuo, in “The Internet, Data, and Democracy,” counters celebratory notions of the Internet as a great leveler, bringing to light how online search results are forms of control rather than free access. Zoe Cramoysan’s essay “The Cost of Free Speech: Using Cultivation Theory to Understand YouTube Controversies” looks at the grim costs of YouTube’s individualized, grassroots video content. And Rosa Shapiro-Thompson, in “Family Detention and Its Violence: A History,” reveals the violence that gets ignored when the news media and social media latches onto the more graphic, and more easily grasped, violence of family separation.

Although the theme of “On Media” is broad and could be interpreted many ways, all three of the authors featured in this issue are also united in seeing the topic as inherently political, tied to concepts of freedom and justice in ways both obvious and unseen. Together, their arguments form a critical conversation about some of the ways that ‘media’ directly impacts us on the societal and individual level. Such discussions centering the very real consequences of what can seem to be an amorphous concept are especially urgent now. Faced with a concerted effort to muddle distinctions between true reports and fake news, it is increasingly important that we work to discern reality from fiction, recognize the impacts of online stories, and understand how the images we see and stories we read influence our perception of the world. With this issue of Process, we hope to highlight the complexity and the necessity of this task.

We hope that readers enjoy the essays in this issue, and that the work of these talented authors stirs further conversations. Process, at its core, is a space for undergraduate writers and readers to explore difficult ideas and arguments through a broad range of forms and disciplines. That means, in short: we want your submissions! Whether you write in the traditional essay form or you’re doing something you’re not sure a journal would normally publish, we want to see your work. Check out the CFP for our next issue, “On Narrative,” for more details.


Emily George & Kathleen Reeves



Family Detention and Its Violence: A History

Rosa Shapiro-Thompson

Political debates about family detention facilities, political asylum claims, and immigration policy have saturated every US media outlet since the presidential race of 2016. The rights and liberty of immigrants being held in fly-by-night US detention facilities, specifically the physical and psychological abuse of detainees resulting from the Trump administration’s practice of family separation, is the most enduring and constantly evolving debate in the news today. Shapiro-Thompson’s essay argues that although media outlets are primarily capitalizing on images of acute trauma, violence, and narratives of inhumane practices in the family detention facilities, the long history of family detention in the US may help us make sense of the media and political storm around family detention at our borders. Shapiro-Thompson focuses specifically on the Dilley, Texas family detention center--the “South Texas Family Residential Center”--as a case study for the history of violent refugee detention within US borders. Shapiro-Thompson joins the ranks of major players in investigative journalism and academia who are trying to make sense of contemporary violence against detained immigrants by exploring the lingering policies and prejudices (from WWII to present) that shape our current family detention crisis.


The Cost of Free Speech:
Using Cultivation Theory to Understand YouTube Controversies

Zoe Cramoysan

In the ever-expanding field of grassroots online digital media, YouTube is king. Cramoysan argues that the global reach of the video hosting site now rivals, and perhaps surpasses, the influence of traditional media outlets like television or print journalism. Individual, self-promoted, YouTubers now reach more than a billion viewers worldwide without the cultivation or gatekeeping practices which were dictated by media executives before the birth of democratized online video content in 2005. However, Cramoysan suggests, this scope of influence can normalize violence, distort viewers’ perception of reality, and incentivize the production of illicit content for advertising purposes. This essay applies the principles of cultivation theory to YouTube videos (both their reception and content) in order to justify Cramoysan’s position that YouTube shapes the social, political, and ethical consciousness of its audience. Cramoysan explores how third-party advertising contributes to the incentivized propagation of sensitive content. The essay suggests that although advertisers are not always aware of the content they are funding, the economic potential of the radically democratized media outlet may have dangerous consequences for its viewers if salacious video content becomes YouTube’s most incentivized model for production.  


The Internet, Data, and Democracy

Irene Kuo

Irene Kuo’s essay considers the current social and the political contours of the Internet. Kuo argues that many scholars, media pundits, and the tech industry itself overemphasize the Internet’s democratizing potential, citing increased global access to the web, seemingly free and equal access to information, and political action that unfolds online. Kuo urges readers to consider alternative, critical perspectives which account for underpinning Capitalist economic structures that govern both functionality of Internet systems as well as tip the scales in favor of media trends which align with majority stakeholder viewpoints.  The essay focuses especially on Internet search engines as tools used to control and filter information in a way that precludes genuine democracy. Kuo reflects on the origin and history of the Internet and situates her discussion alongside recent events, such as the 2016 presidential election and the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, that demonstrate an emerging political-tech field of power whose contours are still unclear.