Just as many students spent their summers studying abroad, several professors also had the opportunity to expand their horizons during the summer as well. Dr. Stuart Davis, assistant professor of communication, recently returned from a conference hosted by the International Association of Mass Communication Researchers (IAMCR).
The conference was held in London, England in late July.
Referencing the university’s continued goals to foster cross-cultural dialogue, Davis noted that the conference was more diverse than previous conferences he has attended.
“In our field, there are a lot of conferences that call themselves ‘international’,” but they are almost always hosted in the United States, or maybe East Asia, and most of the people who go there are from the U.S., or places where they have bigger communication scenes” explained Davis.
“It [the association] is really invested in having multiple languages spoken at the conference, and actually helping people from parts of the world outside of the U.S. and parts of Europe go to the conference,” he added. In the past, IAMCR has hosted its annual conference in countries such as India, Mexico, and Canada.
“It’s a really exciting network of people, and it was exciting for me because I have friends and colleagues in Brazil and Latin America, so it gave me an opportunity to see people I’ve worked with in the past,” he said. Davis completed his dissertation research in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, and a postdoctoral fellowship in Sao Paulo in 2015. His presentation at the conference was a follow-up to his dissertation, and focused on non-governmental organizations in Brazil and their efforts to encourage local citizens to engage in citizen journalism.
Joining him was Dr. Jose Carlos Lozano, department chair for the Department of Psychology and Communication. Lozano presented his research on the film industry in south Texas and northern Mexico, and the distribution of Mexican films in the U.S. in the first half of the twentieth century.
Aside from presenting their research, all attendees signed up to participate in different “working groups.” These groups were classified by different areas of study in communication. Davis signed up for panels concerning media education and digital literacy.
“I heard people from Brazil, India, and Portugal talking about different ways that they try to use things like video games, or remixing popular novels to get students to think critically.”
Another subject that was of particular interest to Davis was the “BRIC system” or the classification of countries into first, second, and third-world status. The term was coined in the 1980s to describe countries that were considered second-world countries at the time, but on the rise to first-world status. These countries were Brazil, Russia, India, China. The term has since undergone many revisions and spawned derivatives to reflect changing economic conditions. At the conference, panelists discussed freedom of the press, government censorship, and other aspects of the “free world” in relation to these counties.
Besides the academic topics at hand, current events found their way into the conversation. For Davis, one of the most notable experiences from the conference was realizing how much the other internationals knew about current events in Texas. Some were critical of the new “campus carry law” about to take effect at public universities across Texas. Under Senate Bill 11, licensed firearm owners are permitted to carry concealed handguns on university campuses. Since August 1st, the law has been in effect at TAMIU, as well as his alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin.
Davis admitted that he does not agree with the law, and that it “made [him] feel embarrassed to be a faculty member from Texas.”
Nevertheless, this experience only emphasized the truly international experience of the conference.
“To meet so many people from different countries and see how they reflected on, or what they knew about what was going on, was pretty interesting,” he added.
When asked about what he could bring from the conference to the classroom, Davis stated that he hopes to encourage students to think of themselves “as part of a global community.”
“[I am] trying to help students think ‘What are we as part of the world, and what is the world’s relationship to us?’” said Davis. Ultimately, he aims for his curriculum to emphasize the importance of multiculturalism and intercultural communication.
Davis expressed his gratitude to the university and IAMCR for their generosity, which allowed him to attend the conference. Overall, he is excited for the possibilities that have come out of this opportunity, such as increased opportunities for students to study abroad, and more variety in countries represented at TAMIU.