• Access, Participation, and Democratization in the New Media Landscape
    Vol 7 (2011)

    Welcome to the 7th issue of the McMaster Journal of Communication. This issue spotlights the theme of “Access, Participation, and Democratization in the New Media Landscape”. One of the aims of this volume is to enlarge the dialogue surrounding new media technologies by further explicating the depth and scope of their impacts, and the contexts in which new media technologies function.

    Our issue begins with T.J. Lavender’s article, “Video Games as Change Agents — The Case of Homeless: It’s No Game”, which explores the potential for video games to serve as an effective platform for social change. Similarly, in, “Houses that Cry: Online Civic Participation in Post-Communist Romania”, Laura Visan details the role that activism through online communities has played in post-Communist reconstruction in Romania, examining the instrumental role of an online project, Houses that Cry. With the proliferation of social media sites that encourage creating and sharing, “Participatory Culture and the Hidden Costs of Sharing” explores the popularity of this cultural trend, and investigates the potential harms of divulging vast amounts of personal information.

    In “A Burmese Case Study: Far from Inherent—Democracy, and the Internet”, Jaspreet Sandhu looks at online activism during the Saffron Revolution of 2007, exploring the dynamics of Internet access under authoritarian rule, arguing that socio-economic barriers and state intervention can impede democratic visions of the Internet. Likewise, Evan Lewis criticizes claims that Web 2.0 is a democratizing force in "Forever Blowing Bubbles: Deflating Web 2.0", and concludes that without reasonable rates of profitability for business models surrounding new media, free access to user-generated applications will not be a sustainable trend in the long run.

  • Special MCM Issue on Strategic Communications Management
    Vol 6 (2009)

    As co-editors of this special issue of the McMaster Journal of Communication, we are pleased to present papers authored by seven students in the initial two classes of Canada's first Master of Communications Management program.

    We are all public relations practitioners and, in our professional roles, we provide strategic communication leadership to a variety of organizations and companies. But, while we have experienced success in our careers, we came to the MCM program seeking an opportunity to broaden our knowledge from a business perspective, while exploring some of the biggest challenges facing the public relations profession today. We were attracted by the program's novel curriculum as well as its academic pedigree - a unique partnership between the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

    We believe that the articles in this issue of the MJC showcase some of the most interesting outcomes of this scholarly adventure.

    Brittany Cadence provides a case study that delves into how an American tragedy has impacted communication practices in Canada. She analyzed the response by a university in Ontario to the Virginia Tech massacre, and discovered that lessons learned south of the border are indeed changing crisis preparedness practices here at home. Among those lessons was the recognition that a crucial factor in readiness to respond to a crisis is leadership mindset.

    In her exploration of corporate citizenship, Heather Ferguson tests how an environmental scan tool she designed can help organizations decide how to fulfill civic responsibilities while staying competitive. Although she notes there are clear gaps between theory and practice, her analysis points to the value of using the scan as it helps corporate leaders expand their concept of success.

    Colleen Killingsworth examines the attitudes held by municipal government leaders about the role and function of communicators. In her study of government leaders in a large western Canadian city, she found that communicators are not included in the dominant coalition. She also determined that, unless the leaders have past, personal experience with effective communicators, they are unlikely to perceive the function as strategic or valuable.

    Kim T. Morris offers a unique perspective on crisis communications in remote and rural communities. Using a decentralized health organization in north eastern Ontario as her case study, she asked a wide range of staff members to identify key communication strategies. Among other conclusions, her results confirmed that conventional strategies are not considered adequate, and that creativity and innovation must be high priorities.

    Heather Pullen's article provides an updated look at the long-standing turf war between public relations and marketing. Her case study focused on analyzing the relationship between the public relations department of a large Ontario hospital and the foundation that fundraises for the hospital. What she found was that while tension is felt and disagreements occur, leaders on both sides agree that compromise and cooperation are vital to the organization's success.

    In his article, Donald L. Smith uses established mass communication theories to interpret a current communication challenge - how to change the behaviour of taxpayers who overload the government's on-line filing system by waiting until the last minute to submit their returns. He proposes a new theory, the theory of unrealistic expectations, to explain that when people cannot see the lineup in front of them, they don't think it's relevant to them.

    Natalia Villegas has contributed an article that looks at the relationship between a company's reputation, internal communication within the company, and employee perceptions about the company. She interviewed four business managers and the leader of a nonprofit agency in a south central Ontario community. They all described internal communications as a relatively narrow service function, however they also agreed that good internal communication translates into improved reputation and financial performance.

    The theme threading its way through all these articles is the spirit of inquiry that characterizes the Master of Communications Management program. As the first academic offering of its kind in Canada, its students are challenged to ask questions that have never been asked in a Canadian context before, and to test theories that are helping to shape a field of study that, in this country at least, is still in its infancy.

    It has been exciting to be pathfinders in this program and we would like to extend our gratitude to the MCM faculty. In particular, our thanks go to Dr. Terry Flynn, director of the MCM program, for inspiring us to grow as public relations practitioners and as academics.

    We also feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Alex Sévigny on the development and editing of this issue of the McMaster Journal of Communication. His vision and encouragement were essential and have been appreciated tremendously.

    As the Art Editor, Parker David Martin has created an outstanding cover design for this special issue, and we thank him for sharing his talents with us. Thanks also to Laura Strong who helped us with the copy editing for the print edition of this special issue of the McMaster Journal of Communication. And last, but certainly not least, we would like to extend our appreciation to McMaster University's Digital Strategies Librarian, Nick Ruest, for his guidance and patience as we worked on this project.

    -Brittany Cadence & Heather Pullen, Co-Editors, MJC 2009

  • Innovation and Enterprise within a Communication sphere
    Vol 5 (2008)

    Over the course of the last year there have been many changes made to the McMaster Journal of Communication and I would foremost like to welcome you to the new website. We have updated the content and look of the site, giving it a much more collegiate feel, representing both McMaster and the combined Communication Studies and Multimedia program. There is now greater ease of access to all the back issues from Volume 1 through to 5, as well as a more professional layout and design template.

    This year’s theme focused on “Innovation and Enterprise within a Communication sphere” and has highlighted some of the fabulous work done by the students here at McMaster. Our first article draws on Marshall McLuhan’s international village and the social networking site Facebook in a unique look at international Facebook “friends.” Nathan Nash looks at the link between social media and the global village, concluding that while social networks have brought about some interesting trends in the use of the internet there are important aspects of the global village that it does not speak to. Our second article titled “Television Study: “Gossip Girl” and It’s Affects on Viewer’s Fashion” looks at the impact of costuming on the CW network’s popular teen drama “Gossip Girl” and its effects on viewer’s personal fashion choices. Marie Romeo explores this theme through a content analysis using three independent coders to discover if wardrobe is a predominant aspect of Gossip Girl.

    Zuzanna Blaszkiewicz’s piece on weight loss promotion and reality television looks at the relationship between the ‘make-over show’ and concepts of beauty and thinness. In her analysis she explores the extent to which these same notions appear on Canadian television. In our final manuscript titled “Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development in Ontario” I explore the politicization of renewable energy sources and sustainable development, primarily wind and solar power, through a content analysis of articles spanning from 2003 to 2007. This article aims to survey the relationship between the policy paradigm of sustainable development and issues surrounding environmental awareness while delving into the current policy framework these concepts are embedded in.

    This experience has broadened my knowledge and appreciation for academic publishing and the work that goes into developing a journal, something that is taken for granted by many undergraduate and graduate students with unlimited access to online publications – myself included. I would like to first thank Dr. Alexandre Sévigny for giving me the opportunity and encouragement needed to complete this project, as well as the entire communication studies department at McMaster for their feedback. A special thank you also goes to Nathan Nash for his creative direction in developing the new MJC logo and website design. Nathan’s contributions along with Sonja Camporese’s extend to the editorial board and their dedication to this year’s theme and excellence in editing and style. After many hours of reviewing these articles and working with the authors we are proud to have their work displayed and published online. A final thank you goes to Nick Ruest, digital librarian at McMaster, for his on-going technical expertise and patience.

    I hope that the journal will continue to develop over the coming years, highlighting the brilliant work done through the Communication Studies and Multimedia program, as well as our Master of Arts in Communication and New Media. Enjoy!

    -Morgan Harper, Editor-in-Chief, MJC 2008

  • Communication, Culture and Media
    Vol 4 (2007)

    As this year’s editor of the McMaster Journal of Communication, I am extremely proud to present the fourth annual volume. The purpose of this publication is to showcase the immense talent of the students in the Humanities discipline at McMaster University, particularly within the Communication Studies program, giving its undergraduate students a chance to enter the world of publishing academic work sooner than most. The five papers that were chosen for this edition represent the incredibly diverse, articulate and innovative ideas present in the fields of Communication and the Humanities. Each of the authors presents a unique perspective on modern communicative practices, from the concentration of mass mediated ownership to the discursive dynamics of the mail-order bride industry. These papers were chosen by me and an anonymous peer selection committee from an initial submission pool of forty essays. The selection process was extremely competitive, and we were continually overwhelmed by the quality and scope of work that was emerging from the students in the faculty. Finally narrowed down to five excellent pieces, this year’s theme of Communication, Culture and Media is embodied by works as broad and diverse as the topic suggests.

    The first paper, remarkably insightful and sophisticated, was written by prodigious first year student Owen Pikkert. His essay “Function after Form: The Democratic Detriment of Episodic Television News” explores the detrimental effects of standardized broadcasting practices, and the modern techniques of television news production. The paper analyzes the way in which the average citizen consumes televised news, as framed by information producers, discussing how the process impedes and limits political mobilization. Owen, majoring in history and philosophy, will be attending Divinity school after he graduates.

    The second essay, entitled “To Sir with Love: A Critical Analysis of the Transnational Community Communicated through the Mail-Order Bride Industry” by Gillian Brooks provides an intriguing look at the discursive character of the mail order bride industry. Using works of art and modern cultural artifacts such as Victoria Secret catalogues, she argues that the long enduring narrative of the Other’s colonization by the patriarchal first world male is embodied by this industry. The paper also emphasizes the paradoxical nature of the trade, as it relies heavily on the cultivation of nostalgia through the usage of older methods of communication, such as letter-writing. Gillian recently graduated with distinction from the Communication Studies and Comparative Literature programs at McMaster and will be continuing her studies at Georgetown University in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Communication, Culture and Technology.

    In her essay “Mistaking Brands for Tween Identity”, Danielle Hulan examines the evolution of the ‘tween’ generation, concentrating on the commodification of the young cohort. The paper explores how the generation is uniquely targeted by advertising firms in an increasingly interactive manner, such as through the integration of products into video games and advertising via the Internet. She warns of the detrimental effects of pervasive and aggressive marketing strategies during such a vulnerable period in young adolescents’ lives, outlining the dangers inherent in the commodification of childhood. Danielle has also recently graduated with distinction from McMaster with a degree in Mass Communication and Psychology. After backpacking throughout Australia and New Zealand, she will be pursuing further studies in Clinical Psychology.

    In “Social Movements and the News Media”, Katryna Szagala and Katherine Phipps analyze the media coverage of the June, 2000 Queen’s Park Riot in Toronto. Using this case study as a benchmark, the paper outlines the precarious nature of mediated coverage of social protests, as the causes are often portrayed in a damaging light in the popular press, particularly concerning repressed or disadvantaged groups. Katherine graduated this year with an Honours degree in Sociology, and Katryna will graduate with the same degree in December. Both authors plan to take some time to travel and explore different cultures after graduation.

    The last paper, “News as a Big Business: CanWest Global’s Newspaper Ownership” by Krista Bennett critically examines media ownership in Canada, particularly regarding the dominating influence of CanWest Global. Tracing the history of the company’s numerous acquisitions in a number of vertical markets, the paper outlines the nature of a near-monopolized mediated environment, warning that it delimits the number of political and social perspectives consumed by the general public. Krista graduated with distinction from the Communication Studies program at McMaster, and plans to begin the Public Relations program at Mohawk College in September.

    Although these pieces cover a wide variety of topics, the recurring theme is the close analysis of communicative dynamics in a modern, highly mediated setting. It has been my pleasure to assemble a group of papers that are at once articulate and widely relevant, demonstrating the extraordinary talent that can be found at the undergraduate level. I wish each author the very best in their future endeavours, and I am sure that they will all be successful regardless of which path they choose. I would also like to thank my Peer Review committee, whose humour and decision-making skills made our reviewing sessions very enjoyable. In addition, I would like to express gratitude towards the faculty members within the Communication Studies department, as well as the Editiorial board for the Journal, whose guidance, encouragement and recognition of outstanding undergraduate work is an invaluable incentive to those just beginning to embark on their academic careers. Finally, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Dr. Alex Sevigny, whose unconditional support of both myself and the Journal has been exceptional. Without his passion, the publication would not thrive from year to year.

    -Sonja Weaver, Editor-in-Chief, MJC 2007

  • Sound, Culture and Communication
    Vol 3 (2006)

    From the Desk of the Editor…

    In selecting a theme for the third volume of the McMaster Journal of Communication, I wanted to move the journal towards an investigation of culture. Culture matters as a site of inquiry because it emerges from the images, sounds and spectacles of everyday life. In examining musical perception, Andrea Unrau interrogates notions of “perfect” and “relative” pitch. She establishes which of these two processing methods is more useful across different listening conditions, why relative pitch seems to “win out” for most people as their primary method of processing music, and how the two processes could possibly interact or affect each other.

    Aside from investigating the psychological aspects of how we as humans perceive sound, music for many of represents a form of entertainment and a site of leisure, which whether we actively acknowledge it or not, helps to inform our political views and social behaviours. The production of music at the level of industry is hardly a neutral endeavour. As Rob Petti’s paper demonstrates, artistic integrity often becomes compromised in a business where powerful gatekeepers often shape and dictate cultural trends that optimize consumer consumption. In this paper it is established that much of what the culture industry produces is based upon popular models of what it means to be male or female, successful or a failure, powerful or powerless. Eric Barkman’s paper demonstrates how music provides the materials out of which people construct their sense of class and race. Here we see that music helps mediate the stories we tell about ourselves, providing the materials to create identities which can then be synthesized as part of a larger global culture.

    Underpinning this investigation of music is the belief that education now takes place in large part outside the terrestrial boundaries of the classroom. As students of the 21st century it is important to have publication outlets which espouse the concepts of a critical media pedagogy which will help readers to critically deconstruct the seemingly neutral aspects of consumer culture.

    In closing I would like to thank Dr. Alex Sevigny for the opportunity to take on such a project. I would also like to thank the previous editor, Julia Wallace for taking the time to show me the ropes as it were. A big thank you is due to Sonja Weaver who has handled the multi-media portion of the publication. But mostly, I would like to thank the students who submitted papers for consideration (those that were successful in getting published as well as those who didn’t make the final cut). These students should be commended for taking the time and effort in helping to contribute to the greater public sphere of knowledge. Congratulations!

    -Matthew Clarke, Editor-in-Chief, MJC 2006

  • Social Justice within a Communication Sphere
    Vol 2 (2005)

    I am honoured and pleased to present the second volume of the McMaster Journal of Communication, (MJC) the official, student run, anonymously peer reviewed journal of the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University. Submissions underwent student peer review and those chosen were also reviewed by an editorial board composed of tenure-stream and contractual faculty members from across and outside McMaster. MJC is an interdisciplinary journal whose purpose is to encourage undergraduate and Master’s-level students to publish their work. The journal accepts submissions in either French or English, from either quantitative or qualitative perspectives as well as works of art, and/or multimedia projects. A secondary purpose of the journal is to provide a great problem-based learning scenario for the student editor, a position awarded to a different student each academic year. The editorship affords the student the opportunity to learn about the business of putting together an annual academic journal under the guidance of a faculty advisor.

    Each year, the editor chooses a theme for the journal; this year’s theme is Social Justice within a Communication Sphere. This theme was chosen because it was deemed to be globally significant at this moment in time – a moment when it is important to consider the American invasion of Iraq, the AIDS crisis in Africa, the changing health care system in Canada, the digital revolution and what it means politically, economically and culturally. A secondary reason for choosing this theme was because it was deemed broad enough to attract submissions from many different disciplines and methodological perspectives.

    This year the journal received thirty submissions of which five were chosen for publication, representing a variety of disciplines. One of the essays came from linguistics, one from history and three from communications.

    Matthew Clarke’s essay on Protecting Information Rights in the Liberal- Democratic State argues that there is a need for the enshrinement of information rights into democratic states’ constitutions for the sake of protecting the public sphere. This has become necessary due to the prevalence of digital technology which has revolutionized our society moving it from an industrialized culture towards becoming a culture that is based on the value of information.

    Carmen Gayoso, in her article, Technology-centred Discourses in European Audiovisual Policy: Will Euro-Techno out Fox the US Assembly Line, examines the European broadcasting system in relation to European cultural policymaking. She suggests that due to the technological-centred discourse of the European stage, the European Union has failed in its desire to create a unified European market that can compete with the American broadcasting system which has thus far dominated the European market.

    The (Step)motherly Ideal: The Role of Sex, Gender and Stereotype in the Aurore Gagnon Murder Trial, by Matthew Nash, examines the early twentieth century murder trial of Anne-Marie Houde and her treatment during that trial by the media and the criminal justice system. He argues that due to the patriarchal views of the time, Houde was treated more harshly than other murderers.

    Sonja Weaver’s article, From Bracelets to Blowjobs: The Ideological Representaton of Childhood Sexuality in the Media, examines how moral panics within the public domain are created by the media. This is accomplished through an investigation of the sex bracelet phenomenon that captured public attention in 2004 and its relation to the issue of childhood sexuality.

    Millee Yu Qing Zhou’s paper, A McMaster Undergraduate Study of the Social Origins and Implications of Slang and Gendered Language, investigates how slang, specifically gendered words, are used in a Canadian university context, specifically at McMaster University. She takes her findings and compares them to past studies done on university slang.

    Finally, I would like to say a great big “thank you” to all five of the above mentioned authors for their commitment to scholarship and ideas. I would also like to thank the Editorial Board: all the professors and instructors who committed their time and energy to the journal. Thanks to my Peer Review Committee which was composed of volunteer student reviewers: I appreciate the commitment that they made to the journal and the hard work that they freely gave to assist me in the reviewing process. A personal thank you to Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell who was responsible for introducing me to Heather Easlick, the student who volunteered to be the journal’s web designer, and thanks to Heather for her commitment to the journal. She has done an excellent job – one for which I am most grateful. Thank you to Dr. William Martin who contributed above and beyond the call of duty as a member of the editorial board of the journal. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Alexandre Sevigny, my faculty advisor. He was a pleasure to work with, always positive and encouraging, willing to spend long hours working with me, providing constructive criticism and valued instruction. Thank you Dr. Sevigny for granting me this unique opportunity, I found it to be challenging and rewarding, an invaluable educational experience.

    -Juliet Wallace, Editor-in-Chief, MJC 2005

  • Inaugural Issue
    Vol 1 (2004)

    McMaster's two newer undergraduate programs - Communication Studies and Multimedia - attract people with ambition and creativity. The McMaster Journal of Communication (MJC) is here to channel that ambition into a realized achievement.

    Undoubtedly there are many other journals of communications and multimedia. Why then start another one? We founded this journal to address the need to showcase the work of undergraduate students. Most journals aren't open to undergraduate work and yet there is a growing competition for scholarships admittance into graduate programmes and research jobs that stress publications. Other journals could be intimidating to an undergraduate audience, with referees and usual contributors who are much more accomplished. Also, usual publications comprise of much more than what an undergraduate deals with day to day. MJC makes the prospect of a refereed publication less intimidating for undergraduates; submissions are anonymously reviewed by students' own peers first, and then reviewed by faculty members.

    MJC is to be published bi-annually, once a semester, to impart the message that term papers are welcome as well as as honours thesis, practicum reports and works or multimedia art. Admittedly the journal is competitive and doesn't publish every submission aiming at quality rather than quantity. This year we accepted five manuscripts from 24 submissions and one Multimedia project from four submissions for a very respectable acceptance rate of 25%.

    Lets not discount the value of human touch and campus spirit; a journal published right here by fellow students to whom other students have access to and from whom they can get useful feedback is truly invaluable. This feedback process is also useful for those authors whose manuscripts and art pieces are not accepted as this will give them a chance to review their submissions with the feedback provided for future consideration at MJC or elsewhere.

    It is a challenging task to start a major project like the MJC without much precedent, especially when the project is to live on. It requires unusual attention to its fundamentals as there is no 'we'll fix it when we get there' option. I discovered how to manage reviewers, authors, peers and really learnt about the creative chaos of publishing world.

    There are far too many people to thank but I would especially like to thank Dr. Alexandre Sevigny, Larissa Faulkner, Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell for helping me make this project a reality.

    Also special thanks to Drs. Magda Stroinska & Joanne Buckley who - although they didn't have a supervisory role in the journal - were always available for spontaneous advice and support.

    As the founding editor, my greatest chore is now to leave this project in the hands of the future editor and see it flourish.

    -Sadia Azmat, Founding Editor-in-Chief, MJC 2004

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