Ph.D. Student Work

Students in the Ph.D. program study a wide range of topics related to media and communications. Some of the doctoral dissertations that have been successfully defended in recent years are described here.

Scholars have recognized the importance of illness narratives, and some of this work has targeted terminal-illness stories, but little has directly addressed what distinguishes them from other illness narratives. In most illness narratives, recovery and life beyond the acute incident are a critical part of the overall experience of a disease. But terminal illness always ends with death. It has no “after.” This difference fundamentally changes how the illness is experienced – and how we should analyze a story told about it. Recognizing this distinction is important not only from a narratological perspective, but also for the study of the ways people live while dying and the models of behavior these stories reveal. I offer four ways to consider the specific genre of terminal-illness stories: the desire to tell, a turn to living dyingly, the alternative triumph, and endings-beyond-endings. These four elements recognize that terminal-illness stories are a distinct subset of illness narratives, and thus they can yield important insights unavailable through existing methods of looking at illness narratives more generally. Beyond the expanded narratological knowledge, this understanding is crucial because close listening is an ethical responsibility both to the individual and to those who come after her. Thinking about how and why people tell these stories and what we can get from them helps us see how they function in the world. That, in turn, gives us more concrete ways to think about the abstract ideas around terminal illness, dying, and death. This awareness will let us think more carefully about our master narratives of death and dying and what models of behavior are available to those who are terminally ill and those who care for them, and it can also offer insight into societal structures of health care. Such insights can further the cultural movement toward supporting a so-called good death, part of a larger shift from a biomedical model to a biocultural one that incorporates a patient’s subjective experience. Recognizing these signals can help a dying person and her caregivers think through treatment options, social support, and other aspects of care. Truly hearing the stories told by people with terminal illness helps us create a better ethic of caregiving and a better dying for all of us.

This project is a transnational case study on the binge-watching and media habits of sixty interviewees from Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Israel, Kenya, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Romania, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

First, it zooms in and asks what habits interviewees had at the time of the interview. How did interviewees habitually stop watching for the day? What cues in their environment were most likely to successfully trigger the end of a watch session, and which were most likely to fail? Second, it zooms out, and investigates how robust interviewees’ media habits were when faced with major habit discontinuities. When interviewees moved across borders, found partners or lost them, found employment or left it, had children or had children move out, did it affect their video watching habits? Which life events were most strongly associated with habit changes? It uses interviews grounded in trace data (platform logs of user behavior) from several major video platforms in order to study what habits people have around watching video, and if those habits are rigid or elastic when confronted with major life events. Using trace data as a prompt during interviews made it possible to elicit details of repetitive behavior, and also to observe how that behavior changed over time.

This research finds that binge-watching, and video habits more generally, are a state, not a trait. They can be altered by changing cues in viewers’ environments. Some cues are more successful than others at ending individual viewing sessions. The end of an episode or the sense of time having passed are the least successful, and the loss of a given kind of content or being interrupted by a concrete, immediate obligation to pay attention elsewhere are the most successful.

For major life events, different life events have different effects. A high degree of cognitive migration is associated with changes in what people watch after a move. Sharing a household with other people is associated with alternating between episodes of different shows, as well as with exposure to different watching practices and content which are adapted as people move through time and across borders.

This dissertation examines the way that demands for more control over the collection, processing, and sharing of personal data are being managed by both government and industry leaders with strategies that appear to comply with regulations, but that fail to do so. These are “by-design” strategies used by individuals to unilaterally manage their data with automated tools.

I take a multimethod approach that combines autoethnography, reverse engineering techniques, and data analysis to assess the implementation of by-design services implemented by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in compliance with current European Union regulations for access and portability. I also employ archival research, discourse analysis, interviews, and participant observation. 

I argue that self-led, by-design approaches do not answer the demands for more control over personal data. The regulatory and technical resources put in place for individuals to control their data are not effective because they turn over decisions about execution to an industry with no interest in sharing that data or being regulated. If policymakers continue to pursue by-design approaches, they will need to learn how to test the techniques, and the execution of the techniques, provided by industry. They will need to assess the impact on data that is made available. So that results can be evaluated, by-design tools like the ones I assessed must be accompanied by clear and detailed details about design choices and procedures. In this vein, I offer directions for critical scrutiny, including standards and measuring the impact of APIs.

I conclude that self-managed, by-design approaches are not the source of the problem. But they are a symptom of the need for critical scrutiny over the execution of tools like the ones offered by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Ultimately, I found that portability and access are legally and technically fraught. However, despite the shortcomings of by-design approaches, personal data can be more effectively regulated in Europe than in the United States as the result of current regulations.

The following thesis examines and historicizes the assortment of tools and practices—material, epistemic, and institutional—that developed over the last century in U.S.-based newsrooms as a result of news organizations’ first sporadic, then increasingly conscious, attempts at incorporating data-driven methods of information gathering, classification, archiving, and distribution into their organizational operations.

In its methods this thesis presents, first, a historical narrative that reaches from the early decades of the twentieth century into the early 2020s, and second, showcases empirical evidence through five case studies. Of the case studies one is historical and is explored in the third chapter through previously not consulted archival material. The other four are recent or current—two involved computational data collection and web scraping (seen in chapters four and five), one relied on ethnographic embedding, and one on interviews (mixed in with the previous two and also featured in chapters four and five).

In its conclusion, the thesis will argue that, at the very least, current and future organizational histories of journalism ought to more readily take into account the approaches and findings of the histories of technology and the sociologies of scientific knowledge, especially because understanding the contemporary epistemic and technological intrusions of computer science, statistics, data science, and software development into journalism requires the exploration of both the parallels and fault lines between these domains. In its Conclusion, then, this thesis will speculate on the potential future trajectories that such convergences might take and asks hopefully generative questions, both analytical and (mildly) normative.

For twenty years, beginning in 1995, Brazil’s political landscape was dominated by two left-leaning parties that had opposed the military dictatorship. Initially few intellectuals or politicians wanted to be associated with the Right because of the poisoned memory of the authoritarian regime. By 2018, the panorama had changed so radically that the right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro was elected president.This research project focuses on the role of the public intellectuals, publicists, and other cultural entrepreneurs who paved the way for Bolsonaro’s victory. It analyzes not only their worldview and goals but also their communication practices and business models, providing a nuanced understanding of the strategies adopted by the New Right. The data for this project comes from an automated collection of social media feeds, research in digital archives, and sixty-five semi-structured interviews with key figures associated with the New Brazilian Right.

This dissertation is an ethnography of conservative social media influencers, particularly those associated with former White House advisor and media entrepreneur Stephen K. Bannon. It was conducted through the years of Donald Trump’s presidency. As both entertainers and political operatives, social media content-creators and activists, conservative media influencers utilize a variety of transgressive rhetorical and performative tactics intentionally deployed to attract attention from general audiences, political elites, and legacy news media, thus influencing the media conversation at large. They often deploy racist, sexist, or conspiratorial tropes that can seem so performative, begging the questions, “Are they for real? Are they sincere?”

Based on 100 hours of interviews with over 20 influencers, three years of field notes produced while embedded in their communities, and content analysis of influencers’ social media feeds, this dissertation shows how conservative media influencers navigate their profession as political social media personalities. It explores their performance conventions as entertainers, accusations against them of racism or xenophobia, their epistemological posture, their relationships to social media platforms, what being a “nationalist-populist” means, and their relationship to traditional institutions of Republican power.

In the American press, news publishers and advertisers have enjoyed a close relationship well before the birth of our nation. When Benjamin Franklin bought The Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729, he became the owner of a communications platform and printed both information and advertisements. Today, news publishers and tech companies like Facebook and Twitter do the same—they publish and distribute news and commercial messages. Organizations like The New York Times and Washington Post produce more than news stories. News outlets have departments dedicated to creating and placing marketing messages beneath our gaze as we turn the physical page of a paper or scroll, click, and tap our screens throughout the day. This dissertation examines how advertisers aim to invisibly inject their messages into and alongside news stories by investigating the relationship between the business and newsroom side of various news publications. The research methodology is qualitative and draws upon over 125 interviews with people who work at news organizations, ad agencies, media and tech companies. This dissertation has a simple premise: compare the words of CEOs, executive leadership, and mission statements with the actions of news organizations to identify where discrepancies exist between the core tenets of journalism and its practice.

Algorithmic management systems organize many different kinds of work across domains, and have increasingly come under academic scrutiny. Under labels including gig work, piecemeal work, and platform labor, these systems have been richly theorized under disciplines including human-computer interaction, sociology, communications, economics, and labor law. When it comes to the relationships between such systems and their workers, current theory frames these interactions on a continuum between organizational control and worker autonomy. This has laid the groundwork for other ways of examining micro-level practices of workers under algorithmic management. As an alternative to the binary of control and autonomy, this dissertation takes its cue from feminist scholars in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) studies. Drawing on frameworks from articulation, repair, and mutual shaping, I examine workers’ interpretations and interactions, to ask how new subjectivities around identity and community emerge from these entanglements. To shed empirical light on these processes, this dissertation employs a mixed-methods research design examining the introduction of facial recognition into the sociotechnical systems of algorithmic management. 

This study takes a close look at the making of the Spanish left-wing populist party Podemos, paying special attention to the populist project devised by its original group of founders to capitalize on the political opportunities created by the 2008 economic crisis and the Indignados movement of 2011. Part I examines how Podemos’ founders used digital technology to connect with followers and exchange support and influence with them. It shows that online platforms constitute a precious tool in the hands of populist leaders who seek to mobilize plebiscitarian support for their authority and goals while creating a semblance of democratic participation. Part II delves deep into the biographical histories of the main founders of Podemos to investigate the beliefs and desires guiding their populist project. Based on a combination of qualitative research methods, including archival research, expert interviews, participant observation, and textual analysis, this study challenges the common notion that the founders of Podemos subscribe to the populist “ideology.” Instead, it demonstrates that they used populism strategically in order to take advantage of what Podemos’ leader Pablo Iglesias called a “Leninist moment” – an exceptional situation in which the seizure of power (through electoral means) becomes possible for a Communist party.


Published in 2022 by Crown as The Quiet Before: On the Unexpected Origins of Radical Ideas

This dissertation examines the forms of media that are most productive for the formation of social and political movements at their earliest stages. The problem it confronts is a contemporary one: the dominant forms of social media on the internet do not allow for the slow and focused deliberation this is demanded for radical ideas that are attempting to undermine a status quo to begin to take root. Movements rise and fall very quickly, following the metabolism of sites like Facebook and Twitter, without having the long-term impact they seek.

By first looking historically at a series of pre-digital case studies – starting with letters before the scientific revolution and moving through petitions, small newspapers, samizdat and all the way to zines in the 1990s – aspects of more effective incubatory media will present themselves. Each chapter in this first half of the book zeroes in on the affordances of these particular forms of communication that made them so useful.

Between 1927 and 1987, American broadcast regulators undertook a project for radio. The project pursued multiple goals: to allocate wavelengths, to hold stations accountable to the public interest, to restrict prejudicial content, to protect domestic wavelengths from international signal interference, to sustain these policies over time with the advent of new media, and to evangelize the American way of life abroad. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the State Department, as the primary institutions responsible for developing this American system of radio, addressed several challenges. Domestically, the FCC resolved the free speech questions of the time by resisting government ownership of radio stations, but regulating the airwaves in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity.” Internationally, the State Department set up radio stations to broadcast around the world. Religion played a primary role in the aims of this project — domestically, that every listener would receive uplifting faith content and internationally, that the world would know of American religiosity.

Creative writing manuals, often called craft books within the literary establishment, represent a genre with a significant place in print culture. These books not only offer advice on how to construct interesting, emotional, and experience-mimicking narrative prose but also suggest that creative writing is a practice available broadly to those who give themselves the permission to write. However, despite early creative writing manuals’ democratic promise to level the playing fields of the intellectual and artistic economy by facilitating individuality in the writerly voice, popular creative writing manuals have failed to substantively engage the politics implicit in craft and have discouraged individuality in the case of writers of progressive political orientation. This dissertation looks at the ideological underpinnings of these guidebooks and the development of the genre in the United States, which is situated in an extended tradition that has wed iconoclasm and a sometimes exacting paradigm of self-making.

This dissertation explores how journalists in the United States and Germany have been addressing declining levels of trust and attacks on their credibility. I comparatively examine how journalists interpret the trust crisis, and consequently, the strategies they have developed for addressing it. This study is based on multi-site ethnography: I interviewed 87 journalists, conducted observations in 15 local and national newsrooms, and examined metajournalism from the United States and Germany. Findings show that U.S. and German journalists interpret declining trust and anti-media sentiments differently: U.S. journalists believe they stem from information gaps and lacking media literacy, while German journalists believe they reflect a sense of alienation. And so, in their efforts to gain credibility, U.S. journalists focus on increasing transparency and showcasing their professionalism, while German journalists focus on increasing reciprocity and showing that they listen to criticism from outside the profession. As this dissertation shows, both U.S. and German news media are thoroughly professionalized, but their different relationships to their audiences and communities shape different perceptions on — and strategies for — trust building.

How does a view from the ground reshape the analytics of US drone warfare? Through an ethnographic exploration of drone warfare from one of its sites of destruction — Pakistan and its borderlands known as the Tribal Areas—this dissertation troubles the notion of war-at-a-distance. Far from being at a remove, the war for many Pakistanis is in their neighborhoods, their fields, and their homes. Especially for ethnic Pashtuns who live amidst the drone war in the borderlands, attack drones are one element among a violent network — from Pakistani military helicopters to ground operations to armed guerrilla movements — that create radical disruptions. It is this dialectic between U.S. attacks and Pakistani state machinations that both produces ‘drone warfare’ and informs the analytics of Pashtuns and Pakistanis more generally vis-à-vis drone bombardment. By interrogating the relationship between drone attacks and the pluriverse of differentially distributed violence in the border zone, this dissertation traces the multi-scalar entanglements of the US imperial formation and the Pakistani state through which drone warfare and the ‘war on terror’ take shape in the Tribal Areas. Through an ethnographically situated account of the material, embodied geographies and conditions of the war zone, I show how these entanglements shape the geopolitics of the Pakistani state and position ethnic Pashtuns as multiply inflected: tribal-ized marginals, ethnic-ized citizens, and racialized transnational-ized targets of the ‘war on terror.’ In so doing, Grounding Drone Warfare shows that the remoteness of drone warfare is less an empirical reality than an authorizing self-narration of an imperial formation that prefers to frame itself as temporary and limited.

What do people talk about when they talk about climate change? This dissertation sets out to answer this question by focusing on local understandings of climate change and the policy priorities that result from them in Miami. Through a historical study that spans from the 1920s to today and 88 hour long interviews, I demonstrate that climate change is a historically contingent, contested, and localized concept defined by power relationships. Through a historical investigation of the narratives that connect environmental policies with segregation and efforts to displace Miami’s Black residents over more than 80 years, I show how historic understandings of race and the environment inform debates about what climate change means and what to do about it today. This investigation shows how Miami’s current response to climate change has been shaped by its history as a colonial city built on the maximization of land value and exclusionary planning and policies.

Strike waves in the late nineteenth century United States caused widespread property destruction, but strike leaders did not suggest threats to employer property as a comprehensive strategy until the I.W.W. adopted a deliberate program of sabotage. Contrary to historical consensus, sabotage was an intellectually coherent and politically generative response to progressive, technocratic dreams of frictionless social cooperation that would have major consequences for the labor movement. This dissertation treats sabotage as a significant contribution to the intellectual debates that were generated by labor conflict and rapid industrialization and examines its role in shaping federal labor policy. It contends that the suppression of sabotage staked out the limits of acceptable speech and the American political imagination.

This dissertation examines the nature of the American digital public square in the 2010’s, a place where people learn about and come together to discuss matters of public concern. The newly digital public square is a key component of any functional democracy in the twenty-first century. The dissertation seeks to shed light, not only on the capacities of today’s news media institutions to produce and efficaciously distribute news and information and support a capacity for discussion and deliberation that provides a “public intelligence” on matters of concern, but also on the newly enlarged role of the public in new rituals of digestion of such news.

The work draws upon multiple systems-focused analyses of the public square, interviews, and analyses of news production, the economics and dynamics facing those who both produce and distribute news, and the broader literature about and studies of the public square.

This dissertation is a study of the social dimensions and implications of the smart city, a new kind of urbanism that augments the city’s existing infrastructures with sensors, wireless communication, and software algorithms to generate unprecedented reams of real-time data. It investigates how smartness reshapes civic ties, and transforms the ways of seeing and governing urban centers long-plagued by racial and economic divides. How do the uneven adoption of smart technologies and data-driven practices affect the relationship between citizens and local government? What mediates the understanding and experience of urban inequalities in a data-driven city? In what ways does data-driven local governance address or exacerbate pervasive divides? The dissertation addresses these questions through three years of ethnographic fieldwork in Kansas City, where residents and public officials have partnered with Google and Cisco to test a gigabit internet service and a smart city program respectively.

Indonesian broadcasters are less than enthused about switching from an analog signal to digital terrestrial television (DTT). The nation's telecommunications industry appears mostly indifferent, consumers are reluctant to spend money on the necessary new equipment, and electronics producers are pessimistic about the new market. Despite the fact that few stakeholders are in support of this transition, the Indonesian government is moving forward on DTT. Why could this be?

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, with more than 16,000 islands and a diverse geography that complicates the implementation of new broadcast and telecommunications infrastructure. By taking it as a case study, this project explains why, despite broad national ambivalence, high costs, and uncertain benefits, a developing country might still find itself accepting an externally imposed standard.

Primary research questions include: What incentivizes nations to accept new technological standards when domestic enthusiasm is sparse? How do foreign interests and a fear of isolation from an "inevitable" global technofuture reshape civic priorities? Which segments of society are legitimized in this process, and which are ignored?

This project proceeds from a narrow question: What, if anything, is a brain wave? Beguiling in its simplicity, this question prompts a cultural-historical investigation that spans over 150 years of science, technology, and society. Proposed in 1869, the original theory of brain waves cites etheric undulations to explain reports of apparent thought transference. Though most modern thinkers no longer believe in outright telepathy, I argue that dreams of thought transmission and other mental miracles subtly persist—not in obscure and occult circles, but at the forefront of technoscience.

A hybrid of science and fiction, brain waves represent an ideal subject through which to explore the ways in which technical language shrouds spiritual dreams. Today, the phrase “brain waves” often function as shorthand for electrical changes in the brain, particularly in the context of technologies that purport to “read” some aspect of mental function, or to transmit neural data to a digital device. While such technologies appear uniquely modern, the history of brain waves reveals that they are merely the millennial incarnation of a much older hope—a hope for transmission and transcendence via the brain’s emanations.

This dissertation examines early adopters of mass-marketed Virtual Reality (VR), as well as other immersive technologies, and the playful processes by which they incorporate the devices into their lives within New York City. Starting in 2016, relatively inexpensive head-mounted displays (HMDs) began to be manufactured and distributed by leaders in the game and information technology industries. However, even before these releases, developers and content creators were testing the devices through “development kits.” These de facto early adopters, who are distinctly commercially-oriented, acted as a launching point for the dissertation to scrutinize how, why and in what ways digital technologies spread to the wider public.

Taking a multimethod approach that combines semi-structured interviews, two years of participant observation, media discourse analysis and autoethnography, the dissertation details a moment in the diffusion of an innovation and how publicity, social forces and industry influence adoption. This includes studying the media ecosystem which promotes and sustains VR, the role of New York City in framing opportunities and barriers for new users, and a description of meetups as important communities where devotees congregate.

This dissertation examines the origins of political and scientific commitments that currently frame cryptography, the study of secret codes, arguing that these commitments took shape over the course of the twentieth century. Looking back to the nineteenth century, cryptography was rarely practiced systematically, let alone scientifically, nor was it the contentious political subject it has become in the digital age. Beginning with the rise of computational cryptography in the first half of the twentieth century, this history identifies a quarter-century gap beginning in the late 1940s, when cryptography research was classified and tightly controlled in the US. Observing the reemergence of open research in cryptography in the early 1970s, a course of events that was directly opposed by many members of the US intelligence community, a wave of political scandals unrelated to cryptography during the Nixon years also made the secrecy surrounding cryptography appear untenable, weakening the official capacity to enforce this classification. Today, the subject of cryptography remains highly political and adversarial, with many proponents gripped by the conviction that widespread access to strong cryptography is necessary for a free society in the digital age, while opponents contend that strong cryptography in fact presents a danger to society and the rule of law.

Published in 2018 by Routledge as Government Surveillance of Religious Expression: Mormons, Quakers, and Muslims in the United States

This dissertation analyzes how government agencies contemplated the religious expression of Mormons of the Territory of Utah in the 1870s and 1880s, Quakers of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, and Muslims of Brooklyn, New York, from 2002 to 2013. Nineteenth-century federal marshals and judges in the Territory of Utah, mid-twentieth century FBI agents throughout the United States, and New York Police Department officers in post-September 11 New York were prompted to monitor each religious community by their concerns about polygamy, communism, and terrorism, respectively, which shaped the distinctive environments in which the government agencies analyzed the religious communities. The government agencies did not just observe the communities, but they probed precisely what constituted religion itself.

This dissertation investigates the phenomenon of the digitally native production of foreign and international news in Anglo-American media. The focus is on the news startups I am calling
“virtual foreign bureaus” (VFBs), independent, professional and niche news outlets that carry out
much of the reporting remotely. These news startups have increased in numbers and importance with the shutdowns of foreign bureaus in traditional news organizations. Using newsroom visits, interviews, and content analysis, I compare and contrast journalistic routines and norms of VFBs with those of traditional foreign correspondence.

This dissertation examines second order network formation on India's large and rapidly expanding mobile phone networks. It does so by examining a particular second order network - the Indian Premier League (IPL) mobile network. Using a case study approach and a mix of ethnographic methods and textual analysis, I explore the history that preceded the IPL mobile network, the intentions of its creators, the processes by which users participate on the network, and the outcomes of network expansion and evolution. I deploy the space of flows concept of Manuel Castells, to draw attention to continuity and change in Indian communication networks, and to highlight the new spatial dynamics at work in mass mobile telephony. This dissertation emphasizes the transformative nature of second order networks and identifies the ways that masses of users can disrupt and alter communication networks, especially in contexts of informal economics and power structures.

Published in 2019 by Oxford University Press as Your Country, Our War: The Press and Diplomacy in Afghanistan

This dissertation examines the United States's elite news media's hegemony in a global media landscape, and how it can come to stand for the entire American nation in the imagination of outsiders. In this transnational, instantaneous digital media arena, what is created for an American audience can fairly easily be accessed, interpreted and relayed to another. How, then, is U.S. international news, which is traditionally ethnocentric and security-focused, absorbed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, two countries where the United States has acute foreign policy interests? 

This study draws from two bodies of scholarship that are analogous, yet rarely linked together. The first is on hegemony and the U.S. news media's relationship with American society and the government. This includes scholarship on indexing and cascading; agenda building and agenda setting; framing; and reporting during conflict. The second is on the American news media's relationship with the world, and nationalism as a fixed phenomenon in international news. This includes examining the different kinds of press systems that exist globally, and how they interact with each other. Afghanistan and Pakistan's media systems have expanded dramatically since being freed in 2002 and they struggle daily with making sense of the volatility that comes with the U.S.-led Afghanistan war. Through 64 qualitative, in-depth interviews with Afghan, American and Pakistani journalists, this study explores the sociology of news inside Afghanistan and Pakistan and how the American news narrative is received there.

Published by Columbia University Press in 2016 as Deciding What's True: The Rise of Political Fact-Checking in American Journalism

This dissertation studies the new class of political fact-checkers, journalists who specialize in assessing the truth of public claims--and who, it is argued, constitute a professional reform movement reaching to the center of the elite US news media. In less than a decade this emergent genre of news has become a basic feature of political coverage. It figures prominently in national debates and commands the direct attention of elite political actors, who respond publicly to the fact-checkers and dedicate staff to dealing with them, especially during electoral campaigns. This study locates fact-checking in a wider practice of "annotative journalism," with precursors in the muckraking tradition in American news, which has come into flower in an online media environment characterized by promiscuous borrowing and annotation. Participant observation and content analysis are used together to examine the day-to-day work of the news organizations leading the fact-checking movement. This approach documents the specific and forceful critique of conventional journalistic practice which the fact-checkers enact in their newswork routines and in their public and private discourse.

Published by Oxford University Press in 2016 as Stories Without Borders: The Berlin Wall and the Making of a Global Iconic Event

This dissertation examines how a news event may become a global social myth. In order to track this voyage from the particular to the universal, I developed a theoretical concept of "global iconic events." I define global iconic events as news events that are covered extensively and remembered ritually by international media. I suggest five narrative aspects to consider in connection with them: (1) their narrative prerequisites; (2) their elevated and interpretative story; (3) their condensation into a simple phrase, a short narrative, and a recognizable visual scene; (4) their competing stories; and (5) their ability to travel across multiple media platforms and changing social and political contexts.

I perform textual analysis on media representations from four distinct national contexts (West German, East German, Hungarian, and American) to examine two case studies. With the help of the central case study, the "fall of the Berlin Wall," I exhibit the successful social construction of a global iconic event. The second case study, the 1956 Hungarian revolution, illuminates some factors, in particular local counter-narration, incoherent and contextual international representation, forgetting, and marginality of the event's location, as instrumental in the failure of an event to become a global iconic event.

Published in 2018 by Columbia University Press as Becoming the News: How Ordinary People Respond to the Media Spotlight

Based on in-depth interviews with eighty-three people who were named in newspapers in the New York City-area and a southwestern city, this dissertation explores the phenomenon of being featured, quoted, or mentioned in a news story, from the subject's point of view. Discussions of news subjects usually begin when the journalist comes on the scene and end with subjects' assessments of accuracy in the articles in which they appear. But I find that news subjects perceive the phenomenon of "making the news" as a broader saga that begins with their involvement in an event or issue, often only later deemed newsworthy by journalists, and extends to the repercussions of the coverage in their lives, including feedback they receive from others and effects on their digital reputations. Subjects interpret their news coverage, including its accuracy, in light of the trigger events that brought them to journalists' attention in the first place and the coverage's ensuing effects.

Published in 2019 by the University of Pittsburgh Press as Latin American Adventures in Literary Journalism

The Parrot and the Cannon. Journalism, Literature and Politics in the Formation of Latin American Identities explores the emergence of literary journalism in Latin America as a central aspect in the formation of national identities. Focusing on five periods in Latin American history from the post-colonial times until the 1960s, it follows the evolution of this narrative genre in parallel with the consolidation of professional journalism, the modern Latin American mass media and the formation of nation states. In the process, this dissertation also studies literary journalism as a genre, as a professional practice, and most importantly as a political instrument. By exploring the connections between journalism, literature and politics, this dissertation also illustrates the difference between the notions of factuality, reality and journalistic truth as conceived in Latin America and the United States, while describing the origins of Latin American militant journalism as a social-historical formation.