Media PGR Lead Dr Joanna Rydzewska talks about her initiative in hosting a student and staff symposium at Taliesin in May

The Symposium is the highlight of the academic year for our Media PhD students. On Thursday, 11th May, 2023, they had an opportunity to present all their hard work on their PhD projects. For their supervisors, it is a proud moment as a new generation of excellent researchers emerge in front of their eyes.

The Symposium is designed to highlight the diversity of media studies scholarship. It also intends to foster a collaborative and constructive environment for students to develop their research and presentation skills, which involves a preparatory session on how to present at a conference and a mentorship programme where students can learn how to organise such an event. This year the Symposium was co-organised by two PhD students: Beth Evans and Olivia Noden.

A great event on a sunny day !

The Symposium incorporated presentations from seven of our students and was concluded with a fascinating keynote lecture from Swansea alumnus Dr Huw Jones from Southampton University. Dr Jones talked about the various methods he uses in his own research (large data-sets, focus groups, surveys, close textual analysis) and his experience of being a post-doctoral researcher on a 3-year HERA-funded collaborative research project on the transnational production, distribution, and reception of European films and TV drama – Mediating Cultural Encounters through European Screens (MeCETES).

The Symposium was kicked off (not an easy task, by any means!) by Beth Evans who talked about the evolution of the representation of mothers within mainstream American episodic animation between 1960 and 2022. The talk focused on how mothers were originally presented as lacking character development and how this changed from the 2000s onwards. The clip from The Flintstones made everyone grin (ABC, 1960 – 1966)! Her work is filling a gap in the research surrounding the development of female-identifying characters in mainstream American episodic animation, with critics typically being drawn more towards full-length animated films. The research shows how perceptions of traditional gender roles are being challenged in media targeted towards young audiences.  What a pleasure it was to watch cartoons while getting a PhD degree and adding to our understanding of how children are socialized into gender roles!

Some of Beth’s slides

In this session, we stayed within Film Studies to listen to Alexandria Thomas presenting on the main archetypes present in female subcultural characters in British Cinema, 1965-1985. She focused on the seductive muse and gorgon archetype using Victoria Schmidt’s most recent breakdown of archetypes. She supported these two archetypes with clips from Jack Cardiff’s The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968) and Derek Jarman’s Jubilee (1978). Alex’s definitions of mods and skinheads were fascinating! Some clips and findings made everyone shake their heads in disbelief that such representations were even possible! Alex’s research aims to better understand not only how subcultures are portrayed on screen but also how women are portrayed differently from men. Her findings will add to and give an alternative to the way women are represented on screen.

Some of Alex’s slides

The next session moved to the analyses of media representations and more sociologically-orientated approaches such as content analysis. Olivia Noden’s research focuses on the representation of gender and female terrorists within the mass media. She is at the stage of writing her literature review, and her presentation looked at how women are continually placed into the roles of motherhood and wifedom, placing them instead in roles of victims and innocents within wars and conflict zones. The rise of female terrorist activity since the 1980s has sparked the need for new insights to be developed to understand how the media presents female terrorists. The exponential rise of female terrorists was a surprise to everyone! Olivia’s research aims to reveal if and how female terrorist are inscribed into the prevailing gender stereotypes. These findings have the potential to be useful not only for media specialists but in other areas of study of female terrorists as well. 

An excerpt from Olivia’s presentation

Nuha Makrash continued with the analysis of media representation by looking at Media Framing of the Saudi Public Investment Fund Takeover of Newcastle United football club (NUFC) in the British News Media.  Her research focuses on how the British news media portray the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF)’s takeover of NUFC and the frames they use. Her study is expected to contribute to a body of knowledge around the debates relating to news media portrayals in journalism and international takeovers of sports clubs.

This is from Nuha’s presentation…

In the next session we moved into virtual reality (not literally!) with Zhennou’s presentation where she explored the application of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies in museum curatorial methodologies and visitor interaction. Her research emphasized the fundamental principles of museum curation as delineated by Heidegger’s fourfold theory, in addition to the optimal VR museum design practices through the lens of post-phenomenology. Zhennou’s research is proving to be a valuable addition to understanding the modern role of museums and museum curation in our digitized world. She provides insights into the crafting of immersive and engaging user experiences within the virtual museum environment. The audience was fascinated by the real possibilities of wider access to museums and museum archives offered by virtual reality!

This is from Zhennou’s presentation

The students’ presentations were concluded by Pete Hanratty who presented on the development and form of corporate digital surveillance, and its effects on users and consumers.  His findings focused on the distinct nature of smart technologies and the role that they play in an ecological system of surveillance, building on the phenomenological perspectives of Martin Heidegger, Marshall McLuhan, Bruno Latour and James Gibson.  His work contributes to knowledge of the nature of smart technologies in an era of ubiquitous digital surveillance and raises important questions relating to media audiences, digital labour and media content. While we were absorbed by the possibilities smart cities and smart bodies might offer in the near future, we were also slightly anxious about the ubiquity and potentially negative effects of digital surveillance!

Pete concluded the student presentations

Dr Huw Jones wrapped up the day with his fascinating insight into the European film industry in his keynote lecture: ‘From Paris with Love: Europe’s Passion for French Cinema’. Huw’s research is unique in the area of films studies in that it focuses on quantitative approaches to the production, distribution, exhibition, and reception contexts of European films in addition to textual analyses, which is the usual attention of Film Studies research (even though, as his talk shows, increasingly less so). Huw gave us a fascinating picture of what this currently mushrooming new research area has to offer to Film Studies as well as providing  a fascinating insight into the numbers behind the films we love! We were all absorbed by the breadth of his research – the project not only looked at a variety of databases, datasets, exit polls, and focus groups for the  most successful French films in Europe, but did it for 10 European Union countries! We can only imagine the logistical endeavour behind the project!

Huw concluded events for us

The following week – 15 – 16 May – the students had the chance to present their talks at the Faculty Postgraduate Conference after the Symposium’s dress-rehearsal!

The Faculty Conference was rounded up for Media students by the presentation by Weiyi Li who presented on the relationship between digital media and the advertising industry, exploring how technological advancements have reshaped user experiences in brand marketing, entertainment, and product types. Comparing media environments in the West and China, she examined whether participants from different socio-cultural backgrounds attain varied experiential outcomes. Her work contributes to global theories of cross-cultural communication and interactive media experiences, providing researchers with new case analyses and theoretical frameworks to understand the interplay between interactive emotional experiences and emerging technologies in media communication. We did enjoy a highly interactive slide presentation!

Weiyi’s presentation was very interactive !

We ended up the day with a visit to Uplands Tavern – academics and the researchers of the future hand in hand! Here are the sights and sounds of the day…

Our thanks to our brilliant 3rd year Media and Communication’s student Victoria Farrow! We couldn’t have asked for a better person to shoot the footage and take photos of the day, as Victoria has just landed a job of social media and content creator assistant at the marketing, recruitment and international team at Swansea University.