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Where is my research taking me?

Current Research
My research program focuses on how individuals interact, form, and maintain relationships in a variety of contexts. One portion of my research focuses on the concept of parasocial relationships and how individuals form and maintain relationships with characters featured within different shows. My master’s thesis examines the interplay of parasocial relationships and interpersonal communication within an online fan community dedicated to the television drama Once Upon a Time in order to better understand how individuals form relational bonds with one another based on a parasocial relationship with a fictional character. Another portion of my research focuses on issues of race, racism, prejudice, and discrimination. I examine how individuals respond to acts of racism that occur around them. Specifically, I am interested in how individuals respond to refugees and how they view refugees in light of what is presented in American news media.

In my dissertation, "Victim or Terrorist?: A textual analysis of alternative news media surrounding the Syrian humanitarian crisis", I focus on six alternative news media platforms – three justice-oriented news sources (Huffpost, Democracy Now, and The Nation) and three traditional news sources (Red State, Newsmax, and Breitbart) – in order to better understand how framing of the news media differs based on the political leaning of the source. In this dissertation, I also consider how the news sources depict both Syrian refugees and the Syrian Humanitarian Crisis in their news coverage. Finally, this dissertation works to advance existing theory by considering how framing can change over time through the use of diachronic analysis, moving beyond the notion that framing is a static concept.

Based on a preliminary analysis of my data, I can conclude that there is, indeed, a difference in how news sources frame their stories based on the political leanings of the sources. Justice-Oriented sources tend to focus on refugees in a sympathetic light, whereas Traditional sources tend to view the refugee as a threat. This does not mean that one source is necessarily better than the other. Rather, each side is guilty of depicting refugees in such a way that their agency is eliminated, reducing refugees to either a threat to be eradicated or a helpless party to be rescued

Future Research

As I’ve worked on this dissertation, I’ve realized that research focusing on refugees and their stories is something I am passionate about. I want to be able to focus more on their lived experiences and how they respond to American news media. As such, I believe one of the future directions that I believe that my research is taking me in is conducting interviews with refugees in order to bring out their stories. I want to focus on how individuals’ stories compare to news media depictions, as well as gain insight into how these depictions impact refugee populations. I would also like to continue my parasocial relationship research, focusing on how binge watching behaviors influence the formation and maintenance of parasocial relationships.


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