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Though my research interests are diverse and interdisciplinary, they are linked by the fields of political communication and cultural psychology. The portion of my research agenda that more closely aligns with political communication also intersects Latin American studies, Chicana/o studies, border studies, the history of international media systems, and the media production of social movements. My work that relates to cultural psychology includes examinations of political culture and identity, collective memory, critical pedagogy, and the sociocultural/ pedagogical applications of digital communication technologies. The corresponding theoretical framework that guides my research draws primarily from mediatization theory and from sociocultural theories of learning and development.
Deliberately, my research begins with a survey of natural forms of sociocultural engagement, to focus on lived, experiential, collective, and/or historical manifestations of the phenomenon in question. In order to establish a baseline comparison of the natural process to its representations, I continue with an examination of corresponding mediated forms of the same phenomenon. What entwines political communication and cultural psychology is the sociocultural arrangement between mediated and natural dimensions of a process – particularly the differentiation between these two dimensions – with mediated cultural artifacts taking shape “just beyond” natural forms of sociocultural engagement. This is the most generalizable object of analysis within my work.
This conceptual framework is especially germane to my ongoing research into the relationship between media and political change. The idea is to track why some aspects of “mediatized” political culture emerge as a primary field for political consciousness and action, while other aspects of political life remain “natural” as a knowable, viable and social course of action. I propose that the mediatization of politics is both a historical and theoretical phenomenon, marked by the contemporary differentiation of natural political life and mediated political culture. What I have discovered is essential for a more critical understanding of how current forms of digital media can alter identity formation, political engagement, collective memory, and cultural consumption. Ultimately, this line of investigation informs a research agenda that tracks and compares how increasingly pervasive communication technologies rearrange social and political power within the context of advanced neoliberal capitalism.
For instance, my first book Television, Democracy, and the Mediatization of Chilean Politics, draws from Chilean political and media history as well as mediatization and sociocultural theories to examine the role of mass media during the Chilean transition to democracy. In this book, I track how televised political advertising created during the military regime continues to influence Chilean political culture decades after the transition to civilian rule. Additionally, I have several chapter contributions and journal papers in review that directly relate to the print journalism of the Chicana/o Movement of the 1960s and 70s, “Fake News”, the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, and Trumpism, when this last phenomenon is understood as a broad cultural process that will endure beyond the current administration.
My theoretical framework draws heavily from cultural psychology, and it also informs my applied research of natural and mediated modes of engagement related to learning and development. At UCSD I continue to develop my research into bilingualism and biculturalism by exploring the use of digital communication technologies designed to support geographically distributed educational endeavors. Since 2015, I have been responsible for the research focused practicum courses that form part of “La Clase Mágica” (LCM) at UCSD. LCM helps prepare undergraduates from departments across UCSD for careers in primary education, public service and scholarly inquiry, by training them to conduct research with young people in ethnically and linguistically diverse communities throughout San Diego County, including the Kumeyaay San Pascual Reservation. Each quarter, LCM research projects focus on questions relating to bilingualism and biculturalism, and how these might inform the design and implementation of innovative pedagogical strategies to promote the social, cognitive, and academic skills of language minority youth. At the Kumeyaay San Pascual Reservation, my students conduct investigations that relate to Native American language recovery (Ipai), while other students work at a primarily Mexican working class barrio known as La Colonia de Eden Gardens, interacting with children while conducting research related to English as a Second Language (ESL) programs and technologically mediated learning.
Between 2011 and 2017 I was active within the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition (LCHC), an internationally respected lab for research on culture, language, and cognition. My involvement with LCHC began on the basis of my extensive background in teaching, ed-tech, and media production, and included a rich experience as project director for the UCSD Community Stations Initiative. This was an experimental collaboration between the Departments of Communication, UCSD Extension, Visual Arts, and the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2, now known as the Qualcomm Institute), focused on the deployment of new digital communication technologies designed to support educational partnerships with underserved communities across San Diego. I am currently processing the vast amount of data I collected during the Community Stations Initiative, preparing it for publication in the near future.
My interventions into political communication and cultural psychology are useful for investigating contemporary, hyper-mediated forms of sociocultural engagement, and I envision my future research becoming increasingly comparative as I expand my ongoing inquiry into the fluid relationship between the natural and mediated dimensions of culture. Once I have completed the Spanish translation of my book for its publication in Chile, I intend to return to a comparative project that I was compelled put aside in order to complete my dissertation. That investigation originally set out to compare specific cases of mediated political communication in Chile and Venezuela during moments of political transition and crisis, and I have a substantial body of unpublished work that merits elaboration. Assuming I secure the necessary institutional support, I intend to include secondary comparisons of Brazilian, Chinese, Mexican and Russian media systems as well. Finally, I am very interested in further developing my comparative research on the use of social media within the anti-H.R. 4437 protests (2006), the Arab Spring (2010), Occupy Wall Street (2011), #YoSoy132 (2012), and Black Lives Matter (2013).