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Though my research interests are diverse and interdisciplinary, they are linked by the fields of political communication and sociocultural theory. 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 sociocultural theory includes examinations of the pedagogical applications of digital communication technologies, critical pedagogy, mediated culture & identity, and collective memory. The corresponding theoretical framework draws primarily from mediatization theory and from sociocultural theories of learning and development.
My work usually 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. My most generalizable object of analysis is the sociocultural arrangement between mediated and natural dimensions of a process – particularly the differentiation between these two dimensions. I am especially interested in mediated cultural artifacts that take shape “just beyond” natural forms of sociocultural engagement, such as digital media texts.
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. This framework is useful 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, the proliferation of “Fake News”, and media representations of “mexican-ness” during 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Once I have completed the Spanish translation of my first book for its publication in Chile, I intend to develop my substantial body of unpublished work related to a comparative project that set out to compare specific cases of mediated political communication in Chile and Venezuela during moments of political transition and crisis. With the necessary institutional support, I intend to include secondary comparisons of Brazilian, Chinese, Mexican, Russian, and U.S. 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), Black Lives Matter (2013), and Trumpism, when this last phenomenon is understood as a broad cultural process that will endure beyond the current administration.
The theoretical center of my research is rooted in my experiences as a member of the UCSD Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition (LCHC), an incubator for interdisciplinary, cross-cultural research where sociocultural theories of human cognition were routinely tested at various sites hosted by community partners across San Diego County. Due in part to my background as a classroom teacher and my expertise in working with educational technologies, I was provided the opportunity to direct the UCSD Community Stations Initiative. This was a major collaborative program focused on teaching digital media production to high school students from Southeast San Diego, while simultaneously field-testing new communication systems developed at the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2, now known as the Qualcomm Institute). The primary objective of the UCSD Community Stations Initiative was to link our main campus to each of our community partners through a multimodal communication network that would enable interactions that focused on STEM education. The ultimate goal was to bring at least two distinct “community stations” online, while the third UCSD-based station would organize ongoing educational activities, taking advantage of the technology and facilities provided by Calit2. One of my forthcoming papers is titled “The UCSD Community Stations Initiative: Transitioning From The Imagined To The Implemented” and details my work directing this innovative project. I am also currently processing the vast amount of data I collected during the Community Stations Initiative, preparing it for publication in the near future.
This pedagogical thread continues into the present through my current teaching assignment at UCSD – an upper division 6-unit practicum course that is part of a program called La Clase Mágica (LCM). La Clase Mágica emerged out of LCHC to become a leading site of innovative cross-cultural research focusing on education, bilingualism, second language acquisition, and technology. My responsibilities in teaching the LCM practicum course include introducing UCSD undergraduates to the most pertinent features of sociocultural theory, while also training them to conduct cross-cultural research with children from ethnically and linguistically diverse San Diego communities. This LCM practicum course showcases two unique community partnerships; the first is with St. Leo’s Mission located in the working class community of La Colonia de Eden Gardens, where an after school program serves a population of bilingual elementary school age children who are primarily of Mexican heritage. The second LCM community partnership is with the San Pascual Band of Kumeyaay Indians, where my UCSD undergraduate students support a Kumeyaay-led program that promotes the recovery of the native Ipai language among elementary school age children that live on the Reservation. At both sites, UCSD undergraduate researchers interact with children while learning how to develop and conduct research that is both culturally sensitive and theoretically rigorous. The kind of “observant participant” context created by this unique type of action research and LCM’s tradition of detailed documentation in the form of written fieldnotes, provide me with a rich source of data for developing a cross-cultural research agenda focused on bilingualism, learning and development.