by Dr. Vanessa E. Greenwood | Founder and Director of the COMM+MEDIA Research Collaboratory | Professor of Communication and Media Studies | Montclair State University | New Jersey | USA.
The COMM+MEDIA Research Collaboratory is officially shuttered as of September 1, 2022.
Admittedly I had high hopes in 2016 when I created the C+MRC. Montclair State University had just earned the Carnegie classification of Doctoral University – High Research Activity (the R2 designation). The School of Communication and Media had recently been established—integrating programs in communication studies, film, television, journalism, among others. Former university president Susan Cole insisted SCM be a school “without silos.” Dr. Cole also insisted SCM be run by an appointed director from industry instead of an elected chairperson from the faculty. This might help to explain in part how SCM earned the moniker Hollywood East.
Granted, the corporatization of higher education is nothing new. And public universities are certainly not immune to the rhetoric of innovation. This SCM experiment (sans silos) coincided with an investment of tens of millions of dollars in new equipment and facilities. Compared to the more traditional academic programs at Montclair State University, Hollywood East was a boon to student enrollment. New programs soon followed, including sports communication, strategic communication, and advertising. Disciplinary boundaries were blurred. Not a silo to be seen in Hollywood East.
But here’s the thing: This is a School of Communication and Media, not a School of Communications Media. There is no “s” in Communication. This difference is subtle yet significant: Communication refers to what every human does on a daily basis, irrespective of (but certainly influenced by) the media environment in which that communication occurs. The study of communication is mindful of humans as well as their associations with communications technology. Whereas, communications is concerned primarily with the distribution of messages. It is the technological act of mass communication. One letter makes all the difference in what (or who) is studied and what is learned.
This is not to take away from my colleagues who work tirelessly and congenially within media production—what Carnegie acknowledges as the scholarship of application. The SCM faculty, specialists, and professional staff are exceptionally good at what they produce. Award-winning, actually. My own research speciality (media literacy) also relies on the interdependence of media theory and media production. One is not more important that the other. Just as courses in media theory and research methods are foundational, media production internships and apprenticeships are also an essential capstone to undergraduate education in communication and media studies. Again, both are essential.
So I take issue with the bulk of MSU and SCM funding, facilities, and public acknowledgement directed exclusively to the pre-professional programs in communications with disregard for programs and research in communication and media studies. With resources devoted exclusively to media production and pre-professional experiences for students, there is literally no room for communication research: The existing (non-studio) facilities earmarked in 2016 for focus group research, survey research, and a teaching laboratory are instead reserved for graduate assistant offices, regular classroom spaces, and equipment storage. Communication and media studies faculty are assigned to teach in classroom spaces in buildings elsewhere on campus. SCM has provided zero support (e.g., funding, facilities, promotion) for the C+MRC since its creation 6 years ago. I addressed these disparities and potential solutions in the 2018-2019 C+MRC Annual Report. And yet, here we are.
My academic lamentation here may not nearly be as effective as industry peer pressure. In that case, I will cite Hollywood West as case in point: A few weeks ago the Television Academy announced the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (the leading organization on gender equality) as the 2022 Governors Award recipient to recognize their efforts to foster inclusion throughout the entertainment industry. How was inclusion fostered? Through collaborative research. Unfortunately, the Geena Davis Institute is the only research-based organization working collaboratively within the entertainment industry. More research collaborations are desparately needed, as communication and media research changes the media industry for the better. And if that example isn’t sufficient, take Forbes claim that investing in research in higher education is simply good business. Lest I linger too long in the corporate metaphor, let me simply say that support for collaborative research is exactly what I expect from a Hispanic serving, research intensive, public service institution that is Montclair State University. And yet, here we are.
I extend heartfelt gratitude to past and present colleagues, student interns, and external partners all of which volunteered their precious time without compensation to participate in this research collaboratory experiment. Just as there is no “s” in communication, there is no “I” in team. I have enjoyed learning about and from you all over the past six years. As we already know, communication research does not lead to conclusions as much as it leads to more meaningful and interesting questions. May we continue asking those questions individually, collectively, and collaboratively.
The COMM+MEDIA Research Collaboratory is shuttered indefinitely but the web domain will remain until further notice. The site is closed for comments and no new content will be posted.