By: Jennifer Velagic
A graduate student in the Communication and Culture Programme at York and Ryerson Universities in Toronto, Canada, Jennifer Velagic is working on “Reporting Gender Violence in the English Language Indian Press“. From January to March 2013, she was a Visiting Researcher with Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi to collect details and conduct interviews for her research project. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Since 2011, students of Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi have engaged in video conferences with those of Communication and Culture Programme of York and Ryerson Universities. In an effort to initiate a cross cultural dialogue, six Video Conferences were planned where students and faculty from both institutions came together to share and discuss their work. “Social Media and ICT Use in India” and “The 2011 Anti Corruption Campaign” were the topics of two such conferences held in 2011. In 2012, themes of video conferences ranged from “Social Activism and the Global Public Sphere” to “Reporting Gender Violence in the English Language Indian Press” to “Challenges and Prospects of New Media Activism”.
On the whole, the video conferences were a fruitful experiment in cross continental virtual education. All those who were present in the conference, consider the interaction of the students of Jamia and York & Ryerson, a positive experience. Indeed, as Dr. Laura Stein’s blog post discussed, students on both ends have expressed interest in continuing the program and devoting more time for discussion than individual presentations.
On a more personal note, opening up the lines of communication beyond the exchange of content, where students from each institution had the opportunity to interact and provide insights into my own work has proved invaluable. As a student of the Communication and Culture Programme at York & Ryerson working on a media monitoring project concerning “Gender Violence and the Press”, I immensely benefitted from the opportunity to interact with well informed, engaged students eager to share the cultural context and broader social setting. It enriched my understanding of India and thus my work. After presenting findings of a study of the 5 months coverage of rape incidents in the Indian Express, students and faculty weighed in on the direction the study had taken and offered insights into some additional factors for consideration.
Our discussion allowed both students and faculty to provide their thoughts on the form and focus of the study, discussing the possibility of moving beyond content analysis into discourse analysis. We also discussed the presence of patriarchy and caste in Indian culture and their possible influences on the way instances of rape are reported. Additionally, discussion went on to examine the role of newspapers themselves (i.e. are they watchdogs), considering both public opinion and journalists’ own perspective on their role. Finally, suggestions for future study were considered, one of which was the comparative study across vernacular newspapers.
While the video conferences indeed proved to be worthwhile experiences, the relative novelty of the format has highlighted areas which could be improved upon. One such area would be to try and foster a greater group discussion using moderators beyond individual presenters. For instance, after each presentation, students on either end eagerly asked the presenters questions regarding their work. Such a format, however, often found the presenters responding directly to individuals’ questions before moving on, leaving little opportunity for group discussions. Having a moderator to help coordinate the discussion, extending comments and observations beyond the presenters own response could provide valuable insights and prove an exciting experience.
Technologically speaking, data heavy slides were difficult to read in addition to some problems with audio equipment. In a bid to avoid such difficulties, presentations could be shared in advance so that each institution would be able to use their own projection equipments to control the size and clarity of the slides and provide a rough script should the audio cut out.
Overall, the video conferences between CCMG and York & Ryerson Universities proved valuable as they introduced students from different countries to each other, giving a face to collaborative education.