Agora Speaker Series: Department of Communication, Graduate Student Pre-Conference Presentations

October 19, 2018 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

The Department of Communication would like to present parts of the research our graduate students are preparing to communicate publically to make an impact to develop, improve or compliment old or new methodologies.

Location and Address

208B Cathedral of Learning

Directions and Parking Information

Garage and street parking available

While attending this event you may be captured on film, video, photo, etc. that could be used for marketing or recruiting purposes on brochures, social media, digital presentation, news story, website or any other digital electronic device.

Schedule of Events

“Proud to be Autistic: Rejecting dominant metaphors of Autism and reclaiming Autism as identity”

Like many other autistic individuals, I struggle to find language to appropriately describe my experiences. Furthermore, within the Autistic community, debates over appropriate language use are frequent, including discussions on person-first language versus identity-first language, functioning language, and medical terminology. Through this research, I examine how rhetorical constructions of Autism gain power, focused on the role of metaphors in Autism discourse. I conduct a discourse analysis of the #StopCombatingMe movement on Twitter. Spearheaded by ASAN, a grassroots organization which seeks to challenge public dialogue on Autism, #StopCombatingMe sought to argue against the reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act. Namely, ASAN’s proponents claimed that the title of the act was offensive and that the act’s funding of research for a cause and cure of Autism was misguided. I collected tweets and blog posts associated with the campaign, with the purpose of exploring how Autistic individuals articulate their identities in response to hegemonic narratives of Autism.  Through my research, I found three metaphors that were rejected by discourse participants: AUTISM AS DISEASE, AUTISM AS WAR, and AUTISM AS ABSENCE. Furthermore, I found that metaphors functioned to redirect conversation, were interconnected through their entailments, and were influenced by the uncertain nature of Autism. 


Jessica Benham, MA
“Are These HITs Worth Turking for? The Paradoxical Reality of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Precarious Labor in the Sharing Economy”

As a part of the sharing economy Amazon Mechanical Turk relies on crowd-sourced labor to complete tasks including data deduplication, audio transcription, and image classification. This paper argues that despite promises made about "easy money in your free time" and economic autonomy, MTurk itself is the cause of much economic uncertainty, and feelings of financial precarity for its laborers due to ethically questionable labor policies and practices. This paper additionally argues that MTurk, like other crowdsourcing labor platforms creates a paradoxical phenomenon for laborers in which these workers look to crowdsourcing as a solution to financial precarity but instead find themselves feeling precarious once more due to low and continually decreasing labor value. In order to explore these issues, I employ a version of online ethnography as a means of understanding how MTurk workers make sense of their labor and the various difficulties it creates for them.


Ambrose Curtis
Blurred Borderlands: Sustainability and the Urban/Nature Divide at the Frick Environmental Center

Sustainable development is rhetorically framed as exhibiting natural processes, reflected both symbolically and materially. Taking the Frick Environmental Center of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a rhetorical artifact, I argue that spaces where sustainable human-made structures and human-cultivated landscapes meet, reflect blurred borderlands of a culturally constructed urban/culture divide. Considering the Frick Environmental Center as an experiential landscape, my mixed methodology of textual analysis and rhetorical field work identifies how naturalized framing of sustainability bridges the urban/nature divide, inviting restoration, preservation, and construction efforts that are more environmentally engaged.



Kaitlyn Haynal