Jennifer and Eric Spiegel Book Award Winners

The Department of Communication is proud to host the annual competition for the Jennifer and Eric Spiegel Book Award. The purpose of the award is to encourage and foster scholarship in the department. In addition to the prestige that comes with the award, the winner will also receive a stipend, processed through Student Accounts. Featured here are some of the most recent winners.

2020-2021 Kerry Lyons

"Censorship on Social Media"

In the aftermath of the 2020 Presidential Election, the role of social media in American politics was center stage, as disinformation and allegations of censorship ran rampant. Social media was now seen in the eyes of some as a tool of “Big Tech” to clamp down on political dissenters. In this essay, Kerry Lyons critiques (and criticizes) these arguments made by conservative figures, and how the very environments that they claim have shut them down have helped them grow. In addition, he examines the role of social media companies in our public discourse through the lens of past court rulings and the Communications Decency Act of 1996. He also uses Jay Blumler’s Model of Political Communication to explain the evolution of media from shortly after the Second World War onward, and the advancement of Information and Communication Technologies, or “ICTs,” as explained by Aeron Davis.

2019-2020 Taylor Robinson

"New Technological Warfare: The Power of the Public"

The growth of new technologies via companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple has revolutionized individual level communication and has expanded global connectedness. This increased and instant access to information around the world has created new ways to receive and share ideas. Most in favor of society’s attachment to technology would argue that greater connectedness brings people together in a harmonious way to discuss and solve the world’s problems. In this essay, Taylor Robinson comments on the dangers of large audiences online that have the power to control discourse, reinforce their own views, and dismiss contradictory or offensive views in a mob mentality known as cancel culture. She argues that mass audiences on social media, with an analysis of Twitter as a social platform, pose a threat to principles of fair debate proposed by argumentation philosophers, Douglas Ehninger and Wayne Brockriede. Taylor discusses the ramifications of group mentality on argument using theories by Marshall McLuhan and Cass Sunstein. She also employs Safiya Noble’s interpretation of online information to ask whether people can truly grow and change in real life when online spaces use accessible information to permanently define who we are.    

2018-2019 B. Nicky Aweidah

This is Our Lane: An Analysis of a Physicians’ Influence on Gun Legislation

In the wake of recent tragedies in Pittsburgh, Pa. and Thousand Oaks, Calif., the National Rifle Association and physicians around the country are taking to Twitter to express their frustrations. The NRA published an article written in November 2018 criticizing potential gun reforms suggested by physicians active in the American Medical Association. Throughout this article, representatives from the NRA claim that physicians should have no part in advocating for gun reform, since they are not specifically educated in these matters. Publication and sharing of this article on social media platforms, such as Twitter, has caused backlash among many physicians, thus creating the hashtag “ThisIsMyLane,” to be used in accompaniment with real stories from physicians who have witnessed the repercussions of gun violence first-hand. In her paper, Nicky analyzes ramifications of this outbreak through the use of rhetorical tools, such as fact/source checking, the Toulmin model, and the Shannon/Weaver model of communication to understand what a physician’s ‘lane” should be in fields such as gun reform advocacy.

2017-2018 Thomas Wick

"The Persuasive Procedural Rhetoric of Spec Ops: the Line"

Thomas's Essay explores the use of procedural rhetoric in the 2012 First Person Shooter Spec Ops: the Line. Set in the desert of Dubai, the narrative of the video game follows a squad of American soldiers tasked with investigating the city. They discover the city has been placed under martial law and the soldiers have to restore order to the city. Taking narrative influences from Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, Spec Ops: the Line uses Ian Bogots concept of procedural rhetoric to persuade the player about the true terror about war and how often times soldiers are forced to commit heinous acts to achieve victory. Thomas's analysis incorporates various scenarios from the game, comparisons to other video games, as well as the tedious gameplay of Spec Ops: the Line to demonstrate the effectiveness of the games rhetoric, even more so then books, photographs, and films. 

2016-2017 Alexandra Misitano

"An Analysis of the Visual Rhetoric Exemplified in the Image “Raising the Flag at Ground Zero”"

In her paper, Alexandra takes a deeper look at the way a photograph can transcend into an iconic piece of rhetoric. She does this through analyzing one specific photo and identifying the elements that contribute to its success. The photo she chose was taken on September 11th, 2001, and depicts three firefighters raising the United States flag, surrounded by the dust and debris that encompassed ground zero. Her analysis develops through each element as she discusses the historical connection of the day that the photo was taken, the symbolism of the flag, the pathos and emotional effect the image has on its audience, the ethos portrayed by the firefighters, and finally the immediacy factor of the photograph. These factors combine to give the artifact strong visual rhetoric that appeals to its audience, not only in the United States, but also all over the world. 

2015-2016 Madeline Denison Budny

“Did I Fall Asleep?” Interpellation and Radical Subjectivity in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse

Madeline's essay looks at Joss Whedon's 2009-10 television show Dollhouse, which tells the story of experiments done by a fictional corporation on memory and the human brain. In the show, wealthy individuals commission the Dollhouse, a subset of this corporation, to upload constructed personalities into the minds of volunteers whose own personalities have been removed and stored for a five-year period. Throughout the series’ two seasons, Dollhouse draws direct comparisons between the construction of personalities and the influence of market capitalism on identity. Using Louis Althusser’s theory of interpellation, Madeline's essay demonstrates that Dollhouse critiques this influence by juxtaposing it with literal brainwashing and by affirming a process of radical subject formation, wherein identity is created external to the interpellative processes of consumption and media.

2014-2015 Alexandra Corral Edmonds

“Spain’s 15-M Protestors: Recovering the Greek Agora in a Liminal Space.”

In her paper, Edmonds explores the utilization of Web 2.0 communication technologies by Spanish protest group 15-M in its 2011 encampments in Spain. 15-M’s protest tactics combined modern-day technology with a nuanced understanding of ancient Greek argumentation practices. Further exploring this interrelation, Edmonds examines how 15-M made use of live streaming to “bridge” physical and virtual landscapes, resulting in the creation of a liminal space for communication, wherein protestors deliberated and engaged in consensus-making in a space that was neither entirely physical nor virtual. This liminal space served to democratize access to 15-M’s Greek-inspired agoras, through allowing the attendance and active participation of protestors, regardless of their geographic location. As such, 15-M’s novel use of techniques, old and new, sets the stage for a new genre of interaction to occur among protestors, as similar organized protests continue to emerge worldwide.