Upending the old media order

Photo of Harlen Makemson, Professor, School of Communications

Nearly 20 years ago, writer Dan Gillmor coined the term “former audience” to describe the bloggers and citizen journalists who were shaping public discourse and upending the old media order. In the era of social media, the phenomenon of users creating meaning has only mushroomed, as the spring 2022 edition of the Elon Journal demonstrates.

For example, Olivia Archer’s study examines how Instagram facilitates parasocial relationships between fans and professional athletes, with sometimes distressing outcomes. Similarly, Madeline Distenfeld’s article probes how TikTok users shape debates around fast fashion and sustainable fashion. In a slightly different manner, Jeremy Palladino uses focus-group methodology to explore how audiences perceive portrayals of the communication disorder aphasia in film and television.

Legacy media’s portrayals of constituent groups in society is also of concern in this issue. Matisse Gilmore’s article uses quantitative methodology to explore the appearance of marginalized identities in television sitcoms, Emily Holland discovers the ways in which women’s appearances in Super Bowl commercials have changed in recent years, and Michaela VanDerVelden examines whether news reports of black and white mass shooters changed after the 2020 emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The articles in this edition are a testament to the strength of undergraduate research produced in the School of Communications. Please enjoy the fine work by these students.

Harlen Makemson
Editor, Elon Journal