MEA @ ECA 2020

UPDATE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ECA 2020 has been canceled. See the ECA’s update for more details.

ECA 2020

Below is a list of media ecology-related panels at this year’s ECA convention. For more information about the convention, see

Thursday, 4/2

Top Papers in Media Ecology

When: 1:00 PM–2:30 PM
Where: President - First Floor

Chair: Jeffrey S. Bogaczyk, Duquesne University
Respondent: Thom Gencarelli, Manhattan College


  • Gregory Scott McCown, Duquesne University - “Are We Outsourcing Human Freewill?: The Rhetoric of Big Data and Algorithms”

This paper seeks illuminate an important, yet previously unpondered question surrounding the effects of social media technologies and their collection of nearly infinite bytes of data on individuals at an atomistic level. After considerable reduction to lowest terms, the purpose of this paper is simply to pose the following question. Have we as humanity made the conscious decision to outsource our “Free-will” to external devices? If so, does this action undermine the very elemental essences that make us human? This work examines the effects of social media on the human condition from a myriad of perspectives and what consequences mankind may face in a temporal moment where human freewill is lost to a technological oligarchy. In conclusion, this paper offers suggestions for navigating the future landscape of social media and data collection that might promote a positive communicative ethic.

  • Ryan P. McCullough, West Liberty University - “Cyberspace as a Public Good: A McLuhan Probe of the Digital Divide”

This paper employs Marshall McLuhan’s tool of “the probe” to explore the phenomenological and rhetorical dimensions of the digital divide as articulated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The digital divide presumes that the Internet and cyberspace exist separately from the information communication technologies (ICTs) that are necessary to access them. However, a McLuhan-esque probe of the digital divide reveals that cyberspace and the internet cannot be divided from ICTs. In the vein of McLuhan’s famous aphorism, “the medium is the message,” this paper suggests that cyberspace is fundamentally part of ICTs. Consequently, cyberspace is publicly framed by the digital divide as a public good which cannot exclude individuals from participating in it. However, this probe reveals that participation is always dependent on technology to which individuals will always have unequal access. This paper also draws connections to McLuhan’s probe and the phenomenological tradition of philosophy by elucidating his rejection of the Cartesian split and methodological presumptions. Keywords: Marshall McLuhan, cyberspace, digital divide, phenomenology, rhetoric

  • Joel Scott Ward, Geneva College - “The Faith and Hope in Proximate Hearing”

Faith and hope as characteristics of human experience are as inspiring as they are rare. Organizations and individuals search for reasons to feel hopeful about their social circumstances and the fate of their communities. Simultaneously, we observe a marked rise in signs of social despair. If we accept Postman’s argument in “Technopoloy” that the new media environment is ecological, what in the fauna of our communication technologies might be stymieing our attempts to find faith and hope? This essay proposes that proximate hearing possesses the very seeds of such faith and hope. Instead of simply cataloging this new ecology, we must look at how specific aspects of it must be resisted. Not simple techno-phobia, but resistance for the real sake of sustaining faith and hope in our communities and culture. In other words, how can we treat new media as an invasive species rather than accents and adaptations of the human communication complex.

  • Kirk M. Winans, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - “‘Disruptive’ Innovation and the Constitutive Rhetoric of Technology”

This essay proposes a Constitutive Rhetoric of Technology model that accounts for both how technologies are constituted through rhetoric and, how they are ‘rhetorically’ constitutive of a people and society. This model is adapted from Maurice Charland’s conceptualization of constitutive rhetoric and the insights of science and technology studies (STS), information studies, and communication studies that social and economic changes occur alongside technological ones. 3D printing, its associated political imaginaries, and 3D printed guns are discussed. The model is used to understand the myths that typically surround new technologies and how those technologies come to shape society.

Friday, 4/3

Media Ecology Business Meeting

When: 1:00 PM–2:15 PM
Where: Executive Boardroom - Third Floor

Neil Postman: Innovator, Iconoclast, Influencer, Intellectual

When: 2:30 PM–3:45 PM
Where: Pratt - Third Floor

Chair: Jeffrey S. Bogaczyk, Duquesne University


  • Lance Strate, Fordham University
  • Thom Gencarelli, Manhattan College
  • Michael Plugh, Manhattan College
  • Ryan P. McCullough, West Liberty University
  • Cheryl A. Casey, Champlain College

This panel examines the legacy of Neil Postman in the larger arena of Communication Studies as well as his impact on the foundation of Media Ecology as a field of inquiry. In light of this year’s theme, “Harboring Innovation,” the panel discusses Postman’s role as an innovator in his field. Additionally, the panel examines Postman’s legacy within Media Ecology and how his scholarship and influence have contributed to greater innovation in Media Ecology research.

Saturday, 4/4

1. Reclaiming the Human through Reflection on Civility and Empathy: Theoretical Considerations from Media Ecology

When: 1:45 PM–3:00 PM Where: Calvert - Third Floor


  • Basak Guven, Duquesne University
  • Ronald C. Arnett, Duquesne University
  • Janie Harden Fritz, Duquesne University


  • Kati Elizabeth Sudnick, Duquesne University

A key theoretical concern about our digital media environment is the effect of the use of social communication technologies on our understandings of the human person. In particular, the potential for overlooking the human person with whom one interacts due to compromised civility and empathy-decreased attentiveness to and sense of connection with other human beings. For instance, Lane (2017) describes increased patterns of incivility due to lack of norms, changing expectations for public discourse and civility, and rapidly changing practices of civility and media use. Depersonalization is one effect of instrumentality in media use, including decreased expectations for other human beings and increased expectations for what technology can provide us (Turkle, 2011). These contemporary authors open up the work of media ecology theorist Marshall McLuhan, whose work foretold implications of our saturated media environment for our engagement of others as human persons and ourselves as responsible and ethical embedded agents. A course in communicating empathy and civility in a digital age focuses on these issues, encouraging thoughtful reflection on what it means to be human and to respond to the human in our digital historical moment.

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