The Official Newsletter for the Media Ecology Association


February 2023

In Honor of Black History Month . . . 

This months issue of the newsletter seeks to recover conversations that connect media ecology to struggles for civil rights, Black liberation, and broader understandings of media and mediation. We encourage members to review the list of works demonstrating overlap between media ecology and Black studies, as well as the brief timeline of Black innovators in technology that warrant further study from our field. We encourage members of the MEA to engage these outside works and discuss their connections with more  foundational works in media ecology by subscribing to our email discussion list here (

This issue of In Media Res also features contributions from MEA members, reminders about upcoming deadlines, and funding opportunities for student travel and grant funding. We conclude with an invitation from the newsletter editor, Austin Hestdalen, encouraging members to reach out and become reviewers for MEA @ NCA and the Explorations in Media Ecology Journal. 

In this issue . . . 

  • Honoring Black Media Ecologies: Readings & Contributions
  • Media Ecology In the News: "Extensions of the Other and chatGPT, or the End of Media Egology" by Matt Lindia
  • Cornering Media Ecology: "Critical Media Ecology: What and Why?" by Dr. Bernadette 'bird' Bowen
  • Funding Opportunities: Student Travel Grant
  • MEA @ NCA Submission Deadline
  • Invitation for Future Contributions

Honoring Black Media Ecologies

In honor of Black history month, please take a moment to review the list of contributions from Black scholars in media theory and works that highlight how media ecology overlaps with studies of Black history, culture, philosophy, and liberation. These texts provide significant consideration of Black media ecologies often taken for granted in more foundational texts in our field and offer alternative insights for extending media ecology in a variety of ways.   

On Black Media Philosophy (University of California Press, 2022) - Armond Towns

The Address Book (MacMIllan, 2020) - Deirdre Mask

Re-Understanding Media (Duke University Press, 2022) - Sarah Sharma & Rianka Singh

Segregation by Design (Cambridge University Press, 2018) - Jessica Trounstine

Black Software (Oxford University Press, 2019) - Charlton Mcllwain

Algorithms of Oppression (NYU Press, 2018) - Safiya Umoja Noble

Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (Polity Press, 2019) - Ruha Benjamin

Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life (Duke University Press, 2019) - Ruha Benjamin

Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures (Critical Cultural Communication) (NYU Press, 2020) - André Brock Jr.

Beyond Hashtags: Racial Politics and Black Digital Networks (NYU Press, 2019) - Sarah Florini

“Critical technocultural discourse analysis” (New Media & Society, 2016) - André Brock Jr.

“#LaughingWhileBlack: Gender and the Comedy of Social Media Blackness” (Feminist Media Histories, 2017) - Brandy Monk-Payton

Black History Makers in Technology

Check out this brief outline of Black innovators in technology. Unfortunately, this list is not comprehensive, but we can always continue adding to it!):

1872: Elijah McCoy – invented and patented an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives and ships. Rumor has it that his name is where the term “The Real McCoy” comes from, supposedly because railroad engineers wanted to make sure they got his superior oil-drip cup invention and not a fake.

1885: Granville Woods – invented a device that allowed train stations to communicate with moving trains.

1959: Otis Boykin – patented a type of resister still used in radios, television, and computers.

1962: James Edward West – developed the foil-electret microphone that is now used in almost all current microphones, including cell phones.

1966: Marie Van Brittan Brown – inventor of the home security system and first closed-circuit TV.

Late 1960s: Roy L. Clay – dubbed the “godfather of black Silicon Valley,” he helped launch Hewlett-Packard’s computer division.

1972: George Carruthers – principle inventor of the Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph used during Apollo 16’s lunar landing.

1973: Shirley Ann Jackson – first African American woman to earn doctorate from MIT in any field. She later worked as a theoretical physicist at Bell Laboratories and chaired the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

1976: Jerry Lawson – led the development of the Fairchild Channel F Console, which used swappable game cartridges rather than ROM storage.

1980: Valerie Thomas – patented a 3-D Illusion Transmitter that’s now used by NASA. Doctors also use it for medical imaging, and it’s used in 3-D television.

1988: Jesse Russell – led the first team from Bell Laboratories to introduce digital cellular technology in the United States. He also patented dozens of innovations in wireless technology, including base station tech that transmits radio wave signals to and from mobile devices.

2006: Janet Emerson Bashen – became the first Black woman to obtain a software patent.

Source: Connected Nation

Media Ecology in the News

Extensions of the Other & chatGPT, or the End of Media Egology

Matthew Lindia, Duquesne University

If it was unclear before Kevin Roose’s unsettling conversation with Bing’s chatGPT-powered chat function, it’s now unavoidable: neural network chatbots evade all prior technological classifications. The first question of the laws of media seems almost incomprehensible. What does this technology enhance? It certainly seems a stretch to argue that it extends Roose. Sure, he leads the chatbot on, prompts it to consider its own existence, but he still remains utterly passive as a respondent to its unexpected claims. Can we really still say that the user is the content? That the chatbot extends the user in any meaningful way? On the other hand, if we simply say that chatbots extend the coder, then we simply explain away what might be new in this phenomenon. The supposedly improvisational chatbot has now become only a deferred form of authorship; a representation, not of the bot, but of the coder.

McLuhan’s work is deeply ego-centric; his media ecology is a media egology. This means that his work was guided by two assumptions. First, an extension of the human person means an extension of the human self, and second, human extensions are analogous from person to person because human experience and existence is analogous from person to person. ChatGPT is overheating this paradigm and reversing it into its opposite. ChatGPT does not extend my mind or my body (whether I am the coder, the user, or the author of some source text that the neural network was trained on), but it extends and thereby alters the possibilities by which I encounter difference that populates my world. In other words, we can conceptualize egological interaction with chatGPT in at least three relations: through the user, the coder, or the author of the source texts. But communication with this chatbot is interesting precisely because its language escapes the intentions and awareness of these human interactants; I communicate with neither the coder nor the authors of the source material, but a linguistic utterance that extends the coder and the source material by discontinuity, rather than by continuity. Communication AI does not extend human existence by enhancing human expressibility, but by its difference from its human sources. ChatGPT is not a human extension, but an extension conditioned on being different from what humans have expressed.

This means that chatGPT is chatGPT because it is not an extension of its coder, its user, or its source material even though these comprise the form and the content of chatGPT’s responses to me. Perhaps one way to understand chatGPT from a media ecological perspective would be to alter how we understand extensions. ChatGPT is not the enhancement of any particular human or human capability, but instead extends what it means to be Other.

About the Author: Matthew Lindia is a Doctoral student and graduate instructor at Duquesne University. Matt's paper "Colon. Hyphen. Closed Parenthesis. Formal Causes of Figure and Ground in Punctuation" received the Linda Elson Scholar Award for Top Student Paper at the 2018 Convention of the Media Ecology Association. Those interested in continuing the conversation may contact Matt via email (

Cornering Media Ecology

Critical Media Ecology: What and Why?

Dr. Bernadette 'bird' Bowen, Miami University

Since 2019, some colleagues and I have "added a little spice" to media ecology, spearheading what has thus far been referred to as the wave of “gender and media ecology”. Most recently, I've argued that this term is too limited, and that "critical media ecology" is more appropriate. As such, in efforts to advance the field, we began coupling feminist concepts with the more traditional approach. I cannot speak for everyone, but -- for me -- the goal of doing so is to recontextualize the range of traditional approaches with vastly rich insights of gender (and now disability, race, biological sex, orientation, ethnicity, class, etc.) studies, that -- when only zoomed in upon the canon -- is absent.

To exemplify how, the main contribution in my dissertation was the argument that since U.S. origin there has been a colonially-founded capitalist-funded mechanization of humans (as media), that is now flipping and reversing into a humanization of objects. Specifically, among the host of histographic materials I highlighted to argue this, I extended Miroshnichenko’s (2014) concepts of humans as media, Dowd’s (2016) suggestion of critical media ecology, and Sharma’s (2019) landmark claim that systems of power are machinelike, and thus, mediums, using a critical feminist sensibility. 

My critical media ecological framework contributes a substantiated reminder that, broadly (thanks to outdated mind-body dualism, colonialism, and all preceding models of U.S. capitalism[s]), logic has been misconstrued with mainly able-bodied White cishet men, as embodied knowledge has been misattributed as quintessentially feminine. This is why I suggest we need critical media ecology. And, ultimately, my argument is that pre-McLuhan era critical feminist scholars (and more!) were the first media ecologists. Why? 

As a result of interdisciplinary critical researcher’s labor, historically retrieving assemblages of “founding folks’” legacies, it is clear that most anyone else has been excluded from generating institutionally respected knowledge. This stunts ideas of what WAS history, IS the present, mediating our future actions. From my Dr. bird's eye view, this remains evidenced by  citational practices business as usual in the field of media ecology, and the U.S. envirusment (environment + virus = envirusment) overall.

About the Author: Dr. Bernadette 'bird' Bowen (she/they/Dr.) is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication at Miami University. since 2019, they and a handful of colleagues have helped spearhead a critical feminist wave of media ecology that incorporates cultural studies into traditional discussions of media ecological approaches in theory and practice. Those interested in continuing the conversation may contact bird via email (

MEA Student Travel Grant for 2023 Convention

The Media Ecology Association has set aside funding available for assisting students with convention attendance. If you are a student in need of travel assistance, please follow this link to apply.

All students who have submitted papers and panels to the convention are eligible. Be sure to apply for assistance as soon as possible! 

Grant Opportunities from the Urban Communication Foundation

Since their launch in 2005, the Urban Communication Foundation has provided awards and grants to dozens of distinguished scholars, researchers, and journalists to recognize and support provocative work that contributes in significant ways to the discourse around urban communication issues.

While most of our recipients hail from academia and journalism, we also encourage submissions from other practitioners whose work will lend new insights into the discipline, raise broader awareness of related socio-political, economic, and cultural concerns, or influence public policy. 

Current Grants include:

  • UCF Mini-Grants
  • James Carey Grant Urban Communication Grant
  • Michael Brill Grant in Urban Communication and Urban Design
  • Applied Urban Communication Grant
  • UCF/IAMCR Urban Communication Research Grant
  • Gene Burd Grant for Research in Urban Journalism Studies
  • Media Ecology/UCF Student Research Grant

While most of our recipients hail from academia and journalism, we also encourage submissions from other practitioners whose work will lend new insights into the discipline, raise broader awareness of related socio-political, economic, and cultural concerns, or influence public policy, including:

  • architects
  • urban planners
  • environmental psychologists
  • geographers
  • political and other social scientists
  • philosophers and ethicists
  • artists

In addition, the Feb. 1st deadline for the MEA/UCF Student Research Grant is Rapidly Approaching. The MEA/UCF Student Research Grant offers support in the amount of $2500 and a scholarly publication in Explorations in Media Ecology, the MEA Academic Journal. 

Proposals should be grounded in a theoretical or philosophical approach associated with the field of media ecology and should address topics of media ecological concern regarding the study of cities and urban environments as they relate to human communication, social interaction, technological mediation, and cultural change and continuity. Proposals concerned with identity and affiliation in relation to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and other differences that make a difference are encouraged.

Proposals will be evaluated via anonymous review, and in addition to the stipend, the author(s) will receive complimentary membership in the Media Ecology Association (including subscription to Explorations in Media Ecology) for the year of the award and registration at our annual convention. A program session at the annual convention will be devoted to the research study, and when completed, the study will be published in Explorations in Media Ecology (which would not preclude publication elsewhere). The competition will be open to graduate students registered for degree programs and who have been Media Ecology Association members for at least one year.

To learn more about the Foundationʼs grants and awards, as well as our current and past recipients and their work, click on the links below or contact us at

Are you interested in media ecology and have some questions about it? Are you working on a study related to media ecology and searching for advice? Are you an instructor looking for a media ecology expert to invite as a virtual guest speaker to one of your classes?

Get in touch with us! We are happy to schedule a “virtual coffee” appointment with you. Simply fill out the form below to set up a short call or virtual meeting with a scholar from the MEA.

The format is open to all. We especially encourage students and early-career scholars interested in media ecology to get in touch with us.

Do you have a background in media ecology and would like to volunteer for virtual coffee meetings with those looking to learn more about it? Send an email to Julia M. Hildebrand.

Arrange a Virtual Coffee appointment on our website. 

Book Reviewers Wanted!

Have you read a good book with connections to Media Ecology?  Please consider submitting a review for publication in Explorations in Media Ecology.  Are you reading a new book for use in an upcoming class?  Please consider submitting a review and helping out other scholars looking for new texts.  Do you just like writing book reviews? Consider writing one for EME!!  :)  Contact for more information and to get a format template.  Reviews should be between 1000 and 2000 words.

Back Issues of EME

Pedagogy Sections Include Online Teaching

Access all back issues of Explorations in Media Ecology in the Members Area on the MEA website. These back issues include pedagogy sections that contain information about teaching, including teaching online.

MEA @ NCA 2023

NCA 109th Annual Convention
Convention Theme: "Freedom”
November 17-20, 2022
National Harbor, Maryland


The Media Ecology Association welcomes submissions for the 2023 National Communication Association convention, centered on the theme of "Freedom." Media Ecology is concerned with the idea of freedom in any number of significant ways. Discussions of technological determinism in the work of Jacques Ellul and Marshall McLuhan emphasize how new technologies condition and constrain freedoms of thought, word, and deed. The work of Neil Postman emphasizes the connection between freedom of discourse and political action. More recent works by scholars such as Armond Towns and Sarah Sharma reconsider how media have both restricted and facilitated the freedom of different bodies. While Douglas Rushkoff's work has offered contributions related to econmic freedom and precarity. Such considerations remind media ecologists of the importance of free speech as a foundation for understanding the importance of media in society and the ethical implications they have for communication.

This call invites you to explore these concerns, emphasizing the historical and intellectual roots of our field, and their relevance to the theme of "Freedom." As such, papers and panels that deal with topics related to the theme are encouraged (though not required). Likewise, proposals that link traditionally distinct thinkers or disciplines to media ecology, extend established ideas or concepts, or otherwise advance existing approaches to the field, are also welcomed. Submissions from scholars of diverse intellectual backgrounds and traditionally underrepresented groups are highly encouraged to apply.

MEA Membership Renewal Reminder

It is not too late to renew your membership by paying your dues.  Please log into the website at, and then log in using your email ID and password and follow the directions. You may pay online via PayPal or pay by check made payable to the Media Ecology Association and mailed to our treasurer, Paul Soukup, S.J., at the Communication Department; Santa Clara University; 500 El Camino Real; Santa Clara, CA  95053 USA. For those outside the U.S., you may also pay by Western Union money order sent to  If you wish to change your membership, please drop Paul Soukup a note. 

*Please note: The Media Ecology Association Executive Board decided that the newsletter will be available online to all interested readers. However, only members can be featured in the newsletter itself. If you are a MEA member, please fill out this form (include a call to submit material+ link). 

Message from the Editor: A Year in Rear-View

Austin Hestdalen, Duquesne University

I invite members to submit content in any of the below areas of interest listed for publication in our monthly newsletter. 

  • Media Ecology - Booknotes: A segment originally appearing in the first few issues of In Media ResBooknotes offers membership the opportunity to contribute short reviews of books that are either directly or tangentially related to the study of media ecology and offer the potential for reconsidering important aspects of media ecological study.
  • Media Ecology - Scholarship In Brief: The scholarship in brief segment appeared in the earliest issues of the newsletter and offered frameworks for revisiting what might be described as the foundational texts of media ecology. This segment offers membership the opportunity to discuss both old and new interpretations of 'canonical' works in media ecology. 
  • Media Ecology at Work: An older segment in which members have the chance to parse the professional and practical implications of media ecology in their daily lives. Contributions take an almost essayistic format in which membership contemplate how media ecology might inform everyday activities of work, play, and anything in between. 
  • Media Ecology and the Arts: This segment focuses on ever-emerging considerations of media in music, and the visual, literary, performance, and plastic arts. Contributions contemplate media and the artistic counter-environments that allow us to negotiate media constraints.
  • Cornering Media Ecology: A new segment that invites media ecologists to offer critical understandings of media and the competing ecologies they generate in human communication. Contributions can include anything from critical reinterpretations of media ecological texts to those that parse the implications of the media ecological approach in a variety of contexts. 
  • General Letters to the Editor: This segment invites membership to share thoughts both on the newsletter and the MEA as whole and is open to any form discussion and critique. Contributions are encouraged to offer insights into how the newsletter and association might extend the study of media ecology in ways that reflect the interests of the membership. 

Contributions to any of the above segments should be submitted to the newsletter editor, Austin Hestdalen (

Please be sure to include the name of segment for which you are submitting in the subject line.

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