Pomona College students, across the disciplines, are encouraged to undertake research projects with professors, independently, as senior projects, and in the summer. Below are recent summer research projects completed by students in media studies.


A Documentary on Public Spaces in Beijing

Sara Gong ’18; Mentor: Mark Andrejevic

I was inspired to do this project by my trips to China and my visits to the Beijing Exhibition Center Square, a public square near my grandma’s house. Every evening, except in cases of extreme weather, people young and old show up after dinner to exercise, socialize and more. There are old men flying kites, people singing karaoke, teenagers breakdancing, old couples waltzing, music groups drumming, and roller skaters ranging from little kids who are just learning to teenagers who are showing off and doing tricks. The community is amazing, and there are definite health benefits to the exercise. And yet I have never seen anything like it in the United States. Unfortunately, I am fairly certain that the culture in the United States is such that creating such a community is impossible. As Ray Oldenburg writes in his “The Great Good Place,” the layout of American neighborhoods prevents people from really getting to know each other and establishing communities. People only have home and work to care about, and no “third place” in their lives where they can spend time with their communities. I decided to do this documentary project to provide a glimpse into a city with a “third place.” To accomplish this, I went to several public squares and parks in Beijing and filmed and talked to the people who exercised there, documenting their experiences and their stories.
Funding Provided By: Brian Stonehill Memorial Fund for Media Studies

360 Video Art: Expressive Possibilities of a New Medium

Anna Chung ’18; Mentor: Mark Andrejevic

In recent years, 360 video has emerged as a promising new medium for filmmakers. However, 360 video production has mostly been influenced by traditional video production, and I argue that this has led to 360 video content which simply mimics traditional video content. Although there are many similarities between 360 video and traditional video, it is important to consider the distinctive qualities of 360 video that might allow for totally new kinds of video content to emerge. Thus, for this project, I began to engage with the notion of “360 video art,” which resists dominant notions of how video should look, sound and feel. Drawing inspiration from the video art movement in the 1960s and 70s, I explored new narrative and aesthetic possibilities for 360 video by examining the medium’s limitations as well as its relationship to non-video mediums. Among the key limitations that I observed were inconsistent video stitching, perspective distortion, and lack of camera mobility. In addition, I studied the histories of stereographs and panoramic paintings, which offered unique comparisons to the ways that 360 video could be viewed. These findings were incorporated into my own engagement with 360 video production, which resulted in an experimental short video on The Heidelberg Project, a public art installation in Detroit. In engaging with alternative modes of approaching 360 video making, my goal is to expand the realm of what can be expressed through 360 video.
Funding Provided By: Brian Stonehill Memorial Fund for Media Studies

Alain Delon and Masculinity in France

Zeyuan Huang ’18; Mentor: Jonathan Hall

After World War II in France, the need to repopulate the French nation, and withstand and revolt against the German occupation forced men into a crisis of masculinity. This provided the perfect environment for Alain Delon’s rise to stardom. Starting from “Plein Soleil” that made Delon an object of the gaze, to “policier” classic “Le Samouraï” — that gave him a tougher, cooler image, Alain Delon represents the new mode of masculinity in France. In order to analyze the influence Alain Delon, his works and personal lifestyle had on the notion of masculinity in French society, I watched his most critically acclaimed films, a few interviews and documentaries on him, and read the biography “Alain Delon: Style, Stardom and Masculinity.” For each film, given the specific period of career Delon is in and the societal trends and changes at the time, I examined its role in Delon’s career as an actor/producer, as well as its significance on his public image and his status as the masculine model. Key observations: Firstly, Alain Delon had a tremendous impact on the building of the new masculinity ideal in France. A classical beauty, Delon captured the heart of the audience with his glamorous lifestyle and feminized, modern masculinity. Secondly, Delon in public is the guy in cinema. He has always been able to fully adapt his "emploi" to the roles he was offered. Thirdly, Delon is a cosmopolitan star. His industrial and geographic mobility allowed him to increase his influence internationally.
Funding Provided By: Brian Stonehill Memorial Fund for Media Studies

The Internet, Power, and Lofi Hip Hop

Nicholas Imparato ’20; Mentor: Mark Andrejevic; Collaborator: Dale Macauley ’20

In this project we sought to answer the question: How has the internet’s democratization of collaborative capabilities and media production changed hip hop? Through in-depth interviews, observation, and independent research, we have explored this question in the context of the sub-genre Lofi hip hop. In order to diminish hierarchy and bias, we provided opportunities for interviewees to have input in the research process. Preliminary research revealed that in recent decades, hip hop has become increasingly popular amongst white suburban male teens. However, the rise of accessible and anonymous platforms like Soundcloud has transformed the role of this group from passive consumption to active production of hip hop. Although many interviewees seemed somewhat aware of the history and political implications of hip hop, they articulated their music and the culture surrounding it as a “fun” pursuit unrelated to a larger hip hop culture, seemingly shielding themselves from questions of appropriation, political implications of their music, and their status as white men. We expected to find that Soundcloud served as a democratizing agent within hip hop, yet our research revealed that external power structures played a major role in who achieved “success” within Lofi. Further, although we encountered minoritarian groups attempting to subvert the dominance of white men within Lofi, many felt the need to comply with the dominant culture in order to be accepted by the larger community.
Funding Provided By: Cion Estate SURP Fund, Brian Stonehill Memorial Fund for Media Studies

From the Ground Up: Voicing Underrepresented Communities Through Documentary Filmmaking

Shivani Doraiswami ’18; Mentor: Mark Andrejevic; Collaborator: Catherine Mosier-Mills ’18

The purpose of our project was to explore documentary as a narrative medium. This required two weeks of pre-production research. We contacted various groups and individuals via email and phone in hopes of furthering our knowledge and developing our film. Afterwards, we scheduled our first shoot and continued to have around two to three filming dates scheduled per week. Throughout this process we continued to inform ourselves and reach out to relevant subjects. We also filmed supermarkets, convenience stores and city landscapes of Los Angeles to be used as B-roll. For filming, we used a Canon 100 DSLR camera. We adjusted color temperature, exposure and depth of field each time we filmed, for necessity of the image as well as artistic intent. In terms of sound, we used a Rode microphone for general filming and a lavalier microphone for conducting interviews. In post-production, we saw the power of editing firsthand. To condense hours of footage into a 30-minute presentation, we carefully selected clips that we liked. We aimed to tackle various topics by choosing a central protagonist around which our film was centered. We also employed numerous royalty-free soundtracks and corrected the color and audio levels of our footage. Through editing, we learned that documentary allows a filmmaker to create his or her own reality, prompting multiple discussions on ethics in film.
Funding Provided By: Brian Stonehill Memorial Fund for Media Studies


China on the Road

Peter Chen ’16; Mentor: Jonathan Hall

My film project tells the stories of two road trips across China in different times. The first story happens in 1929. A group of ten Pomona College students, each with a different area of interest, went on a year-long journey across mainland China in an effort to understand this country little known by the west. The group travelled through cities, villages and wild lands, observing the land troubled by wars, famines, and political turmoil, and at the same time, the land that saw the beginning of westernization, industrialization, intellectual awakening, and communism. They were the first group of American students to ever study in China and their lives were changed forever by the expedition. The second story happens 86 years later. It follows the point of view of a student who is making a documentary about the groundbreaking 1929 expedition. He studies the documents, photographs, maps, and journals left by the 1929 group, and makes a similar trip across China to gather more materials. On the road, he comes across different people—a girl from the countryside trying to escape her old world, a driver who lost everything to a real estate scam, a confused classmate taking a gap year, an activist trying to balance her family and her works—from whom he gradually starts to see this rapidly transitioning country beyond the surface. And as his research reveals the fates of some members of the 1929 group, he also finds himself standing on a crossroad…
Funding Provided By: Cion Estate

Photographs of Structures Uncover the Complexity in Apartheid South Africa

Tianyuan Cai ’18; Mentor: Jonathan Hall

During apartheid in South Africa, photography became a popular instrument used to bypass government censorship and spur on the anti-apartheid movement. While many mainstream photographers focused on presenting atrocities under apartheid rule as well as street clashes, photographers David Goldblatt and Zwelethu Mthethwa presented a different view of apartheid, taking as their subjects structures such as churches, memorials, and shack interiors Different from a popular struggle art that values sensationalism more than veracity, the photographs of Goldblatt and Mthethwa use built structures to examine the complexity behind dispossession wrought by apartheid. In addition to bringing the audience a purportedly “truer" perspective of apartheid, the works of these two photographers also suggest a watershed in South African photography as the end of the apartheid era began to starved the previously popular struggle art.
Funding Provided By: Eyes on Africa

The Secrets You Trust Google to Keep: Public Attitudes Towards Online Privacy and Data Collection

Angela Han; Mentor: Mark Andrejevic; Collaborator: Grace Lamdin ‘17

This summer project was one phase of an ongoing project concerned with online privacy and data collection. These topics have gained prominence in both academic and public spheres as the amount of data collected about online consumers has reached an unprecedented high. In spite of this, online data collection remains largely unregulated and unmonitored. This project’s goal was to generate a body of data on public perceptions and awareness towards these practices. In order to achieve this, we guided discussions in focus groups comprised of students from The Claremont Colleges and Cal Poly Pomona. The majority of focus group participants shared feelings of resignation towards companies’ data collection and usage practices. Although a significant number had a previous awareness of these practices, some participants were shocked and unaware of the extent to which they occurred. Many also felt that the majority of consumers lacked this awareness. When asked, most participants thought that media literacy programs should be implemented in schools. In addition, they suggested that companies be held more accountable by creating clearer privacy policies, notifying people of the data they collect, and adopting a model in which consumers could agree to limited functionality in return for keeping certain data private.
Funding Provided By: Stonehill

Where Dancefloors Stand Still: A Critical Analysis of the Contemporary Nightclub

Gage Taylor ’16; Mentor: Jennifer Friedlander

It can be understandably difficult to take nightclubs as a social assemblage worthy of academic analysis. Whether you explain it away as a simple pit of hedonism, a vital home for the queer and the subaltern, or an outlet for the excess energy of the late capitalist workforce, it seems as if there's not much more to be done beyond discussing the certain kinds of people that attend certain events, a stapling of sociology to musicology. Within those frameworks, though, an entire realm of aesthetics is ignored in favor of an implicit equation between audio and identity, performing an erasure of the affected body and its dances. That is to say, most academic works about club music (widely construed) don't take the music itself seriously. Sitting in an awkward middle ground between media theory, music criticism, phenomenology, and ethnography, this paper takes a summer spent among the New York electronic underground as an entry point for uncoupling the politics of the dancefloor from the identities of its architects and inhabitants. Inspired heavily by the academic work of Steve Goodman (also known as Hyperdub label boss and producer kode9), my research is not an attempt to whitewash identity politics from the club, but a questioning of its calcified narratives that are too often reinforced as a way of ignoring the actual medium at hand: vibrations, both heard and felt. The club was not made to reify identities, but to infect them.
Funding Provided By: Stonehill


Dear Imagination Summer Program

Sana Khan (2017); Student Collaborator(s): Erick Velasquez (2016); Mentor(s): Jennifer Friedlander

Abstract: In our globalized world, it is important to encourage students to develop awareness and understanding across cultures. This summer, we set out to do so through a multicultural summer arts program for underserved students in Mumbai, India and Pomona, California. As an initiative of Dear Imagination, an arts-based organization Sana founded in 2010, students explored their identities and communities through art and writing and shared their work over Dear Imagination’s blog. We conducted workshops with students from the Boys and Girls Club at the dA Center for the Arts, Pomona, and with students from English, Hindi and Urdu municipal schools at Angel Xpress Foundation, Mumbai. Students expressed themselves using photography, poetry, fiction, essay-writing, painting, drawing, ceramics, local art forms and installation over several weeks. Both groups exhibited their work at the end of the program. Using the arts as a tool for change, they altered paradigms about their communities and told their personal narratives through a wide range of media, while harnessing technology to learn about a new culture. These promising results are indicative of a need for such programs in our communities and we hope to continue working to make these changes happen. 
Funding Provided by: Brian Stonehill Memorial Fund for Media Studies

Diverse or nah: A visual collective of public events in the City of Chicago

Jewel Mensah (2015); Mentor(s): Jennifer Friedlander

Abstract: Chicago is known as one of the most diverse places in the country. However, the city is also known for its notorious inner-city racial and economic segregation. This research is a photojournalistic endeavor to represent how the City of Chicago utilizes known public spaces as a tool for enriching and advancing racio-cultural and economic diversity and most importantly, inclusion of the population. The scope of this project covers public festivals that are advertised by the city through various media, accessible by public transportation, and have free entry for the general public. During these events, there is a unity that happens in Chicago where the space created by the public supersedes the issues of segregation that haunts the city. My research began by selecting the most popular festivals in Chicago that were accessible via public transportation and to the masses. I then worked to critically capture the section of the population in attendance and how people react to and interact with each other. The camera used is a Nikon DSLR to capture and produce quality images. My approach was heavily influenced by Rosalyn Deutche’s, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics, claim that space is political because it is produced rather than given. This builds upon Deutsche’s theoretical framework via an exploration of how the populations that make up the space determine the atmosphere as well as the outcome of the event. What is presented here is collection of visual works that tell the story of diversity in Chicago and how accessibly public events address the issues of segregation. 
Funding Provided by: Brian Stonehill Memorial Fund for Media Studies


Traces of Vietnam: Personal, Public, and Archival Memory

Evyn Le Espiritu (2013); Mentor(s): Jonathan Hall

Abstract: Envisioned as a filmic triptych, "Traces of Vietnam: Personal, Public, and Archival Memory" theorizes how memory both constitutes and challenges official history and nationalist discourse. Drawing on interviews, videos, and online documents, the second piece of this film triptych investigates “public memory” through the figure of my great-uncle, RVN Colonel Ho Ngoc Can. Publicly executed by the Communists in 1975, Colonel Ho Ngoc Can is memorialized as a hero by both his followers in America as well as his family in Vietnam. Despite public suppression of such claims to heroism by both the current Communist government of Vietnam -- whose narrative of national unity denies the legitimacy of the Republic of Vietnam -- as well as the American state—whose narratives of both intervention and subsequent benevolent aid efface the strength of the South Vietnamese soldiers -- Vietnamese American communities continue to commemorate Colonel Ho Ngoc Can, staging elaborate memorials for him, naming streets after him, and posting information online about him. Although their veneration is less public and more nuanced -- partially due to their continued presence in Vietnam -- Colonel Ho Ngoc Can’s family members also sustain his memory, adding personal stories of his kindness and generosity to qualify the public narratives of his heroism.
Funding Provided by: Brian Stonehill Memorial Fund for Student Research in Media Studies

Naked Festival: The Queer Photography of Yato Tamotsu

Brendan Gillett (2014); Mentor(s): Jonathan Hall

Abstract: While there is a long tradition of queer Japanese art, there is at once a lack of attention paid to the members of the community itself and few public spaces for the presentation and consumption of queer Japanese artists' works. One of the most influential figures to emerge at the beginnings of the post-war queer Japanese arts community is Yato Tamotsu. Yato worked in film, creating thousands of black and white images of Japanese masculinity, male bodies, and rituals imbued with a queer male aesthetic. In particular, his book Hadaka Matsuri, or "Naked Festival," was equal parts ethnography of Japanese rituals and an examination of the male body's place in Japanese culture. The book is hailed as a key work within its context, yet it is relatively unknown in larger circles. For many years, Yato's negatives were thought lost. Professor Jonathan Hall of Pomona's Media Studies Department has spoken with publishers, artists, and historians about a new collection of photos and essays that would help to revive Yato's photography and establish his importance to a broader audience. Part of this process is digitizing the negatives to facilitate the selection process. This summer, I spent four weeks scanning and cataloging over 1,000 negatives. This was the first time that some of these negatives have been examined and preserved, a rare opportunity indeed. Along with the scanning, I began to find patterns and examine the various elements that went into creating these photos.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP

Writing for Democracy: Independent Journalism During Nigeria's Military Dictatorships

Efe Kabba (2013); Mentor(s): Jonathan Hall

Abstract: Inspired by events that forced my father to flee Nigeria in 1994, my research seeks to uncover the stories of journalists who wrote for independent newspapers between 1988 and 1995, when two military governments controlled the majority of the press in Nigeria. Individual personal interviewing was the primary research method used as the final product will be a short form documentary film. Additionally, secondary information research facilitated my understanding of the history of media and government in post-Independence Nigeria. Through my research, I discovered that under the rule of the two military dictators, those who voiced dissenting views were silenced, punished and even murdered. Many of the journalists I interviewed wrote for privately owned newspapers because they disagreed with the with the corrupt politics of those military regimes. And although the journalists varied in levels of extremism, they all shared the desire to eliminate corruption and establish democracy in Nigeria.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP