Undergraduate Research in Media Studies

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.


Queering the Middle

Luke Meares ’21; Advisor: Lisa Anne Auerbach

This summer, I sought to create a depiction through digital photography of queer life that decentered the city, instead centering rural community. I tasked myself with traveling across the Midwest and Appalachia, meeting and photographing different queer communities. Being from rural Ohio, I continue to grapple with the way my sexuality fits within my generally homophobic hometown. Yet, I continuously have found myself disillusioned within the queer liberation narrative shown that almost necessitates a strong community, usually only depicted as found in the city.

Although, I did not want to follow popular practice and position a queer, rural person in front of a camera and have them recount just their story of despair. Focusing specifically on community, showing both the comfort and resilience inherent to it while not completely singularizing the subject was my perfect fix.

I lived out of my suburban, using the internet and word of mouth to connect with different queer communities. I went to over twenty different communities, collecting comprehensive photographs of 8 of them in 5 different states.

Through this project, I contributed to a larger body of work complicating what rural (and queer) identity looks like. I found queer community to be growing: in churches, shooting ranges, activism groups, and communes: in liberation projects and social halls. This project shows only a small percentage of queer rural folk organizing to make middle America a more welcoming home.


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