The Carsey-Wolf Center’s 2020 annual conference “Television, Politics, Publics” explored the ways in which television remains a crucial site for the deliberation over questions of “citizenship” and public discourse. Encompassing political news as well as scripted and unscripted entertainment, the conference addressed a range of formats, from sports to political satire to reality TV.  In an era of so-called “fake” news and clutter, how do we define and delimit the “televisual”? Participants engaged television and its digital extensions in ways that interrogate the medium’s “politics” and “publics” through questions of access, community, value, and voice.

Past annual conferences:

Each year, the Carsey-Wolf Center hosts an invitational conference on a theme related to the study of film and media.

Thursday, February 20

7:00 PM Politics on TV: Veep and The West Wing
Post-screening discussion with David Mandel (Veep) and Eli Attie (The West Wing)
Pollock Theater

Friday, February 21

Wallis Annenberg Conference Room, 4315 Social Sciences and Media Studies Building (SSMS)

9:00 AM Introduction and welcome: Patrice Petro, Dick Wolf Director of the Carsey-Wolf Center

9:15 AM Panel 1: Dispossession and Extraction
Laurie Ouellette, University of Minnesota, “Dispossession TV”
Lisa Parks, MIT, “Trump’s Rejects and Value Extraction in U.S. Commercial Television”
Moderated by Patrice Petro

10:30 AM break

10:45 AM  Panel 2: Policy/Public Interest
Jennifer Holt, University of California, Santa Barbara, “TV Publics: Politics and Policies”
Allison Perlman, University of California, Irvine, “Television and the Public Interest”
Moderator: Ross Melnick

12:00 PM lunch for registered participants

1:00 PM  Panel 3: Media Literacy and Social Change
Miranda Banks, Loyola Marymount University, “Implicit Bias in Television Production: Students as Agents of Change”
Alison Trope, University of Southern California, “Public Pedagogy and the Critical Media Project”
Moderator: Michael Curtin

2:15 PM break

2:30 PM Panel 4: Propaganda and Talk
Aniko Imre, University of Southern California, “Global Propaganda Entertainment: Netflix’s Great Hacks”
Reece Peck, City University of New York, Staten Island, “Theorizing Televisual Populism: From Fox News to The Young Turks.”
Moderator: Wesley Jacks

3:45 PM break

4:00 PM Panel 5: Brand/Labor
Justin Wyatt, University of Rhode Island, “Marketing Strategy & Cultural Revolution: The Brand of Ryan Murphy”
Tasha Oren, Tufts University, “Baked Citizen: Eating and Smoking as Politics on Viceland”
Moderator: Nicole Strobel

Saturday, February 22

9:30 AM  Panel 6: Labor/Representation
Bo Ruberg, University of California, Irvine, “Video Game Live Streaming and/as Webcam Modeling: The Parallel Labor of Professional Play and Digital Sex Work”
Liz Ellcessor, University of Virginia, “Special Update: Disability, Representation, and Exceptions to the Rules”
Moderator: Cristina Venegas

10:45 AM break

11:00 AM Panel 7: Capital/Aesthetics
Travis Vogan, University of Iowa, “Avant Events: Network Sports Television and Populist Art Culture”
Racquel Gates, City University of New York, Staten Island, “From Hand-Held to HD: The Upscaling of Reality TV Aesthetics and the Politics of Style”
Moderator: James McNamara

12:15 PM lunch

1:15 PM Panel 8: Capital and Place
Hollis Griffin, Denison University, “I♥️NY: Television, Security, and the Gentrification of New York City”
Victoria E. Johnson, University of California, Irvine, “The Sports Media Eco-System: Televisuality, Community, and Place”
Moderator: Charles Wolfe

2:30 PM break

2:45 PM  Panel 9: Capital and Celebrity
Samantha N. Sheppard, Cornell University, “‘I’m Just About that Action, Boss’: Sporting Blackness and the Televisual Politics of Marshawn Lynch”
Kristen Warner, University of Alabama, “#BlackPrincessGoals: The Black Rehabilitation of Meghan Markle by Black Women Online Publics”
Moderator: Victoria E. Johnson

4:00 PM Final thoughts: Victoria E. Johnson

Miranda Banks is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television and an Associate Professor within LMU’s Department of Film, Television, and Media Studies. Her primary area of research is the American film and television industries, with a specific focus on power dynamics in creative production. She authored The Writers: A History of American Screenwriters and Their Guild (Rutgers, 2015) and co-edited the collections Production Studies (Routledge, 2009) and Production Studies, The Sequel (Routledge, 2015) 

Elizabeth Ellcessor is assistant professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. She is the author of Restricted Access: Media, Disability, and the Politics of Participation (NYU, 2016) and co-editor of Disability Media Studies (NYU, 2017). She is currently working on a book about the effects of digitization on the accessibility and functionality of “emergency media” systems, including 9-1-1, personal safety technologies, and campus safety infrastructures.

Racquel Gates is an Associate Professor of Cinema & Media Studies at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. Her research focuses on blackness and popular culture, with special attention to discourses of taste and quality. She is the author of Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture (Duke, 2018), where she argues that some of the most disreputable representations of black people in popular media can strategically pose questions about blackness, black culture, and American society in ways that more respectable ones cannot. Her work appears in both academic as well as popular publications, some of which include The New York Times, The Root, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Film Quarterly, Television & New Media, as well as other journals and collections.

Hollis Griffin is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Denison University. He was previously a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Colby College. His book, Feeling Normal: Sexuality and Media Criticism in the Digital Age (Indiana, 2017), was named an Outstanding Academic Title for 2017 by Choice. He is Associate Editor for the journal Communication, Culture, and Critique and is on the Board of Directors for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, where he serves as Secretary. He is currently at work on a second book tentatively titled Securing the Big Apple: Television and the Gentrification of New York City, 1975-2001. 

Jennifer Holt is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Fellow with the Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington, D.C. She is the author of Empires of Entertainment, and co-editor of Distribution Revolution; Connected Viewing: Selling, Streaming & Sharing Media in the Digital Age; and Media Industries: History, Theory, Method. Her current book project is Cloud Policy: Regulating Digital Freedom, a legal and cultural history of infrastructure policy related to digital media distribution, storage, and access.

Anikó Imre is a Professor of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She publishes, teaches, mentors and lectures widely in the fields of media globalization, transnational television, and studies of (post)socialism, gender and sexuality, race and postcoloniality. She is the author of TV Socialism (Duke, 2016) and Identity Games: Globalization and the Transformation of Post-Communist Media Cultures (MIT, 2009).

Victoria E. Johnson is Professor of Film and Media Studies and African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Her scholarship focuses on U.S. television history, sports media, and the media industries through the lenses of critical race theory and cultural geography. Her Heartland TV: Prime Time Television and the Struggle for U.S. Identity was awarded the Society for Cinema Studies’ Katherine Singer Kovács Book Prize (2009). Her Sports TV is forthcoming with Routledge.

Tasha Oren is Associate Professor in the Film and Media Studies program and the Department of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies at Tufts University. Her books include Demon in the Box: Jews, Arabs, Politics and Culture in the Making of Israeli Television, the forthcoming FoodTV: On Eating Media and the edited collections Global Currents: Media and Technology Now (with Patrice Petro); East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture and Global Asian American Cultures (both with Leilani Nashime and Shilpa Dave), Global Television Formats –Understanding Television Across Borders (with Sharon Shahaf), and The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Feminism (with Andrea Press). She is book review editor for the feminist journal Signs.

Laurie Ouellette is Professor and Chair of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature and Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is also on the graduate faculty of American Studies and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. She writes about media, television and social and political theory, and is author or editor of six books, including Viewers Like You? How Television Failed the People, Lifestyle TV, and Keywords for Media Studies (co-authored by Jonathan Gray). She is working on a new project about television and precarity.

Lisa Parks is Professor of Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research explores television technologies and media infrastructures across various transnational contexts. She is the author of Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual (Duke, 2005) and Rethinking Media Coverage: Vertical Mediation and the War on Terror (Routledge, 2018), and is co-editor of five books, including Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures (University of Illinois, 2015), and Planet TV: A Global Television Reader (NYU, 2003). She is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow.

Reece Peck is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. He is the author of Fox Populism: Branding Conservatism as Working Class (Cambridge, 2019). His research engages the media dimension of the political right and specifically examines how conservative news outlets have used tabloid media styles and populist political rhetoric to reconfigure the meaning of social class in the United States. He also provides commentary on television and politics for news outlets such as the Washington PostColumbia Journalism Review and New York Magazine.​

Allison Perlman is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies and History at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Public Interests: Media Advocacy and Struggles Over U.S. Television (Rutgers, 2016) and co-editor of Flow TV: Television in the Age of Media Convergence (Routledge, 2010). She is currently working on a history of US public television, tentatively titled Public Television Before PBS: The History of National Educational Television.

Bonnie “Bo” Ruberg is an assistant professor in the Department of Informatics and the Program in Visual Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Their research explores gender and sexuality in digital media and digital cultures with a focus on queerness and video games. They are the author of Video Games Have Always Been Queer (NYU, 2019) and the co-editor of Queer Game Studies (University of Minnesota, 2017).

Samantha N. Sheppard is the Mary Armstrong Meduski ’80 Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies in the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. Her work examines issues of race, gender, and representation in film, television, and digital media. She is the author of Sporting Blackness: Race, Embodiment, and Critical Muscle Memory on Screen (University of California, 2020) and the co-editor of Sporting Realities: Critical Readings on the Sports Documentary (University of Nebraska, 2020) and From Madea to Media Mogul: Theorizing Tyler Perry (University of Mississippi, 2016).

Alison Trope is a clinical professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. She founded and serves as Director of the Critical Media Project (CMP), a web-based media literacy resource focused on the politics of identity (gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, age and disability). CMP is used in Los Angeles Unified School District and other secondary and higher education institutions across the country. Trope also serves as the Faculty Director for IDEA (Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg). Trope is the author of Stardust Monuments: The Saving and Selling of Hollywood (Dartmouth, 2012), which explores the enduring efforts to memorialize and canonize the history and meaning Hollywood takes on in our everyday lives. Her other academic writing examines the history and current state of Hollywood philanthropy and activism.

 Travis Vogan is Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Department of American Studies at the University of Iowa.  His most recent book is ABC Sports: The Rise and Fall of Network Sports Television. With Victoria E. Johnson, Vogan co-edits the University of Illinois Press book series Studies in Sports Media.

Kristen J. Warner is an Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media at The University of Alabama. She is the author of The Cultural Politics of Colorblind TV Casting (2015). Warner centers her research around the media industries, race, representation, and creative labor.

Justin Wyatt is Associate Director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media and Associate Professor of Film/Media and Communication Studies at the University of Rhode Island.  He is the author of High Concept: Movies and Marketing in Hollywood and The Virgin Suicides: Reverie, Sorrow and Young Love and the co-editor of Contemporary American Independent Film: From the Margins to the Mainstream.  From 2000-2015, he worked professionally in the television industry leading market research initiatives for both clients (ABC Television Network, NBCUniversal Cable Group, Viacom) and suppliers (Frank N. Magid Associates).


Michael Curtin is the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Distinguished Professor of Film and Media Studies. He is also director of the Mellichamp Global Dynamics Initiative and is co-founder and former co-director of the Media Industries Project of the Carsey-Wolf Center. He has held teaching or research appointments at Northwestern University, Renmin University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Institute of Ethnology at Academia Sinica. Curtin’s research and teaching focus on media globalization, cultural geography, industry and policy studies, and creative labor. Curtin is currently at work on Media Capital: The Cultural Geography of Globalization. He is executive editor of global-e, and co-editor of Media Industries and the British Film Institute’s International Screen Industries book series.

James McNamara is a Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a writer / creator for television. Recent industry work includes developing and writing original television dramas for Sony Pictures/Playmaker and Goalpost Pictures, and as a member of writers’ rooms for the Academy Award-winning See Saw Films, Matchbox Pictures/NBC Universal, Foxtel, and Endemol Shine. McNamara has also consulted on feature films for Porchlight Films, Icon Film Distribution, and Fox Searchlight Pictures. McNamara’s essays and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator and Australian Book Review, where he sits on the editorial advisory board.

Ross Melnick is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of American Showman (Columbia University, 2012) and co-editor of Rediscovering U.S. Newsfilm: Cinema, Television, and the Archive (AFI/Routledge, 2018). He was named an Academy Film Scholar and an NEH Fellow for his current book project, Projecting Power: Global Film Exhibition, Local Conflicts, and Hollywood Cinemas as Cultural Embassies.

Wesley Jacks is the Assistant Director of the Carsey-Wolf Center. He receive his PhD in Film and Media Studies from UC Santa Barbara, working in the fields of Chinese film history and media industries studies. His research focuses on the contemporary distribution of imported films in the People’s Republic of China. His writing appears in Media Industries Journal, the Journal of Chinese Cinemas, and Film Marketing into the Twenty-First Century (2015).

Nicole Strobel is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation project examines Vice Media as a site for unpacking a variety of social and economic contradictions that characterize millennial politics, digital culture, and contemporary media production. Her research interests lie at the intersections of critical cultural theory, media industries studies, global media studies, and war and media studies.

Cristina Venegas is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at UCSB, where she teaches and researches film and media history of Latin America, critical approaches to digital media and the history, and politics, and practice of film festivals. She is the author of Digital Dilemmas: The State, the Individual and Digital Culture in Cuba (Rutgers, 2010), co-editor of the Media Matters book series, and her essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.

Charles Wolfe is the author of two books on the films of director Frank Capra and has published widely on the history of commercial, independent, and documentary filmmaking in the U.S. He is co-editor of the AFI’s Film Reader Series, which has published 40 volumes of new critical essays on topics in film, television, and digital media studies. He chaired the Department of Film and Media Studies from 1994 to 1998, and he served as Associate Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at UCSB from 2003 to 2008. A member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies from 2006 to 2009, Wolfe has also served on the advisory or editorial boards of Quarterly Review of Film and VideoCinema Journal, and Studies in Documentary Film.