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2011-2012 CMM/WFI/ISI Fellow Awards

The WFI is pleased to be partnering with the CMM Institute for Personal and Social Evolution and the Institute for Social Innovation at Fielding Graduate University. This unique collaboration allows our organizations to name annual Fellows, representing the best work done by scholars and professionals on communication as world-making and -changing. For 2011/12, scholars and practitioners were invited to submit project proposals that fit into one of the following categories:

Category 1: Social Issues
Category 2: Personal and Social Evolution
Category 3: Games for Developing “Evolved” Communication Skills
Category 4: Transforming Communication
Category 5: You Get What You Make

Following a rigorous selection process--made difficult by the quality of the submissions that we received!--our institutes are pleased to name the following individuals the inaugural, 2011/12 CMM/WFI/ISI Fellows:

Romi Goldsmith Boucher - Collaboration: A Constitutive Accomplishment. Fielding Graduate University, PhD student.

There are many reasons for gaining more understanding and access into the phenomenon of creative collaboration. On an individual level, further understanding could help people identify, realize, support and develop each person’s unique expression and talent set in the world. In our relationships and families, it could help us become more adaptive and flexible, helping us achieve and contribute to a healthier life.  In our workgroups and organizations, a deeper understanding and further practice of the process of creative collaboration could not only make material and commercial differences in the marketplace, but also enable greater enjoyment and skill development for problem solving, implementing change or developing new products and services.  Even compared to work thirty years ago that was characterized by an input-->output process, very little work now is that easily done, and is dependent much more on collaborative and communicative skill. By learning what facilitates creative collaboration and creative breakthroughs in workgroups, leadership is developed and more distributed throughout an organization. Finally, by learning and practicing creative collaboration, we could all respond better to the increasing challenges that face us as a global society with increasing complexity, interconnectedness and greater pressures. We could respond and initiate better because we could learn how to become better problem perceivers and solvers as well as more confident and practiced in our own creative collaborative approaches. I welcome you to explore “Creative Collaboration: A Constitutive Accomplishment” with me in an interactive way. We will explore the normal conceptualizations of creativity, the myths of it, and how it has been commonly understood.  Contrary to popular belief, a lot of creativity is not the result of brilliant ideas, but an accumulation of mini-insights in the fulfillment of making something happen. “Performance” and “everyday” creative collaboration will be discussed as well as how we make it in communication. I will share with you what I am learning out of my pilot study of a virtual collaboration between a university product design class and one of the leading design consultancies in the United States. I will share with you about the kinds of conditions and conversational practices that facilitate creative experience in collaborative workgroups and we will go over and experiment with some ways you can become more creative and collaborative.

John Carr - Opportunities and Obstacles to Transforming Planning Communication Through the Creation of Digital Visualization Tools. Professor, Geography, University of New Mexico.

My project explores the opportunities for and barriers to mobilizing digital technologies to transform the communicative culture of planning. While contemporary planning practices inform a vast number of public decisions about the built and natural environments, they are beset by a number of communication based problems that often render them ineffective and unpopular. And while decades of efforts to make planning more transparent, democratic, and sustainable have met with mixed results, new technological tools may help remedy these longstanding shortcomings. My project takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying a particularly promising effort to provide new communication tools for planners, citizens, and decision makers. The Decision Commons Project (“DCP”), is currently in the process of developing 3D planning tools to enable stakeholders to visually explore proposed policies and projects under an intuitive user interface. Although technology focused, DCP’s goal is to transform planning communication. They seek to remedy the failure of mainstream planning to enable meaningful dialog by: 1) making planning visualization more transparent and data driven, and 2) enabling stakeholders to explore and instantly manipulate visual models, thus empowering them to engage in more meaningful dialog and more clearly articulate their values. In turn, I am working to both study and provide DCP team members feedback on such questions as A) how are the agendas and values of often adversarial stakeholders informing the development of the Tools, and B) what are the opportunities for, and barriers to transforming planning communication through use of the Planning Tools?

Susan Jacobson - Understanding How the American Political Drama Unfolds on the Social Web May Help Reconstruct our National Political Dialogue. Assistant Professor of Journalism, Temple University.

This project investigates how the audience members of two major US cable TV news organizations, one politically liberal and one conservative, discuss the sensitive political topics of race, abortion and gay rights on Facebook, in order to determine whether understanding these patterns of communication may help reconstruct American political discourse to more productive ends. Findings suggest that, while the majority of news audience members who frequent the Facebook Pages of conservative or liberal news organizations express opinions that could be considered consistent with partisan political perspectives, these individuals still hold surprisingly diverse and nuanced beliefs, and a significant minority feel free to disagree with the majority viewpoint. Furthermore, the audience maintains a broad spectrum of opinion despite the efforts of news organizations to frame the discussion of culture war issues on Facebook in the most partisan manner possible.

Jeff Leinaweaver - Games for Developing Evolved Communication Skills. Consultant, Global Sustainability.

Gaialogue is a social ecology game aimed at evolving the conversation about how we as humans live in relationship with each other, the living world and the Earth, mother Gaia. Gaialogue is named after Gaia, the ancient Greek goddess of Earth, and the process of dialogue: Gaia + Dialogue = Gaialogue. Gaialogue is the Earth’s Story. The game of Gaialogue seeks to exploit at least three types of games and game play: 1) Empire games, Earth games and the storytelling game of coordinated meaning making. Played by way of specialized card deck, table-top play and storyboarding, the game of Gaialogue is set around a simulated scenario of how an intentional island community develops its own natural and civic ecologies in order to win the game. The game of Gaialogue aims to play with the many language games that exist around how we construct sustainable social worlds and the stories we tell, or don’t tell. By playing the game of Gaialogue, players will cultivate powerful ideas, personal stories and practical actions. Gaialogue is meant to be fun and create new pathways for learning, connectedness and appreciation for Gaia’s many mysteries.

Charles E. Morris III - Archival Queers: Anti-Bullying and the Rhetorical Futures of GLBT Pasts. Associate Professor, Communication, Boston College.

My project, “Archival Queers: Anti-Bullying and the Rhetorical Futures of GLBT Pasts,” is motivated by what should for all pierce as a fire bell in the night: GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) reports in its most recent National School Climate Survey that “4 out of 5 LGBT students experience verbal, physical and sexual harassment frequently or often in their schools.” Too many of these children and young adults, as limited media coverage has conveyed, have ended their lives rather than longer endure such abuse. Endurance should not be the watchword of the young. Too often this homophobic violence has been attributed to the proverbial “bad apple,” when in truth the peril is systemically created, the complicity absolute and comprehensive. There are a number of analyses and proposals advanced in support of what Education scholar-activist Kevin Kumashiro calls “anti-oppressive education.” My work seeks to contribute to this queer worldmaking, lifesaving, work through exploring one specific route, namely the rhetorical and pedagogical uses of the past—queer history and memory—as anti-homophobic resources in the U.S. educational system. Inspired by the promise of SB48, the 2011 California law requiring GLBT history in the state social studies curriculum, this project engages interdisciplinary scholarship in queer theory, GLBT history, public memory studies, and educational research to imagine and mobilize interventions by those I call “archival queers.”  Archival queers rhetorically create the means by which the past is accessed and accumulated; they forge a culture in which the GLBT past is understood and felt to matter; and they frame and narrate and advocate for the “lessons” and projects through which the GLBT past is first introduced and circulated in a space in which it might intervene directly to secure the lives and well being of our most vulnerable children. The February 2012 issue of the Quarterly Journal of Speech includes a special Forum entitled “Remembering AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) 1987-2012 and Beyond.” Edited by CMM Fellow Charles E. Morris III, this Forum brings together 10 scholar-activists inside and outside of the field of Communication to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the AIDS activist group ACT UP, self-described as a “diverse, nonpartisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis.” ACT UP profoundly intervened during the bleakest years of governmental neglect and cultural bigotry that had already contributed to the deaths of thousands. ACT UP’s innovation and courage in protest, research, and visibility unquestionably and directly contributed to the radical transformation of AIDS treatment, policy, and representation in the 1990s and to the present day. Many are still here because of ACT UP, for which we the people and the global us should be both grateful and inspired to further action. In this Forum, contributors reflect not only on the history of ACT UP but consider how the memory of ACT UP might matter in the ongoing fight against AIDS and its eventual end.

Our grant program was founded on the belief that Communication scholars' work can play a leading role in the creation of social change.

WFI Research Grants have resulted in significant journal articles and book publications--as well as impact on the lives of people living in communities across the US and the globe. For example, a WFI Research Grant awarded to Dr. Spoma Jovanovich played a key role in the city of Greensboro, NC, allocating $500,000 for participatory budgeting.