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Allison Page Challenges ODU Students to Examine Media Culture Through a Critical Lens

By John Falvey

Allison Page is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in Old Dominion University's Institute for the Humanities and Department of Communication & Theatre Arts. Prior to joining the faculty at ODU, she was a visiting assistant professor of new media studies at Hampshire College, and also taught at Smith College and Mount Holyoke College.

Her work has been published in Television and New Media, the Journal of Consumer Culture, Feminist Media Studies and Cultural Studies/Critical Methodologies. She is currently working on a book, preliminarily titled "The Affective Life of Slavery: Race, Media, and Governance" and a co-authored project with Laurie Ouellette on the intersection of prisons and reality television.

Page said it's important to bring her years of experience in media studies into the classroom at Old Dominion University. "It is essential that students understand the various impacts of media and technology on all aspects of our lives and culture," she said.

Being surrounded by media culture means that there is a tendency to view it as transparent and obvious, and therefore not worthy of study, Page said. "Media studies helps us to critically dig deeper to understand the political, economic and socio-cultural stakes of media and technology."

Page said it's exciting to teach in a subject area that is evolving so rapidly. "I love teaching a subject with which students have familiarity, and that is often deeply personal," she said. "Media culture is a great entry point into discussions about broader social issues, including the politics of race and gender."

It is her work on those broader social issues that has inspired her upcoming book.

"The politics of representation are critically important, of course, but my book is more concerned with the uses to which representations are put," Page said. "In other words, how media culture is used in tandem with education to teach particular feelings."

In her forthcoming book, Page tackles such issues of representation in media.

"For example, I examine the educational curricula developed for the 1977 television miniseries Roots. I found that so much of the curricula - at all educational levels - emphasized teaching very particular feelings and emotions (in place of others). There are real political stakes to these questions and this disciplining of feeling and behavior through media culture."

It is a tall order to get a generation of students who have lived media-saturated lives to put the phones down and examine the influence of technology on their socialization and communication, but Allison Page is ready to accept the challenge.

However, "It's tough in 14 weeks when you're combating 20-plus years!" she said.