Reflection Essay

This semester, I worked hard to grow as a student, particularly focusing on how much and how well I could use more than one discipline to solve problems. In “Looking at Photography,” I used a combination of formal analysis of photographs, close reading of source texts, archival research into photography collections, and interpretation of their status and use as cultural objects, to look at some topics and techniques in photography that were something other than representational. I had to innovate when it came to showing the photographs I discussed, because the technology available did not allow for printing the images in color, let alone at photographic quality. So I created a Picasa album online to store the images electronically, and provided the professor with a link to that album. In this way, he could view the high resolution images in color while reading the paper. This also avoided the problem of the images interfering with the text, or having to flip to the back of the paper in order to view them. By the time I had to make that decision, though, I had been prompted in many other ways to use various media to their fullest effects.

In “Media Theory and Visual Culture,” I engaged my final topic, media literacy, by combining visual and textual analysis of media objects. I also employed close readings of both theoretical and architectural frameworks of the various media systems I examined, as well as interpretation of the intersection between technology and society. Weekly input in “Media Theory and Visual Culture” was also useful for understanding that intersection. The seminar format combined with the open-source wiki that we used as a platform each week. Each of us to could put our own perspectives on the week’s readings into an archived, malleable conversation that both supplemented and engendered class discussion. The visual reminder of how differently each student approached the topic of the week was an inspiration to diversify the ways in which I could work to solve a problem.

For my 505 midterm essay, I sought to bring organizational communications into conversation with interpretive cultural criticism, in order to describe GoCrossCampus as an example of an online “communications complex”. In this particular project, I failed take full advantage of the potential of the concepts I appropriated and developed, because I did not fully engage either specific discipline’s perspective before attempting to combine them. However, I cannot leave out the group project from a consideration of my interdisciplinary work this semester. In our case, we worked with criminology and social psychology to examine the phenomena of email and text message alert systems. In that group, the heterogeneity of our members led to success in dividing and combining our strengths, from the conceptual development of our project, to research and compilation of sources, to interviews and surveys of subjects, to technological construction of the presentation, culminating in the rhetorical delivery of the presentation. In general, the larger discussion section in which I participated this semester was just as successful, since our various perspectives helped to dissect the readings from each week as well as to clarify the broader contexts and specific implications of each module.

Despite mixed results and some ambiguities about my methodologies, I feel far more comfortable working between and across disciplines by the end of this semester than when I began in August. That comfort level has also translated into more confidence in setting my own goals and taking control of individual projects, solving problems, and valuing collaboration between other members of group projects. I am beginning to understand how a problem changes when more than one discipline begins to question it.

evidence for learning goals

1. A signature of the CCT program is a multi- and inter-disciplinary approach to studying the intersection of Communication, Culture and Technology. To that end, students will engage some key problems and bring explicit disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives to those problems throughout the course.

a. (from final paper, “Looking at Photography”, pp. 10-11)

Excursus on the Representation of Memory

… what I have lost is not a Figure … but a being; and not a being, but a quality (a soul): not the indispensable, but the irreplaceable.

– Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

Anonymous: untitled (snapshot of Herbert Levenberg)

Mike Peters: untitled (portrait of Helene Ershow)

In the past two months, two of my grandparents died. I saw each of their bodies one last time, in repose, before their respective funeral services. Since they are both now buried, I will not see them again. Their absences raise a hard question for me: how do my memories of them relate to my mementos of them? On one hand, these two pictures seem to mark only their absences, reminding me that they are gone – but in this way, the physical presence of the photographs stimulates my internal memories – in a way, the photographic object functions here like an index. On the other hand, the photographs represent each of them at an earlier moment (of course – but by this I mean “earlier than the last time I saw each of them,” or “while they were still alive”). In this way, the physical photograph functions like a container for visual memory, replacing as well as stimulating my internal memories. Aesthetically, these two photographs are perhaps unremarkable compared to the other images discussed in this essay, and this is to be expected. The formal details of each straightforward photograph – one posed and the other candid, one indoors and one outside, one formal and one casual – might be almost too trivial to note. They matter, however, precisely because these details give each photograph their personal meaning – in other words, the uses of these photographs are significant. We can say that in the case of these family photographs, as in much representational photography, the locations of meaning are present in these uses and effects of the material image, rather than the mechanical or electronic process of production of the image[1].

For the other photographs examined here, however, the process of production (or the trace thereof) is equally important to the production of the meaning of the image. Perhaps, then, we can begin to understand the tenuous connections between representation and epistemology, and when that connection is broken, on the basis of these photographs. These connections rest on the abstraction of photography away from the machinery of photography, of substance from substrate. Without a certain conflation between the image and its referent, representation could not be considered grounds for knowledge. In other words, in order to “know” that the image in a photograph is based on an object, and to begin to draw conclusions about that object “based on the photograph of it,” one must assume, first, that photography is fundamentally an agent of representation. Second, they must ignore that representation is a style among innumerable others. They must further collapse the whole process of making a photograph into a single, automatic, instantaneous action, one which is moreover absolutely faithful to the reality it claims to represent. These are conceptual leaps that are possible, engendered and encouraged, when viewing representational photography.[2] However, when confronted by photographs like those we are examining here, in which something other than representation is emphasized in process and product, those assumptions are deeply challenged.

[1] For a fuller discussion of this concept, see both Olu Oguibe and Yves Michaud, who each make this point explicit, in contradistinction from the linguistic-semiotic arguments of Roland Barthes and others, who privilege process over product as the site of significance.

[2] Thus, when Barthes wrote in “Rhetoric of the Image” that “photography cannot intervene within the object,” we must protest. It is not only a case of “trick effects,” but a matter of reflexivity, indeed, of identity. Consider, for an example from representational photography, any given snapshot taken during a gathering of friends or family in your own personal (digital?) albums: Do people not pose for pictures, gather together, face the same direction, smile? I am sure that an exception here would prove the rule, for if there are any purely ‘candid’ pictures among the collection, it is certain that upon seeing those, the subject photographed would have some human reaction.

This is the other side of the “intervention,” the change in that which is photographed ex post facto – but this is the subject of a different essay. Even for the “Panzani” advertisements Barthes describes in that same essay, there was a subjective, human intervention in the juxtaposition of fruit with canned goods with table, and so on before the picture was taken, then the framing of the image by the photographer, the choice of lens, filter, angle, aperture, negative, and so on during the moment of photography and the process of development, and finally, the use and effect of the photograph as advertisement – what is this matter of making the objects into metonyms for Italy, ideal natural food, and so on, if not “intervention within the object”? Despite this small technical objection, I am indebted to M. Barthes for the succinct and penetrating question which, in a sense, founds this essay: “How does meaning get into the image?


b. (From 505 midterm essay, pp 6-7)

What I found by immersing myself into the game space and trying to read the content and form of the space was this: the communications technologies set in place for GoCrossCampus by its designers constitute practically the entire game space.

In the first instance, the interface itself (which includes the source coding) lays out several communication structures that are designed for one-way transmission from the administrators of the site to its users. These include: the map, which represents game play and the individual users’ positions; the logo; the site-navigation links; and the rosters of players, showing who is logged in, who has energized, who is a commander, who is a spy, who is a new player, and player statistics like battle records. Players can only passively receive these transmissions, which only administrators or the site’s coding generate and can edit. The interface might include animation, graphics, and text, sometimes layered together. There are also sometimes short, often esoteric, war-themed quotations displayed at the bottom of various pages throughout the site, which change often.

With that said, users have a relatively high degree of control over the amount and type of communication they can undertake within this space. Though the name a user chooses upon signing up and logging in with an email address is permanent, they are able to edit their “nickname” at any time. With that name, users exert their first communicative presence inside the game space. Any subsequent communication is preceded by that name in some way. Those types of communication are the majority of the visible, interactive, in-situ tools of which users take advantage. They include the chat forums, which have several levels of privacy/publicity. Chats exist at the level of a team, a game, and the site as a whole. They are accessible to all users within those groups. Chats are a one-to-many form of “speaking”, a continual, linear feed of postings that can include any and all types of content, from strategy to current events to popular culture to arguments, debates, and “flaming”.

Contrast this medium with the team-only “battle plan”, a small wiki-style space on every team’s page, which is accessible only to the commanders of a team. The commanders can edit this space, and its content tends to focus on game-specific information like strategy, tactics, and morale messages. Speaking of commanders, another important communication tool in this space is the polling mechanism, for voting. This has two distinct functions: players on a team can vote affirmatively or negatively on any poll question, which fall into two categories: nomination of commanders, and accusation of spies. In each case, the users have the opportunity, over a limited amount of time, to cast a one-time, anonymous vote into pre-coded input fields. This is the only type of communication in the game space that does not visibly attach a user’s name to their message.

c. Media Theory weekly Wiki posts. Week 12, Week7.
2. Conversations across the various clusters of CCT are an important function of this course, helping students to grow in appreciation for the multidisciplinary nature of the program. For this reason, students will consider course material from both social science and humanities perspectives and participate in heterogeneous discussion groups.
a. Group Project for 505: presentation
b. Two wiki-based presentations, with partner Kim Klinger, for Media Theory and Visual Culture: 1 2
3. A central difficulty for many students in the transition to graduate school is understanding the ways in which graduate programs are structured around the independence of the student and his or her own interests. For this reason, many students have trouble taking ownership of their program and understanding graduate school’s need for self-direction. Students’ engagement with multiple versions of the statement of purpose, the portfolios, and the reflective writing provide opportunities for students to articulate for themselves how CCT will fit into their educational and other career goals.
a. Created a Picasa Album as an electronic appendix to the final paper for Looking at Photography.
b. Final Project (Wiki) for Media Theory and Visual Culture.

statement of purpose draft 2

I am interested in the limits of contemporary forms of communication. These limits are expressed as moments or sites in any communicative exchange where something is lost, exceeded, transported, or transformed. Such limits are especially apparent in communication across boundaries of cultural or technological significance. They could be the result of misinterpretation or mistranslation, the exercise of tact, restraint, or censorship, a lack of mutual cultural context, or constraints of space or time. They might include problems of language, cultural conditions like race, gender, class, or religion, distinctions of political affiliation, distance, artistic or technological media, or difference in and between singular, material bodies. In CCT, I plan to investigate just what those limits circumscribe, how they are formed, and how one can express the limit of communication at all. These limits lead to an end of one form of communication, forcing a change in that form. My interest includes the agency or force of that change in form, which will vary depending on the cultural or technological limit in question. Because this topic is so fungible, I will bring inter-linguistic skills, creative writing, and even my experience in physical labor to bear on these intellectual problems.

For example, translation is a change in communicative form that is imposed by the limits of language. In this case, I am especially interested in what is lost in translation, and how that loss itself can be expressed. I have dealt with translation before. When I compose poetry in English as well as in Hebrew, there are often words, phrases, and even concepts that do not translate into the other language. This was also the case, I found, when translating the poetry of other writers. In these cases, something had to be sacrificed in order to reproduce the poem in the other language: what was lost was usually either poetic form – devices like rhythm or rhyme – or the literal, word-for-word parallel between the languages. Often, the only compensation for that loss was to add footnotes to the translated work. Another time translation became a problem was when I was a production manager for the play Ogu Ndem, which contained some dialogue, narration, and much background information in Igbo, a Nigerian language. Because Ogu Ndem was a staged play, however, the director and actors were able to compensate for the majority of the language by theatrical and multimedia techniques such as intonation, posture, musical accompaniment, video, or extra lines of English dialogue that clarified the meaning of the Igbo lines. Even with those adjustments or additions, it was clear that a change in form was at stake.

Some other limits could be engendered by censorship, mediation, development, or revolution. The latter is a particularly good example of a question I find most compelling: how can one represent the limit of representation? In this case, can one represent the concept of revolution by anything other than revolution itself? On the other hand, might the impossibility of representation itself become the condition of possibility for change? I have encountered manifestations of this problem during my work in construction. For example, repairing or replacing severely damaged parts of a wooden structure often requires the use of materials other than wood – sometimes chemical treatments work, other times metal or plastic are called for.

Physical labor taught me how to approach a problem from start to finish, as well as the importance of interdisciplinarity. It is almost never enough to view a construction or renovation project from the sole perspective of carpentry. A building forms an environment not only through its framing and structure, but also by its use of electrical and plumbing systems, the placement of its openings like doors and windows, its layering of materials that range from concrete to wood to metal to plastic to glass to fabric, and its relationship to the buildings and landscape around it. From construction work, I learned to appreciate and work towards understanding holistic systems, as well as those disciplines that are not my strongest, such as the physical sciences, mathematics, and social sciences. In that respect, the most important thing my physical labor taught me was how to work well in a team, contributing from my strengths and asking for help to overcome my weaknesses. Conversations with people from other backgrounds emphasized the importance of recognizing communicative boundaries.

Understanding what stops us from communicating can only lead to the exchange of more information, at least at the level of information about what we cannot communicate. The communication of the mere fact of communicating itself is (necessarily, and thereby) an establishment of community. I believe that by engaging the limits of communication across technological and cultural boundaries, we push those very limits. This gives new relevance to issues of policy, identity, production, and faith. I am here to find out just how far some limits can be pushed, and what remains when we move from one way of thinking to another.

worksheet four and presentation

Worksheet 4 — CCTP-505-06  

Jonathan Winters, Lewis Levenberg, Ian Smalley, Lauren Burgoon, Jake Landis and Francesca Tripodi

Discipline One: Social Psychology

What kinds of questions would this discipline be interested in about this research context?

  • How do individuals form their perceptions of safety, community, trust, and fear?
  • What behaviors indicate greater or lesser fear?
  • How do groups react to news of danger? To a physical/existential threat?
  • How do communications technologies generally affect those perceptions (safety, fear, community and trust)?
  • Do continuous e-mail alerts give students the impression of an unsafe campus? 
  • Are these impressions accurate compared to crime statistics in the area?
  • How do incoming students’ impressions of campus safety compare to a senior’s, or a graduate student’s?
  • What are some common impression of the identities of criminals, victims, administrators (those who send the alerts), and so on?
  • How do users see the alerts? – As news? Junk mail? Conversation? Propaganda? 
  • How do the alerts affect their readers’ behaviors? Alone? In groups?

What gaps in the research could be explored using this context?

  • Why might a victim report a crime, or why might they not? Do the alerts play a role in that decision?
  • How frequently do students read the e-mails? 
  • Does gender play a role in student decisions to change their behaviors based on alerts?
  • Are students likely to relay any fears (i.e. to roommates, classmates, etc.) that result from crime e-mails? If so, does this effectively change other people’s behaviors even without the direct influence of the e-mails?
  • What were the motivating factors for 98% of Georgetown business owners, according to The Hoya, to join the DCAlert program (receiving text messages when a violent crime has been committed in the area)?

How might this discipline answer your questions?  What is your research plan?

Based on our initial interviews, we would test our hypothesis that e-mail alerts construct the perception that Georgetown is an unsafe campus or neighborhood. We would be  measuring:
1) how frequently e-mail alerts are read
2) if by reading these alerts students change their behavior on campus
3) the rate at which perception of safety on campus is affected by the alerts

We would conduct a large-scale survey of freshman students on campus. If our hypothesis is correct, the data collected should show a pattern that students who read e-mails will accordingly change their behavior to avoid areas on campus where incidents occurred.

We would first give the students a map of Georgetown, and ask them to color or shade in the areas that they consider to be the most dangerous. This method should provide personal interaction with the interviewees, so that we can also report on non-verbal cues in their responses. We would then compare the students’ maps against actual crime rates in those areas to test for whether their impressions are accurate.

Next, we would conduct a mass electronic survey to all incoming freshman and exiting seniors. Sample survey questions could include:

    * What is your gender?
    * Do you read campus safety alerts?

    * If no, why not? 
    * If so, do you read only the blurb or do you click on the link to get more information?
    * If yes, do they impact your decisions on where to go on campus?

    * What do you consider to be safe and unsafe places on campus?
    * What do you consider to be safe and unsafe places off campus?
    * Do you lock your doors/windows? Follow up: when you are at home as well?
    * Do security alerts factor into your campus housing decisions?
    * Do you receive alerts from outside the college (DC police?)

* *(See attached survey)**

The survey would be distributing using the same technologies as the alerts — e-mail, RSS, text messages — so that we can assume a correlation between survey respondents and the security alert audience. This will also give us an understanding of whether perceptions of danger are correlated with length of residence in the area. 

Discipline Two: Criminology

What kinds of questions would this discipline be interested in about this research context?

  • How often are crimes reported by their victims?
  • How often do police apprehend a suspect in cases where the crime was reported to them?
  • What is the crime rate at Georgetown University compared to other campuses in the DC metro area?
  • What is the crime rate in Georgetown compared to neighborhoods/precincts/wards/etc. in the DC metro area?
  • Who are the victims and perpetrators of the crimes in Georgetown? How does that compare to the student body?
  • What types of crimes are committed on campus? What constitutes a “crime hot spot”, and is Georgetown or GU a “hot spot”?
  • Who has access to the crime rate information, and how is it disseminated?
  • How does that compare to alerts about recent criminal activity?
  • Do distinctions among violent/nonviolent, property/personal, and other types of crimes factor into the decision to send alerts?
  • Do the alerts impact the crime rate over a long period of time?

What gaps in the literature could be explored using this context?

We know that crime statistics are available for community review and we know that Georgetown University students, faculty and staff are receiving Public Safety e-mail alerts, but these two data sets have not yet been put into context with each other. No existing research addresses the possibility that alerts contribute to fear of crime. 

This project might also explore some comparisons between crime rates in Georgetown neighborhood and on campus, between Georgetown and other neighborhoods/campuses around the DC metro area, and between reported crime and alert rates, none of which are already available.

How might this discipline answer our questions?  What is your research plan?

Criminology often uses statistics to tell a story about crime. Our research is focused on the relationship of perception to reality, and how perceptions are affected by “instantaneous” technologies. We rely on crime statistics gathered by criminologists at the Metropolitan Police Department to provide the “reality” side of this relationship equation. This assumes the accuracy of the data provided by the MPD public records.

In addition to longitudinal analyses of data to determine crime trends, criminologists often conduct geographical analyses for the sake of comparison. We will collect data for different geographic areas within the District of Colombia in order to determine how Georgetown University ranks as a crime “hot spot” in the district. Further research would expand this geographical analysis beyond the border of DC to compare crime rates in Georgetown to those in other campus – both those that have instituted alert systems and those that have not.

Based on our initial research, it seems that Georgetown has a lower crime rate than some other universities in DC. Police Service Area 206, which includes Georgetown University, has had 14 violent crimes reported in the last 60 days.  By contrast, Police Service Area 304, including Howard University, has had 29 violent crimes reported in the same period. Gallaudet University is in PSA 504, which has had 60 violent crimes in the last 60 days. (Source:

At the Police District level of analysis, the Second Police District, which contains Georgetown University, is not considered a “crime hotspot” in DC. In 2005, the total number of crimes over seven measured categories in the second district was 2,945. The districts with the highest crime were the third district with 7,734 and the first district, with 5,977. The second district had the lowest number of crimes in all of DC. The average for all the police districts was 4,711.  (Source: Metropolitan Police Department Statistical Report, 2001-2005)

If the correlation between this reality and perception of danger is strong, perception of danger should be less at Georgetown University than on these other campuses and in other DC neighborhoods that are “hotter” spots for crime. If perception is skewed through Georgetown’s e-mail alert system, the correlation will be lower.


worksheet three

WORKSHEET 3: Popular Literature and Primary Sources (copy to be handed in, see working copy below)

Ian Smalley, Jonathan Winters, Lauren Burgoon, Jacob Landis, Francesca Tripodi and Lewis Levenberg. (CCTP-505-006) 

What communication context are you investigating? 


We are investigating emails and other communication media as alert systems for residents to crime in Georgetown University’s campus and neighborhood. We are interested in the effects these alert systems have on residents’ awareness and perception of the rate of crime in the areas. 


What does the popular literature say?  


The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires campuses to notify their students about crimes on campus. As a response, campuses across the nation are implementing new media alert systems with increasing frequency to notify students of crimes and emergencies. New media cannot prevent disasters or crimes, but can dramatically increase the rate of response to those events by facilitating community awareness. The two technologies currently in widespread use are e-mail and text-message alert systems, with text-messaging possibly supplanting e-mail in the near future.

Some schools, such as Purdue University, have hesitated to initiate a text-message alert system because of the cost, and because of questions about whether text-messaging or e-mailing students is more effective. Students also have been hesitant to sign up for programs when they are put in place. Research shows that they tend to feel safe on their campuses. When an incident occurs, however, the number of students signing up for alert systems increases, indicating that fear of crime is related to knowledge of actual criminal incidents.

Both parents and their college-bound children are starting to perceive greater risks of crime on college campuses and are preparing themselves accordingly.  Even beyond the college campus, E-policing is becoming a more common form of community protection, effectively supplementing or replacing traditional “Neighborhood Watch” systems. It is an easier, faster, more efficient way to alert community residents, but must be used carefully to avoid causing too much hysteria or stereotyping certain ethnic groups. Some who have signed up for the alerts have become annoyed by their frequency, but they value them for serious emergencies. People already use e-mail and text-messaging technologies, so the challenge for researchers is determining who decides to use them for emergency alerts, and under what circumstances.

References of popular literature, Web sites and so on addressing this phenomenon  

  1. Lawrence, Kara. The Daily Telegraph (Australia). “Neighbourhood Inbox New Weapon On Crime”. May 19, 2008. ONLINE:,,23718876-5001030,00.html. Accessed Nov. 1, 2008. 
  2. Einhorn, Catrin. New York Times. “Killing of Chicago Student Unsettles Campus Life”. Nov. 22, 2007. ONLINE: Accessed Nov. 1, 2008. 
  3. Homeland Security Advisory System. ONLINE: Accessed Oct. 28, 2008.       
  4. Americans Skeptical About Preventing Virginia Tech-Like Incidents. ONLINE: May 2, 2007. Accessed Oct. 28, 2008. 
  5. Mass Notification Systems from OmniAlert. ONLINE: Accessed Oct. 28, 2008. 
  6. Virtual Ed Link. School Safety Management System. ONLINE: Accessed 20 Oct. 2008.  
  7. Lessons from Virginia Tech: A Disaster Alert System That Works. ONLINE: Accessed Oct. 29, 2008. 
  8. Complying With The Jeanne Clery Act. ONLINE: Accessed Oct. 20, 2008. 
  9. McLarin, Kimberly. The New York Times. “Fear Prompts Self-Defense as Crime Comes to College”. Sept. 7, 1994. ONLINE: Accessed Oct. 20, 2008. 
  10. Yuan, Li. “Murder, She Texted. Wireless Messaging Used to Fight Crime.” Wall Street Journal. ONLINE: Accessed Oct. 25, 2008. 
  11. Zagier, Alan Scher. “Students Slow to Embrace Text Alerts.” The Associated Press. Accessed Oct. 25, 2008. 
  12. Nizza, Mike. “This is Only a (Text Messaging) Text.” The New York Times Online: The Lede Blog. ONLINE: Accessed Oct. 21, 2008. 
  13. Nizza, Mike. “More Adventures in Emergency Text-Messaging.” The New York Times Online: The Lede Blog. ONLINE: Accessed Oct. 21, 2008. 
  14. Labbé-DeBose, Theola. “Community Crime-Fighting Goes Cellular in the District.” The Washington Post, Nov. 2, 2008. pp. A1, A21. 
  15. District Launches Crime Alert Pilot Program. ONLINE: Oct. 15, 2008. 
    1. RSS Feed of DC Alerts for Georgetown. 


Identify the demographics of the four individuals you interviewed and summarize their feedback in no more than 150 words per interview.  


1. Todd Olson, vice president of student affairs, Georgetown University. 

          Olson primarily advised on creating a potential survey as part of the case study project. His advice included seeking out personnel in the Office of Planning and Institutional Research. The group proposed a series of questions to Olson that may be included in a survey, such as “Do the crime e-mail alerts create an impression that Georgetown University is unsafe?” Olson indicated that the university has no research on the group’s preliminary questions.

          We plan to conduct another interview with Olson as part of the final project in order to gauge his opinions on the e-mail alerts, specifically student reaction to the notifications. We also plan to ask him if students are asking for additional technologies in order to report or receive notice about crime in and around campus.  


2. Rocco DelMonaco, vice president of university safety, Georgetown University. 

          Georgetown sends out crime e-mail alerts above the threshold required by the Clery Act. Every criminal complaint involving a student, even if off-campus (i.e. on M Street), is reported as part of Georgetown’s alert system. Crime occurring in the neighborhood surrounding the university also is reported. DelMonaco believes this may lead recipients to believe there is more crime on-campus than actually occurs. 
          Georgetown has a policy not to distinguish between misdemeanor and felony crimes – but not every crime warrants an e-mail alert, the most likely reason being a suspect is apprehended. An incident’s seriousness also is considered – an assault will always warrant an e-mail, but not a laptop theft.
          Crime e-mails have helped increased awareness about incidents and needed community response. But the e-mails only notify the campus community of crime committed – it does not prevent incidents, which is the top priority. To this end, Georgetown is considering adopting other technology to report crime, such as text messaging.

3. Georgetown University student, male sophomore. 

          There are periods when more crime seems to be happening on campus, but during those periods, campus security also seems to pick up. Student reads public safety alerts regularly and uses them frequently to decide where to visit on- or off-campus. For instance, if an incident is reporting in Village A or Village B, the student will still visit that area. But if the incident reported is off-campus, he will think twice about being in that area. 

          The student believes off-campus has “sketchier” areas than on-campus and thinks Prospect street between 36th and 37th streets N.W. is the most dangerous part. 

          While the student considers Georgetown to be a safe campus and is comfortable walking alone in the daytime and at night, the crime e-mail alerts do not make him feel safer. Instead, the alerts only notify about crime already committed and how Georgetown’s security failed. 


4. Georgetown University student, female freshman. 

          This student considered Georgetown a safe campus before arriving at the university, and this perception has not changed. She reads the crime e-mail alerts sent and says they have made her more aware not to go off-campus alone at night. She generally feels safe off-campus, except for late at night, and is comfortable walking around alone at night and in the daytime. She says the crime e-mail alerts make her feel safer. She does not receive alerts through HOYAlert, the university-wide text messaging, e-mail and voicemail system to notifying the Georgetown community of emergencies – because she was not aware of the service. 


5. Georgetown University student, female freshman (2). 

          Before arriving on-campus, she considered Georgetown a safe place. That perception has taken a bit of a hit since arrival; she noted that the e-mail influenced this perception. She frequently reads the crime e-mail alerts – creative titles such as the “Georgetown snuggler” attract her attention – but the e-mails do not change her habits. The alerts make her feel safer because everyone is made aware of what’s happening. She also says the e-mails make it seem as if someone cares about crime on the campus. 


6. Georgetown University student, male freshman. 

          This student seemed nonchalant about crime at the university and the e-mail alerts. He considered Georgetown a safe campus before arriving and that perception has not changed. He feels safe walking alone at night and in the daytime and says the e-mails do not change his behavior or make him feel more or less safe. He does not receive alerts through HOYAlert, the university-wide text messaging, e-mail and voicemail system to notifying the Georgetown community of emergencies – because he doesn’t want too many junk e-mails. 


7. Georgetown University student, male freshman (2). 

          This student reads e-mails only when they are “silly,” (i.e. the one that involved the guy that tried to rob Vital Vittles). He likes reading the e-mails because they are funny. He considers Georgetown a safe campus and felt that way before arriving. He feels slightly safer on-campus because there are guards. The crime e-mails do not make him feel more or less safe. 


Mini Research Plan for GoCrossCampus

Abstract: I would study GoCrossCampus from the perspectives of organizational communications and cultural studies. Using these two disciplines and an approach of immersion into the game space paired with interpretive textual analysis, I would examine how GoCrossCampus is an example of a communications complex. In this type of virtual environment, composed almost entirely of communications technologies, users inhabit space by communicating within that space.

Midterm Essay

worksheet 2

CCTP 505-06 – Georgetown E-mail Alerts and the Fear of Crime.

Ian Smalley, Jonathan Winters, Lauren Burgoon,

Jacob Landis, Francesca Tripodi, Lewis Levenberg.

Discipline: Social Psychology

This discipline investigates: how communities form; what influences perception; how groups construct identity and emotional sensitivity; how groups react to threats or danger.

Questions this discipline asks about the problem we are investigating: what the relation between culture and fear is; how groups describe and regulate safety of their members’ bodies and property; what the influence of media is on groups and their perceptions of fear.


Altheide, David L.  “The News Media, the Problem Frame, and the Production of Fear.” The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Autumn 1997), pp. 647-668.

Altheide, David. Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis.

Bourke, Joanna. Fear: A Cultural History. Reno: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2006.

Chiricos, Ted, Eschholz, Sarah and Gertz, Marc. “Crime, News and Fear of Crime: Toward Identification of Audience Effects.” Social Problems, Vol. 44, Issue 3, (August 1997), pp. 342-357.

Fabiansson, Charlotte. “Young People’s Perceptions of Being Safe – Globally and Locally”. Social Indicators Research. Dec. 30, 2005

Ferraro, Kenneth F.  Fear of Crime: Interpreting Victimization Risk.  New York: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Freud, Sigmund. “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death.” 1915. Trans. E. C. Mayne, 1925. Ed. James Strachey. Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 14, pp. 273-300. London: Hogarth, 1975.

Gardner, Daniel. The Science of Fear: Why we Fear the Things We Shouldn’t and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger. New York: Dutton, 2008.

Glassner, Barry. The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are afraid of the Wrong Things. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

Hollway and Jefferson. “The risk society in an age of anxiety: situating fear of crime.” The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 48, (1997), pp 255-266.

Hope, Tim and Sparks, Richard (Eds.).  Crime, Risk, and Insecurity.  New York: Routledge, 2000.

Skogan, W.G. and Maxfield, M.G. Coping with Crime- Individual and Neighborhood Reactions. National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1981

Smith, Stacy L. and Wilson, Barbara J. “Children’s Comprehension of and Fear Reactions to Television News”. Media Psychology, Vol. 4, Issue 1 (February 2002), pp. 1 – 26

Discipline: Criminology

This discipline investigates: statistics of crime; geographic and demographic distributions of those statistics (trends and targets); methods of reporting those statistics and trends.

Questions it asks about the problem we are investigating: to what degree do statistics of crime in Georgetown (on campus and in the neighborhood) agree with or deviate from the notion that Georgetown is a “hot spot” of criminal activity? How do law enforcement agencies’ methods of reporting crime statistics and trends differ from those of media groups?


Adams, Gary B. and Rogers, Percy G. Campus Policing: the State of the Art. Los Angeles: School of Public Administration, University of Southern California, 1971.

Barak, Gregg (Ed.). Media, Process and the Social Construction of Crime: Studies in Newsmaking Criminology. New York: Garland, 1994.

Crime Maps of Washington, DC. ONLINE: 2008.

District of Columbia Crime Rates 1960 – 2007. ONLINE: 2008.

Metropolitan Police Department: Crime and Activity Statistics. ONLINE:,a,1239,Q,543308,mpdcNav_GID,1523,mpdcNav,|,.asp. 2008

U.S. Department of Justice. Mapping Crime: Understanding Hot Spots. ONLINE:, 2005

Wiles, Paul, Simmons, Jon and Pease, Ken.  “Crime Victimization: Its Extent and Communication.”  Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A: Statistics in Society, Vol. 166, No. 2 (2003), pp. 247-252.

Crossover references:

  • Ferraro, Kenneth F. and Grange, Randy L. “The Measurement of Fear of Crime”. Sociological Inquiry, Vol. 57, Issue 1, (Jan. 2007), pp. 70-97.
  • Lee, Murray.  Inventing Fear of Crime: Criminology and the Politics of Anxiety.  Portland, OR: Willan Publishing, 2007.

worksheet one

WORKSHEET 1 – September 9, 2008 

Team for the Case Study: 

1) Lauren Burgoon (lmb73)

2) Jake Landis (jwl43)

3) Lewis Levenberg (lal56)

4) Ian Smalley (ias6)

5) Francesca Tripodi (fbt2)

6) Jonathon Winters (jfw29) 

The problem or area of interest that we are investigating: 

Our group will study how e-mail security alerts, such as the Georgetown University crime report e-mails, affect the campus culture’s perception of danger.  Does the frequency and volume of the email content, as opposed to delivery via other media, create the impression that campus is unsafe? How does the severity of this reaction compare to the actual crime statistics in Georgetown, or to the rest of DC? 

Specific communication technology being explored: 


RSS Feed

Police Blotters

Wanted Posters



(text messages?)

learning goals

1) Interdisciplinary Problem Solving: A signature of the CCT program is a multi- and inter-disciplinary approach to studying the intersection of Communication, Culture and Technology. To that end, students will engage some key problems and bring explicit disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives to those problems throughout the course.

a. I’d like to dig into the problem of communicating across boundaries of technological and cultural significance. These could include language and conditions of power like race, gender and class, of course, but they could also include some more subtle distinctions, like political affiliation, artistic and communicative medium, or even the singular, material body. By thinking this problem through from several different angles, I hope to see facets I would never otherwise have recognized.

2) Conversations across the various clusters of CCT are an important function of this course, helping students to grow in appreciation for the multidisciplinary nature of the program. For this reason, students will consider course material from both social science and humanities perspectives and participate in heterogeneous discussion groups.

a. Though my background is reasonably strong in humanities’ jargon, I am often at a loss when dealing with the technicalities of “harder”, more numbers-based science. I hope that exposure to, and working together with, those of my classmates who think in this manner will help me attack the materials much more concretely.

3) A central difficulty for many students in the transition to graduate school is understanding the ways in which graduate programs are structured around the independence of the student and his or her own interests. For this reason, many students have trouble taking ownership of their program and understanding graduate school’s need for self-direction. Students’ engagement with multiple versions of the statement of purpose, the portfolios, and the reflective writing provide opportunities for students to articulate for themselves how CCT will fit into their educational and other career goals.

a. A professor of mine once remarked that at earlier levels of formal education, the classroom activity is almost all “discipline” and hardly any “control”, from the view of the teacher, at least, but that by the time one sits down in a graduate class, the conditions are neatly reversed. I know coming to terms with my indecision may take a while, but I am determined to narrow down and dig in deeply to one or two problems while I’m here. I do take some comfort in the syllabus laid out for this class, since it seems to account for that transition time from an undergraduate mentality to a more independent and purposeful one. I hope to gain the tools to define further questions and problems for research and study in Ph.D. programs.

statement of purpose draft 1

There comes a moment, or a site, in any communicative exchange, when (or where) something vital is lost. This could be simple misinterpretation or mistranslation, the need to exercise tact or restraint, a lack of context by which to understand what’s being communicated, or constraints of space or time. My interest is precisely those moments and sites, of the limits of contemporary forms of communication. In CCT, I plan to find out what those limits define, how they’re formed, and how one can communicate the limit of communication at all. I will bring interlinguistic skills, creative writing, and background that ranges from physical labor to cultural studies to bear on the problems I engage.

The most primary issue at stake in this question of limits is that of communication across technological and cultural boundaries, which is why this program seems well-suited to my needs and interests. Those boundaries – language, race, gender, class, religion, distance, politics, media, and physical bodies – lead to ends of one form of communication, forcing a change in that form. That force, that agency, demands early and frequent attention if I am to think what the change might look, act, or feel like. This would depend of the limits in question, like cultural literacy and legibility, or technological capacity and capability. For example, translation is one change in form brought about by the limits of language. My interest here rests in what’s lost in translation, and how that loss itself can be communicated.

Other changes of communicative form might include censorship, mediation, development, and revolution. This last is a good example of another important question I hope to ask: how can one represent the limit of representation? In this case, can revolution be represented by anything other than itself? And along those lines, might the impossibility of representation itself form the condition of possibility for such a change’s realization?

Understanding what stops us from exchanging information across these technological and cultural boundaries can only lead to a greater exchange of information, if only at the level of information about what we cannot communicate. This would be, then, the communication of the fact of communicating itself, which is (necessarily, and thereby) an establishment of community. I believe that by engaging the limits of communication across technological and cultural boundaries, we push those limits, giving new relevance to issues of policy, identity, production, and faith. I am here to find out just how far some limits can be pushed, and what remains when we move from one way of thinking to another.