2014 Samuel L. Becker Memorial Conference

Sam Becker, black and white

"Interesting questions are the lifeblood of any field. In our case, they must be questions that make a difference, that puzzle and stimulate, and that give some intellectual coherence to this field of communication studies."
—Sam Becker, 1984

Interesting Questions in Health, Social Change, and Technology

February 27–March 1, 2014
hotelVetro & Conference Center, downtown Iowa City, Iowa

Watch the live streaming video of the speakers below.

This conference honors the life and work of Samuel L. Becker (1923–2012), noted communications scholar and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the University of Iowa Department of Communication Studies. In his 1984 keynote address to the Central States Speech Association, Sam took up the theme of "interesting questions" to argue for more sustained intradisciplinary conversations among communication studies scholars, which will better enable them to address critical issues in our time. In that spirit, we've assembled a series of speakers to address the themes of health, social change, and technology, all of which are issues that Sam addressed in his own work, are of central concern to communication studies, and represent thematic areas of inquiry in our own Department.

Watch the live stream of all presentations right from this page! To our knowledge, the 2014 Becker Conference is the first conference in the Communication discipline to be entirely live-streamed and live-tweeted. All talks will be live-streamed below on this page and at this link (all listed times are CST). Also, follow the conference on Twitter at #BeckerCon14. Instructions for how online viewers can ask questions via Twitter (#BeckerCon14) will be given at the start of each Q&A.

Live streaming video by Ustream






  • Dudley Andrew

    Dudley Andrew, Yale University

    André Bazin meets the New Media of the 1950s
    March 1, 2014 - 9:00am to 10:15am

    Dudley Andrew, R. Selden Rose Professor of Film and Comparative Literature at Yale University, will discuss historical epic films that strive to naturalize a specific political regime, asking questions such as How do such films comport themselves in the movie theater? How do they use violence to generate but direct the enthusiasm of their national viewers? 

  • Karma Chavez

    Karma R. Chávez, University of Wisconsin–Madison

    A Public Health Crisis and Militant Homosexuals: Assessing the Debates over the US Ban on HIV Positive Immigrants
    March 1, 2014 - 3:00pm to 4:15pm

    Karma R. Chávez, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and the Program in Chican@ and Latin@ Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, will examine the rhetoric found in the earliest congressional and public debates surrounding the proposed ban on HIV-positive people migrating to the United States, noting the ways in which ideology, fear, and religious belief trumped scientific knowledge and medical opinion.

  • Erin Donovan

    Erin Donovan, University of Texas–Austin

    Coping through Communication, Coping with Communication: Collective Uncertainty Management in Health Contexts
    February 28, 2014 - 9:00am to 10:15am

    Erin Donovan, Assistant Professor in Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, will present on the understudied stakeholders in the health information management milieu, such as the persons to whom information is disclosed, or from whom information is kept, and the populations who may be at greater risk for complications of collective uncertainty management.

  • Ashley P. Duggan

    Ashley P. Duggan, Boston College

    Communication in Provider-Patient Relationships: Pathways to Health Disparities or (On the Contrary) to Social Innovation
    March 1, 2014 - 1:30pm to 2:45pm

    In her presentation, Ashley P. Duggan, an associate professor in the Communication Department at Boston College, will document the role of communication in predicting health outcomes and highlight the potential for subtleties in communication messages to shape health disparities.  

  • Derek Johnson

    Derek Johnson, University of Wisconsin–Madison

    At the Kids' Table: Children’s Media Industries, Production Hierarchies, and the Audience Function
    March 1, 2014 - 10:30am to 11:45am

    In his talk, Derek Johnson, Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, will consider the production of children’s media, where children are excluded from direct participation in industry cultures by child labor laws, yet remain discursively central to the coherence of meaningful industry communities and identity.

  • Phaedra C. Pezzullo

    Phaedra C. Pezzullo, Indiana University

    You Are Toxic, but You Are Not a Toxin
    February 28, 2014 - 10:30am to 11:45am

    Phaedra C. Pezzullo, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Culture and a faculty member of the Cultural Studies Program and American Studies Program at Indiana University, will argue in her talk that environmental justice and health advocates are poised to mobilize a broad-based movement for toxic reform.

  • John Sloop

    John Sloop, Vanderbilt University

    The Ghost of Justin Fashanu
    February 27, 2014 - 7:00pm

    John M. Sloop, professor of communication studies and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty of the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University, will present the conference's keynote lecture,  "The Ghost of Justing Fashanu," in which he will argue that the common-sense ideology of professional sports discourages an active discussion of sexuality.

  • Lynn Spigel

    Lynn Spigel, Northwestern University

    Media Homes: The Fabulous Futures of Everyday Life
    February 28, 2014 - 2:30pm to 3:45pm

    Lynn Spigel, Frances E. Willard Professor of Screen Cultures in the School of Communications at Northwestern University, will speak on the relationship between the modern home and media, exploring a variety of historical models for conceptualizing the home as a media space.

  • Ted Striphas

    Ted Striphas, Indiana University

    An Infernal Culture Machine: Semantic Foundations of Algorithmic Culture
    February 28, 2014 - 4:00pm to 5:15pm

    In his talk, Ted Striphas, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University, will trace the shift in the meaning of the word "culture" over the past sixty years to culture’s encounter with cybernetic theory, a body of research whose central concern is the process of communication and control in complex systems.

  • Joseph Walther

    Joseph Walther, Michigan State University

    Interpersonal Interaction and Hyperpersonal Attributions Online
    February 28, 2014 - 1:00pm to 2:15pm

    Joseph B. Walther, a professor of communication at Michigan State University, will present on recent research that is furthering our understanding of how and why people sometimes experience unusually great levels of affection in their online interchanges with others, from online chats to finding a match in online dating that seems too good to be true.