Melissa is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.
My research is quite interdisciplinary, spanning cultural theory, media & communications, feminist theories, and musicology. What unites these areas in my work is a focus on the relationships between popular culture, technology, and sociability. Currently, I am working on two main projects: one employs CTDA (Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis) to examine how Taylor Swift’s song, “You Need To Calm Down” (2019) is being received by audiences, as seen on Twitter and TikTok. Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis seeks to both analyse the content of Tweets, in this case in relation to that particular media text, but also how the platforms themselves inform reception, as informed by wider socio-cultural systems. My research finds that although Taylor Swift intended this music video to be a form of allyship to LGBTQI communities, that message was subsequently politicized on Twitter, and depoliticized through TikTok.
My other area of research – artificial intelligence and popular music – is not an immediately obvious form of feminist research; however, as a feminist, those ideologies inform all my work, and how I approach case studies. By examining the social aspects of computational creativity, I do so through the lens of intersectionality.
How did you end up doing what you are currently doing?
I became interested in issues of gender representation during my undergraduate degree, and continued to explore this with my MA at McMaster University, where I undertook an archival study to examine the ways in which female pop musicians are represented in popular music magazines. My PhD dissertation at the University of Edinburgh examined iPod culture and sociability and I continue to combine my interests in intersectional research, popular culture, and technology in my current work.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
I would say that my day is fairly typical for a Senior Lecturer position. I spend a lot of time preparing lectures and ensuring that my students have their best experiences here at Coventry University. I also answer a lot of emails! I try to get outside and go hiking on the weekends as much as possible to help with the work/life balance.
What or who inspires you in your work?
I’m inspired by the positive uses of media and technology in our society, and seek to combat any perceived negativity that surrounds youth practices in particular. I am inspired by the creativity of young people using apps like TikTok and Instagram, and the unintended uses of technology that often impart the most creative influence and social change.
Why do we need gender equality in research?
Because as much as progress has been made, we have not reached any semblance of equality. This is, of course, often field-dependent, but elements of systemic inequality underlie all areas of research. This is not only a matter of gender equality, but also a call to combat all systems of oppression and how they manifest themselves in academia.
What advice do you have for fellow researchers?
Seek collaboration vs. competition! Create a support network, find time for coffee chats, and celebrate empathy.