Rowan University is hosting scholars from more than 100 colleges and universities this week at a sports communication summit that draws attendees from around the world.
the International Association for Communication and Sport Summit, March 3-6, will explore a wide range of topics in sports communication, many of which are burning issues often debated in the public sphere but examined through a critical and academic lens.
Dr. Julia Richmond, Assistant Professor at Department of Public Relations and Advertising within the Ric Edelman College of Communication and Creative Artshelped bring the annual summit to Rowan.
“The summit brings together people who are trying to understand sports communication and all of its different forms,” Richmond said.
She said the global passion for sports, including the hugely popular and rapidly growing phenomenon of digital esports, is naturally fueling the conversation. Broad interest among the general public in turn leads to closer scrutiny by communication researchers.
The summit, which will take place primarily on Rowan’s campus in Glassboro, will include a few sessions at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, home of the Eagles, and Richmond herself will lead two talks with Dr. Alexander Jenkins of Drexel University.
One of those sessions, “The Other Orange Monster: Mapping Gritty’s Resignification Through Semiotic Analysis,” will explore the startling relationship that fans, media, and even online commentators have far beyond Philadelphia with the rambling Flyers mascot.
“This is an important discussion because while Gritty adds visibility to the Flyers, there also came a time when people were using Gritty as a symbol of political and social activism for change,” Richmond said.
In some cases, she says, people have embraced Gritty as a plush, stuffed man or woman who, to them, represents American patriotic values.
“We’ll see how it’s been used officially by the Flyers organization, by fans, but also in political activism,” Richmond said. “And then we’ll see how he got a bit more radicalized.”
In another section, “Pragmatic or Predatory: A Framing Analysis of US Military Recruiting Practices on Twitch,” Richmond will lead a discussion of how the Army and Navy use the online platform to market and recruit. The popular site allows viewers to watch and discuss gamers online, but since many of its viewers are underage, military recruiting posts on Twitch are raising issues, Richmond said.
“We will discuss whether or not it is ethical for the military to go on Twitch and recruit people, some of whom are underage,” she said.
Other issues to explore include communication topics related to how athletes are portrayed in the media, how sports industries deal with crises, and athlete activism.
Rowan has growing popularity Sports communication and media (Sports CAM) program with nearly 300 students this year pursuing majors or minors. The program prepares students for a variety of careers in sports communication, from live color analysis of games to the technical side of sports broadcasting to academia.
Although the summit is largely aimed at academics, students are encouraged to attend, Richmond said.
“It will give them the experience to see what academic research looks like in their field of study,” Richmond said. “Sport goes hand in hand with the history of communication, the history of rhetoric and the history of persuasion. This summit, most of which will take place right here in Glassboro, is a great opportunity for our students to think more deeply about sports communication.