Rowan University this week hosts scholars from more than 100 colleges and universities in a summit on sports communication that’s drawing attendance 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 them hot-button issues often debated in the public sphere but examined through a critical, academic lens.
Dr. Julia Richmond, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Relations & Advertising within the Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts, helped draw the annual summit to Rowan.
“The summit brings together people who are trying to understand sports communication and all of its various forms,” Richmond said.
She said the worldwide passion for sport, including the wildly popular and fast-growing phenomenon of digital E-sports, naturally fuels conversation. Broad interest among the public at large in turn leads to a closer review by communication researchers.
The summit, which will mostly take place on Rowan’s Glassboro campus, will feature some sessions at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, home to the Eagles, and Richmond herself will lead two discussions along with Dr. Alexander Jenkins of Drexel University.
One of those sessions, “The Other Orange Monster: Mapping the Resignification of Gritty through Semiotic Analysis,” will explore the surprising relationship that fans, the media, even online commentators well beyond Philadelphia have with the scrappy Flyers mascot.
“This is an important discussion because while Gritty is adding exposure for the Flyers, there also came a point where people were using Gritty as a symbol for political and social activism for change,” Richmond said.
In some cases, she said, people have embraced Gritty as a plush, overstuffed everyman or woman who, to them, represents patriotic American values.
“We’ll look at how he’s been used officially by the Flyers organization, by fans, but also in political activism,” Richmond said. “And then we’ll look at how he’s been a little more radicalized.”
In another section, “Pragmatic or Predatory: A Framing Analysis of U.S. Military Recruiting Practices on Twitch,” Richmond will lead a discussion into the ways in which the Army and Navy use the online platform to market and recruit. The popular site enables viewers to watch and discuss online gamers but, because many of its viewers are underage, military recruitment messages on Twitch raise issues, Richmond said.
“We’ll discuss whether or not it’s ethical for the military to be going on Twitch and recruiting people, some of whom are minors,” she said.
Among other issues to be explored are communication topics related to how athletes are represented in the media, how sports industries handle crises, and athlete activism.
Rowan has a popular and growing Sports Communication & Media (Sports CAM) program with nearly 300 students this year pursuing majors or minors. The program prepares students for a variety of sports communication careers, from live color analysis of games to the technical side of sportscasting to academia.
Though the summit is largely geared toward academics, students are encouraged to attend, Richmond said.
“It will give them the experience to see what academic research in their field of study is like,” 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 be right here in Glassboro, is a great opportunity for our students to think deeper about sports communication.”