Benjamin Burroughs says it's important that journalism students understand the pluses and minuses of social media and how to use it in their future careers.
What university did you attend?
I got my master's degrees in global media at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. I recently finished my Ph.D. at the University of Iowa.
What brought you to UNLV?
I was attracted to UNLV for many reasons. This position as an assistant professor of emerging media is suited to my research interests in streaming media and social media. I was also attracted to the journalism and media studies department because of the unique connection between the two fields.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
My favorite professor has to be Kembrew McLleod. Kembrew is a public prankster and can often be found dressing up as a robot or Roboprof in order to advocate for social causes. For example, last year he led a robot march to protest the pink locker rooms in Iowa's Kinnick Stadium and in the past has confronted political candidates like Michele Bachmann about their views on gay rights.
As an expert in emerging media, what do you impress upon your students?
I believe an understanding of media platforms and media industries is important for students entering the shifting journalism terrain. I want students to be fluent in both media theory about social media (for example, an understanding of the affordances of specific social media platforms and applications) and also in the practical application of emerging media and technology to jobs in journalism, public relations, and media/entertainment industries.
What drew you to your field?
I have always wanted to understand how audiences were participating in the production and circulation of media. I was also interested in the role of the industry in our media consumption. I enjoy the challenge of trying to understand how emerging media technologies and digital media are (or are not) changing everyday life and media practices.
What’s the biggest gripe you hear about social media?
The biggest gripe you hear is that social media, in general, is destroying the ability to communicate interpersonally. I often want to look at the participatory potential of social media for things like civic engagement, but that needs to be balanced with a critical reflection on the impact of social media in everyday life and the encroachment of these companies into our privacy, etc.
Do social media networks really connect us as humans or are we drifting away from each other?
The easy answer is that it can do both. I often think of social media as a tool that can either be used for increased connectivity or the ability to drift away. I think we all feel to some degree more connected to social networks because of social or mobile technology. This can mean more participation, democratization, and connection, or it can also mean increased labor (maintaining those social ties, which can detract from face-to-face communication), increased corporate intrusion into social networks, and privacy concerns.
Social media can be the best and the worst in society — one of the reasons it merits serious academic study and reflection.
Are you on social media? If so, what platforms do you like?
I am on everything because I think part of my job is to experiment within these emergent spaces. Lately I have been doing research on Periscope and impacts of live-streaming on copyright and different forms of civic engagement.
What digital media tools do you encourage students to use and why?
I encourage students (and parents for that matter) to continually experiment and stay up to date with the latest in social media. It is really hard to be a journalist and not have a presence on Twitter. Everyone is trying to figure out how to best incorporate Snapchat into marketing campaigns effectively. It is becoming more difficult to be an expert in public relations without understanding how social media can positively and negatively impact your corporate brand. Social media is no longer some gimmick or fad, but an integral component to all of those areas.
You’re a parent of three kids under the age of five. What should parents know about how their children use social media?
I would encourage parents to be involved in their children’s usage of social media. If you are worried about Snapchat, for example, then get an account yourself and explore the space so you can better talk to your children about the positives and negatives of the space.
What are your pastimes and hobbies?
I am a huge college football fan, especially the Clemson Tigers, who are hopefully still undefeated at the time of this publication. I consume copious amounts of college football on Saturdays, in addition to other sports. I'm very excited about the direction Coach (Tony) Sanchez has the UNLV program headed. In another lifetime I played the bass guitar in (sweaty) garage rock bands.
Tell us something people would be surprised to learn about you.
I’m originally from the North Shore of Oahu. I grew up there and graduated from Kahuku High School. I identify as a haole (a non-native Hawaiian, my wife is Hawaiian but I am not).