Susan G Kahlenberg
Professor, Media & Communication
As digital natives, Muhlenberg students have grown up with information and technology widespread and ever-constant in their daily experiences. While they may have technical skills on how to access and consume media content, I aim for students to have a critical awareness of and engagement with media. My courses strive to advance and strengthen students' critical thinking, analysis, research, and writing skills. Classes are organized so that students are positioned as active learners. I draw on cultural artifacts and media examples to connect with students’ everyday understandings and use of media, including traditional (e.g., television, newspapers, magazines) and contemporary digital media. I am excited by teaching with digital tools in ways that promote participation, collaboration, and discussion so that students are creating, evaluating, discovering and building relationships with ideas, one another, and me as their facilitator. I am also dedicated to the interplay of media analysis and production, which aligns with the Media and Communication Department’s mission statement: my courses are organized so that media making is ethical and prioritizes inclusion, antiracism, and social justice practices and strategies. I also teach courses that support the public health and women & gender studies interdisciplinary programs.
Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests
My research focuses on understanding the interrelationship amongst media industries, media images, and media effects. I draw on cultivation theory to raise questions such as: Who has access to create and distribute media stories? In what capacity do media industries and policies shape media forms? What overarching patterns exist within media stories? What do these patterns say about systems of power in society? Have these patterns been consistent over time and spaces? To what extent does media exposure influence common sense, worldviews, and beliefs long term.
I have explored gender representations in toy commercials airing on Nickelodeon, on prime time television, and exclusively on Nickelodeon and Disney networks (including spinoff channels). My interests have focused on the extent television portrays gender stereotypes and heteronormative patterns, and I’ve measured characters for many different personality, appearance and relationship characteristics, with concerns on how these images may impact people’s attitudes and values. I take the stance that ‘industry’ has accountability to the commercial messages they distribute as their programs and commercials are important socialization agents in children’s lives.
I also have published and presented at conferences based on my interests in teaching and learning, in areas such as communication assessment, online and blended learning teaching practices, and social justice pedagogy.