CAT Vice Chair Statement

Katy Pearce for CAT vice chair

I’m running for vice chair of the Communication and Technology Division of the International Communication Association. I’m asking for your support. Voting opens 1 September and closes in mid-October. To vote, search your email for ICA and you’ll find the link to the ballot. Alternatively, log into your ICAHDQ.org profile and you’ll see the ballot there.

My 300-word statement is available on the ICA voting platform, but I’d like to take the opportunity to explain how I intend to accomplish my goals, if I am fortunate enough to be chosen as vice chair.

CAT is my intellectual home and I promise I will work tirelessly for everyone to feel welcome in the CAT community.

I’m an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, USA. I want this position in order to shape both the post-pandemic conference experience as well as support accessibility and inclusivity efforts in the association.

I’m not new to CAT leadership. I served as secretary from 2015-2018 during an ICA website transition and notable bylaws changes. In another executive role, I’ve managed CAT social media since 2010, creating and sharing content to thousands of followers, with a perpetual goal of finding the next great kitten animated GIF. I’ve long been part of the CAT doctoral consortium, as a participant in 2010; graduating to mentor since 2015; on the organizing committee since 2017; and as co-director from 2019-2022. My co-directorship has been during two “pandemic years” into the first post-pandemic conference. This has been both challenging and rewarding and I hope that some of the doctoral consortium changes will be an example for other ICA entities.

I also served on the mobile pre-conference organizing committee for many years and helped start the ICA mobile interest group.

More broadly at ICA, I’ve served on the executive board nominating committee and I’ve organized pre-conferences on social media and marginality and Blue Skys on caregiving and academia. In the field, I’ve co-edited a special issue on social media and marginality and I am on the editorial boards of many journals including Journal of Computer-mediated Communication, Social Media + Society, Mobile Media & Communication, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Communication Research Reports, and Global Perspectives: Communication and Media. I will be an associate editor of the Journal of Computer-mediated Communication beginning in August 2021.

But I don’t only do service! My research focuses on how cultural values and norms influence technology use, typically tied to inequality, usually in Armenia and Azerbaijan. I am a mixed-methods researcher that draws on both post-positivist and interpretivist theorizing. I’ve attended every ICA conference since 2008, graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2011, and have been at the University of Washington since 2012. My CV is here.

Accessibility

My primary goal in a CAT leadership role is increasing accessibility. The pandemic has shown us ways that ICA can be more accessible, and the next divisional leadership will help determine that future. Accessibility is important to me because of my identities: I am a parent and know both how difficult and important it is for caregivers to attend the conference. As someone that works almost exclusively in the Global South and with Global South collaborators, I am sensitive to the barriers for such work to be shared. And I want to make CAT a hospitable place for early career researchers.

Caregivers cat with kittens

I was a graduate student parent and then a faculty parent and know both how difficult it can be for caregivers to attend the conference. I also know people who are caregivers–especially women–are more likely to have career setbacks. Childcare at conferences is an equity issue.

ICA has done a great job providing some childcare, but I would like to see more opportunities for older children’s activities at the conference. Moreover, evening childcare is not provided, and this is of particular concern to single parents as well as dual-academic parents, both trying to attend conference evening events. I would use my position as a board member to push for these additions

Further, daytime childcare is highly subsidized by ICA, but I would like to see it be even more affordable for student parents, contingent faculty, members from Tier B and C countries, or anyone else with financial considerations. ICA launched a fundraiser, inspired by an article that I co-authored. But we can do more to make this happen. For example, could some of the CAT budget be allocated toward such a childcare fund? I would bring this to a vote.

Finally, with the virtual conferences of 2020 and 2021, we saw first hand how virtual presentations allows for those with caregiving responsibilities to participate more easily. As both a leader of CAT and as a board member, I would push for hybridization of the conference.

Internationalization and Global South cat with globe

ICA has internationalization goals and as a division, CAT should follow the organization’s lead. The CAT international liaisons have done a great job surveying members and interacting with other ICA entities tied to internationalization. But under my leadership, internationalization will be even more of a priority.

My scholarship is almost exclusively based in the Global South. I know first hand how challenging it can be to promote work that is from outside of North America and Western Europe. I often have experienced being put on the “all those other places” panels, where there is no theoretical continuity. I vow to not program such panels and to work as hard as possible to have geographic and cultural diversity on planned panels. I will also introduce an award for best non-U.S./non-European paper [based on where data was collected, as basing this on author national affiliation or geographic location may be problematic]. I hope that this will entice submissions and draw attention to good scholarship. 

Further, ICA has asked that proposed panels take into consideration the diversity of perspectives. I vow to enforce this.

It is also important to report on geographic representation among submitted and accepted papers at the business meetings.

It is also important to acknowledge that there is great variance in academic careers around the globe. Some scholars may not have as much bandwidth to do reviews. Others may not have as much time to complete a 25-page manuscript before the conference. Increasing the number of high density panels will help to provide greater opportunities for scholars with such constraints.

Travel funds also can help provide opportunities to attend the conference. I will ask the membership to vote on greater allocation of funds for travel.

As with caregivers, hybrid conferences provide opportunities for those that have a more difficult time traveling to still participate in the conference. As both a leader of CAT and as a board member of ICA, I would push for hybridization of the conference.

Another benefit of hybridization is the ability to add subtitles to presentations. Recent ICA fellow Eun-Ju Lee gave her inspiring fellows talk in Korean with English subtitles. While translation is certainly not free, seeing her talk made me realize the possibilities of doing this. It could be possible for some CAT funds, with a vote from the membership, to be used to off-set some translation costs. (And while automated translation is a start, as scholars we know how specific we are about terminology. Imagine placing your trust into an automated system to explain your life’s work.) 

Early Career kittens computer

With the many years that I have worked on the doctoral consortium, I understand how beneficial it can be to early career scholars. Yet as co-director of two pandemic-era doctoral consortium, I know all too well how severely the loss of this event has been felt by many. As co-director of the doctoral consortium, I have been leading a reboot of the event and how graduate student mentoring occurs within the CAT division. It has been a great deal of work, but I know that the next doctoral consortium will still provide essential feedback to graduate students while also being more accessible to all.
And of course, more students can participate with hybridization. Thus, as both a leader of CAT and as a board member of ICA, I would push for hybridization of the conference.  Also relevant to early careers scholars is an increase in the number of high density panels.

Programming and reviewing

Over the years, there has been a lot of discussion about reviews. It seems like no matter what system is used, the instructions given to reviewers, what questions reviewers are asked to address, or how the vice chair assigns reviewers; people are unhappy with the process. And indeed, after all of the work put into a manuscript, receiving no qualitative feedback is problematic. 

With instructions and the items that reviewers use to rate papers, I will work on this in conjunction with the chair to make these clearer.

With reviewers, we all want better reviews, but there is a dilemma with wanting to give each paper multiple reviewers and not wanting to overburden volunteers. There have been some recent improvements, though. Now when people submit to ICA, they are required to review and it is ICA policy that if one does not review, their manuscripts could be removed from consideration. Also the paper management system now works better with reviewer-provided and author-provided keywords. As a CAT leader, I will emphasize the importance of keywords to everyone involved. 

As vice chair and program planner, I will implement a system whereby any paper with two reviewer scores deviating a great deal will receive a third reviewer.   

With regard to the reviewing system, unfortunately as division leadership, we have no say in the choices that ICA makes when selecting paper management systems. We can, however, provide feedback to ICA.

I’d also like to create some short videos about reviewing best practices. I’d welcome any input on this.

As noted earlier, I vow to try to have geographic and cultural diversity on panels. I will NEVER program a manel.

Please contact me if you have any questions, kepearce at uw dot edu.