Shafer Leads Discussion on Cat Videos – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Shafer Leads Discussion on Cat Videos

Assistant Professor of Media and Society Leah Shafer recently led a discussion at  the Internet Cat Video Festival at Cornell University. She served as “Mistress of Purrrremonies” and introduced and discussed topics concerning the Internet phenomenon of cat videos.

“Serving in this capacity allowed me to share my love of cat videos with a broad audience, as well as discuss recent academic work on the cat video with a crowd of interested viewers,” says Shafer, whose own work on the subject focuses on ways the videos “reflect and engage emerging technologies and social constructions in the digital age.” 

“I spoke briefly about recent scholarship on the cat video, with emphasis on the ways that cat video popularity has created Internet tools that are useful for social activism and the ways that cat videos allow us to pretend that surveillance culture is cute and fun instead of terrifying and problematic,” she says.

The Festival, curated by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, is a “tongue-in-cheek celebration” of the popular video genre, as well as an acknowledgement of amateur video as a preeminent art form of contemporary times. During the event, audience members played cat-related games and enjoyed a screening of the collection from the Walker Art Center.

Information about the festival can be found at

A member of the HWS faculty since 2008, Shafer received her A.B. and M.A. from Cornell University. She earned a Ph.D. from the department of theatre, film and dance at Cornell, with her dissertation “Brand Name Vision: Comedy and Props in the Films of John Hughes.”

Shafer has served as an instructor in the department of cinema, photography and media arts at Ithaca College and as an instructor and campus coordinator at Bard Prison Initiative. Shafer’s areas of interest include visual culture, new media, television history, celebrity culture, digital humanities and media literacy. She has also served as co-curator of a local film festival, and assisted in the direction of several Cornell theater department plays.

Her work has been published in several journals including Women and Performance: a Journal of Feminist Theory, Transnational Cinemas, and Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture.