Associate Professor of Media and Society Leah Shafer recently traveled to Toronto to present her scholarship on memes and internet culture during the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference. As part of the panel, “Memes Against Humanity,” Shafer presented her paper, “Springtime for Hatred: Downfall Memes and Nationalism in Internet Cultures.”
The panel concentrated on how memes shape and are shaped by participatory culture and politics as they connect people through multiple forms of identity, including race, ethnicity, sexuality and disability. Shafer’s paper reframes the critical responses around the war film Downfall by juxtaposing them with a reading of popular parodies circulated on YouTube. Shafer’s work points to a “distressing rise of nationalism in popular culture and in culture generally.”
During the conference, Shafer also served as co-chair of the Critical Media Pedagogy Scholarly Interest Group, a collection of scholars who are interested in using media studies pedagogy for social justice work.
In addition to her conference presentation, Shafer joined Associate Professor of Media and Society Lisa Patti and Assistant Professor of Media and Society Rebecca Burditt at the Toronto International Film Festival’s DigiPlaySpace where they explored digital exhibits that featured virtual reality, augmented reality and other gaming interfaces. The experience coincides with Shafer recently completing an essay co-authored with Visiting Instructor of Media and Society Iskandar Zulkarnain that addresses augmented reality. One of the exhibits that Shafer and Zulkarnain write about in the paper is Kristin Lucas’ flARmingos, which is part of the exhibition at TIFF DigiPlaySpace.
At HWS, Shafer teaches courses that explore the culture and history of media, including television, film, advertising and the internet. Her criticism has been widely published and anthologized, and appears in journals including FLOW: A Critical Forum on Television and Media Culture, Afterimage and Film Criticism. Her scholarship on media studies pedagogy has appeared in The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy and Teaching Media Quarterly, and she was a guest-editor for a volume of Cinema Journal Teaching Dossier. In a chapter of the new book, The 25 Sitcoms that Changed Television: Turning Points in American Culture (2017), Shafer examines The Office mockumentary chronicling of the fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin and the lives of its employees, and assesses the show’s impact on television comedies and modern American culture.
An HWS faculty member since 2008, she holds an A.B., M.A. and a Ph.D. from Cornell University, and has taught at Ithaca College and for the Bard Prison Initiative, where she served as campus coordinator.