Bridging Divides: The Legacy, Impact, and Future of Urban Communication


Bridging Divides: The Legacy, Impact, and Future of Urban Communication

With the support of the

Urban Communication Foundation (


Southern Methodist University Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity


Pre-conference held at the Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity, Lyle School of Engineering

Southern Methodist University, Caruth Hall 206

Dallas, Texas

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

9:00 am – 5:00 pm


2017 Urban Communication Foundation NCA Pre-Conference

Draft Schedule

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 Time: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Location: Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity,

Lyle School of Engineering

SMU, Caruth Hall 206

9:00 am – 9:10 am: Welcome & Opening Remarks

9:10 am – 10:30 am: Panel One – Approaches to Knowing and Experiencing Cities

  • Bryan Picciotto (University of Main)

“Walking as Urban Communication: A Case Study of Walkability in Maine”

  • Jin-Ae Kang (East Carolina University) & Brittany M.W. Thompson (East Carolina University)

“Farmer’s Self-Storytelling as a Tool of Relationship Building & Digital Advocacy”

  • Max Renner (North Carolina State University)

“Sketching Civic Engagement: Archiving the Legacy of Cities through Digital Public Art”

  • erin mcclellan (Boise State University), Kelly Myers (Boise State University) & Emily Nemeth (Denison University)

“Planned Communities and the Development of Empathy”

10:40 am – 12:00 pm: Spotlight Panel – Participatory Action Research in Dallas

The Spotlight panel will feature Dallas social science and GIS projects being done in the City of Dallas. The will focus particularly on Community Research and GIS. The panel will address the use of household resiliency surveys addressing areas such as demographics, food access, safety, transportation, urban agriculture and relationships with existing community organizations and are intended to be used to inform solutions that are relevant at the household and community level. It will additionally discuss in-depth mapping of South Dallas Fair Park at Jubilee Park, St. Philip’s Community and the MLK Public Investment District attempting to link house-house survey and interview level data on attitudes and behaviors to inform on-going GIS mapping projects support opportunities to build healthy communities.

12:00 pm – 1:20 pm: Lunch Recess

  • Lunch on your own around conference site

1:30 pm – 2:50 pm: Panel Three – Space, Place, and Urban Environments

  • Kaitlyn Haynal Allen (University of Pittsburgh)

“Pittsburgh Public Parks and Urban Sustainability”

  • Gary Gumpert (Urban Communication Foundation) & Susan Drucker (Hofstra University)

“Bridging a Divided City”

  • Curry Chandler (University of Pittsburgh)

“Baseball Fields of Care: Black Sport History and the Gentrification of Commemorative Urban Space”

3:00 pm – 4:40 pm: Panel Four – Innovative Interventions in Food & Job Deserts

Dallas has the third-highest overall poverty rate among large cities. In 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) labeled half of South Dallas a food desert. It is estimated that 700,000 people, including 250,000 children, live in low income communities with limited access to supermarkets in Dallas County. A fresh food desert is also a job desert. This panel will first define the problem of food deserts as well as feature change agents and innovators with four very different local solutions. Each of the panelists have created unique models and organizations to address the food and job desert crisis in their city.

  • Chad Houser (Café Momentum – Dallas County Youth Village)
  • Ryan Eason (Medical City Healthcare)
  • Owen Hanley Lynch (Southern Methodist University)
  • Jennifer Eyer (Dallas ISD)

4:45 pm – 5:00 pm: Conclusions & Closing Remarks


Responding to the 2017 NCA annual convention theme, “Our Legacy, Our Relevance,” the Urban Communication Foundation proposes to hold a NCA preconference under the theme, “Bridging Divides: The Legacy, Impact, and Future of Urban Communication.” Given the intense focus on the urban-rural, (post) industrial, global-local, and other highly juxtaposed divides in the U.S. following a contentious 2016 Presidential election, urban communication is more relevant then ever in debates, discussions, and solution-oriented research seeking to foster change. By inviting scholarly position papers intended to identify the state of urban communication, reflect on where it has come from, and strategize about where it can—and should—go next, an urban communication pre-conference will put scholars from across our discipline, using various methodological approaches, and focusing on similar issues from different perspectives, in conversation with one another.

A plethora of “wicked problems” have arisen around many of these juxtapositions—concerns about food deserts, the role of technology in helping (re)vitalize post-industrial cities, the role of city governments in advocating for the social welfare of its residents, the ability for organizational collaboration to effect policy change, historical connections to contemporary development initiatives, and the ways in which we might teach about any of these in our higher education communication courses. A broad-based collective of communication scholars dedicated to studying and discussing urban life is an important part of making sense of these complex divides and ways to connect them.

Urban communication has been an active focus of the discipline for decades and has produced a plethora of internationally-recognized scholars who continue to engage in scholarship that intersects with various aspects of urban life and communication studies. While the juxtapositions and tensions that emerge both within and in relation to urban life, it is an opportune time to pause and reflect on the development of this burgeoning area of study—not just because it is useful to learn from our own historical development as an area of communication studies but because it is necessary for our urban communication scholars to join the various “wicked problems” of our day. Urban food deserts (Gallicano & Stansberry, 2011), issues of sustainability (Passafaro, et al. 2016), (inter)cultural (dis)connections (Mohammad, 2014), and national populist movements (Groshek & Engelbert, 2013) have all grabbed the attention of various communication scholars. While these investigations build upon the work of their disciplinary predecessors, it is perhaps an appropriate time to reflect on the patterns of interest over time. For example, Asante (1976) reflected in the journal Communication about the connections between urban communication and urban culture across the 20th century about the same time that Lanigan (1970) warned in Central States Communication Journal about an “urban crisis” caused by polarizing communication forces. And DiBerardinis (1979) focused on exactly the urban-rural divide that became highly visible in the 2017 Presidential election result maps in his Journal of Applied Communications Research article. But it is the work in between these sets of literature that have shaped the foundation on which current scholars continue to be inspired to work between urban history (e.g., Gibson, 2003), communicative cities (e.g., Gumpert & Drucker, 2008), and helping cities face uncertain futures (e.g., Jeffres & Lin, 2006). It is in this liminal space that we see urban communication scholarship to be primed to propose technological, methodological, pedagogical, philosophical, and applied solutions to various levels and types of problems that cities face. This pre-conference provides an opportunity for urban communication scholars to come together to significantly effect future influence by looking back to where we’ve come from to make collectively informed decisions about where we can—and should—contribute in the future.

We invite scholars focused on quantitative, qualitative, rhetorical, and applied methods of scholarship to contribute to discussion about how cities can begin bridging key divides like those discussed above. We propose hosting a full-day pre-conference hosted at nearby Southern Methodist University (SMU), during which participants will present and discuss (a) research projects, (b) case studies, (c) pedagogy papers, and (d) position papers that focus on how urban communication has effected change historically, is engaged in efforts to effect change currently, and can effect change into the future. Papers can focus on specific localities or larger comparative contexts. Colleagues from across the communication discipline and related fields are welcome. You will receive a formal acceptance and invitation to attend from the Urban Communication Foundation.

Upon acceptance, you will need to submit a check for $15.00 made out the Urban Communication Foundation as a registration fee to defray refreshments and equipment costs at the SMU facility. Details will accompany acceptance notification.


Procedures for submitting papers  

Authors are asked to identify in their abstracts the topic of the short position paper, research report, or case study they wish to contribute to the seminar. Please submit a one-page proposal including a paragraph describing your topic and provide your affiliation and contact information. The deadline for submission is September 15, 2017. A selection committee comprised of three UCF members will review all submissions and inform authors of their submission’s rating by October 1. Authors are responsible for submitting their full manuscripts for participant access no later than October 31, 2017 so that all participants have the opportunity to read and reflect on them prior to attending the preconference. A detailed preconference schedule will be made available in early November 2017 and distributed to participants at that time.

Abstracts should be submitted electronically by Friday, September 15, 2017 to the UCF Pre-conference Chair, erin mcclellan ( Full papers will be due on Tuesday, October 31, 2017. Please address any questions you may have to the above email address.

We look forward to receiving your submission and having another fantastic gathering of scholars discussing the various ways that urban communication can help us engage the world.


erin mcclellan (UCF Pre-Conference Chair)

Sheila Gobes-Ryan (UCF Pre-Conference Co-Chair)

Curry Chandler (UCF Pre-Conference Co-Chair)

Gary Gumpert (UCF President)

Peter Haratonik (UCF Executive Coordinator)

Owen Hanley Lynch (SMU Site Coordinator)