The University of Arizona

Confluencenter Grants Fund Innovative, Interdisciplinary Research

By Eric Swedlund, University Communications | May 22, 2013

Sociology professor Robin Stryker will investigate how television programs like "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" inform what students understand about democracy in the U.S.
Sociology professor Robin Stryker will investigate how television programs like "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" inform what students understand about democracy in the U.S.
Linda Green, director of Latin American studies, is collaborating with faculty member Matias Bianchi on the Crossing Boundaries Seminar Series.
Linda Green, director of Latin American studies, is collaborating with faculty member Matias Bianchi on the Crossing Boundaries Seminar Series.
Celeste González de Bustamante and her collaborators will collect images and oral histories about the U.S.-Mexico border for an open access digital archive.
Celeste González de Bustamante and her collaborators will collect images and oral histories about the U.S.-Mexico border for an open access digital archive.

The UA's Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry 2013 faculty grants will fund five innovative research projects, including television documentaries, a digital archive and a virtual seminar series.

The cross-disciplinary projects tackle a diversity of subject matter, and the Faculty Collaboration and Innovation Grants will provide start-up funding for professors to establish their research projects in position to leverage future funding in the form of competitive federal or private grants.

"These projects reflect our mission and vision under which we value creativity and innovation, collaboration and discovery, and community and public engagement," says Javier D. Duran, director of the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry and professor of Spanish and border studies.

The 2013 projects include:

The Crossing Boundaries Seminar Series

Linda Green, director of Latin American studies, working with Matias Bianchi in the School of Government and Public Policy, will create a virtual seminar series linking the UA with Latin American scholars. UA faculty and students from numerous disciplines will join Latin American scholars, government and business leaders, and NGO representatives in real-time conversations about four issues: human trafficking, the drug trade, natural resource extraction and U.S.-Latin American diplomacy.

"Often we don't have the opportunity to really hear what scholars and policy makers in Latin American have to say about what are important issues coming out of their countries and the continent itself," Green says. "Scholars on both sides of the borders are interested in talking to each other, and this is a way of initiating these types of dialogues. We see it as the opening salvo, a way to begin. We'd love to institutionalize this."

Satire News, Civil Discourse and the Political-Media Complex

Robin Stryker, professor of sociology and research director at the National Institute for Civil Discourse, will study how programs such as "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" shape student' understandings of and engagement with American democracy.

Political satire is not a new phenomenon, but the fact that college-age people are getting a disproportionate amount of their news from satirical programs is new, Stryker says. Also, very little is known about viewers' perceptions of satire news.

"There had been some work done to look at whether people who watch satire news were more or less knowledgeable, more or less cynical, or more or less engaged in the political process. The results were somewhat inconclusive, but more than that, there hadn't been a study like the one we want to do, where people got together to talk about what they had seen," she says. "We want to expose select focus groups to the same set of clips, but vary the groups by political ideology, liberal to conservative, and political knowledge, high knowledge to low knowledge."

Disciplinary Trading Zones: A Focus on Methodological Imports

Associate professor of sociology Erin Leahey's project will study interdisciplinary research itself, examining how the diffusion of three particular methodological techniques to understand how methods are transferred across disciplines. The integration of ideas or tools from multiple disciplines is encouraged and promoted at various levels, but Leahey's project will study cross-disciplinary knowledge transfer itself in an effort to enable additional creative interdisciplinary work in academic research, a mission of the Confluencenter itself.

New Blueprint for Success: Micro-entrepreneurs and Cooperatives in Brazil

Dan Duncan, a filmmaker at the Southwest Center, and Marcela Vasquez, associate professor in the School of Anthropology, will produce a series of television documentaries presenting innovative entrepreneurial grassroots ventures in the shanty-towns of Rio de Janeiro. The featured entrepreneurs will share their experiences in one of Brazil's most marginal urban contexts, revealing from an anthropological perspective the key contextual socioeconomic and cultural features for success or failure and creating a blueprint for other micro-entrepreneurs throughout Latin America and the developing world.

The Documented Border: An Open Access Digital Archive

A project bringing together journalism faculty Celeste González de Bustamante and Jeannine Relly, Lawrence Gipe from the School of Art and Verónica Reyes, the Borderlands Curator at UA Special Collections in the library, this archive will collect images and oral histories about the U.S./Mexico border. As both a repository and interactive tool, the archive will document wide-ranging explorations into the people, policies, conflicts and collaborations that characterize the almost 2,000 mile long boundary, both in the past and present.

The grant program began in 2009-10 with funding from the Office of the Provost as the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences grants. The competitive grants, open to faculty from the colleges of fine arts, humanities and social and behavioral sciences, have funded between five and eight research proposals each year.