OU professor publishes book analyzing the changes in media culture

By: Andrew Wernette

Some people practically live on constantly examining Twitter, and then there are those who examine Twitter for a living. Enter Oakland University assistant professor of communication Erin Meyers.

Meyers, who holds a master’s degree in women’s studies and a Ph.D. in communication, has been with OU’s Department of Communication since 2011. She specializes in new media like Facebook, and how they affect the world around us.

In addition, she also studies celebrity culture and how it has evolved in the context of daily life. In 2013, she published her book Dishing Dirt in the Digital Age: Celebrity Gossip Blogs and Participatory Media Culture, which explores this topic in depth.

“I’ve always been a fan of media and an avid consumer of media,” Meyers said.

She explained that she started off in film school before deciding that she wanted to pursue an avenue in communications. In the early-to-mid 2000s, she watched with interest as celebrity culture blossomed by way of new forms of media, such as bloggers. What has fascinated her over the years is how this new media has had an impact on society, and visa versa.

Meyers mentioned the example of Twitter and television. Originally, television shows were solely broadcast without a way for viewers to interact with it. Nowadays, however, many shows employ the use of social media like Twitter to let the audience instantly comment on, and thus participate in, a program. This, in turn, helps networks hold on to viewers by directly appealing to the them, according to Meyers.

Meyers explained that she likes to focus on this theme of a “new version” of media rooted in an “old version.”

In Dishing Dirt, Meyers lays out how celebrity gossip blogs have changed the face of celebrity culture.

People have always participated in gossip, said Meyers, but now bloggers are making it available in a different way. It is simply the messenger, rather than the message, that has changed.

So how does she view the impacts of this new media culture?

“There’s good and bad things about it in general,” Meyers said.

On the one hand, it has brought people together to participate democratically in more aspects of life, such as celebrity gossip and the news. But, she said, the same people can also be excessively negative toward others, as well as help to perpetuate stereotypes. It has mixed blessings.

Meyers’s work at OU has not gone unnoticed. Jeff Youngquist, Director of the Department of Communication, said that she has brought a positive impact to the program.

“She is an excellent teacher and has a knack for connecting with her students,” Youngquist said. “She is passionate about her research and currently has several projects in the works.”

Finally, it was time for Meyers to answer the most important question of all: Who was her favorite celebrity?

“Britney Spears,” she admitted, to which she added that it went “beyond academic interest.”

“I have a long and enduring fascination with her.”