Dr. Cara Wallis Wins Research Award

Dr. Cara Wallis of the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University is the recipient of a prestigious award for her research in Beijing, China, with young, migrant women.

Wallis, an assistant professor, won the James W. Carey Media Research Award for her book, "Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones."

Wallis’ book, published by New York University Press in January 2013, reveals how young, female, migrant workers who move to Beijing for work obtain and use their mobile phones.  Wallis’ research connects communication with public life in urban China.

“For me, winning the award was definitely a surprise, and it’s quite an honor to have won, Wallis said. “As scholars we’re never quite sure how our work is viewed by those who aren’t in our exact area. So for a book on a very marginalized group – young migrant women in China – to win this award was affirmation that the work I’m doing is valuable.”

James W. Carey was a communications theorist, media critic and journalism professor.   The James W. Carey Media Research Award, founded in 2004, is an award for high quality research that employs Carey’s theories and focuses on communication and public life, journalism or popular culture.

 “In my case, I engaged with several of Carey’s ideas, including taking a cultural approach to examining the relationship between culture and technology (as opposed to, for example, a policy or political economy approach),” Wallis said.  “To frame my study of mobile phone use by migrant women, Carey’s idea of communication as both transmission of ideas (the common way we think about communication) as well as communication as ritual, or how communication is connected to notions of community, belonging, and shared beliefs, was a very useful way to frame many of the mobile phone practices of the young women I knew.”

Wallis is currently conducting further research in Beijing.

 “My current research examines the use of social media by diverse groups, including migrant workers, university students and white-collar workers,” she said.  “Although Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, there is a wide array of social media platforms and applications that are hugely popular, including social networking sites such as Renren, microblogging platforms such as Sina Weibo, and various mobile applications, including Weixin (WeChat).

 “Thus far there has been a lot of scholarly focus on Sina Weibo and political communication (exposing government corruption, for example),” Wallis said. “This is an important area, but my research is focusing on how different groups use such social media in their daily lives. I’m looking at social media and issues of trust and risk, lifestyle and aspirations, gender, perception of voice and empowerment, among other topics, and how all of these speak to subtle transformations occurring within Chinese society.”

Dr. Wallis will return to Texas A&M in the fall and will be teaching two classes.