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Otago alumnus receives prestigious MEA award

Tuesday 28 June 2016 1:42pm

Paterno Alumni News

Department of Media, Film and Communication alumnus David Paterno (above) has received a prestigious award from the Media Ecology Association (MEA) for his PhD thesis, which he completed at Otago in 2015.

The MEA recently announced Dr Paterno had received the Harold A. Innis Award for Outstanding Thesis or Dissertation in the Field of Media Ecology for his thesis Technology Translated: The Communicational Facilitation of Medium.

What was your area of study?

"I am a communication theorist who desired to contribute to the further development of communication theory applicable to all contexts of communication inquiry (interpersonal, organisational, intercultural, telemediated etc.)

My PhD thesis wove together three strands of communication theory (that were not previously conjoined). I then tested my newly assembled model of communication by conducting an ethnographic study of a community's use of varied technologies. This permitted me to test the utility of my theory across interpersonal, organisational, and technological contexts. The results indicate that my theory accounts for the manner in which a community instantiates communicative media from their technological bases."

Why did you want to research in this area?

"Terms such as 'social media' are used extensively both inside and outside academe but these uses rarely, if ever, account for what makes a medium social. I wanted to contribute fresh insight into how communication itself manages technologies and the manner in which all media (regardless of their technological sophistication) are inherently social."

How would you describe your time at Otago?

"I was quite impressed with the level of support provided by the Graduate Research School's Scholarships Office. Being able to submit two refereed papers for presentation in New York and having $2,500 to defray the cost of travelling there was a huge plus. I was able to present and to receive feedback on my work prior to submitting my thesis. I am also impressed with the office space, computing, library access I was provided as a PhD student."

Any stand-out staff or supervisors?

"Former lecturer Michael Bourk - now Assistant Professor at Gulf University of Technology, Kuwait - along with Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald (Anthropology) supervised my thesis. Although neither was fully familiar with my specific interest in Communication Theory, both really made certain I submitted a quality product."

What does winning the award mean to you?

"It's amazingly gratifying to know that my PhD is now internationally recognised as contributing key insight into the role communication plays in instantiating and guiding the formation and role of a medium in communication. The fact that the award comes from the professional body most relevant to my work is a huge bonus."


Dr Paterno is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Construction and Project Management at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia, and is studying the "supply chain management of contract worker safety in a major Australian Airline."