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Undergraduate Researchers

Stefanie Mavronis, Political Science and MCS

Indigenous Media in Bolivia: Audiovisual Democracy in a Globalized World

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jason Loviglio


This research will explore the ways that indigenous populations in Bolivia utilize new media technology to foster ade facto form of democracy and to build community, especially in the midst of the hyper-mediated world of the twenty-first century. Scholars have written extensively about the effects of globalization on less-developed nations, focusing largely on the benefits of the spread of information and the detriments of exploitative and unequal power relations. However, few have focused on the ability of nations like Bolivia to create alternate political spheres, especially through the production of audiovisual media. Two-thirds of the country’s population is classified as indigenous, a subset of the population that is highly illiterate. Furthermore, the state and Catholic Church largely control mainstream media, failing to meet the needs of these indigenous populations. Through conducting interviews and analyzing the media culture of indigenous populations in Bolivia, I hope to better understand this audiovisual resistance to globalization at large and connect its media production with the larger political question of democracy.

See Stephanie's article in The Retriever Weekly.

How did you find your mentor for this project?

I took a class with Dr. Loviglio last spring and loved it. After adding my MCS major, I knew that he would be a great person to do this type of research with, especially since he's not only an expert in the media field, but also knowledgeable about politics and globalization.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

I knew that I wanted to visit Latin America because of its amazing culture and history. I've always been very interested in displays of resistance throughout the world, so once I discovered the interesting ways media was being used to foster a form of resistance in Bolivia, I was attracted to the idea of learning more about it. Plus, this project will really allow me to bridge my Media and Communication Studies major with my Political Science major.

Is this your first independent research project?

This is my first big independent research project, but I conducted research last school year in Baltimore on the city's drug culture and its impact on the educational achievements of urban youth. From that, I've definitely gained a lot of experience with interviewing and writing questions, not to mention the good techniques for finding relevant scholarly articles.

Do you get course credit for this work?

This should count for an applied experience for at least one of my majors.

How much time do you put into it?

It's hard to anticipate how much time it will take until I actually travel to Bolivia, but I'm planning on spending a lot of time throughout the summer and fall semester doing the background research so I can ensure my work is original and I waste little time once abroad.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award program?

A lot of my fellow Sondheim Scholar peers have won URAs. I've always been interested in the research my close friends were doing, something that encouraged me to apply.

What academic background did you have before you started?

I have a strong background in new media and applied communication, in which I have experience in film, audio, web, and graphic production. This, paired with my understanding of politics and media theory, should provide a good frame of reference and foundation for starting my research next year.

Was the application difficult to do?

The application was a bit intimidating, but I got a lot of advice from my mentors and friends who won Undergraduate Research Awards. I wasn't sure of the best way to start, but I started with a very, very rough draft of my general ideas. Then, I went back and edited it to make it a bit more formal and to add in some of the scholarly research I did. It was an ongoing process that became more defined and specific as time went on.

How much did your mentor help you with this?

Despite my starting the application process relatively late, Dr. Loviglio was extremely supportive and helped me refine my idea to something that was workable. The conversations we had about the significance of what I was doing and how it would relate to MCS helped me tailor my ideas and produce a final edit of my application. I'm really looking forward to having Dr. Lovigloi as a resource when I'm abroad. He can keep me focused and on the track that I'm establishing for myself.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

I really encourage everyone to get involved in research. I think there are a lot of negative feelings towards research initially because of the way research projects worked in high school, but doing research on this level is totally different. Not only does UMBC provide a staff that's extremely dedicated, but it also provides a wide range of opportunities. Research doesn't have to be math and science based or historical; the humanities and social sciences have huge potential for new research, especially since there is a lot of significance in the things that are happening around the world in the present.

What are your career goals?

It's difficult to say what I'd like to do as a career, but I've been considering programs in public policy, law, media studies, and political communication. We'll see!

What has been the hardest part about your research?

While I've not really started, I'm anticipating the most difficult part of my research to be tapping into an aspect of media studies in Bolivia that's completely original. A decent amount of research exists on this topic generally, and I'm going to have to spend sometime finding my niche within it.  

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?

As I said, this research bridges the coursework I'm doing across my two majors. I hope to use my experience from my public policy, international relations, comparative politics, economics, women's studies, and media theory coursework to enhance my final research product.