A preconference is either a half- or full-day session held on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Preconferences are intended as an opportunity for scholars to take a “deep dive” into a particular topic of significance to a community of scholars within and across interest groups, offering an enhanced exploration of a topic that may not otherwise garner significant attention during the main convention. To view more information about the offered preconferences, please visit NCA Convention Central.

PC01: Communication at the Crossroads:  Exploring the intersection of "Soft Skills" and the Basic Course
9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Eastern

Chair: Dawn Pfeifer Reitz, Penn State University, Berks

Description: Soft skills? Essential Skills? Professional Skills? Core Skills? No matter what label we give them, it is increasingly clear that we need to assure that our students are learning these skills before they move on to their post-undergraduate experiences. This preconference takes a deep dive into this topic as we explore the intersection of soft skills and the basic course. This crossroads conversation will explore what these skills entail, what place (if any) they have within our basic course structure, the nomenclature we assign to them, and other implications for our discipline. We will discuss topics such as what impacts soft skills development, how soft skills fit into the basic course, the unique value of communication departments and faculty in teaching soft skills, the relationship between speech anxiety and soft skills, and navigating issues of implicit bias in soft skills education. In addition, we invite participants to share their experiences, perspectives, and stories to shape and enrich our conversation.

Requirements: This preconference will not be issuing a call for participants. If you wish to attend, please register for this preconference with your NCA Annual Convention registration.

PC02: Commons at the Crossroads: Abundant Subjectivities, Diverse Communities, and New Strategies for Worldmaking
9:30 a.m. – 7:15 p.m. Eastern

Chair: Matthew Wesley Bost, Whitman College
Co-Chairs: Catherine Chaput, University of Nevada, Reno; Ralph E. Cintron, University of Illinois, Chicago; Crystal Colombini, University of Texas, San Antonio

Description: The Economics, Communication and Society division is hosting a preconference at NCA 2020 around the topic "Commons at the Crossroads", cosponsored by the Critical/Cultural Studies, Environmental Communication, and Rhetorical and Communication Theory divisions. Concepts of the common, commons, and commoning have recently emerged across the critical humanities as a way of accounting for the systemic and collective processes that constitute living systems, ecologically, socially, and politically, and the ways those processes are exploited and appropriated by regimes of inequality. As one way to consider social movements and communities that have organized around social justice, the commons must wrangle with a history of settler colonialism and its intertwined environmental, racial, gendered, and sexualized subjects and spaces.

The commons is an urgent topic for scholars of communication and the economy, with implications for theories and criticisms of economic and organizational communication, and studies of the relationship between economy and culture. The commons also poses a series of questions where critical scholars across NCA can find points of common ground and productive tension, foregrounding the relationship between the economy, the constitution of plural identities, and the more-than-human systems that shape human economic and cultural life. Our conversation will address three major crossroads between the commons and communication studies. We explore the scalability of the commons, from the politics of affect and the production of subjectivity to larger material infrastructures; the identities and differences produced by the commons, including questions of how intersectionality is negotiated in commons practices; and the plurality of practices indexed by the commons, with particular attention to the questions enabled or foreclosed by large-scale concepts and models (e.g. "capitalism"; "the commo


The Economics, Communication and Society division of NCA, in conjunction with the Critical/Cultural Studies, Environmental Communication, and Rhetorical and Communication Theory divisions, invites submissions to a preconference on the theme “Commons at the Crossroads: Abundant Subjectivities, Diverse Communities, and New Strategies for Worldmaking.” Concepts of the common, commons, and commoning have recently emerged across the critical humanities as a way of accounting for the systemic and collective processes that constitute living systems, ecologically, socially, and politically, and the ways those processes are exploited and appropriated by regimes of inequality. These concepts have also emerged as an optic for considering social movements and communities that have organized around the collective, sustainable, governance of the commons as a key aspect of meliorative social change. More recently, the commons has been offered as a trope for considering strategies of solidarity and coalition that might move critical discussions of capitalism beyond the monolithic figure of the working class, embracing the differences between various subject positions and struggles as powerful, interactive, elements of social change. 

Within communication studies, the commons has been taken up as a way of considering the cooperative nature of communicative and informational labor and its capture by capitalism, as well as an alternative framework to democratic deliberation for collective decision making and governance in urban space. These uptakes of the commons draw on a much vaster array of interdisciplinary literature that incorporates philosophy, critical geography, anthropology, the politics of coalition, and studies of the communicative dynamics of social movements, peoples’ assemblies and community organizations, among many other disciplines and approaches. Interdisciplinary literatures on the commons have also been one of the key approaches foregrounding the relationship between struggles for social change and the more-than-human ecologies and actors that shape them. Concepts and practices associated with the commons offer a powerful vocabulary for theorizing the racialized and classed precarity heightened under the COVID-19 pandemic, the practices of care work and mutual aid that have emerged in response to these inequalities, and the communities and solidarities generated by resistance to anti-Black racism and police violence, calls to end mass detention of undocumented migrants and abolish the carceral state, and other forms of resistance to state violence. At the same time, the political urgencies of the present call commons literature to account for its potential erasure of difference and inequality, especially in purportedly egalitarian spaces that adopt commoning rhetorics, and attest that, while productive, the commons is not a panacea for contemporary precarity and structural inequality.

We seek papers that expand communication studies’ engagement with the commons, either by furthering conversations between existing uptakes of the commons by communication scholars and interdisciplinary iterations of the concept, or by highlighting new formations, concepts, and practices of commoning.  We especially seek submissions that use the commons as a starting point for exploring urgent tensions in communication studies, whether engaging communication scholarship’s commitments to activism and social justice, forging new connections between theory, critical scholarship, fieldwork, and communicative practice, and considering the commons (and its mirror in the undercommons) as a way of assessing the structural inequalities that shape communication scholarship, education, and professional organization. We also seek submissions that use the commons as a starting point for responding to structural precarity and violence as aspects of contemporary U.S. life, and as they have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for considering resistance and alternatives to the present moment.

This preconference’s engagement with the commons is shaped by three central questions.  First, we solicit presentations that use the commons to reflect on different levels of scale, from the production of intersectional subjectivities to the fostering of deliberation among diverse communities to the study of entangled relationships among economics, communication and the nonhuman. Following Lauren Berlant’s discussion of commons as infrastructure, our conversation invites consideration of different levels of the relational fabric of the contemporary world and the historical forces that inform it, prompting scholars to speak to the felt impacts of history and structure, as well as the ways that the simplest everyday actions can make worlds. 

Second, we invite submissions that use the commons to explore relationships between identity, difference, and their intersections. While Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, and other prominent theorists of the commons have offered it as a site where people from radically different socioeconomic and geographic positions can find points of shared ground and political interests, scholars like Fred Moten and Stefano Harney have highlighted that the purported egalitarianism of many common spaces, whether university knowledge commons or cooperative community economic structures, can function to hide precarity and exploitation within these spaces (especially racialized, gendered and ablized precarity) and deny those who are excluded from such spaces a voice. We see the relationship between identity and difference in the commons as a powerful site for addressing questions of intersectionality in cultural studies of economics, and in activism around socioeconomic injustice, environmental racism, and other crucial sites of contemporary social justice activism.  

Third, we seek submissions exploring the relationship between the commons and the plural practices of communicative production that traverse it. In contrast to critics who portray capitalism as a monolithic system, J.K. Gibson-Graham and many other contemporary scholars of cultural economics have emphasized the plurality of different communal, local, and global economic practices that already exist, ranging from small-scale practices of community credit and barter to resource-sharing within schools and religious institutions, to local producer and consumer cooperatives like CSAs and meat-sharing coops, to various informal, grey, or black markets that exist alongside capitalism.  These scholars have argued for the utility of thinking about the contemporary world as already in some sense “post-capitalist”, both for the egalitarian economic practices it allows proponents of economic and social change to affirm, and for the questions it raises about inequalities that are not reducible to the negative impact of capitalist markets.  We take Gibson-Graham’s provocation as an invitation to advance conversations about the relationship between fieldwork and theory in communication studies, the disparate work done by larger theoretical perspectives relative to more provisional and embodied concepts, and the plurality of practices, scholarly and economic, that form a common ground between our different approaches.

In addition to panel discussions focused on the above themes, the preconference will host a plenary session featuring communication studies scholars whose work intersects with the commons from a variety of perspectives, including discourses around energy democracy and sustainability, struggles over communicative labor within contemporary informational capitalism, and the commons as a vocabulary for considering property, sovereignty, and the collective control of urban space. Our plenary speakers are Ralph Cintron (Latin American and Latino Studies and English, University of Illinois, Chicago), Ronald Walter Greene (Communication Studies, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities), and Tarla Rai Peterson (Communication, University of Texas, El Paso). 

We will also host a keynote address by Dr. Lessie Jo Frazier, Associate Professor of Gender Studies and American Studies, and Affiliated Scholar with the Elinor Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University, Bloomington. Dr. Frazier’s work focuses on power, subjectivity and ideology as they relate to questions of political economy, focusing especially on the ways that race, gender, and sexuality have shaped political culture in the Americas. Her work catalyzes the questions of the relationship between the commons, identity, and subjectivity on which the preconference is centered, and engages these questions from the perspective of global, transformative social change.

Scholars interested in submitting to the preconference as a presenter should provide a presentation title, an abstract of no more than 250 words, and their author and institutional information to Matthew Bost ( no later than August 30. Scholars interested in participating in the preconference as an audience member, without presenting, should send their name, institutional affiliation, and 2-3 sentences specifying their interest in the conference to Matthew Bost ( no later than August 30.  Participants will be notified of acceptance in mid-to-late September.


PC04: Health Communication at the Crossroads: Current and Future Directions in Your Career and the Discipline
8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern

Chair: Courtney Lynam Scherr, Northwestern University
Co-Chair: Maria K. Venetis, Rutgers University

Description: The purpose of the Health Communication Division's Biannual Doctoral and Early Career Scholar Preconference is to provide mentorship and professional development opportunities to examine and discuss key career and disciplinary crossroads. The preconference will facilitate networking between graduate students and junior faculty (junior scholars) and established health communication scholars (see mentor roster). During the full day preconference, junior scholars and mentors will discuss current and future directions in research and teaching in health communication. Two large lectures on emerging topics in health communication will address disciplinary and professional intersections titled: Interdisciplinary Science and Community Engagement and The Public Expert and (social) Media. All scholars will participate in small group breakout sessions allowing for further discussion about career crossroads and crossroads in health communication scholarship, which will cover important topics such as preparing for the job market and tenure and promotion in addition to thinking about future directions in methods, funding, and considerations of diversity and intersectionality in the health communication division. A networking lunch provides a setting for participants to create meaningful connections across the discipline and examine points of overlap. This preconference provides a venue for us to come together as a community and explore how we can empower the next generation of health communication scholars as researchers, teachers, and members while examining and discussing future directions for teaching and research in health communication, specifically, and communication as a discipline.

Requirements: This preconference will not be issuing a call for participants. If you wish to attend, please register for this preconference with your NCA Annual Convention registration.

PC05: Communication at the Disciplinary Crossroads: Navigating Uncharted Territory
8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Eastern

Chair: Joanna Bartell, University of South Florida
Co-Chair: April A. Kedrowicz, North Carolina State University; Stephanie Norander, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Juliane Mora, Gonzaga University; Kelly Norris Martin, Rochester Institute of Technology

Description: Whether medical professionals or engineers, accountants or veterinarians, when people outside of communication find out that they're talking to someone who teaches communication across disciplines, they frequently respond with a passionate and determined variation of "Communication is everything!"

The notion of communication as a core competency is increasingly important to employers of all types, and, as a result, has increased demand for academic communication training across the disciplinary map. Some disciplines, such as business, have long valued and incorporated communication theory and practice into their curricula; other disciplines, such as medicine (LCME/AGCME/AAVMC) and engineering (ABET), have recently revamped accreditation and certification requirements related to communication proficiency. In addition to communication for professional success, a cross-disciplinary approach can provide an avenue for the integration of a broad education that prepares students for global citizenship and civic engagement. Positioning communication as a theoretically rich process of social interaction and meaning with attention to rhetorical sensitivity can expand the vision of communication across the disciplines as merely skills-based to also encompass discourses of participation and engagement.

The increased demand for communication expertise opens a broad expanse of uncharted territory for communication scholars, as well as opportunities for exploration, growth, community development, and cross-disciplinary alliances. This preconference session discusses the theoretical and applied structures for mapping Communication Across Disciplines, encouraging student growth across the map, current and future directions for research and teaching, and blazing new trails for the discipline, beyond the discipline.

The preconference discussions will span the following topics:

Merging Communication Across Disciplines

  • Examining points of overlap across instruction and scholarship
  • Bridging disparate, siloed areas of study
  • Integrating ideas to enhance scholarship of teaching and learning
  • Building bridges and merging ideas with faculty across disciplines

Intersections of Identity and Belonging

  • Paving the way to a sense of in-field belonging
  • Communication theory, practice, and pedagogy as a pathway to building/promoting students' professional identities
  • Communication as a method of disrupting exclusion and demographic discrimination

Communication Compass: Directions for Research and Teaching Across Disciplines

  • Existing routes: what are they? are they well suited? sustainable?
  • Exploring new pathways for cross-disciplinary collaboration
  • Future directions for research and teaching

Blazing New Trails: Direction and Transformation of the Discipline, Beyond the Discipline

  • The changing topography of Communication instruction: ideas for transformation in a continuously shifting landscape
  • Future directions for engagement with communication across disciplines

Requirements: This preconference will not be issuing a call for participants. If you wish to attend, please register for this preconference with your NCA Annual Convention registration.


PC07: Decolonizing and Unconferencing: Social Justice in Organizational Communication
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Eastern

Chair: Mahuya Pal, University of South Florida
Co-Chair: Heewon Kim, Arizona State University

Description: This preconference aims to challenge dominant ideas, paradigms, and structures through open dialogues and interactions among diverse groups of scholars within and beyond organizational communication. We hope that this preconference offers a space for engaging with decolonization and social justice as an ongoing project that cultivates scholarship, pedagogy, and public engagement. In this full-day (un)conference, participants will share ideas and practices to dismantle dominant structures and colonial processes, challenge hegemonies and privileges in academia, and envision a more inclusive and just world. Fundamentally, these interrogations into academic practices tie into decentralizing the ways we think of the world in terms of its forms of organization and its social life in the neoliberal political order.

Whiteness has long been entrenched in the history, scholarship, culture, and everyday interactions that constitute the communication discipline. The institutionalized oppression (via whiteness, sexism, heteronormativity, and ableism to name a few) has engendered and reproduced disparities and injustices across communities. In order to address large structural inequality we turn to decolonize colonialist--white, capitalist, heteronormative--modes of scholarly inquiry and representation in disciplinary knowledge production, pedagogical approaches, and various other concomitant academic practices. We aim to de-center (a) the spaces for theorizing where the work of theorizing actually takes place, (b) who is doing the work of theorizing, and (c) who is claiming the rewards of theorizing. We aim to de-center pedagogical practices by examining curricular design, instructional practices, and forms of assessment that reify neocolonial domination in many ways.

Requirements: This preconference will not be issuing a call for participants. If you wish to attend, please register for this preconference with your NCA Annual Convention registration.


PC09: Game Studies: The Crossroads of Information, Interaction, Meaningfulness, and Fun
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern

Chair: Shane Tilton, Ohio Northern University

Description: The preconference titled: Game Studies: The Nexus of Information, Interaction, Meaningfulness, and Fun encourages scholars from across all NCA disciplines who study games and are invested in the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with the connection with gaming scholarship and the communication discipline. We want to encourage all scholars to continue the mission of the Interest Division and act as the crossroads between gamers and industry professionals in their work. This preconference seeks to map those inroads made by the division through a variety of sessions and talks by professionals in the industry.

This preconference aims to synthesize games-focused research across communication studies disciplines, bringing them together into one space to facilitate engaging cross-disciplinary and cross-method discussion and research. We propose soliciting extended abstracts (~ 1,000 words not including abstracts, references, etc.) of primary research that engages with games and gaming in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:

The pedagogy of gaming
Tabletop/analog games
Meta-discussion about the discipline
Game Mechanics and impacts on player experiences
The connection between gaming streamers and their audience
Gender, race, sexuality, and other identities in games/gaming culture
Learning based games
Pro-social games
Games and advertising

This preconference will feature:

Two Morning Panels with Respondents: Submissions will be assigned to panels which will be structured similarly to conventional NCA scholarly panels. For each panel, a scholar with expertise in the area(s) addressed by that panel will be appointed to the role of respondent. There will also be time allotted during each panel session for Q&A and group discussion arounf the themes of the panel.

Keynote: Luncheon Keynote with Dr. Rachel Kowert. Dr. Kowert is the Research Director of Take This, a US non-profit mental health organization that provides resources and information to the gaming industry and gaming communities. As a research psychologist, she has been studying games and gamers for more than 10 years with a specific focus on video game effects. She has published multiple scientific articles and books on this topic. She was also the editor of Video Games and Well-being: Press Start, which examined how video game mechanics and narratives can teach players skills associated with increased psychological well-being. It integrated research from psychology, education, ludology, media studies, and communication science to demonstrate how gameplay can teach skills that have long been associated with increased happiness and prolonged life satisfaction, including flexible thinking, openness to experience, self-care, a growth mindset, solution-focused thinking, mindfulness, persistence, self-discovery, and resilience.

Ignite Talks: A series of eight Ignite Presentations will be given by graduate students and junior scholars. These presentations would represent "works-in-progress" that would not be traditionally ready for a larger national conference. The second part of this section would a 45-minute opportunity for those scholars to get feedback on their scholarship. Each of the presenters would sit at a table and members of the audience could move around to talk with the presenters.

Fishbowl Session: A fishbowl session begins with four panelists in the middle of a room surrounding by the audience. The first four panelists will be members of the division who have been in the division since its founding in 2015. The first series of questions will focus on how they see Division's contributions to the scholarship of NCA. This focus would shift to the audience as a whole in a typical fishbowl style to address the larger issues facing gaming scholarship in the next few years.

Capstone and Industry Talk: This preconference will end with a talk by industry professionals about what they see as the connection between the academy and the gaming industry. The plan is to invite both video game industry professionals and analog game industry professionals to shape this vital discussion.

Requirements: This preconference will not be issuing a call for participants. If you wish to attend, please register for this preconference with your NCA Annual Convention registration. 

PC10: At the Crossroads: The Future of Master's Education
8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Eastern

Chair: Jessica Elton, Eastern Michigan University
Co-Chair: Andrea Lambert South, Northern Kentucky University

Description: This preconference seeks to engage educators and administrators who work with master's programs in conversation about the challenges and opportunities they face on their home campuses. Because the landscape of graduate education and master's education is changing in the U.S., many programs find themselves in the midst of addressing enrollment challenges and declining budgets. This preconference would explore the state of master's education in the U.S., focusing on challenges and best practices. Through panel discussions and presentations, attendees will gain an understanding of factors that contribute to the challenges many master's programs face and learn what some programs are doing to meet these challenges.

Requirements: This preconference will not be issuing a call for participants. If you wish to attend, please register for this preconference with your NCA Annual Convention registration. 

PC11: Communication At The Crossroads of Sustainability, Resilience and Green Washing: Environmental Communication Field Day Excursion 2020
9:30 a.m.. – 4:00 p.m. Eastern

Chair: Joanne C. Marras Tate, University of Colorado, Boulder
Co-Chair: Curtis J. Sullivan, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University

Description: Energy transition efforts are on the rise across cities and municipalities around the world. The city of Indianapolis has a plan, Thrive Indianapolis, which counts on several community partners in an effort to "increase community resilience by prioritizing equity in policy, planning and project implementation," seeking to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The plan brings forward many tensions, since the city has the largest car racing complex, arising at a crossroad where sustainability and corporate thinking can be observed. Indianapolis is home to the largest car racing facility, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), and in 2014 they installed a solar farm to offset its carbon footprint. The IMS solar farm is managed by an organization that is a leading group on the management of solar farming across the United States, and the IMS solar farm is a symbol of IMS' efforts to decrease their carbon footprints. NCA's Environmental Communication Division, physically takes participants to the site where energy transition and corporate greening takes place in order to examine the tensions that arise as we strive for an energy transitioned future, raising questions about energy democracy and how sustainability and resilience can be met. We will be speaking with IMS solar farm experts, and potentially visiting the site, we will also see members of the Thrive Indianapolis community task force and discuss how the city is working towards adaptations and changes to mitigate climate change. The discussions will be along the lines of a just transition, energy democracy future, and the implications and tensions of corporate greenwashing in those efforts.

Requirements: This preconference will not be issuing a call for participants. If you wish to attend, please register for this preconference with your NCA Annual Convention registration.

PC12: "Should I stay or should I go now": Rethinking how colleges and universities support, retain, and include Military-Affiliated Learners (MALs)
8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Eastern

Chair: Victoria M. McDermott, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Description: In 2018, over 4 million service members and their families were enrolled in higher education (Defense Manpower Data Center, 2018). Over 42 billion dollars has been invested in the military-affiliated learner (MALs) population from the Post-9/11 GI Bill (American Council on Education, 2015) with numbers expected to increase (American Council on Education, 2015). However, little is known about MALs (American Council on Education, 2015) and their unique educational needs; as such, institutions may be underprepared to serve this population and ensure their academic success.
MALs encounter many of the same issues and concerns as their civilian counterparts, with added challenges from military-specific experiences that impact their transition to college (Drummet, Coleman, & Cable, 2003). For MALs, the transition out of military culture and into the classroom presents a challenging and uncertain crossroads. Without an in-depth and robust understanding of perceived barriers and evidence-based andragogy, colleges and universities may fail to substantively address the needs of this population resulting in poor academic performance, low level of retention, and lack of connection to the respective institution (Drummet, Coleman, & Cable, 2003).
This pre-conference seeks to spotlight communication pedagogy and provide attendees with tangible resources for working with MALs. This half-day pre-conference will: 1) explicate barriers that MALs face when trying to navigate and succeed in higher education; 2) explore strategies, programs, and interventions for supporting MALs' self- efficacy and retention; 3) and provide best practice recommendations for faculty and instructional design to better support MALs throughout campus communities.

Requirements: This preconference will not be issuing a call for participants. If you wish to attend, please register for this preconference with your NCA Annual Convention registration.