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From Virtual Life to Genetic Engineering
By Russell Guerrero ’83

Communication Professor Aaron Delwiche Navigates the Brave New
Media World

For his course on Interactive Multimedia Communication, Aaron Delwiche, assistant professor of communication, teaches his students not only the latest standards for Web design, he also invites them to think about how quickly everything changes.

 “The class is about the accelerated rate of technological change,” said Professor Delwiche. He added that when he first taught the course, he used to ask students if they had an e-mail address and a home computer.  Now he has students with cell phones that are more powerful than the supercomputers used by the National Security Agency in the mid-90s.

Professor Delwiche studies how new media technology has been transforming our world. He has taught courses on massively multi-player online games using virtual worlds such as Second Life and Vanguard. He has written on the explosion of the video game industry, which now brings in more money than Hollywood. And he has researched how blogs and other Internet-based forums have emerged to have an impact that rivals traditional media.

Since technology isn’t slowing down, Professor Delwiche is expanding his research into new areas, including global connectiveness.  “We are getting closer to machine based translation of languages,” said Professor Delwiche.  “And more interaction between cultures, where people are paying attention to each other, like Chinese citizens and American citizens interacting in World of Warcraft.  I think that’s great.”

He is also researching ethical issues surrounding genetic engineering. Professor Delwiche said that people are now tinkering with DNA and modifying life forms in their garage just like people were hacking personal computers 15 to 20 years ago.  “It’s really scary, but it’s happening.”

“I think that people are very intimidated with genetic engineering and biotechnology.  There is a sense that we should leave it all to the scientists, to the experts. But that’s how people thought about computers 20 or 30 years ago,” said Professor Delwiche.  He argues that the issue is too important to leave to only a handful of people.  He believes that everyday citizens need to be informed and empowered to help make ethical decisions about biotechnology issues.

Courses Taught:

  • Media Interpretation and Criticism
  • Games for the Web: Ethnography of Massively Multiplayer Online Games
  • Political Propaganda
  • Introduction to Film Studies
  • Virtual World Promotions
  • Image of the Hacker in Popular Culture

Selected Publications:

  • “From The Green Berets to America’s Army: Video games as a vehicle for political propaganda,” The Playersʹ Realm: Studies on the Culture of Video Games and Gaming, 2007.
  • “The relationship between global media use and cosmopolitan orientation among Hong Kong adolescents,” Journal of International Communication, 2006.
  • “Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) in the new media classroom,” Journal of Educational Technology and Society, 2006.
  • “Agenda-setting, opinion leadership, and the world of Web logs,” First Monday, 2005.


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