a poem on the space of appearance




Still learning to love

Still learning to see

Still learning to speak

If I am still learning, what does that mean

For the fool who made me a settler jewel?

I try to forgive, I tried to forget

But how do I see and how do I run

When I’m forced to step right into the sun

Only to be burned

Will I, will I

Ever be more

Or do I even need to be more

What is enough?

Is it more love?

I have drowned from too much love.

If love is not home, then

What is a home?

When all I see are doors and walls;

I feel as if I’m still learning to crawl.

What’s on the Other side in my Other mind /

a river of bullets, an ocean of bodies, a ripple of pushing and pulling on me

Where does it stop, where does it lead

Will I forgive? Will I be seen?

What if they do see the worst of me?

Must I relinquish the best of me?


if I step right into the sun

To be more than visible?

To be more than heard?

To be more than just?

To be more than a word

that fails. that fails. that fails as a speech, as a poem to be preached.

Until we are loved,

Until we are human,

Until we are home,

let the waters heal our burns.

For I believe the world just might turn.

From the space of appearance, up and away

May that be the day I’m empowered to say

That I am not me, or he, or she,

One day, I will simply be.


The challenges of defining culture

The Challenges of Defining Culture: Indigenous People’s Day, by Aaron Gozum

With Indigenous People’s Day protests filling space in our country every October, this quote stood out to me as a good reminder: “We should accept, frankly, that if we extend our culture we shall change it: some of it offered will be rejected, other parts will be radically criticized” (Williams 1958: 16). From the readings this week regarding cultural studies, this resonated with me as the underlying objective of studying culture.


What I found most similar between these key theorists in the work of cultural analysis was this overarching conceptualization that culture is a symbolic, common knowledge derived from what humans think, do and produce through experiences. Still even for me, this is too reductionistic as a definition. As laid out by the many theorists heralding from the cultural studies paradigm, culture seems too complex due to its state of being — like Stuart Hall perfectly states, “a site of convergent interests” (Hall 1980: 35). From the interpretive approach to reading culture as a text in compared to a structuralist perspective that see culture as an influencing superstructure that determines our experiences, I think that the diversity speaks for the complexity of culture. Because of this complexity, the challenges of defining culture seem inherently intertwined with its challenges. If anything, to define a concept that seeks to understand ever-changing processes reeks of endless ambiguity. Like communication which Peters regards as a “rich tangle of intellectual and cultural strands”, culture will always change because of the differences we experience over time and space intertwined with the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, and class (Peters 1999: 2). As we explore the current dilemmas across different paradigms of studying culture, I will refer to the example of Indigenous People’s Day as a way for us to critically think through culture. Before exploring the problematics of these definitions of culture, I clarify the dominating definitions of culture.

Rooted within a British cultural studies perspective, Williams defines culture in two major senses. In one way, Williams argues that culture is a whole way of life through shared common meanings. Secondarily, Williams also suggests that culture is the special processes of discovery and creative effort (Williams 1958: 5). Through these definitions, he believes that we need to clear and open the channels of expression and communication to allow the entirety of life into self-consciousness, self-determination and meaning because in his perspective, cultural growth relies on the continuous active debate and amendment process for common acceptance (Williams 1958: 9, 16). Opening our channels of expression and communication seems to be a call-to-action in the way we think about the ways of paying for our common services which will guarantee proper freedom to those who actually provide the service, while protecting them and us against a dominating minority whether political or financial (Williams 1958: 17). The most interesting aspect of William’s argument for interpretive culture analysis is the acknowledgements for the underlying structures that impact culture. For instance, he references his experiences growing up in a countryside, where he watched the modes of change (learning new skills, relationship shifts, industrial labor changes). These modes of change signified clear economic structural changes within his experiences that he indicates influences the surrounding culture. However, his experiences clearly indicate that these changes are a part of social organization, which economic change clearly affects. Williams recognizes the relationship between culture and production. He acknowledges the cyclical reproduction of the dominating ideological culture that stems from institutions like academia, which he deems are in “no sense the sole product of the commercial middle class.” Rather, the “special processes of discovery and creative effort” produced aligns with these ruling class ideologies and subsequently in a very Brave New World, Huxley-sense or as Gramsci would argue, these working middle class men relinquish consent and end up taking pride in the very class and system that had restricted and excluded them from culture (Williams 1958: 7-8). Revisiting the desire for people to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, our example demonstrates this exclusion from culture and this need for change that Williams mentions. On one hand, some see Christopher Columbus as the man who founded America. Yet, this holiday also marginalizes the natives of America who see this as a celebration of Western colonialism, the enslaved transatlantic trade of people, and the genocide of indigenous people. When we consider the implications of naming a day in honor of a pioneer of European colonialism, we can recognize this exclusion. Through Williams, this example implies that these divisions prevent cultural growth. In this example, I do not believe that a semiotic change from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day will resolve the systemic marginalization and exclusivity in American white culture, but I can align with Williams in that this change from bridging the gap between high and low culture could certainly suffice as a starting point.


In the perspective of American cultural studies, Clifford Geertz argues that the concept of culture stems from a Max Weber quote that, “Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun.” Though his views stem from European theory, Geertz develops his own definition of culture as those webs of significance, a public and symbolic system of meanings. In this view, he reinforces that culture is not a matter of power, but rather a context in which something can be thickly described through interpretation. His conclusion that the culture of people is an ensemble of texts which the anthropologist strains to read over the shoulders of those to whom they properly belong emphasizes interpretive approaches to cultural theory (Geertz 1973: 452). Ultimately, Geertz seems to agree with Williams that culture is a collection of meaning, but in contrast, prioritizes the semiotic significance of culture rather than the power implications that flow between high culture of the hegemonic elites to ordinary culture within everyday interactions. Using Geertz’s definition of culture, we are restricted to a pigeonholed view that the implications of power that is deeply intertwined with identity negotiation is insignificant in regards to the debate over the naming of this national holiday.

Thus, we are left with the task to uncover how to improve this limitation. With these similar, yet competing views sieving through intellectual accounts of the terminology culture, Stuart Hall precedes them through exploring the advantages and weaknesses of cultural studies. Hall argues that “no single unproblematic definition of culture” exists and that culture remains a complex “site of convergent interests” (Hall 1980: 35). Revolving around ideology in that culture holds the power to create and produce experience, structuralism combats theorists heralding from the culturalism paradigm, a view that interweaves all social practices with the belief that human experience creates culture. Demonstrating the complexity of culture, Hall sees bridging the gap between these views as the opportunity that may supersede the “endless oscillations between idealism and reductionism” (Hall 1980: 32). In a Western-white-male dominating country, a symbolic name change could resemble the start to expanding culture by including other Americans in the discourse. Yet to dream for this idealism, we must critically focus on the structural implications as well. Only when we imagine an alternative that interpretively understands common meanings, but also analyzes the underlying structures that divide us, we can move closer to reaching a consensus on what culture is and its ever-changing role in society. #decolonizethisplace



Geertz, C. (1973). The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected essays. Chapter 1: Thick Description, Chapter 15: Notes on the Balinese cockfights.

Hall, St. (1980). Cultural studies: Two paradigms from Media, Culture and Society, Vol. 2.

Peters, J. D. (1999). Speaking Into the Air. University of Chicago Press.

Williams, R. (1958). Culture is Ordinary.

Questioning the Hyphen

Questioning the Hyphen: Considering the hyphenated-American for an alternative approach to U.S nationalism by Aaron Gozum, 12/7/2017


Today, the American concept of nation is ardently debated between traditional nationalists hailing from a dominating gaze of white male patriarchy and the emerging voices of among the marginalized ethnic groups who have differing perspectives on American culture. As Anderson famously theorized, nations are constructions of our imagination built upon the culturally and politically dominant ideas of a group. The popularized definition of nation was defined as “an imagined political community — and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (Anderson 1983). Essentially, Anderson sought the belief that nationalism seemed to be the abstracted invention of nations where they do not exist through means of developing a sort of political kinship (6). Among the discourse of nationalism, many variations emerged. In the course of the U.S., two seem most prevalent: civic nationalism, which derives from political legitimacy intended to represent the democratic will of the people via social contract; and ethnic nationalism, which focuses on determining nationality from linguistic, religious or ancestral commonalities (Anderson 1983, Rousseau 1762, Barnard 1967). Emblematic of civic nationalism, President Theodore Roosevelt was an outspoken anti-hyphenate who seemed to stand for an assimilationist belief:

“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism… The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities… each preserving its separate nationality” (President Theodore Roosevelt on Columbus Day, 1915).

Though the goal was most likely an attempt to reinforce solidarity, President Theodore Roosevelt — regardless of intention — imposed a necessity for homogenization. Post his presidency, World War I was underway, giving rise to the question of political loyalties among ethnic groups, particularly Irish-Americans; thus, motivating the denunciation of the hyphenated American as a response for national unification in the country. Though the negative effects of homogenization deserves further discussion, the main issue of this paper points here: if homogenization was the goal for U.S. American nationalism, the compelling question falls to unraveling why the term Asian-American appeared in the 2000 U.S. census reports, decades after the initial usage of the hyphen. If the aim was to create a shared, assimilated community among the residents in the U.S. like President Roosevelt intended, what is the purpose of tacking on another categorical box on the national population records?


With the reemergence of the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century hyphenated-American as a popular identifier, a shift of perspective on nationalism materialized. Initially, hyphenated American was a derogatory label intended to denigrate foreign-born Americans as untrue Americans. For decades to follow, the hyphenated-American seemed to slip away from the American lexicon, which only makes its resurfacing in the 21st century dialectic more suspicious. Correlated to hegemonic powers exercised by way of the political economy, the U.S. revived the arbitrary identification of hyphenated-Americans, but the hyphen now seems to carry a civic nationalism via a conduit of ethnocentrism. If we were to assume positive intent, the U.S. census may have been a start to building accurate representation of the American people. However in light of institutionalized racism and gender hierarchies, among a plurality of social pitfalls, to uncritically assume is naive. If we explore more recent reports of the U.S. census, nonetheless, in 1980, we can find the first classification of “Asians” as “”Asian or Pacific Islander.” Ten years later, the U.S. census continued this trend, but requested specific Asian or Pacific Islander race. It only took another ten years in 2000 for this terminology shifted back to the hyphenated “Asian-American,” resembling the past derogatory labeling of those deemed with seemingly dualistic loyalties. This is where standpoint theory is crucial in unraveling the not-so-visible intention of this construct and whom the label serves and provides advantage to. Hailing from a Marxist-structuralist view, this shift—implying that a dual-nationalism equates to the inability to be accepted as a true American—may be the result of using national identity as a means of economical and political exploitation to extend the hands of imperialism; thus consequently promoting Otherness by defining and identifying one’s self by what one is not (Chaterjee 1991, Marx & Engels 1976, bell hooks 1992, Hartsock 1983). From another view, some groups embrace the hyphen, arguing that the American identity is compatible with other identities. To reclaim the label inducing alienation from U.S. nationalism, some hyphenated-Americans groups coalesce for the purpose of gaining collective momentum in political representation, following the belief that there mixtures of diversity strengthen, rather than undermine, the national identity of the U.S.

Regardless of opinion on the use of the hyphen, Asian-Americans are still consistent examples of how the hyphenated-American disrupts the current reality of U.S. American nationalism. This label emblematically depicts how the hyphenated identity falls into contradiction by committing the murderous act of homogenization and cultural erasure, while also strengthening a diversity within the national identity. Even among radical ethnocentric U.S. nationalists, defining nationalism in the U.S. as limited to pilgrims colonizing a land through genocide seems outdated. Moreover thinking of American values, many veer toward the understanding that the nation is not a people, but a place—a land of opportunity, upward mobility and freedom of choice. By way of this aforementioned ethnocentric shift, Asian-Americans — possibly, all hyphenated-Americans — share this experience of being displaced as a foreign sojourner in the land of white supremacy as well as discovering a need to expand the meaning of U.S American nationalism. Courtesy of stereotyping, the process of Othering, and homogenization, when we identify Asian-Americans, we are using an ambiguous definition of how a social group, like Filipino-Americans, fits into the Asian-American umbrella. The only seemingly symmetrical thread that covers the vast diversity of social groups under the Asian American canopy is the relative geographical location of their ancestral countries — even then, we should still be concerned with its problematic definition as the label still constructs material consequence, politically, culturally and economically. As an umbrella that does not seem big enough, an opposing approach posits an alternative of cultural nationalism, which is remnant of the postmodernist school of thought in that multiple ethnicities and cultural traditions can collectivistically coexist (Haraway 1991). To credit this shift, the hyphenated-American allows for the perception that national identity can be more relative, in which varying realities or imagined notions of U.S. American nationalism can be expanded, fragmented, atomized and more inclusive; rooted in the idea that no identity is more valid or true than another (Anderson 1983, Jameson 1984). Valuing cultural kinship and familial collectivism, the Filipino-American, as an example, can illustrate how there are alternate forms of approaching nationalism, unlike the current state of the U.S. American national identity.

Ironic to Roosevelt’s efforts to unify the American people, the foundations of the capitalist system of the U.S. might be the cause of the disaggregated clutch for a hyphenated national identity. The homogenization of the vastly diverse ethnic groups among what is deemed “Asian-American” renders problematic, reiterating the necessity to a mode of thought that leans less upon the dualistic economic determination of class by the means to survive and exist. To the contrary, the hyphenated American standpoint offers a logic that extends this outlook on Marxism by recognizing there are many dualities of levels of realities, with that the subaltern seems to have a different scope of truth (Hartsock 1983). Recognition as a nation requires social solidarity and collective identity, but when the popular majority dictates the national culture, this hegemonic can exclude those who do not align with such a membership (Calhoun 1997, Gramsci 1971). Though Filipino-Americans have began to fight for cultural and heritage preservation in recent years, social science fields such as psychology, media and communication still have an opportunity to develop deeper research in United States’ history with the Filipino people as a valuable starting point in redefining the imagined community and nation of the U.S. to be more inclusive. Considered the most important part of the consensus forged in the nineteenth century—and, arguably today—as to what would count as politically appropriate identities, nationalism drove the development of essentialist thought, which Calhoun (1997: 18) referred to as the “reduction of the diversity in a population to some single criterion held to constitute its defining essence and most crucial character.” As the second largest Asian-American group in the U.S., Filipino-Americans make up 20% or over 3.4 million of the population according to the 2010 U.S. census report, which reflects the lack of representation and criticism toward the Asian-American label forced upon them. As one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the US, Filipinos are currently the fourth largest immigration group in the U.S. with almost 2 million who were born outside of the US, making the Asian-American label smacked on the Filipino-American, exemplary of the restrictiveness of essentialist homogenization found in the current form of nationalism in the U.S. Discussing the cultural tensions Filipino-Americans face invites us to consider a nationalism formed by culture and allows us to critique the current Asian-American label, and challenge the seemingly self-evident and essentialist American identity, when in actuality is an imaginary authority based on strategic location and formation (Said 1978: 20).

Stretching beyond its native roots of migrants from the surrounding islands of Indonesia and Malaysia, the inception of nationhood in the Philippines was constructed through Spanish colonialism for over 300 years. Moreover, the Philippines underwent Japanese imperialism through World War II, which occurred during the 47 years of U.S. American colonialism. Without a doubt, the Philippines is undoubtedly rooted within social constructions of politic and imperialistic aims. The complex historical history of the Philippines reflects the identity crisis of Filipino-Americans. Courtesy of ethnic distinctions in physical appearance and cultural values as well as the colonial distortion in Filipino culture, Filipino-Americans struggle to fit in the “Asian-American” classification. The experience of Filipino-Americans illustrates the exclusionary limits of U.S. American nationalism and how revision is necessary. On the first hand, Filipino-Americans among the many ethnic groups within the hyphenated identity have become products of imperialism. Served up a hyperreal U.S. nostalgia in the Philippines, Filipinos willingly consumed American mass culture and adopted Western standards of gender, race and culture. These shifts have also led to this identity clash, in which Filipino-Americans tend to lack a recollection of identity origin, looking back to a world they have never lost, a “nostalgia without memory” (Appadurai 1990). In the white hegemonic they are seen as faux-Americans, a simulacra, as Baudrillard might say, of the U.S. American values of opportunity, upward mobility, material success and freedom of choice. On the other hand, because Filipino-Americans have often been a mosh-posh of varying cultures (Spanish, Japanese, American, Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese), they offer a unique subaltern standpoint that can help reconstruct a potentially stronger and more representative national identity for the U.S. Attempting to preserve the cultural heritage in a world of imperialistically-induced erasure along, clinging to values that prioritized kin bonds to avoid confrontation and to encourage personal identity and self-worth to flow through familial relations, Filipino-Americans are caught in a bind of uncertainty with their sense of belonging (Posadas 1999).


Following Anderson’s theory of the nation as limited because of its finite boundaries, as sovereign because of its desire to destroy the legitimacy of the divine-hierarchal dynastic style of rule, and as a community because of its conception as a deep, horizontal comradeship, the hyphenated-American, like Filipino-Americans, disrupts the convergent flow of a national identity naturalized by a hegemony of ethnocentrism. Anderson also believed that cultural production, particularly print-languages “laid the bases for national consciousness” by unifying fields of exchange and communication, by producing a fixity (or virtual, temporal and spatial infinity) of language, and by creating languages-of-power (Anderson 1983, 44-45). With cultural production at the infrastructural base of formulating a nation, Calhoun recognized that nationalism is a way of “talking and thinking and seeing the world — a world made up at one basic level of nations and their international relations” (Calhoun 1997, 1). The vital takeaway from the reemergence of the controversial hyphenated-American follows a different epistemological structure that manifests from its contradictions with material life—a standpoint that diverges from the ethnocentric form of civic nationalism (Hartsock 1983). As the civic nationalism of the U.S. could never seem to get political borders to match ethnic boundaries, this way of world-seeing — this discursive formation that shapes our consciousness — became a stepping stone that seems to have paved a path toward a nationalism based on culture and collective diversity (Calhoun 1997, 3, Foucault 1980). As an infrastructure that reifies the economic, the U.S. cultural hegemony thus plays a predominant role in the construction, emergence and maintenance of it as a nation, of which the hyphenated-American dissolves through developing a contradictory consciousness. As we observe how differing nationalisms today cause cataclysmic erasure to cultural identity and ethnic groups, we have to consider a more complex relationship between culture, identity, our socioeconomic structures and the power embedded into ideologies. Horkheimer and Adorno, if anything, were certainly correct about placing concern with the enlightenment as mass deception. On the notion of valuing freedom of choice, the U.S. American cultural industry spits out easy-to-swallow mass culture, prioritizing technical rationality as dominantly credible and valid (Horkheimer & Adorno 1969). Relying on state and legislative power, media infrastructures and mediums of technology to script what behavior and state of being  is socially acceptable, the U.S. as a super power filters the world through their cultural industry faster than ever, encouraging the reproduction of its hegemonic cultural monopoly and homogenizing the diversity found within the diaspora of immigrants amidst its boundaries. Noting the work of Gramsci is incredibly important too when considering cultural hegemony as the obfuscation of class consciousness, which in neo-Marxist/Gramsci tradition, that could lead to an uprising revolution if reclaimed by the proletariat class. Nevertheless, the hyphenated-American accentuates how by reducing to a classist structure, traditional Marxist thought can neglect core aspects of race, ethnicity and cultural identity as influencers over nationalism. Therefore, ignoring the cultural implications of the hyphenated-American equates to ignoring a crucial element that is transforming U.S. American nationalism. We need to pay attention to all facets of identity. Yet, it is important to mention that the imaginary of the nation as a political community, inherently limited and sovereign, is only partial to its conceptualization and requires more than its postmodernist inception. Grounded then in an amended Marxist view and inherently intertwined with the pervasive flows of power, the formation of a nation seems more like the naturalization of political strategy, hegemonic cultural discipline and economic production, embedded and interpellated through our everyday lives (Anderson 1983, Althusser 1971, Thompson 1990: 7, Foucault 1980). Through a dominantly-accepted body of knowledge, members are disciplined to adhere to the hegemonic narratives of the American nation, which historically has material impact on the lives within and externally of the nation across race, gender, culture and national identity through homogenization (Foucault 1991, Foucault 1980). However, framing the concept of the nation in the dispersed relativity of exercising power via the construction and reconstruction of knowledge allows for the possibility of a shift in defining nationalism, as discursive practices are always in a constant flux (Foucault 1991). Built upon the notion that the U.S. is founded by and made up of immigrants, the transnational fluidity of the hyphenated-American national identity is a compelling narrative that opens the gate to reconstructing the naturalized imaginary of the American nation. Globally considered a nationality with independent political and economic power in the world of nations, the U.S. American has the capacity to expand through the hyphen, allowing us to call for revision of national identity in hopes to address the totalizing infinity of perspectives, realities and fragmentary identities that may shape U.S. nationality.

Though the challenges and negative impacts that Filipino-Americans face should instill a bias in me, I am still caught in between the views of the hyphenation. Does the hyphenated-American resemble a lesser American or does the hyphen strengthen the U.S. American national identity? Nevertheless, the standpoint of the hyphenated-American beautifully depicts a cultural form of nationalism, emphasizing collectivism. Certainly, cohesively nationalizing a group of people through political and ethnic legitimacy can unify and lead a group toward common goals. In doing so, however, we run the risk of placing culture and ethnicity in a potential state of erasure. In comparison, creating differentiations can support values of diversity and representation for all. Still, among these differentiations emerges deep divisions and hierarchies of inequality. So, how do we address the problematic confines of American nationalism without unintentionally constructing more borders? How do we value inclusivity without creating contradictory divisions? Must we dismantle the nationality of the U.S. or do we rebuild an American nationality that can be deemed inclusive or at the least, less of a rigid imaginary wall that lacks the capacity to address the culturally and ethnically overlapping differences it attempts to fuse together? Does this complicate the equation set by Anderson who sought that the concept of the nation is inherently limited? Can a nation be not limited and be more less about freedom of choice, but more about a freedom of being? Can there be a balance between civic and ethnic nationalism or is a dismantling of U.S. nationalism the only solution? Even with material consequences, these contradictions are built out of socially constructed imaginary nations, which must mean they contain the capacity for reconstruction. The only matter is how to wield such a power. From the grassroots of social change to the likes of Filipino-Americans—amalgamations with multiple fragments of varying identities, we should consider collectivism as a form of nationalism that is capable of encompassing the diversity of cultural contradictions so that no one feels like a sojourner (Jameson 1984). Maybe through affinities we can become less of a place and more of a people (Haraway 1991). After all, a global super power should be paired with a global citizenship.


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Considering Ethics & Leadership


An Organizational Analysis on Monsters Inc.

Organizational communication is essential to success. As a vitally fundamental element for success, I think that organizational communication is a culmination of skillfully mindful interactions and critical discourses, which are required to effectively lead a group toward achieving a mission or a set of principle objectives. As an example, Monsters Inc., an animated comedy produced by Pixar Animation and Walt Disney Studios, demonstrates important aspects of organization communication. Following the lives of two employees in the city of Monstropolis, James P. “Sully” Sullivan and Mike Wazowski, Monsters Inc. is a story about an organization, generating the city’s power by scaring children. However, when an employee makes one mistake, the entire organization is faced with the crisis of a child contamination entering the monster world that blows up into a huge scandal as soon as the CDA, the Children Detection Agency, tracks the child invasion back to the scare factory. Lastly, Sully and Mike make an ethical decision to help save the child by returning her home instead of turning her in, impacting the reputation of the factory due to being the company’s top scare team and main public image. Further within several conversations, particularly between Sully and the factory’s CEO, Waternoose, the story also reveals that the company is not reaching their quotas due to the lack of “scare”, or city power, which subsequently reflects negatively on the company because they are not capable of achieving their mission of obtaining the city’s main source of power. As the story unfolds, Monsters Inc. illustrates what could happen and how an organization leads, manages and deals with conflict, including not reaching company quotas and facing massive company scandals. Because of Sully’s and Mike’s choice in doing the right thing for the little girl that enters Monstropolis, they involve themselves in the “kid-tastrophic” issue, facing organizational dilemmas of ethics, which ultimately connects this entertaining family film to organizational communication.

As an example of organizational communication playing a role in the film, ethics, the set of rules and responsibilities of good morality that guides our behavior, plays a tremendous part in the characterization of the two protagonists Sully and Mike, the factory CEO Waternoose and the antagonist, Randall Boggs (Eisenberg, Goodall, Trethewey 47). Sully, who seems to be the one with the most integrity, selflessly puts the organization first, his team second and then himself. However, as soon as the company crisis occurs, Sully takes a step back from his job and instead of doing things right according to company codes of conduct, out of integrity and good ethics, he takes a turn to do the right thing to save the child (Drucker). Like Sully, Mike also has a fairly good judgment on his ethics; still, Mike is a prime example of the work-life conflict because of his personal relationships with Sully, his best friend, and Celia, his girlfriend who works as the front desk agent of the scare factory. Consistently throughout the film, Mike makes decisions between what is better for the organization versus what is best for his personal life. CEO Waternoose, unlike the two protagonists, is completely vested in the company since his family has been running the factory for three generations, giving him a sense of skin-in-the-game. Because of his investment in the organization, Waternoose lacks a sense of good ethics and shows throughout the film that he would do anything to prevent losing the company. Lastly, Randall Boggs, as the villain, clearly lacks any decent ethic in every choice he makes, choosing to act only in the best interest of himself.

In addition to ethics supporting the characterization within Monsters Inc., the many organizations exemplify their use of teams, a group of employees from different areas of specializations within the organization to efficiently maximize the cross-functional exchange of information (Eisenberg, Goodall, Trethewey 211). For instance, when the company scandal arises with the child, the CDA immediately and collectively takes action. The CDA forces a city lockdown, tracks the child back to the scare factory, interrogates CEO Waternoose, investigates the factory and ultimately helps Sully and Mike return the child back to the human world. As seen during the city lockdown, the CDA makes no exceptions, working as a team and sticking to their mission of finding the child. Within the factory, the scare teams act as another example of teamwork. Set up as an autocratic bureaucracy because of the dangerous work, the scare teams have their clear roles and clear job responsibilities. Split in twos, one member of the scare team is responsible for scaring the children and the other is responsible for supporting the one in charge of scaring children by supplying doors (to get to children), filling up scare tanks (where they store the scare power) and filing paperwork after the day is through. Without the constrictive regulations of the teams, dangerous issues such as the child invasion would occur, which is shown when Randall works by himself to increase his numbers in order to become the top scare monster.

Another case of organizational communication in this film is the varying management and leadership styles. CEO Waternoose, who exemplifies the classical management style of autocracy, utilizing the chain-of-command, and consistently dividing the line between management and employees. Moreover, CEO Waternoose also seems to follow the ideals of trait leadership, a mode of leadership based on innate characteristics, believing that only monsters who are “confident, tenacious, tough and intimidating” can be good scarers. In contrast, Sully, who later succeeds Waternoose in running the factory, democratically and charismatically leads his team and the organization, always taking everyone’s ideas and opinions into consideration. Through his human resources management style, Sully demonstrates his use of servant leadership, a style of leading that prioritizes service, by putting not only his employees and the organization first, but also giving priority to the external climate of the organization including the children they affect and the impact they have on the city. Further, Sully also demonstrates a transformational leadership, which is another form of leadership that focuses on the vision of needed change. Shown in the film, when Sully takes charge of the factory, leading the organization into a huge structural change in the way they work, instead of scaring, they make children laugh. In addition to the leadership styles of Waternoose and Sully, Roz, who is a secretary at the factory, but in reality, is the secret undercover leader of the CDA, exhibits an autocratic management style similar to the way Waternoose runs his organization. However, unlike Waternoose, Roz utilizes situational leadership, performing different forms of leadership depending on the situation. For instance, when we first meet Roz, who works behind a desk as a secretary, she sticks to the rules, criticizing Mike for not correctly filing his paperwork. While she works as a secretary, she directs the CDA into investigating the factory and locking the city down, which secretly displays her autocratic leadership by making quick decisions to efficiently fulfill undercover organizational mission of finding the child. However, on the other hand, at the end of the film, Roz helps Sully and Mike return the child back home. Rather than following the regulations of the CDA, she listens to the perspective of Sully and Mike and creates a compromise by allowing them to return the girl to the human world, but shredding the door so she could never come back. By doing so, Roz shows her capability of changing her management style from classical management to a more human resource-styled management (Eisenberg, Goodall Trethewey 250-51).

Revisiting Sully’s transformational leadership within the organization, Sully, after succeeding Waternoose, drives the factory toward a major change, displaying an aspect of organizational communication known as total quality management, which is the structural approach of organizational management that focuses on improving an organization’s products or services (Eisenberg, Goodall, Trethewey 291). Because children were gradually not getting scared anymore, Sully wanted to find a better way of obtaining power for the city. Through his experience with taking care of the alien child that invaded Monstropolis, Sully learned that making children laugh was three more times powerful than scaring them. Further, Sully implemented this idea into the factory by changing the work, removing scarers and replacing them with comedians.

From ethical dilemmas and company scandals to varied forms of teamwork, management and leadership, Monsters Inc. demonstrates both good and bad execution of organizational communication. Through this film, we learn that organizational communication is integral to organizational success in fulfilling any mission. Without the skillful interactions or critical discourses, an organization would lack the capability of effectively leading their company, group or team toward achieving any mission or goal. We learn that with the proper methods of leadership, teamwork and management, a company can thrive, just like the scare factory had under the management of Sully, by the end of the film. Still, ultimately, Monsters Inc. teaches us much more than what successfully executed organizational communication looks like. Though this animation is simply regarded as some Disney children’s film, Monsters Inc. highlights one of the most significant aspects of organizational communications: ethics and integrity. As ethics walk on a fine line, Monsters Inc. exhibits how we should do our best to do things right for the organization. Still, through Sully’s and Mike’s valiant acts of saving the child, we learn that though we may want to do things right for the organization, we should also critically consume knowledge, use moral judgment and keep a mindful perspective on the situation to always do the right thing. Ws should strive to keep this balance because doing things right allows the organization to prosper; nevertheless doing the right thing for the people and the environment is just as essential and necessary because without the people, the society, the culture and the surrounding environment, we simply would have no purpose and no need for an organization. As ethics plays the role of a common theme that runs across leadership, management and teamwork, the film inspires me to wonder: would an organization be anything without having a group to lead?


Drucker, Peter F., The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential

Writings on Management. 2008. Print.

Eisenberg, Eric M., Goodall Jr., H.L., Trethewey, Angela. Organizational Communication:

Balancing Creativity and Constraint. Bedford Books. 2009. Print.

Monsters Inc. Dir. Pete Docter. Walt Disney Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. 2001. Film.

The State of the American Millennial Mind

With concern for the state of the American Millennial mind, the narcissism of Millennials often appears in recent social scholarship, revealing that the current generation of young people tend to estimate themselves more highly than previous generations. Surely, history shows evidence of America’s inclination toward a more individualistic and rise-in-self culture, thanks to capitalism and society’s recent technological advancements. Yet in extrapolating data across time, Jean Twenge, a professor from San Diego State University who leads the conversation in generational narcissism, concludes that though there are positive benefits of the rise in self including equality and tolerance, this influx of individualism like any cultural system comes with negative consequences of materialistic culture, increased narcissism, and a decline in intellectual and civic interest in our younger generations (Twenge 2016). Though narcissism is alive in American culture and self-belief is in fact a prominent trait of the Millennial generation, due to the recent developments of tolerance and equality for diversity as well as the complexity of narcissism in psychology research, we cannot indefinitely say that narcissism is an obtrusively negative characteristic impacting society.

Contrary to popular belief, the term narcissism, often defined as the selfish pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistical pride, exceeds this negative stereotype. In social and psychology research, scholars consider narcissism, originating from ancient Greek mythology about Narcissus, a man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pond, as a complex and controversial subject. Popularized by Sigmund Freud in his 1914 essay On Narcissism, narcissism evolved into an intensively researched concept in psychoanalytical theory. With a vast set of variations of narcissism discovered within psychology scholarship, most types fall within two major categories: adaptive narcissism and maladaptive narcissism (Davis, Claridge & Brewer 1996, Wink 1991, Wink 1992, Wink 1996). Adaptive narcissism, or synonymously known as healthy narcissism, is associated with interest in self-image, passion for leadership, and assertive ambition. Having multiple subdivisions, maladaptive narcissism aligns with arrogance, disregard for others, a need to feel superior and with extremity could harmfully impact one’s capacity to maintain meaningful relationships (Freud 1914, Hill & Lapsley 2016, Kuebrich 2016, Wink 1991). Exploring the significance of narcissism’s complexity unveils further challenges with deciding whether or not narcissism and the promotion of self-belief is a negative trait of our current American culture and the Millennial generation. Further, Jean Twenge’s self-report data with the Narcissism Personality Inventory (NPI) between 1982—2006 fails to address the morality of narcissism as a personality trait (Raskin & Hall, 1979; Raskin & Hall, 1981; Raskin & Terry, 1988). Though beneficially insightful in terms of the gradual increase of narcissism in America, this data only records a combined sum score of adaptive and maladaptive types of narcissism, which limits our capacity to determine if the Millennial generation is embodying a healthy or pathological variation of narcissism (Twenge 2006, Twenge et al. 2008, Twenge & Campbell 2009).

Defined as a group of individuals who became adults roughly around the early 2000s, the Millennial generation, spans over 20 years from approximately 1980 to 2000, which equates for roughly 80 million individuals who are vastly different in age, race, personality, and political view (Fry 2016, Kuebrich 2016). Supporting this perspective, Pew Research shows that Millennials are one of the most diverse generations by age and race, suggesting that Millennials cannot simply be subjected to one attitude. Considering that the generational gap is the biggest age grouping in American history, Millennials naturally have a myriad of views and social perspectives. For instance, the political views of Millennials differ significantly across racial and ethnic lines. “About half of white Millennials (51%) say they are political independents. The remainder divide between the Republican (24%) and Democratic (19%) parties. Among non-white Millennials, about as many (47%) say they are independent. But nearly twice as many (37%) identify as Democrats while just 9% identify as Republicans” (Pew Research March 2014). Furthermore in terms of research validity, Twenge’s work primarily focuses on late-high school and college students. For instance, her survey roughly spans 355,000 self-report responses, which is not entirely accurate, representing at most 4.43% of the 80 million Millennials (Chee 2013, Twenge 2016). With this massive stretch of diversity, we can surely conclude from Twenge’s data that there is a general increase of narcissism in America’s younger generation in comparison to previous generations, but we cannot conclude if Millennials lean more toward individualism — the ideology of valuing self-reliance and importance of self-worth — or pathological narcissism — the flaw of valuing excessive selfishness and grandiose view of one’s own talents. For instance, the Millennial generation strays from political allegiances, marriage, or religious affiliations, suggesting an influx of independence in intellect and lifestyle, but not necessarily for selfish or entitled needs. On the other hand, opting for technology and social media platforms as a new form of community and building meaningful relationships, Millennials easily and quite frequently convey a need for attention through likes, views and comments (Douthat 2014).

With a general understanding that narcissism is clearly on the rise, considering causes and factors influencing this increase is a natural tangent. More interestingly is this increase’s correlation to the decline in interest of philosophy, civic awareness and issues external from the self. Shown in Twenge’s studies, the promotion of self-belief certainly could be a potential influence increasing narcissism and decreasing intellectual and civic interest in America (Twenge 2016). However, this conclusion creates a causal fallacy. For instance, as there are different types of narcissism, such as vulnerable narcissism, self-belief instability can easily contribute to narcissism just as a rise in the self does (Rhodewalt, Madrian & Cheney, 1998). Another example refers to Bandura and his research in self-efficacy. In his research, self-belief may not be the direct cause of success, but higher levels of self-belief, or synonymously self-efficacy, are key to instilling the motivation and ambition to attempt new things and success (Bandura 1994). Subsequently a rise in self is a clear potential influence, due to many factors from overprotective parents boosting self-esteem, social media addictions and even income inequality, but another challenge presents itself: societal’s decline in intellectual interest and civic engagement may stem from the excessive promotion of self-belief, but the causal fallacy lies in the possibility for other causes in this decline. As an example, the cognitive overload and depthless exposure of knowledge in today’s Information Age can cause burnout and a decline in decision quality and intellectual interest (Gross 1964, Toffler 1971, Simmel 1903, Speier et al. 1999). Because information overload can cause intellectual disinterest, we can see there are other influences regarding the interest of intellectual or philosophical issues. Moreover, a lack of personal impact or slow progression of social change can induce a feeling of powerlessness and a decline in external political efficacy, the government’s ability to meet expectations and system persistence — and internal political efficacy — the individual’s judgment in one’s capacity for social engagement and understanding politics (Balch 1974). Because decreased political efficacy leads to lower polarization of ideological orientation and lower participation in social and political matters, research suggests the possibility for other causal factors affecting the decline in civic engagement (Sulitzeanu-Kenan & Halperin 2013). However, other research suggests that the technological advancements that continue to alter our capacity for social advocacy potentially indicates an incline of civic engagement from online petitions, digitally-mediated support groups and hotlines to support marginalized communities. Instances include nonprofits like The Trevor Project, which provides online support for the LGBT youth and Planned Parenthood, which pioneers in advocating for health education in regards to sexual and reproductive information with programs such as Global Mobile that support other countries like Africa (Planned Parenthood 2017). In addition, Pew Research in 2009 discovered that out of the 36% of Americans who participated in political activity in 2008, 83% communicated with others in regards to their political activity and 51% of those communicating indicated the use of technology (text messaging, social media, phone calls, emails) aiding that communication process (Smith et al. 2009). Furthermore, though evidence across Twenge’s research shows that even with narcissism seemingly increasing, this increase is only gradual, suggesting that this is not a sudden generational split between the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennial generation or even an abrupt effect of the past decade’s technology boom. Moreover, history proves that the rise of self began before the Millennial generation. For instance, Christopher Lasch’s 1979 publication The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations offers a critical perspective of American culture that predates Twenge’s implications of a sudden rise-in-self movement in the Millennial generation (Kuebrich 2016). If anything, we can only infer that the cultural shift toward promoting self-belief is a factor increasing our nation’s levels of narcissism — not the ethicality of narcissism or its exclusive impact on the current state of the American Millennial mind.

Conclusively, Millennials do in fact show levels of narcissism, more increased than some previous generations (Twenge 2016). However, without accurately extrapolating the data to understand what types of narcissism runs across this data and adequately addressing the diverse nuances within the Millennial generation, we cannot indefinitely say that Millennials are pathologically narcissistic or brimming with an insidious trait of excessive self-belief. Secondly, we may infer that the rise of self-belief may be a contributing factor to increased levels of narcissism. Building upon the discourse around the rise in the emphasis of self, data does reveal an increase in individualism, narcissism and self-belief, which are all good indications of this movement. Nevertheless, we cannot assume that this influx of self-belief and narcissism is the sole causal factor of intellectual and civic disinterest due to causal fallacy — there may very well be other external factors at play. Because of the complexity of narcissism, the lack of research clarifying these variations, the diversity of the Millennial generation and the possibility for other implications instigating intellectual and civic disinterest, we cannot judge the morality of narcissism as a trending personality trait. Ultimately, Jean Twenge does a fantastic job of pioneering the discourse of the Millennial state of mind, but I hope this paper inspires new avenues of research because the more we learn, the more often we find more questions. Without more research, we cannot say for certain if the American Millennial mind is in danger and we cannot simply create assumptions based off of what we do not know. Regardless of these trends, I am inspired to fight this stereotype as an American Millennial by productively focusing my time in this world on learning how to better contribute to the progression of knowledge and to challenge the world’s inequalities. As I continue my studies this fall, I will strive toward researching how we can better implement media in improving tolerance and social activism for stigmatized identities because I believe the instigation of equality and an incline toward intellectual interest begins with opening the dialogue and welcoming a change in the state of mind.


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Davis, C., Claridge, G., & Brewer, H. (1996). The two faces of narcissism: Personality dynamics of body esteem. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 15(2), 153-166. doi:10.1521/jscp.1996.15.2.153

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Gross, B. M. (1964). The managing of organizations: The administrative struggle. New York, NY: Free Press of Glencoe.

Hill, P. L., & Lapsley, D. K. (2016). Adaptive and maladaptive narcissism in adolescent development. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0aea/461919adb416d33007bbef924f7c5941fbde.pdf

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Creating the Reframe Movement

Creating The Reframe Movement

It feels like yesterday — the cold locker scraping against my chapped cheekbones. Shoved into lockers, pilloried with cafeteria food, and humiliated with hateful slurs, I prefer to block these moments out of memory, but our country’s deep rooted issues question my safety and security as a gay Asian American man and I believe it’s time for our generation to fight back and mobilize in progressive change to address social justice.

I didn’t even know I was gay nor did I want to know, but with all the bullying, I was forced to answer that question.

Through high school, I felt conflicted and hid my shame of being different in the closet. At first, pretending these humiliating moments never happened used to help me feel like this piece of me didn’t exist, but it only created emptiness. Sure — being gay is just a piece of me, but if my bullying taught me anything: my neglect showed me that my sexual orientation is an important piece of my identity.

It’s a part of how I create and invest in relationships.

When I decided to embrace this part of myself, I expected life to get easier. Though the process of no longer hiding a facet of my identity felt relieving, revealing my sexual orientation became an endless, ongoing process of new challenges. Every day, I found myself coming out to new people, educating others what being gay actually means. It’s not talking in a funny way, crossing my legs when I sit, or playing with Barbies. These stereotypes are at the root of misunderstanding and pretense. Of course, I will always be grateful for the privilege of having a coming out process; still, that inappropriate side-comment or that subtle glance of disapproval can instantly remind you that someone thinks that there is something wrong with you. It can instantly remind you that there are people out there that hate you and that someone believes you shouldn’t exist.

Where do we draw the line with embracing the diversity of thought?

Is this hatred and lack of empathy something we should be embracing? For me, I used to believe that embracing the diversity of thought was key, but I was wrong. Yes, we can agree to disagree; still, that doesn’t deliver the complete solution. We need to move beyond this. We need to restructure our modes of thought and the institutions that reify and reproduce racism, xenophobia, misogyny, transphobia and homophobia. We need to progressively strive for unity and collaboration because the current state of our country is troublingly reflective of our deep divisions and clashing ideologies.

The purpose of The Reframe Movement is to help us recognize our victories in diversity, address the lack of understanding within ourselves and within our culture, and continuously learn about the ever-changing art of identity as we consider alternatives to the binary construction of dualities like women/man, gay/straight, and Black/White.

With a tremendous amount of hope, I dream for this project to open the dialogue for collaboration, reframe our perspectives on social stigmas, and shed light on the marginalization faced through racism, xenophobia, misogyny and homophobia.

join our revolution. #RFM

Aaron Gozum

P.S. If you would like to share a story that reframes a worldview either for you or for others, please email thereframemovement@gmail.com.