Comparative Media Studies Graduate Students


Sonia Banaszczyk
Graduate Student, CMS, '18
Sonia Banaszczyk Sonia's research focuses on the narrative strategies employed by contemporary feminists and reproductive justice activists. She is interested in how social movement groups wield media technologies, both online and offline, to build community, infiltrate dominant public spheres, and harness political power.

Sonia earned a combined B.A. in Communication and Sociology from Northeastern University, with a focus on social movement communication. Her work as a student organizer provided space for praxis, especially around media strategy and messaging. She has also spent time in Northern Ireland working on a community art initiative that explores migration, identity, and inclusion through audio/visual narrative. Her work has been published in the Journal of Communication Inquiry and on Originally from Warsaw, Poland, Sonia has spent the past several years living in Boston.
James Bowie-Wilson
Graduate Student, CMS, '19
James Bowie-Wilson James Bowie-Wilson is a game developer and entrepreneur. He is passionate about emergent gameplay narratives, and expanding the range of voices shaping those narratives.

Growing up in the winter wonderland of Madison, Wisconsin, he attended the University of Southern California, graduating with degrees in Sociology and Interactive Entertainment. His Honors thesis explored the impact of gender on game developers in leadership positions. He won recognition as a National Merit Finalist, National Achievement Finalist, USC Presidential Scholar, and USC Renaissance Scholar.

He has worked with wonderful teams to build great games. The largest project in USC Advanced Games’ history, “Bloom”, was featured by Intel, GamesBeat, and VentureBeat; “Howie and Yarla” won an IndieCade award for storytelling and was featured by Fox News; “Hare-y Kare-y”, “Dear Humans”, and “Samsong” each won awards at Global Game Jams. He runs Roll Play Studio, an investor and accelerator funded, publisher supported venture with guidance from industry veterans.

When not dancing across keyboards, James breakdances across concrete as a member of Rhythm Attack, an international dance crew centered in Hong Kong.
Josefina Buschmann
Graduate Student, CMS, '19
Josefina Buschmann Josefina’s work lies at the intersection of social sciences and documentary media. She is part of MAFI - Filmic Map of a Country - a Chilean non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote and create participatory documentary projects that foster social reflection and political engagement.

In Chile, she worked as a researcher in different social investigations using audio-visual methodologies, exploring issues ranging from the impact of schools’ aesthetics on the quality of education, domestic appropriation and urban mobility, socio environmental conflicts, and the relation between art, memory and landscape in the case of detained and disappeared Mapuche people during Chilean dictatorship.

She studied sociology and filmmaking in Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, where she, later on, worked as a part time lecturer of visual anthropology at the anthropology program.

She joins CMS to continue exploring innovative participative documentary media forms that promote social change and political activism through the process of collaboration and co-creation.
Laurel Carney
Graduate Student, CMS, '18
Laurel Carney Laurel Carney is a writer from California. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Davis, where she studied early modern execution laws. Her undergraduate thesis combined original historical research, textual criticism, and fiction writing to examine the role that story-telling played in early modern debates over pregnant women’s criminal culpability.

A lifelong gamer, she is interested in communities formed around rule-breaking in virtual worlds and the ways developers push back against "deviant" play via punitive systems and environmental design. She currently works as a research assistant in the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Lab.

Her variously concomitant interests include 80's-90's adventure games, MMOs, television, animal rights/welfare, theme parks and dark rides, folk ballads, and Bong Joon-ho movies.
Aashka Dave
Graduate Student, CMS, '18
Aashka Dave Aashka Dave graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in journalism and Romance languages, having studied participatory media platforms and their effects on community engagement and interaction. These interests led her to The Associated Press, where she worked on projects including digital marketing, book publishing and social media.

As a CMS student, Aashka works with the Writing, Rhetoric and Professional Communication research project. Her present interests lie at the nexus of media in transition, increasing applications of communications technologies and resulting changes in audience interpretation.

The Pottermore website once gave her a choice between Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Feeling affronted, she chose the latter.
Kaelan Doyle-Myerscough
Graduate Student, CMS, '18
Kaelan Doyle-Myerscough Kaelan Doyle Myerscough is a writer and academic formerly based in Montreal, Canada. She graduated in June 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts with honors in East Asian Studies at McGill University, and wrote her thesis on competitive online gaming communities of the popular franchise Pokémon. Her research interests include transnational new media industries, fan cultures, and emergent forms of academic creation and expression.

Her published work includes an essay on intertextuality between online communities, social activism and Jia Zhangke’s 2013 film A Touch of Sin; a comic/manga adaptation of excerpts from Kathleen Stewart’s Ordinary Affects; and (forthcoming) an essay on resonances between Homer’s Iliad and the 2013 TV series Hannibal. In her free time, Kaelan enjoys writing, drawing, video games, and spur-of-the-moment crafting projects.
Libby Falck
Graduate Student, CMS, '19
Libby Falck Libby Falck is an entrepreneur, designer and multimedia artist based in Cambridge, MA. She geeks out about helping communities use design thinking and making to tackle social and environmental issues. She is previously the co-founder of IDEAco, the writer and lead creator of the K-12 design thinking curriculum the City X Project, the organizer of San Francisco’s first Youth Civic Hackathon, and the writer and designer of Autodesk's Maker Program Starter Kit. Libby completed her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin - Madison where she studied communications and game-based learning. She is also a graduate of the Singularity University Global Solutions Program (2012) and the 4.0 Schools Launch Accelerator (2014). With four years of experience in media production and five years in education technology, she looks forward to joining the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT.

Libby’s current research is focused on using new media to enable individuals to collaboratively redesign public systems, particularly those related to education and governance. Her mission is to develop tools and experiences that transform issues into actions, empowering more people to design and implement solutions toward building a world that works. Find her on Twitter @LibbyFalck for news on #GBL #digitalcitizenship #worldbuilding #designthinking #FutureofWork #civichacking #rethinkhighschool.
Mariel García-Montes
Graduate Student, CMS, '18
Mariel García-Montes Mariel García-Montes, @faeriedevilish, joins the CMS program and the Center of Civic Media to ponder the questions she asked herself (without the chances to formally explore) throughout her work in tech capacity building in civil society in Mexico and Latin America – especially those around youth, media, civic/moral education and digital literacies.

She has worked doing communications, instructional design and research around open data, privacy and security, strategic communications and other digital literacies for SocialTIC (Mexico), Unicef (HQ); as a consultant for School of Data, the Open Knowledge Foundation, the engine room and Internews; and as an intern for the Youth and Media Lab at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She is a philosophy graduate from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and a Berkman Klein Center affiliate.

Mariel loves passionate opinions in the intersections of technology and society, creative communications efforts, random acts of kindness, passport stamps...and both eating and dancing salsa.
Matt Graydon
Graduate Student, CMS, '19
Matt Graydon Matt Graydon graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Film.

He joins CMS after working as a media and communications specialist with the United Nations in Iraq, South Sudan and Afghanistan, where he focused on migration and refugee issues in both humanitarian
emergency and development contexts.

At MIT, Matt works with the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab. He is interested in how practices like migration are shaped by new media technologies, the role of the media in conflict, and creative advocacy through emerging technologies such as virtual reality.
Claudia Lo
Graduate Student, CMS, '18
Claudia Lo Born and raised in Hong Kong, Claudia Lo graduated from Swarthmore College with a major in Gender and Digital Media, focusing on queer and feminist theory as it applies to videogames. Her current research interests include control schemes and controllers in games, the social functions they serve in wider gaming communities, and the potential ability for videogames to present minority viewpoints in ways that are not reliant on on-screen representation. At MIT, Claudia works at the Game Lab. In her off time, she enjoys calligraphy, tea, and trying in vain to work through her gaming backlog.
Rekha Malhotra
Graduate Student, CMS, '19
Rekha Malhotra Rekha Malhotra a is producer, curator, educator, and activist. She pioneered merging Bhangra and Bollywood sounds with contemporary electronic dance music. She is the founder of Basement BhangraTM, Bollywood Disco and co‐founder of Mutiny Club nights. She was named "Ambassador of Bhangra" by the New York Times.

Rekha was the sound designer for the TONY award‐winning Broadway Show, "Bridge and Tunnel,” and received a Drama Desk Award nomination for her work on the play "Rafta Rafta" and was the associate producer for the NPR Radio Documentary, "A Feet in Two Worlds." She has done remixes for artists that range from Meredith Monk to Priyanka Chopra.

Her debut album, DJ Rekha presents Basement Bhangra, was released on E1 Music and was nominated for the 2008 Plug Awards. She was NYU's A/P/A Artist-in-Residence for 2006-2007. She has received numerous community awards and in 2009 was inducted into the New York City's Peoples’ Hall of Fame.

Rekha has curated events for Celebrate Brooklyn and Central Park SummerStage NYC. DJ Rekha was a Grand Marshall of the 9th Annual NYC Dance Parade in 2015. In January 2017 she was one of the official DJs for the historic Women's March on Washington. She serves on the board of Chhaya CDC, an organization of New Yorkers of South Asian origin to advocate for and build economically stable, sustainable, and thriving communities.
Sara Rafsky
Graduate Student, CMS, '18
Sara Rafsky Sara Rafsky joins CMS and the Open Documentary Lab after working in Mexico City as Researcher on Central America at Amnesty International. Before that she was the Americas Research Associate for the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, where she reported on press freedom in Latin American and the United States. Previously, she wrote about culture and politics as a freelance journalist in New York, South America and Southeast Asia, interned at the Associated Press in Bogotá, Colombia and was the Editorial Assistant for ARTnews magazine in New York. Sara also lived in Argentina, where she worked with the Ford Foundation and interned with Human Rights Watch and the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE). In 2008, she received a Fulbright Grant to research photojournalism and the Colombian armed conflict. She has a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and is from Brooklyn, New York.

Sara loves all things cinema, journalism and Latin America. At MIT, she hopes to research how new technologies and documentary practices can be used to advance the cause of freedom of expression.
Aziria Rodríguez Arce
Graduate Student, CMS, '18
Aziria Rodríguez Arce Aziria D. Rodríguez Arce, a lover of tacos, memes, and all things funny, earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). She is also a community organizer and web developer. Aziria has worked in various non-profit organizations in Puerto Rico designing and developing participatory tech solutions to deal with government transparency, technology accessibility, capacity building, and economic development issues on the island.

All of Aziria's endeavors stem from a political and philosophical point of view based on advancing equality and inclusion. Therefore, it was only natural she directed her bachelor’s degree into the completion of a thesis that studied how power identity relations and symbolic violence are attuned with cultural and memetic content creation in the web, which she later funnily titled Make Me a Sandwich.

At MIT Aziria works with the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory. She is interested in understanding how collective narratives and identities transform content creation, production, and distribution in new media to promote social change. She wants to work on practical technological applications of collective and participatory content and media tool creation.

Aziria has Chandler Bing’s approach to handling uncomfortable situations and an obsession with meme sharing in Facebook.
Annis Sands
Graduate Student, CMS, '19
Annis Sands Annis Sands is interested in visual media (TV/film), Caribbean history and culture, and streaming technology. She grew up in Elmont, NY, and graduated from Dartmouth College where she studied History. She wrote her senior honors thesis on the Afro-Caribbean community in post-World War II London. At MIT, she's excited to continue her research interests in the Caribbean Diaspora and studying questions related to how visual media can provide new opportunities for people in the Caribbean region.
Sultan Sharrief
Graduate Student, CMS, '19
Sultan Sharrief Sultan Sharrief is a trans-media activist, filmmaker, educator and social entrepreneur. His interest lies at the intersection of art, business, and community impact. He graduated with honors with a B.A. in Film/Video from the University of Michigan. His senior project was the design of a new filmmaking model, Student EFEX, which partnered metro Detroit youth with University of Michigan students and working professionals to create a three-tiered mentorship program while simultaneously making a film and doing a large scale community impact activation.

The film they made together, his directorial debut, Bilal's Stand, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010 in the inaugural program of the NEXT category.

He was a two-year fellow at the National Center for Institutional Diversity to further develop his youth program and study ways media impacted access to high education. He led three separate eight month research projects at University of Michigan studying new media, viral culture, and potential business models for creating new media.

He has produced two other feature films, Moozlum, in 2011 with Danny Glover, Nia Long, and Evan Ross, and Destined in 2016 with Hill Harper, Cory Hardrict, Jesse Metcalfe, and Lala Anthony.

In 2015 he was accepted as one of eight national finalists to the National Black Programming Consortium NBPC360 incubator and, upon winning, had his youth reality show for PBS national funded. The show, Street Cred, features Detroit youth learning entertainment-producing skills.

He is a guest instructor at the University of Michigan and a curator for the Citnetopia International Film Festival. He recently shifted interest to Virtual Reality and attended the Sundance Virtual Reality lab and the Oculus LaunchPad program and was accepted to a fellowship with the Detroit Narrative agency developing an interactive Virtual Reality short film.
Rachel Thompson
Graduate Student, CMS, '19
Rachel Thompson Rachel Thompson earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Anthropology and Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Her honors thesis explored literature’s evolving role in the digital age through an ethnographic study of a west coast-based online literary magazine combined with formal textual analysis. She also co-founded and directed the Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Reform, a network of eight volunteer groups that tutor in prisons across Massachusetts and work on advocacy initiatives relating to mass incarceration and education.

Before joining CMS, Rachel served as coordinator for the Harvard Art Museums’ makerspace, the Materials Lab, as well as the Museums’ Summer Institute for Technical Studies in Art (SITSA). She also worked as Research & Special Projects Associate at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, with a focus on integrated digital media and online storytelling. There Rachel partnered with the Google Cultural Institute to launch the museum’s presence on the Google Arts & Culture platform.

At MIT Rachel works with HyperStudio – Laboratory for Digital Humanities. She is interested in exploring the potential for emerging learning technologies to disrupt education and create space for new teaching and learning methods. In particular, she hopes to explore how online learning and digital tools can improve and transform prison education.

Extracurricularly, Rachel has a passion for retrieving the past; in her spare time, she works on restoring film cameras and mid-century modern furniture and really just wants to talk to someone about The Twilight Zone.
Vicky Zeamer
Graduate Student, CMS, '18
Vicky Zeamer Vicky Zeamer graduated from Wellesley College, where she studied Media Arts and Sciences (think HCI + design) & American Studies. She was also a cross-registered student at MIT where she took courses and participated in research centered around media technology and interaction design.

Vicky’s past work has been largely in user experience design and research, in areas such as advertising and museums. As a design researcher, she is happiest when in the field conducting ethnographies and user interviews. She also gets a rush from synthesizing these findings and extracting design implications of users’ needs, values, and perspectives.

Vicky's current research interests circle around personal and cultural relationships with food. More specifically, she is interested in exploring how computing and digital media are changing the way in which users experience food, and therefore exploring how computing is changing the way in which we use food as a tool to form connections and establish deeper understandings of events, people, and places.