Major in IS

Recent Thesis/Project Topics

image collage of Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Samantha BeeShaan Merchant – Class of 2019
"A Suit Tailor-Made for Someone Else:" The Impact of Race and Gender in Shaping Opportunity and Expectations for Political Comedians   

Based on the reviews of Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Samantha Bee's political comedy shows, this paper examines the impact of comedians' race and gender on the way they are received. The coverage, critical reception, content-based expectations and freedom of self-definition for political comedians with minority social locations are considerably different from those of white, male political comedians. This research finds that the expectations placed on hosts with minority social locations prove to be contradictory and complex, leaving obstacles in their path to success that non-minority hosts do not face. Critics' hyper-focus on hosts' race or gender make their minority identity their Master Status, the most significant part of a hosts' on-screen persona. In doing so, it paints them as a novelty, and creates an expectation that they will cover issues relating to their minority status with originality and wit. These expectations are contrasted by the relative freedom of white, male hosts to craft their own personas. For Bee and Noah, the focus on race and gender and the responsibilities which come with it, is further complicated by the fact Jon Stewart's influential legacy remains the metric for political comedy success. 

This thesis and my work in this major feel inherently interdisciplinary by nature. The practice lies in Media Studies and Political Science but looking at these ideas through a sociological lens allows for a deeper assessment of how human factors shapes these fields. 

image of outerspaceJames Davis – Class of 2018
An Analysis of the Video Game as a Storytelling Medium and the Creation of Awakening:
A Science Fiction Story-Game
This two-part thesis project is comprised of an analytical portion and a creative portion. The analytical portion focuses on examining video games as a storytelling medium by exploring the history of video games, the current state of video game production (both in terms of popularity and artistic trends), and a literature review that delves into the significant topics discussed in video game scholarship. The thesis tries to define the "story-game", a creative work that offers its audience both a mechanical gameplay experience and a narrative story experience. The analytical portion concludes by analyzing several well-known story-games, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of their approaches to storytelling.

The creative portion of the project was a detailed outline for Awakening, a science fiction story-game that aims to incorporate the successful aspects of video game storytelling highlighted in the previous section while also trying to avoid the shortcomings that other games have run into. The outline is comprised of detailed descriptions of the game's characters, setting, plot and gameplay. The game's story is that of April Young, a highly trained military strategist who becomes humanity's last line of defense when an otherworldly threat comes to wreak havoc on Earth. Through April, the player makes choices that directly effect the outcome of the story, and determine the success or failure of her plan to save the planet. 

map of Southwest Washington
    D.C.Thomas Gartman – Class of 2018
East of Anacostia: Understanding and Combatting Legal Cynicism in Southeast D.C.   
Legal cynicism, a cultural ideology in which the law and its agents are viewed as illegitimate and unable to properly address public safety, is a concept receiving increasing attention and study. My thesis analyzed the presence of this ideology in Southeast Washington D.C., an area extremely homogenous in both race and level of disadvantage. By tracing the history of the treatment and confinement of black populations in the area as well as studying the relationship between D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department and communities of color, I identified two main contributors to legal cynicism in the Southeast: the creation of a homogenous, disadvantaged population and police misconduct and brutality. I used an interdisciplinary approach and culminated my work with a two-pronged proposal aimed at ameliorating the conditions I concluded were the main contributors to a climate of legal cynicism in this area. 

map of Southwest Washington
    D.C.Palak Khanna – Class of 2018
The Politics of Black Representation in the Bollywood film ‘Race’ (2008)
Directed by Abbas-Mustan
The objective of this thesis was to examine the politics of Black representation in the Bollywood film, 'Race' (2008) directed by Abbas-Mustan. In order to holistically understand the construction of Black persons in this film, this thesis studied the historical portrayals and relationship between Black, White, and Indian identities in the Bollywood industry, in hegemonic Indian political/national imaginaries, and in South Africa where the film is set, from pre-apartheid to contemporary times. This thesis was a three-part multimedia project, involving the background research described above, an educational video that walked the viewer through the film, making visible the otherwise invisible but demeaning portrayals of Black persons, and a written analysis of fifteen interviews conducted with viewers identifying as Black, White, and Indian who watched 'Race' and described their experiences. 

Lydia Collins – Class of 2017
Greenway Paradox  
I created an Interdisciplinary Studies degree in Urban Development Studies in 2017. This major is essentially the Urban Studies minor turned into a major- it combines courses from the Graduate School of Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy, American Studies, Anthropology, Economics, and Architectural Studies. For my senior project, I wrote a thesis on greenways as an increasingly common public space/transportation intervention in cities, and looked specifically at the economic and social effects of the Somerville Community Path greenway on surrounding neighborhoods. I am currently pursuing a Master's in Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy at Tufts, a program that was made much easier by the academic flexibility allowed by the IS major. 

Greta Jochem - Class of 2017
The 40 Year Fire
In my senior thesis project, I did reporting and long-form writing on a local issue of environmental justice. I interviewed community members, politicians, and health officials about the expansion of a trash incinerator and its impacts. Combining together skills from departments like computer science and English, I created a website for my story with writing, photography, and graphics. Visit the website. Greta Jochem went beyond submission of her Thesis to Tisch Library, she published! View article.

William Luna – Class of 2017
Video Game Soundtracks   
My IS major drew from the fields of psychology, music and computer science. I programmed a new way to conceptualize and compose video game soundtracks, where a player’s actions can influence incremental changes in the music. This reflects a departure from most video game music, that simply transitions between a small number of prerecorded audio files. By building real-time audio synthesis into a video game engine, musical features such as mode, tempo, key, and leitmotif can be mapped to an in-game event or state change. 

View Theses/Project Topics from previous years.