Suffolk graduate presents research this fall

Published 10:21 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Suffolk native will represent Old Dominion University and her hometown at three annual conferences this fall after being selected from thousands of entrants to present her first-year graduate research.

Charlie Wiseman, 24, lives in Suffolk and graduated from King’s Fork High School in 2013. She will begin her second year as an Old Dominion University graduate student this fall, in the school’s humanities program with a pop culture and digital media concentration.

Wiseman said she wants to spend her career studying the things she’s truly interested in. Her upcoming conference schedule covers a wide breadth of her interests, with opportunities to enrich others’ experiences as well.

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“It keeps me very much enriched in the research process, (and) it makes me passionate to tell people what I’m doing, which is why I’m so excited to do these conferences,” she said.

Her first presentation will be at the eighth annual Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies international conference, which will be held in New York City this Thursday through Sunday. CMCS is an international organization that helps coordinate academic research and media commentaries on celebrity culture, according to

This year’s CMCS conference is titled “Bridging Gaps: Re-Fashioning Stories for Celebrity Counterpublics.” For this conference, Wiseman will discuss how social media influencers — especially YouTube influencers — are able to exploit their fans either financially or emotionally, largely because they’re able to reach a younger internet audience that’s more easily manipulated.

Children could develop “toxic” opinions if they become enamored with unscrupulous YouTube personalities, she warned.

“We should pay more attention to the power that we’re giving people,” Wiseman said, “and how they exert that power over people who are vulnerable.”

After New York City, Wiseman will head to the fourth annual International Gender and Sexuality Studies Conference, which will be held Oct. 3-5 at the University of Central Oklahoma.

This conference serves as a venue for presentations that address issues of gender and sexuality in the social sciences, humanities, fine arts and STEM fields, according to the University of Central Oklahoma website.

Wiseman’s presentation at the University of Central Oklahoma will dive into how private broadcasting networks are becoming more open to LGBTQ representations with their characters, while public broadcasting networks like PBS are still shying away from the issue.

As a member of the LGBTQ community herself, Wiseman is often concerned about how such relationships are portrayed in modern media.

For example, the onscreen kiss between characters Princess Bubblegum and Marceline in the season finale of Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time” series was “a beautiful moment” in their relationship, Wiseman said. The only “controversial” thing about it was that it was between two female characters.

Wiseman argued that it’s not fair to deny younger viewers an example of a healthy relationship like Princess Bubblegum and Marceline’s solely because of their sexual orientation.

“For some cartoons and media in general, there’s that attempt to give that representation, but in the end, it falls very short and it doesn’t do the community or the characters justice,” she said.

The last presentation on her schedule this fall will be the Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association’s annual conference set for Nov. 7 to 9 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Wiseman’s contribution to the conference will be an analysis of the clever and creative marketing tactics behind fast food chain Wendy’s Twitter account.

Wendy’s tweets have become more popular in recent years because of their snarky jabs at other Twitter users — including competitors like McDonald’s.

“I spend a lot of time on Twitter, (and) I’m always coming across Wendy’s Tweet of the Day,” Wiseman said. “Most of it is just co-opting memes and pop culture references, but everyone eats it up. They love it.”

According to Wiseman, the success of Wendy’s Twitter as a brand community is a case study for reaching a younger audience.

Companies can find similar successes by stepping away from traditional marketing methods and towards alternatives that better resonate with younger audiences, and that includes the immediate satisfaction of internet memes.

“Go for the memes,” Wiseman said. “Don’t be afraid to be playful and (think outside) of the box. It’s fine to walk away from what you know and try something different.”

It’s a thrilling rollercoaster for Wiseman from one presentation to the next. There will be opportunities for her to get comfortable presenting her research in front of large audiences, have others give their input on her research and learn new stuff herself, she said.

Wiseman credited ODU’s D.E. Wittkower for his ongoing guidance through the proposal process, and her wife, Ajami. When previous proposals were rejected, Wiseman’s wife was there to keep her motivated and moving forward.

“She’s that person that keeps me (focused) and into things when I just can’t see a way around the block,” Wiseman said. “She’s very much kept me in the process of research and in the grad school experience too.”

She encouraged others that are facing similar deadlines down the road to keep their mental health in mind. Planners help to relieve the stress of organizing your schedules, she said, and keep you motivated to say what you want to say.

“People will want to hear it,” she said.