Dr. Evan Elkins is a new Department of Communications Studies faculty member this fall semester. He moved to Fort Collins from Oxford, Ohio, after working at Miami University for a year. In a recent interview, Dr. Elkins revealed he is currently working on a book called Locked Out: Regional Restrictions in Digital Entertainment Culture, which analyzes the history and practices of geographic restrictions in global digital media. In his spare time, Dr. Elkins reads a lot of popular music history and criticism. Please welcome Dr. Elkins to Colorado State University.
What drew you to Colorado State?
I’ve spent the majority of my academic career at land-grant institutions, where I’ve developed a strong passion for the ideals of public education. I graduated from Michigan State University, which served as the prototype for the land-grant college system. Later, I received my Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which has been a standard-bearer for the Wisconsin Idea, or the philosophy that a public university’s reach should extend well beyond the borders of the university itself. As a university committed to bettering the lives of Coloradoans and global citizens within and beyond the institution, CSU is a place where I can deepen those commitments.
Tell us about one of your most rewarding teaching moments.
Many of my most rewarding moments come whenever students work collaboratively to create something great. When I taught a course on media globalization a couple years ago, I asked students to write blog posts throughout the semester where they each reported on some non-US media phenomenon—a television program, film director, musician, media industry, social network—whatever. By the end of the semester, the students had compiled a remarkable set of reports spanning Korean pop music, Iranian cinema, Australian hip hop, Japanese television, and many more case studies. Together, all of these projects reflected a much richer and more thorough image of the diversity of global media culture than I would have been able to offer on my own.
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn as a student?
That what you get out of a class is proportional to what you put into it—and this was a lesson that I learned as I transitioned from high school to college. In high school, I had a tendency to do well enough to get good—not great—grades. I quickly learned in college that this wouldn’t cut it, and there was a formative moment when one of my professors told me in no uncertain terms that I was capable of better work. It was a good example of constructive criticism that pushed me to work harder and prove her right.
What inspired you to pursue an academic career in your discipline?
This kind of “eureka” moment may sound cliché, but it’s true: I remember sitting in my Intro to Film class at Michigan State (taught by the great Dr. Jennifer Fay) as a sophomore and thinking, “This is what I want to do.” Now, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher of some kind. My parents are both teachers, and I always wanted to follow in their footsteps. But in that moment it really clicked for me.
Who’s been your most influential mentor to date and why?
My Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Jonathan Gray, is one of those supernaturally gifted academics who knows exactly what piece of advice to give and when to give it (as well as when to let you strike out on your own path and figure things out). I’ve not encountered anyone else in this profession who’s so generous with time and mentorship, and if I’m even half as helpful to my students as he is to his, I’m doing something right.
What are your current research interests?
My primary research interests involve digital media industries, technology, entertainment media, and cultures of globalization. My major research project right now involves a critical analysis of geographic restrictions in digital entertainment media platforms (for example, DVD and video game region codes, geoblocked streaming video and music services).
Where did you live before moving to Fort Collins?
I moved here from Oxford, Ohio, where I was teaching at Miami University over the past year. Before that, I spent five years in Madison, Wis., I miss Madison constantly—it’s a great town with easy access to fantastic cheese and beer. But Fort Collins has the beer covered, if not the cheese, plus the mountains and less intense winters. So, that’s a fine trade-off.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?
Sleeping in. I’ve become a fairly early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of guy (which might be surprising to anyone who knew me in my college night-owl days). But every once in a while on a weekend I’ll just give in. And it truly is a guilty pleasure—I always feel a twinge of regret when I sleep in late, but it sure feels fantastic.
Top pick for an all-expenses paid fantasy vacation?
My wife and I have been planning for a while to take a trip to the U.K., where we each spent some time before we met and where I have some family. I’m anxious to show her the Isle of Skye, in Scotland, which is maybe the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. But after that, my top pick would be to take a trip through Southeast Asia.
Who is your favorite rhetorician (or theorist) and why?
For so many reasons, I come back to the work of the late, great Stuart Hall. His lifelong commitment to educating the public on matters of power, representation, identity, and culture is almost overwhelmingly inspiring. At the risk of sounding trite, his work as a whole represents a powerful argument that the humanities should be, well, humane and that one purpose of scholarly inquiry and theorizing is to make the world a more just, equitable place.