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Dr. Michael BirchMichael Birch

Professor of English/Communications

Author of: Mediating Mental Health:
Contexts Debates and Analysis



About Mike

Mike was born in the UK but he won’t say when! Commencing higher education well after most finished theirs, he first attended college at 28! Prior to that, he took two and half years working his way around the world visiting and photographing New Zealand, Australia, S.E Asia, Nepal and India! Prior to this, he worked in Special Education and for Mencap in the UK; an organization providing services for people with learning disabilities. Throughout this time he also fostered an avid interest in photography, communications, music and Liverpool Football Club before attending college to study Drama in Theatre and Television.

 

About his Subject

Communications is in a constant state of flux with its only stable feature being change. For a student learning about broadcasting, new media and its interconnectedness, I believe it is important for a student to foster an ability to embrace change not just for college but also for life. Lifelong learning will be a term heard in college but only truly understood as you progress into your career. So, coming to college with an enthusiasm for learning about new communication topics and technologies will be a crucial quality to develop. Taking responsibility for learning about changes in communications will help you gain not only a greater enjoyment but also help keep you ahead of the curve in a fast changing subject.

 

Research Interests

My main interests focus upon Mental Health and its portrayal in media. Mike BookMy book and articles focus upon this field especially stigma. Central to this work is the improvement in social lives of people with conditions (1 in 4 of us) by way of reducing portrayals and increasing improvements. Connecting with this topic, I believe that broadcasting and journalism have a huge role to play in representation of all ethnicities, sexualities, and gender and (un-)well health issues. In the past, much improvement was needed across all of these areas as some media didn’t do a good job. While things have improved a bit, there’s much more to do, especially with social media now a major influence. Unsurprisingly, my interests extend to social media and mental health so, if you get the chance to take the Mediating Mental Health class (a Senior Seminar), do it!

 

Areas taught

Main areas of teaching include film, television, radio and social media: genre form; semiology; representation; the politics of self-identity especially around mental health; applied theatre; trust and risk; stereotyping; stigma; hegemony; language and media; globalisation.

 

Learning and Teaching

I am also interested in how learning occurs in media education settings, especially in how relationships between practice and theory enable students to emerge with critical thinking skills. It’s important that students considering this field as a career path, go in with their eyes open and able to cope not just with change but be the agents of change. Many returning alumnae comment that things learned in my classes become even more relevant in their work environment. This is also the case when they seek postgraduate qualifications.

 

Articles, Conferences and Presentations

Roles of Leaders, Media on Suicide, Berkshire Eagle. June 12th, 2018.

Naturalism in the Films of Ken Loach Lecture, May 18th, 2018, Holyoke Community College.

Well-Being, Stigma and Identity in Applied Theatre Lecture, March 15th, 2018, University of Chester, UK.

Exploring Change Through Applied Theatre: Approach, Alternative ‘Mental Health’ Images and Practices Lecture, March 13th, 2018, Liverpool Hope University, UK.

Reclaiming Mental Health Narratives and Identities in Public Service Announcement/Public Information Films Lecture, March 7th, 2018, University of Edge Hill, UK.

Well-Being, Identity and Stigma in Media ‘Mental Health’ Representations Lecture, March 5th, 2018, University of Edge Hill, UK.

International Conference on Narratives of Health and Illness, presenting two papers in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain 11 – 12 November 2016.

Osher Life-Long Learning Institute: Distinguished Speaker - Saturday, June 25, 2016 10:30–12 pm – Mental Health Language in News and Social Media Lecture at Berkshire Community College.

Broken Narratives and the Lived Body University of Monash, Prato, Italy April 18 - 20, 2016. Paper entitled Reclaiming Mental Health Narratives and Identities.

5th International Language in the Media Conference, at Queen Mary University 28-30 September 2013. Paper presented Situating Stigma in the UK and USA: Mental Health Language in News and Special Interest Group Social Media.

Confined Spaces: Considering Madness, Psychiatry and Performance at Cambridge University from 17th – 18th September 2012. Presented Applied Theatre and Television practices paper from Mediating Mental Health.

MeCCSA Conference 11th - 13th, January, 2012 at University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK. Presented public policy paper concerning Mediating Mental Health.

Faculties of Art 2008 Exhibition: Presented three photographs in ‘People, Place and Identity’ theme at Gallery 51, North Adams Creating Accepting Communities: Report of the Mind Transforming Audiences Conference attended at University of Westminster, London, UK. 6th – 7th September, 2007.

Transitioning Communication Curricula from Analogue to Digital Modes, Broadcasters Education Association Conference at the National Association of Broadcasters (Las Vegas) 2005.

New Mental Health Mediations: Service-User Perspectives paper presented to the 3rd Biennial World Conference on the Promotion of Mental Health and Prevention of Mental Disorders, Auckland, New Zealand, 15th-17th September, 2004.

 

Administrative Responsibilities

All College Committee (2007-9) and (2011 - 2015) Chair.
Academic Technology Advisory Group (2004-9), ATAG Chair (2007-9)
Curriculum Committee (2004-9)
Honors Advisory Committee (2005-18)
Hardman Professor (2010-13)

While at MCLA

While at MCLA, my departmental contributions have included leadership in the digital development of the TV Studio and in a new curriculum focusing on convergent media journalism. This has involved securing a $50,000 via Title III grant for new Avid Media Composer Editing Lab and teamwork securing new technologies in $200,000 for a TV Studio upgrade and a more recent $350,000 digital development project.

Contact Information

Michael.Birch@mcla.edu

Office: Mark Hopkins 107B 

413.662.5375

Twitter: MBirch_Media

 

Education

Ph. D. Politics and Communications, University of Liverpool, UK.

MA Cultural Studies, Lancaster University, UK. Awarded Economic and Social Research Council Studentship.

BA (Hons) Drama (Theatre & Television), University of Winchester, UK.

City and Guilds Teachers Certificate (Stage 1) 7307   Eastleigh College, UK.

Certificate in Advanced Educational Studies: Media Education, Southampton University, UK.


 

Courses Taught

Media, Self-Identity & Society

Essentials of Film

Mediations of Mental Health

From Semiotics to Significations

Basic Television Production

Advanced Television Production

Broadcast Journalism

Broadcast Delivery

Avid Editing

Making Meaning: Theory & Practice in Media Production