Mark Ward, University of Huston-Victoria

The following is a synopsis of an interview (conducted by Todd Sandel) with Mark in June, 2012, while attending the “Ethnography of Communication: Ways Forward” Conference, in Omaha, Nebraska at Creighton University. To listen to the audio of this interview click the play button below.


  • Can you tell me a little about yourself? Where did you study, and what is your current position?

I did my PhD at Clemson University and completed it in 2010. Today I am an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Houston-Victoria.

  • What piece was inspirational to you as an LSI scholar and researcher?

As a new master’s degree student I read Philipsen’s “Speaking like a man in Teamsterville.” I come from an Evangelical Christian background and hear many speech codes, and I said, “This explains about stuff that I’ve always wondered about.” The other thing that inspires me is that he [Philipsen] fell into his work by accident. He was hired as a youth worker and, observing what was happening around him, took a risk and applied a new research paradigm. For me, my opportunity for field work also happened serendipitously. I then realized the possibilities. So it was not only his theory that helped me, but also the way he serendipitously discovered an area of research that inspired me.

  • What questions you are currently exploring?

I study Evangelical faith communities. I did four years of participant-observation, covering about 200 Evangelical churches in 17 states, and became a participant-observer in about 250 worship services. I began looking for speech codes, but realized that was only part of the story. The preachers’ rhetoric was also important, driving sources of persuasion. Also, the organization is important. So I’m looking at it as a collective, like a sociologist does, with a micro level of small group interactions, a meso level where the community gets things done, and a macro level where there are structuration processes. So the question is: How do the micro, meso, and macro level processes tie together?

  • What do you see are ways forward for you personally, or LSI scholarship in general?

Since I’ve been describing a system, a next step is to compare it with other systems. Since I also identify with scholars who study Religious Communication, I’m interested in interfaith dialogue and comparative religious studies. LSI scholarship can help me understand how different communities of faith can communicate together. Another question is to look at Evangelicalism as dispersed broadly, as a community of practice. Thus I’m interested in how this group ties together and creates a distinct culture across diverse sites. Finally, my dissertation research was not on this topic, but looked historically at how Nazi Germany organized genocide. LSI scholarship can help us better understand the past, how codes and communities led to such actions. Finally, at this [Ethnography of Communication: Ways Forward] conference, the paper I am presenting asks how to not only describe cultures, but also prescribe how communities can create better understanding.