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WWE Event is the Classroom

Students immerse themselves in an unfamiliar world to understand the needs of different audiences.

Last week, Steve Lambert, associate professor of new media, took a group of students from his Tactical Practical class to a WWE event held in nearby White Plains.

Lambert explains why he wanted the students to experience a professional wrestling match.

“I’ve wanted to take a group of students to a professional wrestling match for years because it’s such a rich lens to look at culture, spectacle, and narrative. It’s about getting students into a cultural space they’d ignore or overlook otherwise.

“But this style of wrestling has existed for decades (Barthes wrote about it in 1957, it started in the 1800s) and fills stadiums three nights a week around the world. Some write off the millions of fans, but this form of entertainment is clearly meeting their needs.

“If we want to reach those audiences, we need to figure out how to understand their needs, how we can meet them where they are, and move them to new and different places,” Lambert says.

One student remarks, “Through our work we all hope to connect and communicate to others. We can’t do that without gaining an audience. Studying what makes something universal is incredibly valuable in thinking about how to really connect to people.”

Another adds, “I’ve done five trips to MoMA. I know what to expect there. At a WWE match I don’t know what to expect. I’m not part of the audience there, so I can really analyze it.”