COM Research Colloquium Series

The Communication Research Colloquium Series at Boston University was established in October 2009. This series consists of monthly research presentations that highlight current and original research of faculty in the College of Communication. This forum provides an intellectual exchange of ideas and perspectives, features scholarship in several methodological traditions, and fosters discussions among faculty and students about a variety of research topics in the field of communication.

 Past Lectures

Technology to Support Family Caregivers

Dr. Margaret McLaughlin
Distinguished Visiting Research Scholar

Devices such as GPS-enabled smartwatches and motion-detecting webcams are being used by increasing numbers of caregivers who want to take additional precautions to protect their loved ones when they are unable to be present or give them undivided attention. This talk focuses on family caregiver use of communication technology to cope with threats to the safety of persons living with a degenerative major neurocognitive disorder including Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body dementia, and Frontotemporal dementia.  Results are presented from a survey of 230 unpaid family caregivers.

Video games, memory, and the human brain: The neurological affordances of gaming

Dr. Kelsey Prena
Assistant Professor of Emerging Media

Video gaming is never an isolated event; Recent research has demonstrated how video gaming can cause short- and long-term improvements to certain forms of memory. In this talk, Dr. Kelsey Prena (Assistant Professor of Emerging Media) will share findings from her own research in this realm, specifically the behavioral and neurological evidence for these changes found in a region of the brain where reward processing memory and spatial mapping overlap. Dr. Prena will discuss how current communication theories can provide necessary context to understand these observations and how findings might inform future research.

Refugees, Cellphones, and Information Precarity

Dr. Dana Janbek
Master Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Advertising & Public Relations

Based on years of field research with refugees, NGOs, and volunteers, Dr. Dana Janbek gives an overview of the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis and the conditions under which refugees live in urban areas and refugee camps in Jordan and Germany. The presentation explores how information and communication technologies, especially cellphones, are used during refugees’ migration journeys and while navigating displacement to overcome information precarity.

Fear and Loathing (and Enthusiasm!): A National Study of Attitudes Towards Artificial Intelligence

Dr. James E. Katz
Feld Professor of Emerging Media, and Director, Division of Emerging Media Studies
September 2019

Major advances in the technology of artificial intelligence (AI) have commanded great attention at both the national and international levels. Various commissions, panels, and studies have been launched to understand AI’s transformational potential for both positive and negative outcomes. Some see AI as solving major problems ranging from healthcare to transportation, while others see it as a profound threat to job security, personal privacy, individual autonomy, and even humanity itself. 

In this talk, Dr. James E. Katz reports on a research project (in which he is assisted by Division of Emerging Media Studies students Kate Mays, Janey Zitomer, and Yiming “Skylar” Lei) exploring public attitudes towards AI. The project’s aim is to help build better policy by analyzing how the public perceives AI. Dr. Katz presents findings from this collaborative work, including the results of a national U.S. attitude survey conducted in 2019.

The Politics of Attention: Understanding the Currency of the Hybrid Media System

Dr. Christopher Wells
Assistant Professor, Division of Emerging Media Studies
March 2019

The attention economy, or the logics by which attention is generated and transformed into various forms of power, is coming into focus as a central feature of our political-media system. This talk by Dr. Christopher Wells (Assistant Professor, Division of Emerging Media Studies at Boston University’s College of Communication) is grounded in contemporary theoretical work directed at understanding attention, publicity and visibility in the hybrid media system. It then draws on evidence from several aspects of the American election in 2016, including news media treatment of Donald Trump, the “media-hacking” of far-right social media networks, and the information operations of Russia’s Internet Research Agency, to rethink what we know about political communication under conditions of the attention economy.


Tech News and Tech PR: It’s Not Just Tech Anymore

Dr. Nirit Weiss-Blatt
Visiting Research Fellow at Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California
February 2019

What is tech news today? And consequently, what is tech PR? Research by Dr. Nirit Weiss-Blatt discovered a major turning-point in both practices. Her previous study examined, “Who sets the technological agenda?” by analyzing millions of articles/posts, and deploying time series and network analyses. Her current research focuses on the role of tech PR due to the accumulating tech scandals. Her talk with summarize the rapid changes in the tech news ecosystem and provide preliminary conclusions, both theoretical and practical.

Messages from the Hill: An Updated Report on the Congressional Press Secretary

Dr. Edward Downes
Associate Professor of Public Relations
November 2018

Few in the United States realize virtually every member of Congress employs his or her own press secretary, a person dedicated to meticulously crafting and delivering that politician’s image. These individuals’ well-honed and artfully packaged messages affect our thinking; they angle our opinions; and they shape our perceptions of national and international political issues. Throughout the United States, good citizens absorb the portrayals the press secretaries create, and participate in the democratic process according to what they have learned. For good or ill, our country’s functioning depends upon their behind-the-scenes work, and our laws are built on their communications. In this presentation, Dr. Edward Downes discusses the metamorphosis of his research unraveling the motivations and practices of these professional communication managers.

Social Media Research, Measurement, and Evaluation in the Public Relations Industry

Dr. Donald Wright
Professor of Public Relations
October 2018

Dr. Donald Wright (Harold Burson Professor & Chair in Public Relations, Boston University) reveals research, measurement, and evaluation have been and are being used in contemporary public relations practice in a ten-year longitudinal study. Results are based on a larger than usual number of respondents (n=4,586) all of whom are working public reactions practitioners. Fewer than half of the study’s respondents represent organizations or clients that have measured what members of various strategic public have communicated about them via social or other digital media. Additionally, when measurement is being used, its more than likely to measure communication outputs than communication outcomes.


Hybrid Horrors: Transnationalism, Film Culture, and British Horror Cinema of the 2000s

Dr. Lindsey Decker
Lecturer, Department of Film and Television
September 2018

In 2002, the sprinting, blood-spewing zombies in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later broke the theatrical drought for British horror films, which had been scarce since the industry crash in the mid-1970s. Dr. Lindsey Decker (Lecturer in the Department of Film and Television) will reveal how embracing transnationalism and genre hybridity helped kick-start and sustain the British horror resurgence of the 2000s and allowed filmmakers to change the conversation around horror in middlebrow British film culture.