Dr. Melvin DeFleur honored with AEJMC’s Distinguished Service to Research Award

By Susannah BlairJune 28th, 2019

Dr. Melvin DeFleur, a former professor of communication at Boston University and renowned communications scholar, was posthumously awarded the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC)'s Eleanor Blum Distinguished Service to Research Award. 

Dr. DeFleur conducted pioneering academic research in the communications field, authoring over a dozen books—including the widely-cited textbook “Theories of Mass Communication," which has been translated in 10 languages. At Boston University, he served as both a faculty member and chair of COM's Mass Communication, Advertising and Public Relations department. In 2011, the Communication Research Center created the Dr. Melvin DeFleur Distinguished Lecture Series, a tribute to his groundbreaking contributions to mass communication research and his valued membership at the CRC. 

The award will be presented during the AEJMC's August 2019 Conference in Toronto, Canada.

Prof. Jim Cummings’ “screenomics” research featured in The New York Times

By Tanvi ShahJune 7th, 2019
Screenshot courtesy of The New York Times

New York Times article about the changing nature of our digital experiences cites a recently-published paper in Human-Computer Interaction co-authored by the CRC's Jim Cummings.

The concept of "screen time" has been long used to understand how—and for how long—individuals interact with their devices. But as more applications have become available to internet users, understanding people's digital experiences and how often they switch between tasks has become more complicated.

"Consider what a person can do in just the time it takes to wait for a bus: text, watch a comedy skit, play a video game, buy concert tickets, take five selfies, each with a different set of cartoon ears," explains The New York Times' Benedict Carey. 

As a response to this newfound complexity and fragmentation of experience, Cummings and his co-researchers documented, via screenshots, the digital activity of 30 participants. The resulting digital records, they write, are best conceived of as "screenomes"—adapted from the word "genome."

Researchers reported that, on average, participants switched from one screen activity to another every 20 seconds and spent hardly 20 minutes on one continuous activity. Their findings were presented as a stream of color-coded graphs (shown at left) depicting what kind of activities individuals used their screens for—entertainment, news, or work, for instance—and how they switched between these tasks.

Quoted in The New York Times' piece, co-author Byron Reeves (Professor of Communication at Stanford University) explained the significance of their proposed "screenomic" framework.

“It’s very counterintuitive to say at this stage, but the fact is, no one really knows what the heck people are seeing on their screens. To understand what’s happening, we need to know what exactly that is.”

CRC scholars and faculty to present at 69th annual ICA conference

By Susannah BlairMay 20th, 2019

Many CRC fellows will be attending the 69th annual International Communication Association conference, which is taking place from May 24th to May 29th in Washington, D.C. COM scholars and faculty will be presenting their recent research projects in interactive poster sessions, panels, and paper sessions.

Below is a list of upcoming ICA presentations by CRC-affiliated professors and doctoral candidates: More

Prof. Patrice Oppliger unpacks the “tweencom girl” genre in latest book

By Susannah BlairApril 26th, 2019

Patrice Oppliger’s latest book, Tweencom girls: Gender and adolescence in Disney and Nickelodeon Sitcoms, is now available via Rowan & Littlefield.

Dissecting popular Nickelodeon and Disney Channel programs, Oppliger—a CRC fellow and Assistant Professor of Communication at Boston University—offers a critical take on how girls in the transition between pre-teen and teenage have been represented in mainstream children’s television.

Along with extensive examples of various character portrayals over the past 25 years, Oppliger also provides practical advice to parents and educators of young women exposed to this messaging.

“Such an in-depth look at the tweencom genre is long overdue,” writes Nancy Jennings (University of Cincinnati) in a review of the book. “The arguments are rich, and the examples are abundant and deep. Opplinger’s read of female stereotypes and girl power stretches beyond princess culture and provides fresh constructions of key tropes and themes.”

Professor Oppliger’s book is accessible in libraries all over the U.S. and available for purchase here

Can you spot sponsored content? Prof. Michelle Amazeen’s study reveals few of us can

By Susannah BlairMarch 19th, 2019

In today's ever-shifting online media landscape, "native advertising"—sponsored content that is integrated into a publication without being readily recognizable as promotional—has become increasingly commonplace across digital news platforms. The question then arises: How do individuals perceive native advertisements and are they able to differentiate them from non-promotional editorial content?

Michelle Amazeen (Assistant Professor in BU's Mass Communication, Advertising, and Public Relations department) and Bartosz Wojdynski (Assistant Professor of Journalism at the University of Georgia) sought to explore this question in their recently-published paper. Utilizing the Persuasion Knowledge Model as a framework, Amazeen and Wojdynski measured respondents' cognitive responses to sponsored content. The paper, which was funded by the American Press Institute, also incorporates data about how individuals' traits can influence how easily persuaded by native advertising they may be.

The researchers also tested respondents to see if they could correctly identify content that was sponsored—and, their results show, fewer than 1 in 10 could.

Amazeen and Wojdynski write that a contributing factor in whether respondents were able to spot a paid piece of content was how transparent a sponsor was regarding a paid partnership with a publication. Even when they are knowingly looking at a paid piece of content, however, “people are more receptive to what they’re looking at if they know what they’re reading,” Amazeen told BU Today.

The study also found that younger and more educated individuals were more discerning when it came to spotting native ads. But in cases where respondents weren't able to recognize sponsored content, a substantial portion of them reacted negatively once they realized they had been duped.

“I think it’s contributing to people thinking that news media are sharing fake news,” Amazeen explained to BU Today. “Trust in media is at an all-time low…. I’m not suggesting it’s only from native advertising, but I think it’s a contributing factor.”