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.
The Tangled Triangle: AI, Education, and Democracy
Dr. James E. Katz
Felt Professor of Emerging Media Studies
Artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping education at all levels, transforming everything from personalized learning to automated grading. While these advancements hold immense promise, they also raise critical questions about their potential consequences for the very foundation of democracy.
This talk delves into the complex interplay between AI, education, and democracy, examining both the optimistic possibilities for enhanced learning and potential pitfalls that could undermine democratic values. We’ll explore how AI, while well-intentioned in many cases, can have unforeseen consequences for social cohesion, individual autonomy, and ultimately, democratic participation.
By critically analyzing these emerging trends, we can plot a path forward that leverages the power of AI responsibly, ensuring that education empowers individuals and strengthens democratic societies.
Netwar: Warfare on the Web
Dr. Joan Donovan
Assistant Professor, Journalism & Emerging Media Studies
When you think of war, what does your mind conjure? Would you think of whispers and shadows? Of unseen foes, faces lit by the dim glow of a computer monitor? Forces that seek to disrupt and disturb societies by utilizing the complex infrastructure we inhabit daily?
While the term ‘netwar’ is rarely encountered, it’s something we have all experienced or witnessed. Whether it’s a distant relative on Facebook spreading news from a disreputable source to the violent dissidents of the January 6th riot, organized and mobilized via the internet, netwar is ubiquitous. From cyber warfare tactics that disrupt critical infrastructure to information warfare campaigns designed to shape public opinion, the evolving landscape of net war challenges traditional notions of conflict.
This lecture will expose and elucidate the notion of netwar and how we can better prepare ourselves in this interconnected landscape.
The Mourning Show: The Televisuality Of An Industry Death Ritual
Dr. Deborah Jaramillo
Associate Professor, Film & Television Studies
Death is routine on television; it permeates all times of day and all genres. Recognized and often chastised for its representation of (often violent) death in scripted programming, TV can also be an active facilitator of the grieving process as well as an important site of remembrance. Death announcements, televised funerals, episode dedications, and large-scale memorial services, such as those on the anniversaries of national tragedies, mark television as one stop in the procession of our memorable dead. Since 1994 Hollywood has paid tribute to its departed on a television program not known for somber contemplation. Derisively known as “death reels,” the “In Memoriam” segments at the Academy Awards and Emmy ceremonies whittle down the long list of deceased entertainment industry workers into a manageable, song-length roster. Although the segment is criticized for being a morbid popularity contest, I argue “In Memoriam” is a legitimate mourning ritual—an amalgamation of epitaph, obituary, and eulogy–imbued with industry logics and televisual language. This presentation will analyze “In Memoriam” segments from the Academy Awards and Emmys telecasts and discuss their cultural value as industry-specific, vernacular mourning rituals. I will use Television Studies and Death Studies to position “In Memoriam” as representative of the individualistic turn in death practices, as a refreshingly uncomfortable intrusion on the living, and as an evolving television practice.
Platforms as Rulemakers for Interpersonal Communication: The Case of The Screenshot Feature
Emerging Media Studies, Ph.D Candidate
It is no longer possible to discuss privacy management from a purely interpersonal perspective. Rather, platforms—through design, established norms, and perceived trust—play a critical role in subsequent privacy management decisions and perceptions.
This talk will apply an extended version of communication privacy management theory (CPM) to study screenshot collection and sharing of private digital messages. While screenshots have utilitarian purposes, we provide evidence that this feature has become normalized on digital messaging platforms, violating reasonable expectations of privacy. Further, experimental results suggest that platform features such as screenshot accountability and trust have a significant impact on expression and perceptions of control over personal and received information. Recommendations for future study and design of the screenshot feature, as well as its broader implications for interpersonal surveillance, will be discussed.
Global and Critical approaches to Public Relations: Theoretical Insights from Latin America
Dr. Pablo Miño
Assistant Professor, Public Relations
Research at the intersection of critical-cultural branding and public relations has consistently developed over the past 20 years. However, Latin American perspectives to this conversation remain scarce. This presentation examines the expantion of nation branding in Latin America, understood as an economic development strategy focused on the promotion of exports, investment, and tourism offerings in the region. This presentation conceives nation branding as an expression of “modern colonialism” in Latin America, engaged with self-stereotyping strategies to lure the interest of investors and tourists in the Global North.
Romantic and Sexual Expression in Mediated Communication Contexts
Dr. Kathryn Coduto
Assistant Professor, Media Science
Numerous social media platforms are utilized in the search for romantic conneciton as well as the expression of sexual interest and engagement. The studies covered in this talk witll consider the technological affordances that support these behaviors, as well as user perceptions of their actions in these spaces.
Decoding the Dynamics of Media Platforms: An Interdisciplinary Explanation and Two Alternative Approaches
Dr. Chris Chao Su
Assistant Professor, Emerging Media Studies
This talk will examine the dynamics of media platforms through two interdisciplinary research projects. In the first project, a content analysis approach is employed to investigate the citation and co-citation network behind fact-checking content, revealing the selective manner in which online fact-checking content cites sources. The second project analyzes the value and regulation systems embedded within the public-facing policies (community guidelines) of media platforms through lexical analysis and network analysis. Using digital datasets that are not commonly employed in communication research, the results of these projects provide insight into the complexity of media platforms and their impact on society. This talk will discuss the results of these two empirical research projects, providing a unique and valuable perspective on the dynamics of media platforms.
The American Outlaws Are Our People”: TV’s Upscale Visions of US Soccer Fans and Audiences
Dr. Charlotte E. Howell
Assistant Professor, Media Studies, Television Studies
From the 1994 “denim kit”-wearing bad-boys of soccer US Men’s National Team and the 1999 record-breaking US Women’s National Team to the present angst over the 2022 World Cup and recently-resolved equal pay fight, US senior national soccer teams have provided the US television industry with a nationalistic sports spectacle every few years to draw in viewers who may not otherwise watch soccer regularly. While the Olympics and World Cups propel soccer’s TV ratings into the arena of the “big 4” men’s sports leagues (football, basketball, baseball, hockey), they further highlight the unique position the television industry has generally cultivated for soccer in the US: an upscale sport with an English-language audience that is more cosmopolitan, educated, an affluent than other televised sports. This presentation examines how television uses the American Outlaws supporters group rooting for US senior national teams at major tournaments to represent that upscale vision of the US soccer fan while also exemplifying the tension between that ideal viewer and the persistent sexist and white-supremacist norms of American sports television and its core viewers.
Transmasculinity on Television
Dr. Patrice Oppliger
Assistant Professor, Communication
It has been long accepted that media representations have a direct effect on viewers’ perceptions of the world and society. As more transgender characters are included in television series, it is essential to assess the quality, accuracy, and sensitivity of the portrayals. Dr. Patrice Oppliger will discuss her book Transmasculinity on Television (Routledge 2022), which takes a closer look at 44 transmasculine and nonbinary characters on broadcast, cable, and streaming services between 2000 and 2021. She notes that significant changes have occurred since the release of the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry, primarily the increase in transgender producers, writers, and actors playing those roles.