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

Platforms as Rulemakers for Interpersonal Communication: The Case of The Screenshot Feature

Alexis Shore
Emerging Media Studies, Ph.D Candidate
September 2023

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
April 2023

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
March 2023

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
February 2023

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
October 2022

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
September 2022

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.



Propagandizing Global Crisis: How China State Media Portray the International Pandemic

Dr. King-wa Fu
Professor at the Journalism & Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong
May 2022

How does authoritarian propaganda tell the people about global crisis? This study identifies a political communication strategy, namely “propagandization of relative gratification,” through which 1) state media highlight a global chaos to prompt the people’s downward comparison to a relatively stable domestic situation; 2) the nation’s adversaries are portrayed worse than one’s allies; 3) it leverages popular nationalistic sentiment. This study examines empirically how China state media covered the COVID-19 pandemic of 45 countries by analyzing over 3 million Chinese social media posts using word embedding’s semantic similarity and instrumental variable approach. The result reveals the distant relationship with China a country has, the more severe its COVID-19 representation in China propaganda, while controlling for the country’s epidemiolocal severity and the Chinese general public’s view. Centrally-controlled state media reported in more devastating than did the provincial-level state media. Study implication will be discussed in the talk.





Capturing Social Presence: Empirical Insights for Theory Development and Industry Investment in “Being With” Media

Dr. Jim Cummings
Assistant Professor of Emerging Media Studies
April 2022

Recent accounts of the impending metaverse anticipate the application of and reliance on a variety of communication technologies for a range of mediated interpersonal scenarios, spanning formal workplace exchanges, commercial services, and casual hangouts. As such, “social presence” is becoming a broad design goal for firms creating such technologies. To effectively design for this user experience, a rich conceptual understanding of social presence and the technological factors contributing to it will be critical. However, this is no easy task: in recent years, what exactly is meant by “social presence” has come to vary widely across different communication scenarios and corresponding empirical literatures. This talk will review recent research examining what exactly researchers are measuring when they study the concept. As will be discussed, the findings provide for a refined theoretical definition of “social presence” and, in turn, can better guide industry designers seeking to create specific types of social user experience.




Latina Voices: Examining the Experiences and Coping Mechanisms of Latinas in Public Relations

Dr. Rosalynn Vasquez, MBA
Assistant Professor of Public Relations
March 2022

Despite being one of the fastest-growing and highly influential segments of the U.S. population, Latinos have been largely underrepresented in the public relations field. In response to the scarcity of research examining the role and influence of Latinas in public relations, this new study contributes a unique perspective by providing new, rich insights into the experiences and challenges Latinas face in the public relations industry. Through 24 in-depth interviews with Latinas working in mid-management and senior-executive level roles in the U.S., this study reveals the challenges to career advancement and coping mechanisms used to address issues such as inclusion, intersectionality, isolation, language, pay equity, and pigeonholing. Findings also provide recommendations and a timely call for greater cultural inclusion and diversity in public relations.




Home Style Opinion: How Local Newspapers Can Slow Polarization

Dr. Joshua Darr
Assistant Professor, Manship School of Mass Communication and Department of Political Science, Louisiana State University
November 2021

Local newspapers can hold back the rising tide of political division in America by turning away from the partisan battles in Washington and focusing their opinion page on local issues. When a local newspaper in California dropped national politics from its opinion page, the resulting space filled with local writers and issues. We use a pre-registered analysis plan to show that after this quasi-experiment, politically engaged people did not feel as far apart from members of the opposing party, compared to those in a similar community whose newspaper did not change. While it may not cure all of the imbalances and inequities in opinion journalism, an opinion page that ignores national politics could help local newspapers push back against political polarization.





Antecedents and Outcomes of Stakeholder Engagement: From an Organization-Centric Approach to a Society-Centric Approach

Dr. Yi Grace Ji
Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication, Advertising, and Public Relations
October 2021

In an organizational setting, stakeholder engagement impacts organizations’ relational, reputational, and financial outcomes. On the other hand, engagement is a socially situated process, which connects societal members to address social issues. Dr. Yi Grace Ji will discuss a research program that investigates how corporate and organizational communication can contribute to positive social changes beyond the functionalist approach of stakeholder engagement utilizing both traditional and computational methods.




Understanding Publics’ Perceptions of and Responses to Corporate Misconduct

Dr. Arunima Krishna
Assistant Professor, Public Relations
September 2021

Allegations of corporate misconduct often have long-term effects
not only on the corporations in question, but also on those
corporations’ internal and external publics. Dr. Arunima Krishna
will discuss a program of research that examines different
publics’ cognitive, affective, perceptual, and behavioral reactions
to corporate misconduct, and how organizations can mitigate the
negative impact of such allegations.





Toward Robot Humanization: Exploring Relational Dynamics & Perceptions of Robots & Artificial Intelligence

Kate Mays
Doctoral Candidate, Division of Emerging Media Studies
March 2020

Society is currently facing two big technological changes: Robotization, which has the same dramatic potential for change in people’s lives as has the computer/Internet revolution; and Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration to existing technological applications. As this technology continues to develop, it is being designed to assimilate socially and serve as a communicative entity in its own right. Simultaneously, to a large degree robots and AI are put forth as yet another technological tool to aid us. The value proposition for AI and robots—their interactivity and relative autonomy­—make them closer to “living” and social entities than any technology that has come before them, though. This ontological leap may create friction for people as they logically know and intend to treat robots as tools but are still confronted with their social cues that prompt emotional and social responses.

In this talk, PhD candidate Kate Mays reviews her research on the social and relational perceptions of robots and AI. Based on a series of surveys (conducted with Dr. James Katz), she draws on multiple models and theories­—uncanny valley, media equation, apparatgeist, social distance, and social identity—to develop a framework for exploring the social implications of these technologies.

Persuasion Knowledge in an Era of Covert Influence

Dr. Michelle Amazeen
Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication, Advertising and Public Relations
February 2020

With the growth of “fake news” and other digital disinformation, media consumers have been inundated at an unprecedented scale with content that seeks to influence their attitudes and behaviors­—much of it taking place covertly. Dr. Michelle A. Amazeen will highlight some of her research on the nature and effects of mediated persuasion that blurs commercial interests, journalism, and politics. Leveraging the Persuasion Knowledge Model—a theory of how people’s understanding of persuasion affects their ability to cope with persuasive attempts—her work expands what we know about the dispositional and situational factors that affect whether and when people recognize and how they respond to covert persuasion in digital news contexts. Beyond helping news consumers to identify covert persuasive attempts, Dr. Amazeen will discuss the implications of this research on the journalism industry and policymakers who seek to make our media environment less deceptive.

Technology to Support Family Caregivers

Dr. Margaret McLaughlin
Distinguished Visiting Research Scholar
December 2019

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
November 2019

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
October 2019

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.