The College of Communication annually invites two distinguished scholars from outside to share their outstanding scholarship, expertise, and experience with the BU community. In recognition of the pioneering and inspirational contributions of Dr. Melvin L. DeFleur to the field of mass communication research and his service as a venerable and inexhaustible member of COM’s Communication Research Center (CRC), the faculty members of the CRC have named this series in his honor.
Believability: Sexual Violence, Media and the Digitization of Doubt
Dr. Sarah Banet-Weiser Distinguished Professor of Communication, UPenn; Professor, University of Southern California; Director, Annenberg Center for Collaborative Communication
One of the most concrete changes brought about by the #MeToo movement is that it has created a new public appetite for stories about sexual violence-based harms—an appetite that has been readily seized upon by Hollywood and the press, a growing market for anti-sexual violence products and services, and a renewed investment in digital media as a space where women are believed. In this talk, Dr. Banet-Weiser evaluates this contemporary context through the lens of what she calls the digitization of doubt. The market for anti-sexual violence that has emerged in the aftermath of #MeToo is one that suggests that if only women can furnish more and better evidence of their assaults (photographs, videos, screenshots, and other ‘corroborating’ digital artifacts) then they will prevail in bids for believability, both in the court of public opinion and potentially in courts of law. At the core of this narrative are struggles over how, whether, and when different forms of evidence ought to bolster believability—especially now that such evidence can be freely circulated online, and highly public bids for belief are made without arbitration or intervention by the state. Within the context of contemporary examples, she tests these assumptions by tracking what actually happens to and with these artifacts in a mediated struggles over believability, and how their evidentiary value—that is, their status as evidence—continues to be shaped by familiar structures of power.
Analyzing social media information quality with PIEGraph
Dr. Deen Freelon Associate Professor at Hussman School of Journalism and Media; Principal Researcher at Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Quantitative social media research has traditionally been conducted from what might be called a platform-centric view, wherein researchers sample, collect, and analyzed data based on one or more topic- or user-specific keywords. Such studies have yielded many valuable insights, but they convey little about individual users’ tailored social media environments—what I call the user-eye view. Studies that investigate social media from a user-eye view are relatively rare because of the expense involved and a limited number of suitable tools. This talk introduces PIEGraph, a novel system for user-eye view research that offers key advantages over existing systems. PIEGraph is lightweight, scalable, open-source, OS-independent, and collects Twitter data viewable from mobile and desktop interfaces directly from APIs. The system incorporates an extensible taxonomy that allows for straightforward classification of a wide range of political, social, and cultural phenomena. The presentation will focus on how our research team is using PIEGraph to examine the extent to which high- (academic/scientific/journalistic) and low-quality (disinformation/hyperpartisan) information sources populate users’ personalized information environments across lines of gender, race, ideology, and conspiracy belief.
Breaking All the Rules: The Racial Grammar of Cancel Culture in American News Media
Dr. Meredith Clark Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and the Department of Communication Studies at Northeastern University
So-called ‘cancel culture’ has emerged as a 21st century moral panic that threatens to silence disempowered people who use social and digital media to amplify Black vernacular practice in pursuit of material consequences. In this talk, Dr. Meredith D. Clark dissects the disproportionate influence mainstream and partisan news media has had in separating digital accountability practice from its roots in Black culture and communities. Attendees will be challenged to consider the pervasive nature of coded racial language in their lives and work, and to interrogate their roles in dismantling white dominance in our collective reality.
Bringing People & Technology Together in a New Kind of Social Network
Dr. Deb Roy
Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, MIT
Director, MIT Center for Constructive Communication
Visiting Professor, Harvard Law School
In an era of growing social fragmentation, deteriorating trust, and information disorder, social media platforms add fuel to the fire and offer little hope in fostering understanding, deliberation, and real human connection. Even our in-person civic forums such as town halls and open meetings also fall short as civic spaces, attracting the “usual voices” of the same committed activists in what are often symbolic, yet ineffective efforts to capture real community input. Through a growing network of collaborators, we envision bringing people and technology together to strengthen democracy by creating the Local Voices Network (LVN), a new kind of social dialogue network. Our aim is to combine the depth and nuance of in-person dialogue with the power and scale of digital social networks to foster listening, empathy, and trust across divides. In this talk Dr. Roy will provide an overview of the LVN system, highlight some case studies, and sketch our research and
Trust but Verify: The Role of Cognitive Skills & the Media Environment
Dr. Pippa Norris Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
When citizens trust or mistrust government actors, under what circumstances do they make rational or erroneous judgments? In this talk, Dr. Pippa Norris presents a study (co-led by researchers from the University of Southampton and Canberra University) that focuses on several factors that potentially explain such errors, including a lack of cognitive capacity at an individual level and limits to the information environment, measured by macro-level indices of press freedom and mass communications in societies. This work draws on new cross-national time-series data from over 40 diverse societies contained in the World Values Surveys/European Values Surveys to explore how far—and under what conditions—subjective perceptions of institutional trust are related to the trustworthiness of national governments. Conclusions and implications are discussed.
The Resignation Industry and the Future of Media Studies
Dr. Joseph Turow
Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication, University of Pennsylvania
In this presentation, Dr. Joseph Turow discusses the “resignation industry” that is developing in tandem with—and overlapping with—the growth of the digital interactive media system. The resignation industry carries out pervasive and purposeful corporate undertakings to encourage people to give up thinking they can change data collection by businesses. These activities have the potential of corroding political and cultural democracy. We need a sociology of digital resignation to understand the industry. Research in this area is best carried out with a new understanding of the meaning and nature of “media research.”
Lessons from Pelicans: Multilevel Theorizing for the Expertise Economy
Dr. Janet Fulk
Professor of Communication and Professor of Management & Organization, University of Southern California
The recent proliferation of multilevel models and research in management-related fields provides a stimulus for enriching our understanding of organizational phenomena that have not previously been conceptualized as primarily multilevel in nature. One such concept is expertise. In an “expertise economy” where crowds are wise and organizational technology such as enterprise social media offer glimpses into how collective knowledge can be a harnessed, what is multilevel expertise? Drawing on evolutionary theory, Dr. Janet Fulk builds a model of multilevel expertise and suggests how research can address the cross-level and multilevel processes involved in the communication and practice of multilevel expertise in organizations.
2017 - 2018 Lectures
Discovering Vulnerabilities in a Sociotechnical Society
danah boyd, Ph.D.
Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, Founder and President of Data & Society, and Visiting Professor at New York University
Data-driven and algorithmic systems increasingly underpin many decision-making systems, shaping where law enforcement are stationed and what news you are shown on social media. The design of these systems is inscribed with organizational and cultural values. Often, these systems depend on the behavior of everyday people, who may not act as expected. Meanwhile, adversarial actors also seek to manipulate the data upon which these systems are built for personal, political, and economic reasons. In this talk, danah boyd will unpack some of the unique cultural challenges presented by “big data” and machine learning, raising critical questions about fairness and accountability. She will describe how those who are manipulating media for lulz are discovering the attack surfaces of new technical systems and how their exploits may undermine many aspects of society that we hold dear. Above all, she will argue that we need to develop more sophisticated ways of thinking about technology before jumping to hype and fear.
When Computers Get Access to Your Emotions
Professor Rosalind W. Picard, Sc.D
Founder and Director of the Affective Computing Research Group, MIT
Computers, robots, and wearable technologies are gaining the ability to sense, recognize, and respond intelligently to human emotion. This talk by Professor Rosalind W. Picard will highlight several important findings made at MIT, including surprises about the “true smile of happiness,” new ways cameras (and your smartphone, even in your handbag) can compute your bio-signals without using any new sensors, and finding electrical signals on the wrist that reveal insight into deep brain activity, with implications for autism, anxiety, epilepsy, and more. What is the grand challenge we aim to solve next?
2016 - 2017 Lectures
Living in Media: Psychological Implications of the Fragmentation and Mediatization of Life
Dr. Byron Reeves
Paul C. Edwards Professor of Communication, Stanford University
Much of life is now experienced digitally on just a few ubiquitous devices, via interfaces that enable lightning fast switches between radically different content, and with affordances that make it simple for anyone—individuals, social groups, companies, governments—to aggregate, archive, search, analyze, and publish everything. One device can be used for email and texting, shopping and finances, business and social relationships, work spreadsheets and writing, entertainment TV, news, movies and games, and monitoring personal information about health, exercise, energy, appliances, driving, and even home irrigation. The variety of human experiences available digitally will continue to grow as more and more items—from refrigerators to shoes to car parts—get their own IP addresses that link them to the so-called “internet of things.” This talk by Dr. Byron Reeves will explore several different psychological implications of living in media including the fragmentation of experience, quick task switching between different experiences, and new interdependency between domains of life typically viewed as separate experiences.
The Theory of Planned Behavior: Focus on Persuasion
Dr. Icek Ajzen
Professor of Psychology Emeritus, University of Massachusetts
Dr. Icek Ajzen (Professor of Psychology Emeritus, University of Massachusetts) describes his work on the theory of planned behavior (TPB) and its use as a cohesive framework for understanding and predicting behavior and designing effective behavior change interventions. The failure of many attempts at behavior change is traced to a poor understanding of the behavior’s determinants and insufficient formative research in preparation for the intervention. A systematic approach based on the TPB is described and its correct application as well as its misapplication are discussed. Data are presented to illustrate the theory’s potential for enabling successful prediction and change of behavior.
2015 - 2016 Lectures
Why I Study Emotion and You Should Too: A Call for More Innovative Integration of Emotion into Mediated Communication Research
Dr. Robin Nabi
Professor of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara
The study of emotion in media-based communication contexts has been largely limited to the study of fear appeals and mood management. Yet there are a multitude of ways in which emotion may be productively integrated into our thinking about message design and effects. Dr. Robin Nabi will introduce three novel approaches to the study of emotion in media contexts.
New Methods for Assessing Communication Influence: Linking Biobehavior and Big Data in a Social Media Era
Marshall and Sharleen Formby Regents Professor of Strategic Communication in the College of Media and Communication, Texas Tech University
In recent years, scholars of strategic communication have been turning to biologically based measures for increased precision, including the use of real-time measures of viewer response, biobehavioral coding of facial displays and other nonverbal communication repertoires, and measurement of vocalic variations, among others. This talk by Dr. Erik Bucy summarizes how biobehavioral measures can be gainfully employed in political communication research across a variety of contexts, including candidate behavior during televised debates, viewer attention to inappropriate expressive displays, tests of the relative influence of verbal vs. nonverbal communication on “second screen” behavior (Twitter messaging), and the capacity of voice inflection and tone to draw attention to issues. Methodological aspects of this research and techniques for merging discrete datasets to enable relationship testing are discussed as well.
2014 - 2015 Lectures
Visualizing Instagram: How to Study Big Social Data Without Using Numbers
Dr. Lev Manovich
Professor at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, and a Director of the Software Studies Initiative
What can we learn about societies from analyzing billions of photographs and videos shared on social networking sites? How can analysis of big data focus on the variability and differences as opposed to the aggregation of data? Can we use interactive visualization to explore massive visual data sets without using numbers or predefined research questions? In this presentation, Dr. Lev Manovich will discuss these questions using examples of recent projects in his team’s lab where they analyze 2.3 million Instagram photos from 13 global cities (http://phototrails.net), compare selfies (http://selfiecity.net/), and create an interactive visualization of a city life that does not use any maps (on-broadway.nyc).
Processing Ethically Strong vs. Problematic TV Commercials
Dr. Esther Thorson
Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at the Missouri School of Journalism, and Director of Research for the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute
Television commercials, even in a digital world, continue to absorb lots of advertising dollars and be highly salient for Americans. Some commercials, especially those whose focus is public service, achieve a high standard of ethical value—and we love to say they impact us. But many commercials violate ethical standards, for example, those that use sexualization of women to sell products like fast food and bottled water, and those that connect products like soft drinks or jeans with extremely dangerous behavior. How do young adults respond to commercials that are clearly ethically and even culturally problematic? How does this compare to their response to public service announcements? The results o this presentation by Dr. Esther Thorson may surprise you.
2013 - 2014 Lectures
Crossing the Divide of Digital Divide Research
Dr. Ronald E. Rice
Arthur N. Rupe Chair in the Social Effects of Mass Communication in the Department of Communication, Department Chair, and Co-Director of the Carsey-Wolf Center, at University of California, Santa Barbara
Dr. Ronald E. Rice examines how the concept and research surrounding the ‘digital divide’ are broadening as new forms of digital equality are identified both in the U.S. and abroad.
Interactive Media Effects: How Technology Shapes our Psychology
Dr. S. Shyam Sundar
Distinguished Professor and Founding Director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory in the College of Communications at Penn State University
Worried about how attached we’ve become to our mobile devices, how addicted we are to the internet, and how obsessed we are with our social networks? Don’t be. It’s how you interact with these emergent media that matters. They can actually be good for you!
This talk by Dr. S. Shyam Sundar will reveal the reasons why online interactivity is so alluring, and discuss the various ways in which specific features of media technology shape our psychology.
2012 - 2013 Lectures
From Symbolism to Strategy: A Personal Intellectual History of Public Relations Theory
James E. Grunig
Professor Emeritus, Department of Communication, University of Maryland
In the minds of most people, public relations has become institutionalized as what James E. Grunig calls the symbolic interpretive paradigm—the idea that public relations consists of disseminating messages to influence how people interpret the behaviors of organizations. Grunig has devoted his career to developing an alternative paradigm, which he calls the strategic management paradigm—the idea that public relations is an essential part of management that gives a voice to publics in management decisions and helps shape the behaviors of organizations rather than just the meanings that publics assign to those behaviors. In his presentation, Grunig will discuss the development of his research from the nature of publics to models that describe how organizations practice public relations, the evaluation of public relations, and the merging of these theories into the Excellence theory of how the most successful organizations practice public relations.
In Your Face Politics: Television and the Intensification of Political Emotions
Dr. Diana C. Mutz
Samuel A. Stouffer Professor of Political Science and Communication and Director of the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics, University of Pennsylvania
Is the way Americans experience politicians and political conflict different now from how it was in the past? Drawing on a series of experimental and survey studies, Dr. Diana C. Mutz illuminates the consequences of incivility and the unique visual perspective of televised politics. Her findings have implications for understanding the strong emotions that can be aroused by contemporary politicians.
2011 - 2012 Lectures
Do the Media Tell Us What to Think About? The Psychology of Agenda Setting
Dr. Maxwell McCombs
Professor and Jesse H. Jones Chair of Communications, School of Journalism in College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin
The contemporary communication landscape confronts us with a vast deluge of information. To cope with this situation, individuals ignore or quickly forget most of these messages. One of the principal attributes identified by agenda-setting theory for those bits of information that do have lasting impact is their relevance. Although relevance was introduced as a key component of need for orientation in 1972 and is widely documented as a key predictor of agenda-setting effects, a major trend in current research is the further explication of what makes an issue or other topic in the news relevant to an individual. Personal values and beliefs, emotional responses to the news, civic duty, and self-interest are all part of the emerging theoretical gestalt that explains agenda-setting effects in greater detail, as discussed in this presentation by Dr. Maxwell McCombs.
Digital Journalism: Framing Transformation and Understanding Impact
Dr. Stephen Lacy
Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Professor in the Department of Communication and School of Journalism, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University
This presentation by Dr. Stephen Lacy explores some of the frames surrounding the transformation of journalism from analog to digital delivery and the potential impact of this transformation on the political information process. Special emphasis will be given to the implication of interactive media and the 2012 elections.