Student Spotlight: Lilian Naa Korkoi Tackie on Navigating Misinformation Studies and Charting an Academic Path

By Michelle AmazeenApril 1st, 2024in Homepage

By Violet Li

Lilian Naa Korkoi Tackie, a dedicated Ph.D. student in Emerging Media Studies, specializes in the critical areas of misinformation and disinformation, with a keen focus on employing A.I. and machine learning for effective fact-checking. Recently, she sat down with Alyssa Hance, a Research Assistant from the Communication Research Center, to discuss her journey into the depths of digital truth and falsehoods. In their conversation, Naa discusses her career motivations for joining the Ph.D. program, her experiences studying abroad, and her future career plans.

Alyssa: “Can you share what you were doing before joining BU’s Ph.D. program? ”

Naa: I was doing a lot of things. So my main job was copy editing, copywriting. I loved what I was doing as a freelancer. I also have a website, which is; I get people soliciting for my services. I have a lot of referrals. And that was basically my day job. But it was so unconventional, because I work a lot. I work more effectively at night. Or, rather, in the mornings. So, I sleep, I wake up around 3AM and I am so productive in the morning, extra super productive. I’d do my coffee, and I do all the serious work from 3AM all the way to 8AM and then get out of my room, shower, and have breakfast. And then I take a nap at 11AM. So my life was like, my schedule was upside down. And so that wasn't making me go out a lot. So, when I have to meet with friends for lunch and all that, that means I have to do my work the day before.

Yeah, so that was my life, then I say that I was working part time for a fact checking company called Fact Check Ghana. We do a lot of fact checking on the media scape around West Anglophone, West African countries, because we have Francophone West African countries and anglophone so since we are Anglophone. In Ghana, we deal with Anglophone West African countries. So we do some checking with Gambia, Senegal. And yeah, basically, it was my life. I was having fun.

Alyssa: “What drew you to this Phd Program? ”

Naa: So like I said, with my fact checking company, my experience, even though I wasn't getting the core fact checking work, I actually knew what they were doing. And I found it interesting. And I'm also very active on social media, especially Twitter, which is now X. It's so nerve wracking, no, it actually grates on my nerves, when I see misinformation. Social media is full of misinformation. So, when I saw how my fact checking company was struggling to do the fact checking effectively on social media, I was wondering, well, I want to do my PhD, but I have been thinking about what exactly I wanted to do my PhD in -- I knew it was going to be communication. But then I didn't really know what my research interest was until then, and I realized okay, again, 'GhanaFact' was having quite a lot of difficulties trying to push facts, checked messages, because the misinformation travels so wide.

So I was wondering, there should be something that should be able to do this. I mean, if misinformation can go viral, the correct information should also be able to go viral. And I think the advent of AI can help do that. So I thought, okay, great, I have my research interest now. How we're going to push fact checking with AI, how we're going to make it faster, more effective. And so that was my interest. Then I started looking for schools and I just stumbled on BU, which was like a miracle. It wasn't on my radar and I saw the communication department, I saw emerging media study and I was like, whoa! I read what it was and felt this is perfect for me, and all that I want to study. So, I just saw BU and emerging media and I loved it. So I applied to a couple of schools, and BU was one of them. I love that I got it.

Alyssa: “So we talked a little bit about your current research interests. Can you elaborate on the role AI and machine learning play in fixing the misinformation? I think I'm just curious about that connection.”

Naa: Honestly, it's difficult. I have been searching the internet for papers, scholarly works that talk about AI, and fact checking. And most of the papers I've seen have been more qualitative, and more like trials, they're not really concrete. And I'm still searching. And I'm so sure I'm going to get to the end of the road by the time I'm done with my PhD studies. I feel like because social media or digital media use algorithms and algorithms can be manipulated to do a lot of things, like to push advertising and push advertising is basically pushing certain selected or targeted messages to an audience and it works. So, if that is working for misinformation, why shouldn't it work for credible messages or less targeted messages?

Specificity is to also reach wide and be viable. Yeah, I mean, it should be possible. I am not taking "Oh, no, I tried [combating misinformation] and it's not working," I don't want to take that. I really think it should be possible. Because if I saw it when I scrolled on Twitter, and maybe I commented on one topic of interest, by the time the next time I open my Twitter, I see so many tweets about the same topic, even when I'm no longer interested. So this is happening. Why can't the credible message be like that? Let's say I comment on something that is misinformation I didn't know about, the next time I open my Twitter, I should have the correct information of that tweet. It should be flooding my feed as well. So this is what I aim to achieve. I'm gonna achieve it. Even if it's a request for collaboration with people from other departments like the engineering department, or CDF or computer science, I will achieve it.

Alyssa: “That‘s amazing. I know you talked about how true information doesn't spread as quickly. I've read some papers like it's horrible how true information is so slow but bad information just goes viral. What do you see as the biggest challenges in combating misinformation and disinformation in today's digital landscape? ”

Naa: Yeah, like you mentioned, we all know negative news travels faster. People are more interested in negativity, and people tend to engage more on social media with sensitive information and stuff that is going to rile people up.

But what we can do is to change opinions about these things which have misinformation. And the fact that we don't have control over what people post is the most difficult part.

Though content moderation is possible, it's not a complete solution. Some people actually derive joy from being bullies. You can't win with that. Where you can win is getting people on your side, pushing out the correct information. And just to make the work easier. So as I say, I appeal to other people, humans on the internet, because you can't appeal to bots.

Alyssa: “Reflecting on your year here, how would you describe your experience studying abroad in the United States? What aspects were most impactful for you? ” 

Naa: Sometimes, the world paints a picture of people in the United States as being very individualistic. But I kind of feel it's nice. I experience nice people. And Boston has a reputation for being rude. I feel like I really haven't experienced that. Probably because I haven't gone outside of campus too much. But, if I ever need something, and you approach someone, they're normally pretty warm.
I was telling my friends. I actually think I haven't noticed the community around me. And people are actually very helpful. They are willing to support you. So I love that.

And because I don't have a car here, I'd have to walk. I think it's good exercise. So I actually love Boston. I feel like this is my kind of city. I am not a party girl. So when I visited my cousin in Philly for Christmas, yeah, Boston was my way. It's very quiet, not much noise and I love it. I would go out to New York or Philly, just party for a short time. But I always want to return to Boston. I love it. Boston is the place you rest your head. That's great.

Alyssa: “Can you share any specific instances where the CRC's resources or guidance were particularly beneficial?”

Naa: I think the CRC is very accommodating. Anyone who enters here, anyone who's here at that desk front desk like Amanda will be so welcoming to you. I think it's a home for us, for PhDs. I think sometimes we don't have offices so far. My friend, like me, has an office in Milan. I have a friend who is now a lecturer for UPenn, she has an office too. So some other schools have offices. And we need offices as well. For now, CRC serves as our office. I've yet to conduct research [at the CRC]. So I'm sure I'll see a lot of help from CRC from that side. And I guess a free coffee.

Alyssa: “Although it might seem far off, do you have any aspirations for your career post-graduation?”

Naa: So, my long-term goal is to be in academia, to be a professor. I've worked in the industry, but I think I'm over it. I don't really like the industry as much. I've experienced the TV newsroom environment — competitive and, wow, okay — and it seems this competitive and toxic atmosphere is common in newsrooms worldwide. I don't want anything to do with that. 

And I've realized that I love teaching at college. I think this passion stems from living with my niece, my sister's daughter, while growing up. It made me realize how much I love to impart knowledge. I feel so fulfilled when I see her understand something I've taught her. 

Yeah, like, I feel a genuine love for teaching people, and that hasn't changed. Because one-on-one, I love to teach. I love talking to my undergraduates and all that. So, this is what drew me to academia. If I decide to go into the industry, it would probably be because I haven't had the right opportunity yet. Yeah, but I would love to be in American media studies or anything similar. There are many schools that align with my interests in emerging fields. I aim to be a professor and also work towards using AI ethically and effectively.

I hope to collaborate with people from other industries. I'm an interdisciplinary person, very curious. I love learning from other people, exploring other fields, and engaging in collaborations. That's definitely a yes for me, even with people from other schools. You know, I have connections in Ghana whom I'd love to collaborate with. EMS is incredibly supportive, starting from the first year of PhD—everyone is willing to help.

Everyone says, 'Oh, come on, if you need something.' It's like no one is standoffish. If there's an opportunity, even if it means we might be competing, it's fine—there's no animosity. Just like with my colleagues James and Jesse, we share resources and support each other. If you want to apply, go for it, and it's great. I feel fulfilled because I detest toxicity. I feel like people respect boundaries, which I cherish, especially given my background. It's challenging to find such respect for boundaries in a community, especially a new one. But in an individualistic society, setting boundaries seems easier, which I appreciate. 

Looking towards the future, Naa is dedicated to making significant contributions to the field of fact-checking and combating misinformation. With a clear vision and a passion for teaching, she aims to leverage artificial intelligence to develop more effective methods in identifying and disseminating truth. This ambition reflects a profound commitment to enhancing the integrity of information in the digital age, aspiring to create a more informed and truthful society.

Survey: Public’s Confidence in its Ability to Evaluate AI-Generated Text Cause for Concern

By Burt Glass

More Americans are adopting tools such as ChatGPT, Gemini and Claude, but a new opinion survey suggests scoring in their own ability to evaluate the accuracy, reliability, completeness, and biases of the text generated by artificial intelligence is cause for concern.

According to Yi Grace Ji, assistant professor at Boston University’s College of Communication and the primary investigator of the survey, in partnership with Ipsos, said the average result – a mean score of 3.26 out of 5, with a 5 for individuals who strongly agree that they can perform a set of specified tasks in critically evaluating AI-generated responses – is worrisome, especially because respondents tend to overestimate their own abilities.

Read full story here. 

Student Spotlight: James Crissman on What It Takes to Enter Academic Research

By Michelle AmazeenMarch 8th, 2024in Homepage

By Violet Li

James Crissman is a PhD student focused on visual communications, information accessibility and governance, misinformation, and algorithmic injustice. Recently, Alyssa Hance, the Research Assistant from Communication Research Center, interviewed him where he shared insights on his visual communication research. This conversation shed light on his academic journey, how he balances rigorous research with daily student challenges, and offered valuable advice for those on their own academic paths.

Alyssa: “What is something you find fascinating about your research?”

James: So, like integrating some of my past experience and passions, 

you know, I really have an interest in Visual Communications. Just in my anecdotal experience online, I see just how much of our communication is based around images, especially on social media, and even in news contexts, right? It’s the images that

 grab our attention, are what can give us a lot of emotion, and even reactions to things that we see online. So, that is an area of focus that I find really interesting, and also one that seems like it has just so many unanswered questions, too, as well, especially with how fast things are moving in that world, online. And just I think that images also have an incredible impact as well. That is under studied and not known as well as it should be.

James Crissman, Ph.D. student, Emerging Media Studies.

Alyssa: “How do you balance work and school as a BU student?”

James: I take it day by day, that’s for sure. Yeah, I have had to learn a lot of skills and personal organizing. And I’ve really leaned into the digital side of that, you know, keeping a digital calendar, keeping digital notes, and having it all at my fingertips has been really helpful for that. But yeah, other than that, it really is just taking it day by day and focusing on the things that I think are the most important to get done. And so, it’s constant triaging, focusing on the things that I need to get done that day. But, you know, important to being a PhD student is also focusing on your own interest in research. So, with being a PhD student, it’s so important to keep that in mind. And yet, it’s so easy to let that fall by the wayside. So, getting all of my other responsibilities done and then setting aside time in order to read the articles or dig into some data or something that I think is really interesting is super important. It’s something that, personally, I find really difficult, to set that time aside, but so important; I try my best to do that.

Alyssa: “What advice would you give other students starting their academic journey?”

James: I think it’s really important to find the things that interest you and that you are passionate about, right? And you’re always gonna have responsibilities at school that you have to take care of. But what’s really going to keep you going and motivated are finding those things that are really interesting. And that's, in my opinion, that’s what academia is all about. Right? It’s about, you know, really digging into the things that you want to, more than anybody else, right? Because that’s how we’re going to build our knowledge base is by having those people that are extremely passionate about one topic or another. So, finding that makes everything else worth it.

Alyssa: “What’s one thing you wish you knew before starting your Phd? You took some time off to work in the industry before pursuing your masters, right? That’s a different route than the one most people take, which is going straight through.”

James: I mean, also, side note, I totally recommend [taking some time to work in the industry] to anybody. Just because I think I've learned a lot of skills and day to day abilities that are super helpful, even just as simple as, you know, keeping track and responding to emails. And just knowing how to talk to supervisors or professors like that. That's just like a very valuable skill that you learn just by working. 

Uh, one thing I wish I knew before going in, was just how to navigate my time on campus? Because I'm so used to the work space, where you're sitting down at one desk, all day, right? And that's just so different from being on campus running around in between classes. And the time management is very different in that aspect, too. So I think, you know, having some of that knowledge about how to manage time on campus is super valuable, and one that I was definitely out of practice on.

Alyssa: “What type of involvement do you have in the CRC?” 

James: So, I definitely come and utilize that space as a study space, somewhere to work, but more than anything else, it really is a place for me to socialize and talk with my cohort, which is still extremely important, right? And it’s more than just networking. It’s, you know, bouncing ideas off them and hearing other people’s research and what they’re interested in. And I really feel like my mind gets going in the CRC more than anywhere else, because I can collaborate with other people that are working on really cool research as well.

Following one’s passion is crucial for maintaining motivation and contributing to our body of knowledge on the academic path. It is this relentless pursuit of interests that not only fuels our journey through challenges but also enriches the broader academic community with diverse insights and discoveries. Let passion guide our research, shaping a more vibrant and informed academic world.

Interview: Exploring Sexting in the Digital Age with Dr. Coduto

By ajk90February 27th, 2024in Homepage

By Violet Li

Dr. Kathryn D. Coduto's "Technology, Privacy, and Sexting: Mediated Sex", published in September 2023, offers a critical look at sexting's role in modern communication. Her research delves into the motives, technologies, and privacy concerns surrounding sexting, alongside its evolution amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Intrigued by the themes of the book, the Communication Research Center's Research Assistant, Alyssa Hance, sits down with Dr. Kathryn D. Coduto for an enlightening interview on the book's findings and its exploration of sexting in our digital lives.

Alyssa: “What has been your experience since the book’s release?”

Dr. Coduto: It’s been interesting, because I feel like people have been trying to figure out what parts are interesting, what to focus on, or what to talk about. So, for me, it’s been kinda fun to have [the book] actually out and being able to talk about it, getting to share more of the key insights because for a lot of people trying to read through the whole thing can feel like a lot because it’s got some stats and there’s a lot of existing research in there. But, it’s been really fun to be able to share what I found and then obviously continuing to build research from that, which was a key goal, which was thinking through what comes after.

Alyssa: “What findings from your research on sexting and technology usage did you find most interesting?”

Dr. Coduto: I think the thing I think about the most is the fact that so many people were like I know I should do this better, or I know I should behave better with technology than I do. So, I think a lot about the fact that people were like I know that technology is not really trustworthy, but I’m still going to use it to send highly personal, highly sexual content. And not just knowing that technology’s not necessarily trustworthy but that there are options that are better. I just think about the group of participants that are like I know I should use WhatsApp; it’s encrypted, and there’s a lot to suggest that it’s safer than these other options. But for so many [participants] it was like I know I should do that, but it’s too much work. I’d rather just sext. And I’m so intrigued by this idea that people know better, but there’s a sense that just switching to a different app is too much.

Alyssa: “In your research, have you observed any specific behavior patterns when people use technology for sexual communication?”

Dr. Coduto: Yes, so, there’s also not a designated time [for sexting] right? So, a lot of people tend to think that people are sexting in the evening, and that they’re at home. But, so many people that responded to my different surveys, a lot of them try and sext when they’re at work. And like quite a few of them would talk about that. “Yeah, well, it’s fun because maybe I catch my partner off guard or maybe they surprise me.” And so it’s almost like this tantalizing act, which in some cases did backfire. There was one guy in particular who was like “I really didn’t want that”. But, so, again, I think this connects to the fact that you have your phone on you all the time and have the ability to send this content anytime, and quite a few people actually take advantage of that.

Alyssa: “I love how people were so forthcoming with this information. In your research on sexting, sexuality, and technology, have you encountered situations where people find it challenging to discuss such sensitive topics?”

Dr. Coduto: So, that actually came up when this book project started, when I was an assistant professor at South Dakota State; it’s been a journey. I started the project there, and the original intent was to do in-depth interviews only. But, there were multilayered challenges to that, because I wrote and finalized the proposal at the end of 2020. So, you see where this is going. I tried to arrange interviews in the spring and summer of 2021 and it was so hard.

It was hard for a couple different reasons - so, first of all, obviously, people did not want to meet in person and definitely not for a research study. They were being paid, but not a lot of money, right? Especially to offer up that sensitive information. I think in other circumstances Zoom would have been a great option, but I feel like I was reaching out at the peak of Zoom fatigue, so, trying to say ‘talk to me about your sexting habits for an hour for like 20 bucks’ was a really hard sell. I tried that for a while, tried recruiting, and it was really difficult and understandably so. It was just very hard to recruit.

It got to a point where I had to rethink this, and so that’s when I decided to do closed ended data collection. Then I did the open ended survey based on the interview and then did another round of closed ended questions. So, actually, I probably ended up with better data, in the long term. I found that the open-ended survey was actually really useful; I had never done a fully open-ended one before. I think that is the other issue with a topic like this - it’s really hard to sit and say to someone’s face ‘here are the things i’ve sent or done and this is how i do it’. Whereas in that closed-ended survey, I ended up with pretty robust responses, including what people were doing and I think like some of it is seriously difficult [to talk about]. A lot of people would say things about being horny and I think it's really difficult to say that to someone’s face.

I think there were two other tradeoffs that ended up happening that were useful, which is that I also think I was able to get more male participants. I think trying to do interviews with people that were most receptive to even thinking about talking were women. Like, I am a woman, I identify as a woman, and I present pretty feminine. You know it makes sense that that’s who would feel comfortable sharing that information. And I think that would have been much more difficult for a man to take seriously. And I think kind of the complimentary part of that is that I was able to actually collect data from more gender minorities, sexual minorities, and for similar reasons, right? I think particularly, for those individuals, they’re sexting a different kind of person, particularly when you think about LGBTQI+, like, different challenges and different considerations. There’s a lot of concern about being outed, which I run into a lot in the online dating world. And, so, I think feeling truly anonymous made a huge difference in that also being able to kind of talk about their experiences and what they were thinking about. Another interesting thing is that, queer individuals, gender minorities, everyone kind of acts similarly in their approach to technology. There's a consistent thread like ‘I should probably use these other channels, but I do it here’. And so I think the survey actually ended up helping; I have way more LGBTQ respondants than I think I would have had in person.

Alyssa: “Do you have advice for other academic researchers looking to publish their work?

Dr. Coduto: I think, whether it’s a book or even just a research trajectory – and I tell my students this – I always say research what you’re interested in, because that just makes it so much easier. You can learn every theory and that’s great and fine, but if you don’t care about how it’s being applied, or what the contribution actually is, or how you’re extending it, like, you’re never gonna get that work done. Because, I’ve been on projects and I’m like, why am I doing this? It’s never gonna get done. Or it’s not going to get done in a way that you want to progress with and so that’s part of why I went to grad school, because I was doing research professionally, but was really interested in doing my own stuff. I really thought online dating was interesting and I haven’t lost interest, yet. It makes a huge difference. And then especially when writing a book when you have to meet a minimum word count, like a chapter has to be minimum 25-ish pages. Basically, each chapter should be as long as a journal article. And so, that’s a lot to have to say about something. So, you better enjoy it. Or at least have some interest in it, especially, too, because the other part of the process is also reading the existing literature. It’s not like you go in and say whatever you want. So, there’s also a level of engagement with what else is out there, what else has been done? And so there was a lot of time spent just reading articles, which, again if you’re interested, it’s great. But, if that’s something you’re not interested in, it’s going to be painful.

For those eager to delve deeper into the intricate relationship between technology, privacy, and sexting, we invite you to explore Dr. Kathryn D. Coduto's insightful work.

Discover more by purchasing the book "Technology, Privacy, and Sexting" here.

Survey: Dating Apps Not Best to Find Your Soulmate, But Still Worth It.

By Burt Glass

Dating apps may not be the best way to find a soulmate – but why risk giving them up?

That’s how many Americans feel about dating apps on Valentine’s Day, according to a new Media and Technology survey from Boston University’s College of Communication and Ipsos.

Many more men (42%) and women (37%) either agreed or strongly agreed that “people can find their soulmates” on a dating app, than disagreed (men 16%, women 15%).

Read the full article here.

Call for Proposals: COM Faculty Research Seed Grants

By ajk90February 2nd, 2024in Faculty Opportunities, Homepage

The Communication Research Center (CRC) of the Boston University College of Communication announces its inaugural call for proposals for Faculty Research Seed Grants to begin in Spring 2024. By awarding research grants to faculty within COM, the CRC seeks to promote inter-departmental, cross-disciplinary collaborations on communication-related issues that will help society engage with modern challenges.

Application deadline: March 18, 2024

Award announced: April 15, 2024

More on where and how to apply here.

Letter from the Director: January 2024

By ajk90January 25th, 2024in Homepage, Letters From the Director

Growing Risk of Disinformation

By: Michelle Amazeen

An image of a newspaper with the headline 'Fact or Fake' and a subheading 'Truth or disinformation'.

The new year began with the World Economic Forum releasing its 2024 Global Risks Report which describes hazards occurring in the global landscape from year to year. Topping the 2024 report is the threat of mis- and disinformation intensifying societal divides around the world over the next two years.

Indeed, in the year ahead, the American public is facing numerous issues that require informed decisions. We are navigating a presidential election, military action in Ukraine and Gaza, continued resistance against taking meaningful action on climate change, and lingering waves of Covid-19, just to name a few. Each of these on its own is challenging enough. However, dealing with all of them simultaneously and combined with the increased use of generative artificial intelligence, the media ecosystem is poised for a tsunami of disinformation: deliberately false content intended to mislead.

Do we trust US media to get us this information accurately? According to a nationally representative poll COM conducted in 2022, roughly 60% of Americans said they trusted media to provide accurate information on the issues of climate change, elections, and vaccines. Even fewer (55%) trusted media to make a clear distinction between news and advertising. But there were stark differences in responses based upon political identity: Democrats were much more trusting of media on these topics (80%) than were Republicans (just over a third). Other national polls, such as from Gallup, indicate that Americans’ trust in media more generally is at a record low point with similar partisan divides.

The concern with misinformation is not just among elites, but is also held by everyday Americans. A recent national survey by MediaWise revealed that 4 out of 5 participants (81%) believed false or misleading online images were a problem for society. At the same time, roughly 3 in 4 respondents were not confident in their ability to identify misinformation. According to CRC fellow Dr. Joan Donovan, Assistant Professor of Emerging Media Studies and Journalism and author of Meme Wars, “The entire purpose of media manipulation campaigns is to trick you, so it’s not easy to quickly discern fakes from facts in today’s media. Viral memes are often missing the context needed to understand the motives of the author and really viral memes will shed any reference to the original source as it is distributed. This is why we need to be able to access more reputable news sources on social media.”

Thus, now, more than ever, is when media literacy is essential. Media literacy is the ability to critically analyze stories presented in the media and to determine their accuracy or credibility. My research has shown that the more people know about the media, the better able they are to resist online disinformation efforts. According to our latest Media & Technology poll among a nationally representative sample of US adults fielded this month, 72% of respondents agree that media literacy skills are important in helping people identify misinformation, yet only 42% report knowing how to access quality media literacy training online. Yet, there is demand for these skills as nearly 7 in 10 reported interest in learning how to better distinguish between true and false information online, especially when it comes to identifying misinformation generated with AI.

Given the challenging times before us, I am pleased to welcome a new voice among our CRC fellows who study mediated communication dysfunction. Dr. Betsi Grabe joins COM this month as the Dalton Family Professor and will be directing the Emerging Media Studies PhD program. While the first part of Dr. Grabe’s career was spent conducting research to understand the media’s role in facilitating informed citizenship, more recently her focus has shifted to researching disinformed citizenship. “My sense is that the integrity of the global information ecosystem is critical to the longevity of the democratic way of life,” Grabe tells me. “Actionable research that shapes public debate, informs policy, and empowers citizens is urgently necessary and arguably, part of our social responsibility as academics.”

We are fortunate to have so many esteemed researchers who are committed to understanding why and how media affect us and society at this time of extreme information disorder. I look forward to working with Dr. Grabe and the continued efforts among all CRC fellows in conducting research that matters.

Letter from the Director: December 2023

By ajk90December 22nd, 2023in Homepage, Letters From the Director

The Fall 2023 Semester in Review

By: Michelle Amazeen

A photo of the directory in the foreground, with two students studying, in the reception area, in the background.
Students studying in the CRC reception area. Photo courtesy of Derek Palmer.

December wraps up another busy semester for the CRC. Our Colloquium Series, which originated in 2009, consists of monthly research presentations that highlight current and original research of CRC fellows. Our Fall Colloquium Speakers were EMS PhD Candidate Alexis Shore (September), Dr. Deborah Jaramillo (October), and Dr. Joan Donovan (November). If you are interested in presenting your research as part of our Colloquium Series this Spring, please sign up here.

Every semester, the CRC also invites a distinguished scholar from outside the university to share their outstanding scholarship, expertise, and experience with the BU community. Our Fall 2023 DeFleur Distinguished Lecturer was Dr. Kjerstin Thorson (Michigan State University) who spoke about news exposure in a datafied media world.

An image of students facing a TV screen, half eaten pizza slices on paper plates on the table in front of them, with a Zoom video on display.
PhD fellow Briana Trifiro's second Lunch & Learn, with EMS alumnae, pictured here.

In promoting a culture of research and collaboration, our fellows met monthly as part of our Work-In-Progress meetings. Special guests this semester included representatives from BU’s Institutional Review Board and representatives from the offices of BU’s Federal and Foundation Relations. Moreover, our PhD fellow Briana Trifiro launched a Lunch & Learn series enabling doctoral students the opportunity to talk with faculty and Emerging Media Studies PhD alumni about their academic research and careers.

One of the unique technologies available in the CRC is our biometric tools which include devices for measuring heart rate, sweat levels in the skin, as well as facial and eye movements. For the first time ever, the CRC hosted an onsite workshop led by an iMotions Product Specialist. Attendees received hands-on training in our iMotions software, designing biometric studies, interpreting data, and drawing actionable conclusions. If you are interested in learning more about biometrics, a quick primer is available here.

Given the University’s commitment to involving students in research, the CRC continued to facilitate fellows’ efforts to recruit students as research participants via our SONA research participant management system. The SONA system gives both graduate and undergraduate students an opportunity to become involved with various research activities across COM while earning course credit for doing so. This semester, 13 research opportunities were available to students from 24 different COM courses. I hope you will consider including your courses in the Spring semester. To enroll your courses, please fill out this form. For more information about how our SONA program works, please visit our website or email

The CRC staff behind the reception desk in various stages of working and communication.
A typical day in the CRC. Photo courtesy of Derek Palmer.

I am incredibly grateful for the commitment and hard work of our staff this fall. Amanda King joined us in September as our Lab and Research Manager and has been quickly getting up to speed on CRC technologies and activities. I look forward to working with them in the Spring semester and beyond. I would also like to thank our wonderful graduate assistants who helped to keep the Center running. Zain Bali (MCR) was our SONA administrator doing the behind-the-scenes work on our research participant management system. Snigdha Bhowmik (FTV) was our Communications Assistant writing about and promoting our activities. And Xinyue “Tracy” Cui (FTV) was our Events Assistant capturing our activities for posterity and making them available on our website. Thanks to you all!

To our CRC community of fellows, I wish you all a joyous and restful holiday season and look forward to the many new and exciting activities we are planning for 2024!

Letter from the Director: November 2023

By ajk90November 22nd, 2023in Homepage, Letters From the Director

In Thanksgiving: Rosalynn Carter as Political Communicator (1927-2023)

By: Michelle Amazeen

A black and white photo of Mrs. Rosalynn Carter speaking at a podium in front of a poster titled 'Mental Health Association'.

With multiple wars raging and the world enduring infodemics, pandemics, and climate-related disasters, it may seem difficult to be grateful for much of anything at present. However, at this time of Thanksgiving in the United States, I wanted to pay homage to a former First Lady whose actions touched on all of these calamities. Rosalynn Carter died this past Sunday on November 19, 2023 at the age of 96 at her home in Plains, Georgia. To do so, I turned to COM’s Senior Associate Dean, Dr. Tammy R. Vigil, whose expertise includes women as political communicators and who has authored two books about First Ladies including Moms in Chief: The Rhetoric of Republican Motherhood and the Spouses of Presidential Nominees, 1992-2016 (University Press of Kansas, 2019) and Melania & Michelle: First Ladies in a New Era (Red Lightning Books, 2019). The following is a tribute from Dr. Vigil:

Rosalynn Carter often appeared the picture of demure, middle-class femininity in a well-ironed blouse neatly tucked into a simple A-line skirt. Yet, behind the outward image of reserved simplicity stood a fearless first lady who broke barriers and pushed boundaries. Rosalynn Carter, well-known as a champion of mental health, served as the key White House administrator on behalf of the Mental Health Systems Act and testified in front of Congress as part of her advocacy efforts. She also vigorously supported the Equal Rights Amendment, led workshops on alleviating unemployment, and supported cultural exchange programs. Carter was frequently an official emissary of the president, embarking on diplomatic efforts in Brazil, Costa Rica, Rome, and Thailand, negotiating on behalf of the president and the nation in a manner few first ladies dared to do. Her courageous efforts to use the “velvet pulpit” of the first ladyship in a meaningful fashion resulted in Time magazine dubbing her “the second most powerful person in the United States” in 1979. Her high level of activity led to legislative efforts to curb her influence, yet she persisted. Rosalynn Carter helped formalize the Office of the First Lady, creating resources and space for future presidential spouses to more effectively advocate for causes that impact a wide range of constituents.

During the more than four decades since she left the East Wing, Rosalynn Carter travelled the world as an inspirational and assertive figure whose goals were, as she put it, “waging peace, fighting disease, and building hope.” She continued to crusade for causes she believed in and remained politically active throughout her life. Through the Carter Center, Rosalynn worked toward peace in the Middle East, led public conversations about sexual inequality, promoted childhood immunizations, and drew attention to the importance of caregiving. In 2018, she led a chorus of former first ladies who spoke out against the separation of migrant children from their families at the southern US border, drawing attention to the humanitarian crisis and calling for change. Two years later, she narrated a video segment for the 2020 Democratic National Convention in which she argued for national unity and optimism. Rosalynn Carter was a model of activism, compassion, determination, and empowerment.

I am grateful for the work of Mrs. Carter on behalf of our country and humanity. I am also grateful for the work of my colleagues whose communication research illuminates these important actors.

I wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving with time to reflect and reconnect.

A black and white photo of Mrs. Rosalynn Carter speaking in front of an audience.