Letter from the Director: July 2024

The Role of Information Integrity in BU’s Next Chapter

By: Michelle Amazeen

As part of COM’s strategic plan to focus on communication that helps society engage with modern challenges, many fellows of the Communication Research Center have been sharpening their attention on issues of information integrity. As such, it was unsurprising to see so many of our researchers in the Gold Coast of Australia at the 74th Annual International Communication Association conference that was themed, “Communication and Global Human Rights.” Indeed, the United Nations has long held that freedom of information is a fundamental human right and “is the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.”

To demonstrate its commitment to the integrity of information, Secretary-General António Guterres recently announced the UN’s Global Principles for Information Integrity. Coming just months after the World Economic Forum’s 2024 Global Risks report warned the threat of mis- and disinformation will intensify societal divides around the world over the next two years, the UN report provides a much needed official framework to protect and promote the integrity of information in our media ecosystems at a time when accurate information is under siege. Given that democratic societies depend upon fact-based, shared perceptions of reality, these assaults on information are an attack on democracy.

As the Secretary General called out stakeholders for their role in this crisis, I was struck by how many of our CRC fellows are already engaged in researching aspects of these very issues. Whether its studying the damage the products of big tech companies are having on individuals and society or the evolution of their platform guidelines, to how advertisers and the public relations industry are creating coordinated disinformation campaigns to undermine climate action, our fellows are on it. We also have teams of our researchers studying the implications of generative artificial intelligence, another factor mentioned by Guterres as supercharging the threats to information integrity.

With BU’s transition to the leadership of President Melissa Gilliam and Provost Gloria Waters, a refreshening of the thematic areas of the university’s strategic plans is likely in store, in part to better reflect the research excellence of the university. Given how information integrity is affecting so many aspects of society, this is one area where researchers from COM can and should be leading. I look forward to this next chapter in BU’s journey.

Letter from the Director: May 2024

The Spring 2024 Semester in Review

By: Michelle Amazeen

An image of Boston University in the background, with the Green Line in the foreground. The street lined with trees.

With the end of another semester, I have been reflecting upon the many activities in the CRC and among our fellows in 2024, thus far. This spring, we launched the inaugural call for Faculty Research Seed Grant proposals with the aim of fostering inter-departmental, cross-disciplinary collaborations on communication-related issues to help society engage with modern challenges. The CRC is pleased to announce three teams of awardees:

  • Dr. Katy Coduto, Assistant Professor, Media Science, and Prof. Margaret Wallace, Associate Professor of the Practice, Media Innovation for their project, “Mapping Relational Trajectories with Generative Artificial Intelligence: Insights for Theory and Practice.
  • Dr. Yi Grace Ji, Assistant Professor, Mass Communication, Advertising, and Public Relations; Dr. James J. Cummings, Associate Professor, Emerging Media Studies; Dr. Chris Chao Su, Assistant Professor, Emerging Media Studies, and Prof. Anne Danehy, Associate Professor of the Practice, Mass Communication, Advertising, and Public Relations for their project, “Learning Information with Generative AI: Implications for Elaborative Processing.
  • Dr. AnneMarie McClain, Assistant Professor, Media Science and Elly Kramer, former Senior Vice President of Animation at Imagine Entertainment & Television for their project, “Representing Gender Expansively: Media Uses and Hopes Among Gender Expansive Youth and Their Families.

Look for more details about these projects in the future on our website and as part of the CRC’s Colloquium Lecture Series.

Now in its 15th year of programming, our Colloquium Series consists of monthly research presentations that highlight the original research of our CRC fellows. I would like to thank our 2024 spring Colloquium speakers which included Dr. James E. Katz, Feld Professor of Emerging Media Studies (February), Dr. AnneMarie McClain, Assistant Professor of Media Science (March), and Prof. Anne Danehy, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs (April). You can read about and see recordings of each of these presentations as well as those from all of our past Colloquium speakers on our website.

In addition to our Colloquium Series, every semester our fellows nominate a distinguished scholar from outside the university to share their outstanding scholarship, expertise, and experience with the BU community. Our distinguished lecture series is a tribute to Dr. Melvin L. DeFleur, a past colleague, to honor his contributions to the fields of communication and media research. This spring, we were honored to host Dr. Lee H. Humphreys (Cornell University) as our DeFleur Distinguished Lecturer who spoke about “Sensor Mediated Communication and the Internet of Things.” A recording of her talk is accessible on our website, as well.

In promoting a culture of research and collaboration, our fellows had opportunities throughout the semester to gather together in person. Our Work-In-Progress meetings enabled fellows to discuss their ongoing research, conference submission plans as well as Institutional Review Board and grant-seeking questions. Moreover, our PhD fellow Briana Trifiro continued the Lunch & Learn series enabling doctoral students the opportunity to talk with faculty and Emerging Media Studies PhD alumni about their academic research and careers. While we will continue these activities in the future, please let me know if you have ideas for other ways to foster opportunities for intellectual inquiry.

Since its inception in January 2022, the COM/CRC Media & Technology Public Opinion Poll has enabled faculty fellows to advance their thought leadership on a variety of information integrity topics. This past semester, our polls involved media literacy (January), dating apps (February), and text generated by artificial intelligence (March) leading to media coverage from The Boston Globe and NPR. Faculty members with ideas for a future poll can get involved by completing this Google Form.

Given the University’s commitment to engaging 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, 25 research studies were available to over 600 students from 22 different COM courses. I hope you will consider registering your courses for the fall semester. For more information about how our SONA program works, please visit our website or email

Last but not least, I am incredibly grateful for the commitment and hard work of our staff this spring. Many thanks to our Lab and Research Manager, Amanda King, who has made our facilities a welcoming place for scholarly activities and has skillfully trained both experienced and emerging researchers on the technologies offered by the CRC. I would also like to thank our wonderful graduate assistants who helped to keep the Center running. Alyssa Hance (EMS) was our SONA administrator assisting with the behind-the-scenes work on our research participant management system and also assisted with research projects in the Center. YiFang “Violet” Li (MCR) was our Communications Assistant writing about and promoting our activities and our fellows. And Abby Bonner (FTV) was our Podcast Assistant developing the protocols and processes for our planned podcasting efforts. Thanks to you all!

To our CRC community of fellows, I wish you a wonderful summer with time to relax and recharge. I look forward to seeing you in the fall.

Survey: Leery of Government Regulation, Americans Want Social Media to Police Misinformation

By Burt Glass

The U.S. government should not regulate social media platforms, but the platform owners should remove, hide or limit traffic to posts with unverified information, according to Americans responding to a new Media & Technology Survey from Boston University’s College of Communication, out today.

A strong plurality (46%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the U.S. government regulating social media platforms, compared to only 28% who agreed or strongly agreed. Respondents expressed more agreement with the removal (63%) or minimizing (57%) of unverified information by the platforms themselves.

These results reflect both the public’s skepticism of governmental overreach and support for private solutions to countering misinformation, according to Chris Chao Su, an assistant professor of emerging media studies at Boston University’s College of Communication who designed the survey.

Read full story here.

Student Spotlight: Jessy (Jiaxin) Wang on Exploring Media Psychology

By Michelle AmazeenApril 26th, 2024in Homepage

By Violet Li

Jessy Wang, a committed Ph.D. student in Emerging Media Studies, explores the intricate relationship between media psychology, mental health, and human-computer interaction, with a specific focus on the cognitive effects of emerging media. Recently, they engaged in a detailed discussion with Violet Li, a Communication Assistant at the Communication Research Center, to delve into her academic pursuits and aspirations.

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

Jessy: I spent a bit of time applying to PhD programs. Applying to colleges was definitely a big deal for me because I needed to organize all of my research materials. I was working on my research and trying to enhance my background and skills in research. During that time, I worked as a research assistant in a psychology lab. Although my background was in communication throughout my bachelor's and master's, I've always been interested in psychology, particularly media psychology, which is a burgeoning field. So at that time, I was working in a psychology lab. They used media to help veterans with their mental health, and they also developed chatbots to assist high school students when they received acceptance letters to their ideal college. Some of these students didn't follow through, a phenomenon known as "summer melt," because they got an offer but didn't attend. The goal was to use the chatbot to help them manage their mental state and provide overall support.

Working in the Applied Psychology Lab offered an overlap between media and psychology, which I found compelling. My previous experience as a crisis counselor in New York during COVID-19, assisting with the mental health of the city's residents, really propelled me into the Media Psychology program. Although it's part of the Emerging Media Studies department, I appreciate its interdisciplinary approach. I've brought all the insights from my past research and work experience into this program to begin my journey in media psychology. 

Violet: “Can you share with us your upcoming research interests? Because you just mentioned you do some psychology research? Would you continue doing psychology?

Jessy: Yeah, I've always had a high interest in psychology, and I think media psychology is a combination of my interests in media and emerging technologies, like social media, VR, and other media equipment, as well as human behavior. I'm interested in how media affects people's daily lives since it's become so immersed in every aspect of our work and life. This is tied to my previous experience, which shows my concern for mental health. So, I feel my empathy for individuals drives me to a research career. This empathy also motivates me to understand how media can benefit people and the impact it has.

In the future, my main goal is to research these areas, and I'm still considering which methodology to adopt. The Emerging Media Studies (EMS) program is very interdisciplinary, placing a significant emphasis on social media analysis and media psychology, which leans more toward empirical and experimental methods. I'm debating which direction to take, but I want to maintain a broad scope and explore my interests further to better understand the interaction between media and people. As a researcher, I aim to support or contribute to the field, investigating how we can maximize the benefits of these interactions.

Violet: “Did you work on any interesting projects in class this semester?”

Jessy: I think, especially this semester. Last semester, I was kind of trying to adapt. This semester, I was exposed to very good research project opportunities. Right now, I'm working on two projects. The first is primarily under the media psychology side. In that course, led by Dr.Cummings, my group is conducting research on dating apps. We're examining different levels of self-disclosure on dating app profiles, and how people with different attachment styles might engage with these profiles based on their levels of self-disclosure.

And then there's another project in Dr. Su's class, which also pursues my interest in social media bias or stigmatization. In this project, we're focusing on HPV, the STI (sexual transmitted infection). People don't call it a disease right now to avoid stigmatization. We're using Twitter data to analyze people's attitudes toward HPV. The mainstream narrative on social media mainly focuses on the HPV vaccine, but there are other facts about HPV that people might not know. For instance, the vaccine is for preventing cervical cancer, and there's a misconception that only women can contract cervical cancer and should get vaccinated. However, men can also be carriers and get infected by HPV. Some data shows that one out of three men in the U.S. can contract an HPV infection.

We're trying to use social media data and apply NLP methods to analyze people's knowledge and attitudes about HPV on social media. We want to identify what might be ignored or neglected in people's mindsets, as even though social media only shows a part of the entire social group's idea, it can still indicate some parts of social reality. That's another project I'm working on this semester.

I do find my interest in interpersonal research, even though the projects I'm working on—like one being an experiment and the other being a social media analysis—seem totally different. But you can see, HPV is about sex, and that's about human interaction and the result of that. The dating app research is also about human behavior and interpersonal interaction. So I think I just have a general interest in the interaction of interpersonal relationships between people. That's one takeaway from my first year, and I will probably explore more in that orientation.

Violet: “Have you had any funny experiences during your first year of the Ph.D. program outside of the campus?

Jessy: Yeah, I am a bass player. So I've done some street performances in Boston, because I was in New York, and now I've just moved to this new city. That music has introduced me to more new people outside of campus. So yeah, we did two performances—one was last semester, and this semester, we also did one on St. Patrick’s Day. We tried to earn some money, to have some more—I tried to see how my street performer career goals would compare to my PhD? Those both. But no, I think the funny part was the performance on St. Patrick’s Day, where we only got like $22, which is less than my PhD stipend. So I guess I should just seriously stick with my PhD and not drop it for a musician career. That's a joke, but that’s the fun part. I don't think the PhD gives me a lot of time, so I don't have enough time to practice, but still, it's fun to play a bit outside of campus.

Violet: “Is the Ph.D. program stressful? ”

Jessy: Yeah, definitely. I always say that there was no break from my stress.  In the first year, especially with James and Naa by my side, I feel very fortunate. But I definitely need to think more about the other aspects of my life. So yeah, taking school classes, fulfilling my PhD role, and holding RA and TA positions all at the same time, while considering if I can maintain my life hobbies, like music, and also pondering what my life will be after this PhD program, is challenging. Managing what I'm doing on my trajectory, like, there's a lot happening simultaneously, and Boston is also a new city for me. So it's very stressful.

But at the same time, I think the EMS program and all the professors have offered me a lot of support. At the beginning, I was very avoidant because everything was new to me. Even though everyone looked very friendly, I still felt timid about what questions I could ask. As a PhD student, you're perceived as someone who shouldn't ask 'stupid' questions, especially when taking classes with other master's students. I might not know the most about the class or research because, although I have my expertise, I believe the other students have their own strengths. But as a PhD student, it's hard to admit that I'm not good at something. You see, people have this expectation, like, 'You got into this fantastic program; how could you not be that talented or knowledgeable?' But I think now I'm getting used to it, and it's a great start for my research career. Realizing, or rather being brave enough to acknowledge that I can be wrong, has been a step forward. Since realizing this, I always ask for help, whether from professors, master's students, or even undergraduates. Even though it's very stressful, it's also a valuable opportunity for me to train my mindset, which is meaningful to prepare me for my future life.

Violet: “I'm happy to see you've undergone such a transformation. And actually, you just mentioned Boston is new to us. So how do you feel about Boston compared to any other city you have lived in like New York?”

Jessy: I was just so uncomfortable living in Boston because New York is a walkable city. You can take the train or just walk anywhere. But Boston is more spread out, with areas like Allston. It seems like you cannot find one place to meet everyone. It took me a while to get used to Boston. And I don't know why, but I didn't see the artistic side either. Yes, because, you know, Boston has so many PhDs from, like, around 20 to 40 universities or colleges, and there are so many PhD holders. In New York, it was so easy for me to meet someone who is an artist, but in Boston, it feels like everyone has a PhD. So, I felt that Boston is very wholesome and educated, which was very new to me because I'm more of a hipster style or just like the artistic vibe. Now, I think I've gained a more decent style because of Boston. 

Violet: “Has CRC provided any support or had a positive impact on you during this past year?”

Jessy: I think I want to mention one thing I don't like about CRC. Because it is in the basement,it doesn't get much light, no sunshine at all. And I know CRC is on the opposite side to CDS, so you can see, I'm like, ‘Okay, that's my future. Yes, in the future, at that building.’ But it's okay. I think that's the only thing I don't like about it. 

But other than that, everything is just so perfect. It's everywhere, so friendly. Like in the PhD office, sometimes I work there and meet other PhDs, and I have a lot of questions, and they are all very happily willing to offer their help or suggestions, whether they are life-related or research-related, are always welcomed.

Also, the faculties are  very supportive. I know they are very busy, so I was also surprised at how much support they could offer. They care about my growth and keep track of my performance and growth, advising me on how to improve myself and offering me resources at the same time.

Like Amanda, she's always friendly and she offered me a lot of support whenever I needed it. She brought sunlight to this basement CRC. I already emphasized the way the sunlight, even though we are in the basement, made a difference, and also all the other lab resources. This is something I never had before. CRC definitely supports me a lot, not just talking about the sunlight part but also the supportive environment.

Violet: “Although it might be early to ask, what do you think you'll do after completing your Ph.D.?”

Jessy: I can see that completing my PhD will be a struggle, but I've made up my mind to finish it. I feel like, especially based on our conversation, with all the resources, excellent faculty, and support around me, I won't have another chance in my life to devote myself to the research I'm interested in with this level of support. So, I want to take this opportunity and immerse myself in my research interests and dive deep into them. Actually, I'm not sure what I'm going to do after the PhD program. Ideally, I want to continue; I think ultimately, I want to continue in a research role, but I'm unsure which path to take. As a researcher, whether in industry or academia, I am open to both because I really have faith in research, so I can confirm that I want to continue as a researcher, and probably as an educator. Even though I'm not like the other PhD students who have a very consistent or stable level of intelligence, I have my experience in how to grow from the current status. And because of the support I received from faculty, I expect to be a caregiver and an educator, possibly to my students in the future, if I have the chance. So, definitely, I see myself as a researcher and potentially an educator to share my experience and to continuously engage with young people.

As Jessy looks to the future, their journey through the PhD program has not only honed their research skills but also deepened their understanding of themselves as a scholar and a collaborator. Armed with a blend of empathy, resilience, and academic rigor, they are poised to contribute significantly to the field of media psychology. With a passion for both research and education, Jessy aims to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, aspiring to create impactful solutions that address real-world problems. Their commitment reflects a profound dedication to advancing their field and nurturing the next generation of thinkers and leaders in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Physiological Measurement in Practice with Dr. Wu

By Alyssa HanceApril 12th, 2024in Biometrics, Homepage

Researchers from any discipline are familiar with the question that can haunt the data collection process of an experiment: is the level of measurement used valid externally and internally?  How do you know your research measurements are capturing valid data from participants?

How a researcher chooses their method of data collection can come from a multitude of factors, like the researcher’s ontological and methodological standpoints, previous literature in the field, or the study design itself. A frequent method of measuring an individual’s response is through self-report measures.

Self-report measures are quite common in the field of communication research, and can be frequently seen through the use of surveys, in-depth interviews, and focus groups. While these methods are tested and validated throughout years of research across disciplines, validity can still be a concern when using this methodology. How does a researcher know individuals are reporting their responses accurately, and aren’t saying an answer they think the researcher wants to hear, or didn’t want to make a bad impression or want to be judged by their answer? To reduce potential limitations with self-report data, leveraging physiological measures can be used in-tandem to uncover another layer of participant data.

Physiological measures can provide a different angle of data by measuring emotional and cognitive responses through a participant'sThis is an image of a student using biometric to analyze a piece of data. biological response. Types of physiological measurement can include tracking eye movements, reading facial expressions, and gauging skin conductance- a measure that focuses on the microscopic sweat-level of the skin, noting a participant’s level of emotional response to a particular piece of media. This type of measurement can give researchers participants’ emotional and cognitive responses without social desirability or recall biases. But, like any other form of measurement, using biometric and physiological data are not without their own set of limitations. A physiological response can be caused by a variety of factors besides the chosen stimulus in a study, and may not even be a conscious act of the participant. A participant’s facial expression may change for no reason, and a sudden rise in skin conductance may be due to room temperature, or another external factor.

Here at the Communication Research Center (CRC), we are equipped with physiological devices and iMotions biometric software that are used by Boston University researchers to bring reliable data on a participant’s emotional and cognitive responses. COM professor Dr. Denis Wu’s recently published 2024 article, Physiological Response to Political Advertisement: Examining the Influence of Partisan and Issue Congruence on Attention and Emotion, published in the prestigious International Journal of Communication, highlights using biometrics to uncover another side of analysis CRC’s biometric tools.

This is a photo of Dr. Denis Wu.In his article, Dr. Wu combined surveys with facial analysis and eye-tracking data to analyze participant’s emotional and cognitive reaction to US political commercials during the 2016 election cycle. By using the CRC’s eye-tracking device and iMotions biometric software, Dr. Wu was able to identify participant’s facial expressions and attention levels to political advertisements through analyzing their eye movement activity. The study found that attention to the political advertisements influenced by the level of the ad aligning to the participant's preferred political party. Dr. Wu also found that participants' facial expressions were less negative than predicted, but were never “elated”.

Interestingly, Dr. Wu also found sections of self-report data and biometric eye tracking data were not perfectly aligned, nor self-reported emotions and facial expression data. This is an important observation, and can show that sometimes self-report measures and physiological measures can highlight different results. However, Dr. Wu makes an important observation: outside factors could be the cause of the different results, and researchers should not assume these different measures are not effective in research.

No form of measurement is without limitations, and there will always be questions of validity and accuracy when conducting research of any kind. However, combining self-report data with physiological measurements presents a deeper analysis of a participant’s reaction. The CRC is proud to have supported Dr. Wu in his recent article, and our physiological and biometric tools are used by graduate students and faculty in their research efforts. For more information on the tools available at the CRC, visit our biometrics page.

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.