Category: Research

Eighth Annual Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium

Photo by: Dr. George Daniels via Twitter

The College of Communication and Information Sciences continued its legacy of celebrating diversity with the eighth annual Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium held at Gorgas Library on Monday, March 27.

The symposium, which has served as a launching pad for further exploration of ways to integrate diversity education and intercultural communication into the College’s curriculum, has drawn national attention to C&IS diversity initiatives. In 2015, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) recognized C&IS with its annual Equity and Diversity Award and cited the Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium as one of the College’s stand out features.

“The Diversity Symposium offers an opportunity for C&IS faculty and students to learn from each other and about diversity in its various iterations,” said Dr. Robin Boylorn, associate professor of communication studies and panel presenter for the event. “[It] gives us a chance to talk through and think through the dynamic ways we engage difference in our scholarship, and it challenges us to do more. It provides a space for dissemination, collaboration, networking, receiving feedback, and being challenged.”

Boylorn, whose recently released book, “The Crunk Feminist Collection,” has been warmly received by feminist scholars and literary critics alike, presented her work on the representation of black masculinity in hip hop films during the symposium’s “Diversity in Media” panel session. Fernando Morales, a UA graduate student in communication studies, and Dr. Sally Paulson, assistant professor in the Department of Language and Literature at Delta State University, also presented their work as part of the panel.

Morales, whose research focuses on the possibilities and tensions that surface when marginalized groups adapt, re-imagine, or enter stories marked as “classic” or “American,” discussed his autoethnographic piece on the struggles of Latino actors in an industry that often stereotypes People of Color in making casting decisions.

In addition to panel presentations on the role of diversity in the media, educational and organizational settings, students across the spectrum of C&IS departments and majors presented research during the morning’s poster session.

Caitlin Dyche, a graduate student in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media, presented her research on the incorporation of emoji into the modern vernacular and its influence on computer-mediated communication.

“While emoji have become universally available, this does not mean that their usage and connotative meanings are also universal,” Dyche wrote in the paper’s abstract. “In fact, the motivation for emoji use is still hotly debated.”

Beyond examining how and why emoji are being used in countries around the world, Dyche also discussed which emoji are being used most often in synchronous computer mediated communication and whether such usage patterns relate significantly to culture.

“It was really great to see some of the research that is being done on diversity both within and across cultures,” Dyche said. “The poster presentations themselves were diverse in their topics and the panel on diversity in film and media was pretty incredible as it looked at how different groups of people are being portrayed from both sides of the silver screen, as well as shows that portray the importance and power of inclusivity and diversity.”

The event culminated with a keynote address by Dr. Clara Chu, director of the Mortensen Center for International Library Programs at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Chu discussed paradigm shifts in research related to diversity.

Dr. Robert Riter – Research Profile

Dr. Robert Riter, assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Studies, recently presented his work on documentary reproduction and the ethics of containment at the Communication and Information in Network Society: Experience and Insights III conference in Vilnius, Lithuania.

His paper examined the ethical issues associated with the digitization of original sources, the intellectual relationships that exist between original sources and their digital surrogates, and the influence of documentary reproduction on artifactual identity. Riter discussed the priority of specific evidential and informational values over others in the digitization process, specifically addressing the originating materiality of the source and its communicative elements. He suggested that the practice provides a context for considering how reproduction and containment practices inform the expression of information and evidence in original sources.

In line with this work, Riter’s primary research interests focus on historical topics associated with the publication of original sources, materiality, intellectual and conceptual foundations of archival thought and practice, and the documentary and archival properties of book art.

Riter received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh where his dissertation examined American historical documentary editing, particularly focusing on early modern editorial theory, methods, and their influence on documentary production. Riter holds teaching appointments in library and information studies and book arts. He is the coordinator of the SLIS archival studies program and serves as an advisor to the Birmingham Black Radio Museum and The University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco in Society.

Dr. Cynthia Peacock – Research Profile

Dr. Cynthia Peacock is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Communication and Information Sciences. A recent addition to the C&IS faculty, Peacock brings several years of teaching and research experience with her to the position. Her research interests focus on political communication, communication theory and media effects.

Peacock’s work with Dr. Peter Leavitt, a social psychologist and visiting professor at Dickinson College, titled “Engaging Young People: Deliberative preferences in discussions about news and politics” was recently published in SocialMedia + Society.

The pair’s study examined the way college students perceive the online world as a venue for political discussion by analyzing responses from six focus groups conducted with college students across the United States. Guided by deliberative theory, the pair found that young people prefer engaging with others who are knowledgeable and remain flexible and calm during discussions. They also found that young people’s goals for engaging in conversations about politics primarily revolved around sharing information and opinions, and that they tended to prefer civil discourses that focused on commonalities rather than differences between people.

Peacock completed her dissertation, titled “Talking Politics: Political Opinion Expression and Avoidance across Conservative, Liberal, and Heterogeneous Groups,” in 2016 as a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to SocialMedia + Society, Peacock has also published work in American Behavioral Scientist and Communication Research Reports. She has also written several grant-funded whitepapers for engagingnewsproject.org and presented research at several top communication conferences around the world.

 

An Advocate for the Deaf: Dr. Darrin Griffin

Dr. Darrin Griffin, assistant professor of communication studies, is an advocate for Deaf* culture and has conducted research on nonverbal communication, interpersonal communication, lies and deception. As a child of deaf adults (CODA) Griffin’s experiences have shaped his interests and scholarly work on nonverbal communication since the beginning of his academic career.

Griffin’s understanding and exploration of Deaf culture has led to several Deaf culture initiatives in the College of Communication and Information Sciences. Most recently, he hosted a training session for local law enforcement officers on best practices when working with deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Officers also learned basic sign language to use during traffic stops and key components of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition to his work with public officials, Griffin has piloted an interim course on Deaf culture. This summer, students spent two weeks immersed in Deaf culture studies on campus before traveling to Washington, D.C. where they visited Gallaudet University – a private university for the education of the Deaf. Griffin has plans to expand the curriculum to include a winter interim course with a travel component. This time, the group will head to Austin, Texas – Griffin’s home town and one of the hubs for Deaf culture in America.

*in reference to the culture surrounding individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, the “d” in deaf is capitalized.

Dr. Darrin Griffin received his undergraduate degree in Deaf studies and deaf education from the University of Texas at Austin. He then moved to Buffalo, New York where he earned his PhD. His dissertation focused on deaf schemas. For more on Griffin’s work, visit this site.

 

RESEARCH: LGBTQ Families and Children’s Literature

Dr. Jamie Cambpell Naidoo is an associate professor in the School of Library and Information Studies. His research interests include the portrayal of underrepresented groups in children’s and young adult literature and library services to gender-variant and LGBTQ children and parents. He is the 2016 recipient of the American Library Association’s Achievement in Diversity Research award.

LGBTQ Families and Children’s Literature

LGBTQ families with children are legitimate members of a community and should receive the same library services and educational opportunities as any other type of family. Children in LGBTQ families are not different than other children in their need to feel accepted, valued, and loved. Libraries hold a unique opportunity for these families by creating welcoming environments that acknowledge these families and celebrate their differences and similarities. By providing children’s book that represent LGBTQ families, libraries validate their experiences, provide opportunities for children in LGBTQ families to make important literary connections and develop positive self-efficacy and self-esteem, and assist all children in understanding themselves and the world around them.

Given the current political climate where specific states are creating anti-LGBTQ legislation designed to discriminate against individuals in LGBTQ families, we are at a critical juncture to educate our children to respect family and cultural diversity. If we want U.S. children to be successful members in our culturally pluralistic world, then we must instill common virtues such as kindness, acceptance, and understanding. The research that I conduct explores how librarians can assist children in celebrating diversity, rather than ridiculing and rejecting peers and other individuals whose perspectives are different from their own. This is covered in my book Rainbow Family Collections: Selecting and Using Children’s Books with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Content (Libraries Unlimited, 2012) and in my other publications such as the paper “Access to a world of Rainbow Family children’s books via partnerships and programs: Suggestions for library outreach to LGBT family associations,” 2015 IFLA Conference Proceedings (available here) http://library.ifla.org/1289/ and the article “Over the rainbow and under the radar: Library services and programs to LGBTQ families” in the journal Children and Libraries (Winter 2013). I also examine how educators can use digital apps and other forms of digital media to help children explore all types of cultural diversity. This is evidenced in my book Diversity Programming for Digital Youth: Promoting Cultural Competence in the Children’s Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2014) and article with Dr. Miriam Sweeney, “Educating for social justice: Perspectives from library and information science and collaboration with K-12 social studies educators” in the Journal of International Social Studies (2015).

ICIR Scholar Spotlight: Dr. Scott Parrott

Dr. Scott Parrott studies media and social cognition, or how media shape the way one thinks about other people and the mental processes by which this occurs. He is also interested in how mass media portray social groups.

What made you interested in your field?

In my former life, I was a news reporter in North Carolina. I was actually an investigative reporter toward the end, so we did these big projects, and the last major project I worked on was about mental health care. North Carolina had fallen on hard times –they had restructured the old mental health system, but it was not doing well. We did 19 or 20 articles on this topic. While I was reporting, I met a lot of people with a range of mental illnesses like anxiety to schizophrenia. They kept saying one of the major problems that they face in terms of healthcare and living healthy lives is how people with mental illness are portrayed in the media. The media do not do a good job of telling the world what it’s like to live with a mental illness, and so the things that people think about mental illness are usually wrong. This can lead to stereotypes, stigma, and problems for society. I made the transition from reporting to academia, and now I have the opportunity to see if they were right- and guess what, they were right.

Why is research needed in your field?

I think we underestimate the influence of media in our lives. Think about your own day -from the time you get up to the time you go to bed- and how often you interact with the media, even if it’s watching a movie or using social media. I think it’s really important to understand what kind of effect that’s having on us and why: the why is a big question in research. You’re not really supposed to be an advocate when it comes to research; you’re supposed to be neutral. But if your research can do good and try to change stigma, like the ones attached to mental illness, then that is a good thing.

What are some of the steps to your research process?

A lot of white boards. I think my problem is I’m interested in too much, so I have to put the blinders on and focus on one thing at a time. I have a difficult time with that because there is just so much in the world that is interesting, especially when it comes to media and the way our minds work. I, typically, just start with an idea that gets the wheels spinning. Then the next thing is to read as much as you can on the topic and see what’s been done because usually there’s not an idea that is completely original. The design is really important especially when it comes to experiments because you have to be sure that what you’re measuring is what you’re measuring with the questions you ask people. With media content, you’re exposing them to types of media, so you have to be sure the stimulus material is getting at what you’re interested in. Usually that’s it. It sounds really short, but it’s actually a time-consuming process.

Do your findings alter preconceived notions that you’ve had on a subject?

Yes. For instance, I do gender research as well, and there was a study we did recently where we looked at crime-based television shows and how they portrayed gender. Essentially, we found that women were underrepresented, so it was a predominantly male television world. But then when women, white women in particular, appeared in these programs, they often became victims of violence by random strangers, which completely disregards statistics from the FBI. So there is some kind of gender message going on there. The question for me again is why, why is this happening? I came up with this experiment where participants came in and sat down at the computer and I announced that they would write a script for a TV show. I told them that I was randomly going to assign them a genre, it could be anything from an ER drama to a sitcom, but really everyone got crime dramas. Ninety percent of the scripts had a female victim because of gender stereotypes. We view males as protectors, while we consider females in need of protection. However, the surprising finding was as I was reading the scripts later on, a pattern emerged. A lot of the scripts began with ‘a women is walking home alone from work at night and she is attacked from behind.’ So I used software to check that I wasn’t reading too much into it, and it turns out that the same description kept turning up in the scripts. These results took the research in a whole new direction, and it’s starting to look at what’s happening mentally. We are basing our perceptions of crime, mental illness, and other things on what TV is telling us, and TV is telling us lies. It shapes how we interact with the world.

What do you need to conduct your research?

I do content analysis, so I don’t need much to do my research. I just need people who enjoy doing the same types of research. So every Thursday I get together with a couple of Emerging Scholars students and we sit in a computer lab and analyze content -right now we are looking at portrayals of schizophrenia in news organizations. They’re great help. The other thing I use is a software called inquisit, which is something they use in psychology to measure reaction times.

Why do you involve others in your research?

It’s a lot more fun. My mentors, at some point, introduced me to research. Then I went to graduate school here, and later at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and participating in research was one of the most rewarding things in my life. It did completely change my life. I remember sitting in classes and my mind would be blown. I really like working with undergraduates and master students because they haven’t been introduced to much of the research world. When you can just see that excitement and fascination kicking in, it’s really rewarding.

*This interview was originally published on the ICIR website as a “scholar spotlight.”