Category: Research

SLIS Graduate Student Jillian Sico

Graduate Student Spotlight: Jillian Sico

This story is one in a continuing series of C&IS graduate student spotlights. These spotlights give insight into the academic and professional lives of master’s and Ph.D. students as they advance knowledge in their respective fields of communication and information sciences. The questions serve to highlight the many aspects of the graduate student experience as well provide guidance for prospective students. To nominate a current C&IS student or graduate for a spotlight, email Cole Lanier at mclanier@ua.edu

Jillian Sico, a current graduate student in the MFA Book Arts program, discusses switching careers at age 34, her proudest moments and greatest challenges. When not studying in Gorgas Library, Sico can be found outside: hiking, camping and collecting plants. With the help of another graduate student, Sico started a community garden plot in Tuscaloosa where they grow papermaking and dye plants. Here is what she has to say about her experience in C&IS:

Tell us about your experience in graduate school.

I came to the MFA Book Arts program after earning an MA in Anthropology at UGA and working for several years in the non profit world. Being in the Book Arts program at UA has allowed me to pursue my dream of a second career in art, while also doing academic research on papermaking and book arts traditions. I feel very privileged to be here learning new creative skills, including letterpress printing, papermaking and bookbinding.

What are some of the highlights during your time in graduate school? 

I was excited to be supported by SLIS, the Graduate School, and Capstone International Center to do research on papermaking and book arts in Mexico last summer. Last fall, I made an artist book edition about amate, a traditional type of bark paper from Mexico, using paper made from mulberry bark I harvested here in Tuscaloosa. I was incredibly honored (and surprised!) to receive the C&IS and University-wide award for Outstanding Research by a Master’s Student this spring, as well as the SLIS Faculty Scholar Award and the Raymond F. McLain Book Arts Award.

What are your plans after graduation? How does this degree fit into your life plans?

I hope to teach university-level and workshop classes in book arts and papermaking, continue to research papermaking, and make artist books. I would also like to do some community outreach, especially related to papermaking. I really feel I have found my calling in book arts, so I hope I can make a successful career out of it.

What has been your greatest challenge?

The creative process is always inherently challenging, especially after being removed from it for so many years.

What is your favorite part about the program?

I love making artist book editions, especially ones that involve handmade paper, writing and some form of research. The Book Arts faculty, Anna Embree and Sarah Bryant, are also amazing artists and people who have been incredibly supportive; I feel lucky to know them.

What advice do you have to students about to enter graduate school?

Try not to overbook yourself, but be very proactive about finding opportunities both within and outside the University. Be open to new ideas, but make sure to keep to your ideals, values and vision.

Why did you choose UA for your graduate studies?

UA has one of the best, most well-regarded and oldest Book Arts programs in the country. I was already living in the Southeast and glad I could stay in this region while studying what I love.

If you would like to learn more about Jillian’s graduate experience, you can follow her on Instagram at @jillianmarys.

 

Dr. Miriam Sweeney speaks at the Harvard Kennedy School.

SLIS Professor Discusses Latina AI at Harvard Kennedy School

The following is copied from the personal site of Dr. Miriam Sweeney, an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Studies, a department of the College of Communication and Information Sciences:

I had a wonderful time presenting with my research partner Melissa Villa-Nicholas on one of our projects about Latina AI at the Harvard Kennedy School on March 25th. Our talk focused on “Emma”, the Latina virtual assistant used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as a part of their e-government services. This presentation explores the cultural affordances of Latina identity as a strategic design choice in the Emma interface that extends citizenship and nation-building projects for the state, while masking underlying information and data gathering capabilities.

​We were privileged to have Dana Chisnell, co-director of the Center for Civic Design, serve as a moderator for our talk.  We felt very welcome, thanks largely to all of the hard work and planning of Vanessa Rhinesmith, the Associate Director of digitalHKS. Thank you to everyone who came and talked with us about the politics and surveillance implications of digital technologies designed to gather information about Latinx communities.

*Watch for our paper, “Designing the ‘good citizen’ through Latina identity in USCIS’s virtual assistant ‘Emma'”, in Feminist Media Studies forthcoming this summer 2019.

First Informers Documentary Showcases Local Broadcasters During 2018 Hurricanes

Dr. Chandra Clark with students and faculty from The University of Alabama and the University of Oklahoma standing with a bear statue.
Dr. Chandra Clark and Professor Scott Hodgson from the University of Oklahoma with students from The University of Alabama and Oklahoma.

Assistant professor of journalism and creative media Dr. Chandra Clark just released new videos about covering Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which struck North Carolina and Florida in 2018. They’re part of a larger documentary series named “First Informers” which highlights the role of broadcasters during disasters.

A collaborative effort with the University of Oklahoma (OU), the award-winning series documents the valuable role broadcasters play in times of emergency following severe weather events. Viewers hear directly from news anchors, field reporters, meteorologists and local officials who live and work in communities affected by the weather events.

“With the spotlight on journalists right now, it’s very dear to my heart to highlight the crucial role that they’re playing and how many of them are affected by these disasters, too,” said Clark. “They’re experiencing the same pain and going through the same adjustments as the people they serve.”

The First Informers videos are shared with regulators at the Federal Communications Commission, the White House, members of Congress, and state broadcast associations, to demonstrate the unique role broadcasting fulfills during times of emergency. To that effect, the Omnibus spending bill, which passed into law in March of 2018, included an allocation of $1 billion dollars for radio and television broadcasters for the spectrum repack, and it broadened the definition of “first responders” to include these broadcasters. This provides special consideration for broadcasters in times of emergency, including access to necessities such as emergency generators crisis areas.

“These videos served as a reminder to Washington lawmakers and regulators of the enduring ‘first informer’ role that can be played by local broadcasters in times of crisis,” said Dennis Wharton, Executive Vice President of Communications, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). “In the final analysis, it is generally the local radio and TV station that ‘gets the word out’ and saves lives in Tornado Alley, in California wildfires, during Superstorm Sandy and when there is an Amber Alert. NAB is proud of our partnership with Chandra and University of Alabama students who have performed exceptional work capturing the depth and breadth of local broadcasters’ work during ‘life or death’ situations.”

The First Informers project series has documented local broadcasting in several notable severe storm events over the past 8 years. Together with Clark, Prof. Scott Hodgson of the University of Oklahoma and a collective of students from Oklahoma and Alabama have partnered with the National Association of Broadcasters and the Broadcast Education Association to produce 31 videos (or mini-documentaries). These include the 2011 EF4 tornado in Tuscaloosa, the 2011 EF5 tornado in Joplin, the 2012 hurricane known as “Superstorm Sandy,” a 2013 EF5 tornado which struck Moore, Oklahoma, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017 and Hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018.

“There is no way projects of this magnitude can be done without a team effort,” says Hodgson, who serves as director for these projects that Dr. Clark produces.  “The time from when the weather emergency hits until boots hit the ground from our crew is incredibly short.  It takes an exceptional producer to pull off what Chandra is able to do. Her vast wealth of industry experience combined with her innate storytelling ability and leadership skills is the only reason we can do these projects.  Chandra is extremely unique and one of the best nationwide in academia today.”  The effect of these documentaries goes beyond their intended target audience.  Hodgson notes, “The impact Chandra has had on the students working on these grants has been immense.  There’s a group of exceptionally successful alumni from both our schools that point to Dr. Clark as a key Influence in their educational experience.  She has such a reputation at OU that I have students fighting for who will get to work with her.”

The National Association of Broadcasters is the voice for the nation’s radio and television broadcasters. As the premier trade association for broadcasters, NAB advances the interests of its members in federal government, industry and public affairs; improves the quality and profitability of broadcasting; encourages content and technology innovation; and spotlights the important and unique ways stations serve their communities. For more information, visit nab.org.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ faculty and students at The University of Alabama conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about the College’s research initiatives, visit cis.ua.edu/research.

Research and Creative Activity: Dr. Elliot Panek

Dr. Elliot Panek

In some sense, everyone is part of a community, but, in an era when millions of people interact with one another online, how do we define “community?” Why do most online communities fail while others flourish? These are some of the questions C&IS professor of journalism and creative media, Dr. Elliot Panek, is asking, and he’s analyzed millions of comments on Reddit to help find the answers.

Reddit is a popular website that hosts large-group discussions on thousands of different topics, ranging from politics to relationship advice. The team examined six years of data within 30 different popular Reddit groups or “sub-reddits,” analyzing the influence of group size and the passage of time on two characteristics of online communities: the dispersion of participation in group discussion and the active member turnover from month to month.

“Some people dabble in online communities just to get a question answered or participate in a forum,” said Panek. “For other people, online communities are central to their lives. What we’re trying to understand is when online community life becomes central to people.”

The results of this study found that, as online discussion groups grow, participation in discussion tends to become concentrated among fewer and fewer contributors. Additionally, as groups age, it becomes harder to retain new contributors.

This data provides answers to fundamental questions about establishing and growing online communities, as well as how to keep existing group contributors active in the online community. These findings are useful for communication professionals who work in areas such as social media account management, application development, marketing, online education and organizational communication with the public online.

“Online communities are easy enough to create, but the question is, ‘Are they going to be here in six months?’ For the vast majority, the answer is no,” said Panek. “Our research suggests that the creators of online communities need to be more proactive in incentivizing and encouraging widespread participation to motivate group members to stick around and be more active in the conversation.”

In addition to Panek, the team is comprised of Connor Hollenbach, Jinjie Yang and Tyler Rhodes all of whom are undergraduate or graduate students at The University of Alabama. To read the full results of their published research titled, “The Effects of Group Size and Time on the Formation of Online Communities: Evidence From Reddit,” click here.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ faculty and students at The University of Alabama conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about the College’s research initiatives, visit cis.ua.edu/research.

Mills and Carmack Speak on Bullying at Shriners Hospital

Associate Professors of communication studies, Drs. Carol Mills and Heather Carmack, presented on bullying in health care organizations to an audience of medical personnel on November 6 at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Mills and Carmack’s presentations were part of the larger engagement and outreach efforts of the National Communication Association’s (NCA) Anti-Bullying Task Force. In a partnership with Shriners Hospitals for Children, the presentations will be screened at all of their 22 hospital locations.

Mills’ research specializes in what is referred to as, “the dark side of communication,” or the role of communication in behaviors that negatively impact our personal and professional relationships such as bullying and domestic violence. Carmack is one of only three people globally whose research focuses on communication about and surrounding medical errors and patient safety. The duo is currently developing a research grant that will study the relationship between medical errors and bullying.

“There is research which suggests that whenever nurses or providers are bullied, it has a negative impact on patient outcomes, including medical error and patient safety,” Carmack said. “There’s plenty of theoretical thought pieces that connect bullying and medical errors, but there’s no current study that connects them empirically.”

According to Carmack, the hospital is known for being an environment where bullying exists at an institution level. In fact, nurses have one of the highest bullying rates of any profession nationwide.

“In healthcare a lot of bullying that happens is with the intention to squash and silence,” Carmack said. “If you don’t feel comfortable reporting others, or voicing concerns without some kind of retribution, that’s how medical errors happen.”

Together, the team saw this as a great opportunity to apply their research in helping make a difference and initiate a change in culture.

“As researchers, we spend a lot of time publishing our results, but if our research doesn’t actually help the people we’re studying, I think we’ve missed the mark,” said Mills, co-chair of the Anti-Bullying Task Force. “We know enough about bullying that we can help people who are targets, and we can help leaders create environments where bullying never happens because of the open, positive channels of communication.”

The National Communication Association’s Anti-Bullying Project strives to foster collaborations between Communication scholars and other stakeholders in anti-social aggression efforts in order to contribute rich insights and resources to broader conversations on the complex and multi-faceted issue of bullying.

 The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ faculty and students at The University of Alabama conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about the College’s research initiatives, visit cis.ua.edu/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).