New podcast spotlights Grady College’s research and expertise

As podcasts continue to grow as a popular form of media, it is only fitting that the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication would turn to audio storytelling to help highlight its research and expertise.

The new Grady Research Radio podcast, which debuted on Sept. 7, 2022, and is recorded in the podcast studio Studio Not Found, features concise conversations with faculty members at Grady College and shines a light on their research and proficiencies, as well as the College’s labs. 

Four students and two faculty pose for a picture in Utah in front of a grove of trees with a mountain in the background.
Kyser Lough and Ralitsa Vassileva (second from right) took a small group of students to the Journalism Solutions Summit in Utah.

The podcast’s debut episode covered the news of Grady being named one of the nation’s inaugural solutions journalism hubs by the Solutions Journalism Network. It features interviews with Grady faculty and solutions journalism experts Dr. Amanda Bright, Dr. Kyser Lough and Ralitsa Vassileva, who explained what Grady College is currently doing in research, instruction and outreach to advance solutions journalism, what the new designation means, and how students, educators and professionals in the region can get involved.

“There’s so much happening on campus that we never hear about,” said Vassileva. “A podcast that spreads the word across silos could advance solutions journalism beyond what we can achieve on our own. It could spark new ideas for collaboration.”

The solutions journalism episode was soon followed by one on Grady’s Brain, Body and Media (BBAM) Lab, a lab directed by assistant professor of advertising Dr. Glenna Read used to research psychophysiological reactions to different forms of media and messages. In the lab, researchers can attach sensors to subjects to track how they respond to audio and visual stimuli. Many of the studies conducted in the lab monitor participants by using electrodes that measure activity in the heart, movement of facial muscles on the forehead or around the eyes, and electrodermal activity, or sweat glands, on the hands. The lab also uses electroencephalography (EEG) that measures brain wave activity.

Photo of participant having wires put on his head to detect his responses to media and messages in the BBAM Lab.
The BBAM Lab supports research investigating cognitive and emotional processing of audio and visual media. (Photo: Submitted)

Similarly, the podcast’s third episode sheds light on the new Qualitative Research Lab at Grady College, where graduate and undergraduate students can pursue research focusing on qualitative, non-numerical data. It features a conversation with Dr. Karin Assmann, an assistant professor in the Journalism Department at Grady College and the director of the Qualitative Research Lab. In the episode, Dr. Assmann explains what goes on in her lab, speaks about recent studies conducted in the lab, and offers insight into how those interested can get involved.

The fourth and fifth episodes zero in on the 2022 general elections in the state of Georgia. The fourth episode features a conversation with Dr. David Clementson, an assistant professor in Public Relations at Grady College and a political communication researcher, about the state of political debates. The fifth includes a discussion with Joseph Watson, Jr., the Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communications in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Grady College, about political advertisements.

 “Grady College has many tremendous researchers who work really hard to run studies and collect data answering tough questions and addressing huge phenomena that affect our lives,” said Clementson. “The Grady Research Radio podcast is a great way for professors’ studies to translate to the general public in a fun, conversational and approachable way. I love listening to the podcast and learning more about my own colleagues who are working hard on impactful research.” 

Shira Chess holding up a cake designed to look like her book Ready Player 2.
Shira Chess cutting the cake during a celebration for the release of “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity” in 2017. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

The sixth and most recent episode focuses on the field of game studies and features an interview with Dr. Shira Chess, an associate professor in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies (EMST), a game studies researcher, and the author of books including “Play Like a Feminist” and “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity.” Dr. Chess discusses her research, why video games may not get the attention they deserve, and what the future may hold for the field. 

Grady Research Radio is hosted and produced by Jackson Schroeder, the public relations specialist at Grady College. It is generally released biweekly, and a complete list of episodes can be found here.

Glen Nowak co-investigator on grant to forecast novel pandemics

What if public health officials had a way to forecast pandemics the way meteorologists forecast the weather?

An interdisciplinary team of scientists with the University of Georgia Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases has been awarded a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to find a way to do exactly that.

Glen Nowak, Grady College’s associate dean for research and graduate studies and co-director of the Center for Health & Risk Communication is a co-investigator for the project.

The researchers, led by Regents’ Professor John Drake of the Odum School of Ecology, will use the grant to build systems for infectious disease intelligence that could predict—and ultimately help prevent—novel pandemics like COVID-19.

The goal of the project is to enable public health authorities and other decision-makers to understand in real time where and how spillover—when a disease jumps from wildlife or livestock to humans—may occur, how an outbreak begins to spread and how information can be used to encourage different groups of people to adopt behaviors to keep them and their communities safe.

“I have studied the dynamics of infectious diseases for over 15 years, and I believe that infectious disease models can be developed for real-time interpretation of disease spread anywhere on the planet,” said Drake, who is Director of the CEID. I am inspired by the success of atmospheric models for weather prediction, which have become increasingly sophisticated over the past seventy years.  We need the same for infectious diseases.  This grant will help us realize infectious disease technologies and methodologies that don’t yet exist.”

The team, which includes several faculty members  from UGA as well as researchers from the University of Michigan and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, has 18 months to prove that their technological innovations can help global industries, governments, nonprofits and societies handle the next infectious disease spillover event or outbreak.

The researchers will follow an approach pioneered to solve complex engineering problems, collaborating on six demonstration projects that are based upon their core expertise. Each project will be modeled on highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), but lessons learned are expected to be transferable to other pathogens, including those emerging diseases that have yet to be identified.

This approach has not previously been used in infectious disease modeling, said Nowak.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread throughout the globe and the United States, many organizations quickly conducted surveys and polls to learn more about what people were thinking and doing when it came to reducing the spread of the virus and preventing serious illness,” he said. “Traditionally, very little of that information has been used to inform infectious disease models and forecasts, even though human beliefs and behaviors greatly affect how severe and how long a pandemic will last. I am excited about this project because the information not only can inform public health messages, but it can help us identify the beliefs and behaviors that should be public health communication priorities.”

The demonstration projects will target different aspects and stages of spillover events, outbreaks, and control efforts. They include developing artificial intelligence platforms that can predict how the environmental interactions between humans and wild animals lead to the transmission of pathogens that cause infectious disease outbreaks, surveys to capture how different human populations are influenced by disease prevention and vaccine acceptance messaging, determining the underlying processes that impact HPAI dynamics and determining which HPAI viruses have pandemic potential through the study of molecular virology and immunology.

“Highly pathogenic flu is an ideal pathogen to model,” said team member Pejman Rohani, Regents’ Professor in the Odum School and the College of Veterinary Medicine department of infectious diseases. “Like SARS-CoV-2, HPAI is a highly transmissible respiratory virus, and it has a similar pathology. Although our attention is still on COVID-19, a pandemic created by the spillover of HPAI remains an ever-present concern among epidemiologists and public health officials. Much of what we have learned during COVID-19how people have behaved, the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as wearing a facemask, vaccine hesitancy, and the biology of pathogen transmissioncan be directly applied to HPAI.”

Individual demonstration projects are designed so that the outputs of each one feed into the others; the resulting synthesis of information will be much more robust than that of any one project on its own.

Drake and his colleagues must submit the results of their research by January 2024. Within the next two years, the National Science Foundation is expected to publish a call for Phase II grant proposals  to develop a Center for Pandemic Prediction and Prevention. A Center of this magnitude could propel the University of Georgia into a global leader in Infectious Disease Intelligence research and forecasting.

Along with Drake, Rohani and Nowak, the grant’s co-investigators are Justin Bahl of the UGA Colleges of Public Health and Veterinary Medicine, Bogdan Epureanu of the University of Michigan School of Engineering, and Barbara Han of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

“I have extensively worked with all of these scientists who have different professional backgrounds and experiences,” said Drake. “I am excited about the advances that we are going to add to the burgeoning field of infectious disease intelligence.”

Grady College faculty and graduate students share research at AEJMC 2022 conference

Faculty and graduate students from Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication will chair committees, present research and network with educators at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication annual conference. The 2022 conference takes place in Detroit Aug. 3 – 6, 2022.

Among the highlights for Grady faculty and graduate students this year are several awards, including Solyee Kim (PhD ’22), who will receive the top student paper award in the Public Relations division. Kim’s paper, “Social Identity Signaling in Public Relations: Recruitment of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ Practitioners,” will be presented during a session called “Referred Top Student Papers,” at 9:30 a.m. on Sat, Aug. 6. She will be recognized for her honor at the end of a session called “Referred Top Open Papers,” starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5.

Jonathan Peters of our faculty, along with Leslie Klein, a Ph.D. student, will accept the award for Top Faculty paper of the Scholastic Journalism Division. The topic of their paper is “Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. and Regulating Off-Campus Student Expression: The Good News For College Student Journalists.”

Several faculty hold leadership positions at AEJMC, as well. At the conclusion of this year’s conference Karin Assmann will assume her role as vice head of the Cultural and Critical Studies Division. Jonathan Peters serves as research chair of the Law and Policy Division, and Yan Jin is on the editorial board of the Journal of Public Relations Research (JPRR).

The Karen Russell Award of Most Downloaded Article in 2021 at Journal of Public Relations Research will be presented by the Public Relations Division. This year’s award will be presented to Nneka Logan of the School of Communication at Virginia Tech.

The following provides a listing of presentations and panels by College faculty:

Wednesday, Aug. 3

8:30 to 10 a.m. Kyser Lough is the discussant for the “Consumers, Identification and Social Media” refereed paper session in the Visual Communication Division.

8:30 to 10 a.m. Ja Kyung Seo and Yan Jin present “Mask-wearing as an unspoken statement of one’s identity during the COVID-19 pandemic” as part of the Scholar-to-Scholar Session, Topic IX: COVID-19, Identity, and the Self.

12:30 to 2 p.m. Kyser Lough leads “Exploring the Photo Bill of Rights,” a Professional Freedom & Responsibility panel, co-sponsored by the Visual Communication and Law and Policy divisions.

12:30 to 2 p.m. Karin Assmann and Alexander Pfeuffer serve on a panel co-sponsored by the Advertising Division and the Newspaper and Online News Division, “Pushing Fuzzy Boundaries: Advertising, Journalism Ethics and Professional Identities in Branded Newsrooms.”

2:30 to 4 p.m., Michael Cacciatore‘s research will be presented during a poster session. The presenter will be Henry Allen of the University of Utah.

Thursday, Aug. 4

7 a.m. Journal of Public Relations Research (JPRR) Editorial Board Meeting. Yan Jin serves on the editorial board.

10:30 a.m. Karin Assmann is moderator and panelist for “Change Comes from the Top: Bringing Diversity into Newsroom Leadership” co-sponsored with the Divisions Mass Communication and Society and Media Management and Entrepreneurship.

12:15 p.m., Glen Nowak and Yan Jin are panelists for the Public Relations Division Graduate Student Luncheon. They will talk about “Cross-National, Cross-Disciplinary, and Cross-Institutional Collaboration.” The event takes place at Andiamo Detroit Riverfront Restaurant and is sponsored by Grady College.

12:30 – 2 p.m. Karin Assmann is moderating a high-density paper panel sponsored by the International Communication Division.

2:30 – 4 p.m. Karin Assmann and Alexander Pfeuffer are presenting their poster “Fuzzy Boundaries: Journalists Telling Branded Stories” as part of the Advertising Division’s session titled “Advertising Innovations: Influencers, ASMR, Gamification, Story Telling, and Nation Branding”

2:30 – 4 p.m. Karin Assmann is moderating a research paper session co-sponsored by the Communication Technology and Political Communication Divisions with the theme “Politics of Content Moderation: Deplatforming Right-Wing Users and the Emergence of Alternative Social Media.”

Friday, Aug. 5

8:30-10 a.m. Location to be determined. Glen Nowak is a panelist for a session titled “Addressing Sensitive and Controversial Topics in Class,” which is focus on efforts and strategies for effectively discussing sensitive and controversial issues in class without stigmatization and discrimination.

2-3:30 p.m. Carlo Finlay serves on a panel called “Capitalizing on NIL: Feministic perspectives on Name, Image and Likeness,” presented by the Commission on the Status of Women and Law and Policy Division.

4 p.m. William Newlin (MA ’22) and Karin Assmann are presenting their paper “From Liberal Bias to Fake News” about Sean Hannity’s anti-press rhetoric during Presidential election seasons from 2012-2020 during a session sponsored by the Political Communication Division.

5 to 5: 30 p.m.: Leslie Klein and Jonathan Peters, “Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. and Regulating Off-Campus Student Expression: The Good News For College Student Journalists,” Scholastic Journalism Division. This paper is the winner of the Top Faculty Paper Award.

Congratulations sign for Jon Peters and Leslie Klein for Top Faculty Paper at AEJMC

6 to 8 p.m.: Solyee Kim accepts her Top Student Paper Award at the end of the “Referred Top Student Papers” presentation.

6 to 8 p.m.: Jonathan Peters moderates a Top Paper Panel for the Law and Policy Division.

Saturday, Aug. 6

9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Refereed Top Student Papers: Solyee Kim will present her paper, which is the winner of Top Student Paper Award in the Public Relations division. Her paper was titled “Social Identity Signaling in Public Relations: Recruitment of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ Practitioners.”

9.30 a.m. Karin Assmann is moderating the Cultural and Critical Studies Division refereed paper session “Critical Studies in Journalism”

Congratulations Sign for AEJMC Top Student Paper Award for Solyee Kim

Age may rival politics in COVID-19 vaccine debate

New research from the University of Georgia suggests age and risk perception may have as much of an effect on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance as party affiliation.

“There’s been a lot of attention to political ideology as a barrier to COVID-19 vaccination acceptance,” said Glen Nowak, corresponding author of the study and professor in Grady College. “What we found in our survey was that’s not so much true as people get older. Current CDC coverage data affirms this. People who are 65 and older are almost universally vaccinated, particularly as you start getting to 75 and older.”

The nationally representative survey of more than 1,000 people examined how demographic characteristics—such as age and sex, political ideology and news source preference—related to views on COVID-19 and vaccine intent.

Respondents who were age 50 or older considered themselves more at risk for severe illness from the coronavirus. And they were more concerned that catching the virus would negatively impact their daily lives.

Younger Americans were less likely to consider themselves at risk of severe illness. They’re also less likely to worry about contracting the virus and less likely to keep themselves up to date on the latest COVID-related news.

“Looking at 18- to 29-year-olds, it’s not surprising that they are the group with the lowest overall COVID vaccination rates because they’re not a group that is suffering serious illness and death from COVID,” said Nowak, who also serves as co-director of UGA’s Center for Health and Risk Communication. “Are there instances of that? Absolutely. But it’s relatively rare. I think many people in that age group understand that.”

Glen Nowak talks with WSET about COVID-19 vaccination research findings.

More COVID-19 information isn’t always better 

Published in the International Journal of Strategic Communication, the study found that political affiliation and where participants got their news were the most consistent predictors of how an individual felt about their COVID-19 risk level and their vaccine intent.

Liberals in the study viewed the virus as a bigger threat to their daily lives than conservatives. They worried about becoming ill, believed symptoms would be severe and expressed concern that they could pass the disease to others. They were also more likely to accept the vaccine and trust authority figures like the CDC and FDA.

Both liberals and moderates believed medical care and treatment would be more difficult to access than conservatives.

Surprisingly, people who said they get their COVID-19 news from a variety of sources, both conservative and liberal, were more likely to be vaccine hesitant than those who stuck to partisan news sources.

“If you had asked us before we this study, we would have said pretty confidently that people who were looking at a wide array of information would be much more likely to be vaccinated and have much more confidence in the vaccine,” Nowak said. “What this suggested was the opposite in many instances. Many people who tried or said that they looked at a broad spectrum of information sources came away less confident and more uncertain about the vaccine and its value.”

Public health should tailor messages to the right audiences 

The differences between participants on the right, left or middle highlight the need to tailor COVID-19 messaging to different populations, Nowak said.

Those who aren’t in a high-risk category, like young adults, quickly realize that they’re unlikely to get really sick from the coronavirus and largely tune out public health education efforts.

Communications to these populations should focus on more realistic situations for them, Nowak said. For example, emphasize that there aren’t great treatments available to treat patients if they are one of the few who do need hospitalization.

“This data shows you can’t assume interest and attention from younger people and those who are less affected by COVID-19,” Nowak said. “It’s a good reminder that we can’t just blast, ‘Everybody should be afraid of getting severe COVID.’ That’s not an effective communication strategy.”

This study was co-authored by Michael Cacciatore, an associate professor in the Grady College and co-director of the Center for Health and Risk Communications.


Editor’s Note: This release was originally posted on the UGA News website.

 

Wunpini Fatimata Mohammed awarded 2022-2023 Sarah H. Moss Fellowship

Wunpini Fatimata Mohammed, assistant professor in Entertainment and Media Studies, has been named a recipient of a 2022-2023 Sarah H. Moss Fellowship. 

Administered by the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Georgia, the fellowship provides funds for travel and related expenses for tenure-track faculty pursuing advanced scholarship, research and study.

Mohammed’s research project is titled, “Media and Decolonization: Re-righting the Subaltern Histories of Ghana.” With this funding, she plans to travel to several cities in Ghana, including Tamale and Accra, to conduct archival research, ethnographic observations and follow-up interviews to supplement research already done which will become a scholarly book.

Wunpini Mohammed, assistant professor in EMST, teaches Entertainment Media Analysis outside in the Media Garden.
Wunpini Mohammed, assistant professor in EMST, teaches Entertainment Media Analysis outside in the Media Garden. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

“In this research project, I am interested in examining the silenced histories of media in African communities that have historically been shut out of their own representations,” said Mohammed.

“I am going back to my community in Ghana to learn more about the media cultures of the country to satisfy some of the curiosities I had growing up as a child,” she continued. “I will be examining content on mediums such as radio and TV, focusing on how they have served as a tool for marginalization and a site of resistance within this community.”

Mohammed will be spending time at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation in Accra to sort through their archives and gather data to support the section of her book on technology and media development in Ghana.

Mohammed will also spend time at community gatherings to learn more about community relationships with media at the regional and national level. In Tamale, she will be hosted by the  Department of Communication, Innovation, and Technology of the University for Development Studies. 

“Growing up, I barely saw representations about me and my community in national media. This sparked my interest in media and the politics of media representation,” Mohammed said about what motivated her to pursue this research topic. “These experiences have inspired me to contribute to building knowledge in the field of media so that the people who come after me will have something to build on too.”

The camera eats first: Q&A with Kyser Lough

Assistant Professor Kyser Lough teaches in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ photojournalism program and studies visual communication, with an emphasis on photojournalism, as well as solutions journalism. In this interview, Lough discusses the continuing role of photojournalists in an age of ubiquitous imagery, and how he teaches his students to navigate that landscape. Read more about his research here.

How do you describe photojournalism research?

You can think of it several different ways, and the first is looking at the images themselves: What are the images telling us? How are they chosen? What’s being left out? Who is in the image? What kind of effects do these images have on people? That’s a big question surrounding conflict photography especially—we need these photos to see what’s going on, but what kind of toll is it taking on us to constantly see images of conflict?

What we often forget about is there’s a person behind the camera making these pictures, and that person has to physically be there. During the pandemic a lot of reporters were stuck at home; they were calling their sources and having Zoom meetings. The photographers had to go to these places to make these photos. So there are a lot of questions surrounding access and embodiment when it comes to being a photojournalist—how they have to use their bodies in the act of photography, not just to maneuver to make photos but also in negotiating for access to where they need to be.

It’s also fascinating to dig into photographers’ minds and ask about their process. How do they look for things to photograph? How do they decide what, who and when to photograph? When you combine that with talking about access and embodiment, it gives us a deeper look into the images.

As a visual communicator, what your thoughts about how the media world we live in has changed over the last two or three decades?

It’s definitely changed how we think of images. We toggle back and forth between seeing images as pure, unadulterated reality or pure, unadulterated fiction. It’s something we have to consider when we think about modern-day news literacy. In being worried about misinformation and disinformation, we need to really look at images. Part of that is putting the focus back on the image creator and the image owner. Just like we try and vet news sources, we also need to vet image sources and understand that many different things could have happened between an image being captured and us seeing it.

With deep fake video technology and ever more sophisticated photo-editing software, how are we going to determine the truth of an image in the future?

There is fascinating work being done on this right now. Part of it is news literacy and training us to have a healthy dose of skepticism when consuming news. But on the other end, there are computer scientists developing algorithms to analyze and detect alteration in images and video.

From the professional side, there are organizations and people working to prevent it on the creation end. So instead of trying to detect a fake image, it’s about providing a certificate of authenticity: “This image is real.” The Content Authenticity Initiative is probably the biggest one right now, where they are working with Adobe and other folks to essentially create a uneditable chain of edits and history on a photo. You can see the date and time the image was taken, but also see that it was loaded into Photoshop and these different edits were made. If that’s widely adopted—and the problem is it has to be adopted—then we can use that to vet images before they are out there and manipulated.

Dr. Kyser Lough Assistant Professor, Journalism
“We toggle back and forth between seeing images as pure, unadulterated reality or pure, unadulterated fiction. It’s something we have to consider when we think about modern-day news literacy,” Lough said. “Just like we try and vet news sources, we also need to vet image sources and understand that many different things could have happened between an image being captured and us seeing it.” (Photo by Jason Thrasher)
On a more positive note, all this changing technology and media affords a lot more possibilities to photojournalists in how they create and publish and share their work. What do you teach your students about how to leverage that to their advantage?

We start with the core foundation that storytelling matters, first and foremost. It has to be a good story. It has to be a good moment. We have to be people-focused. We start there, and then we can think about the platforms we use to tell this story. It’s so easy to get lost in the shiny new thing and forget we have to start as good journalists and good storytellers.

Now that everyone has a camera in their pocket, do we still need photojournalists?

That’s such a great question. In 2009, an airplane landed in the Hudson River in New York, and one of the first images to spread from that was not taken by a photojournalist—it was taken by a man on a ferry with a cell phone. He uploaded it to Twitter, and within minutes it was all over the place. Of course, now that’s commonplace. We know when something’s happening, and we’re not just seeing pictures posted—we’re seeing people livestreaming from their phones.

It’s very important for society to have that ability, for us to be able to witness and surveil as private citizens. On the other side of it, however, I firmly believe it’s still important to have photojournalists and trained storytellers out there because of the ethics and sensitivity surrounding a lot of the stories we’re trying to tell.

Journalism should be independent. There should be no conflict of interest; the journalist covering the story should not be involved in the story. The journalist’s images, while not being completely objective, are still representative of an independent observer who has been trained in how to be fair and how to cover the story and how to skillfully use the equipment. We still need journalists to tell these stories and uncover instances where power is being abused, and especially to protect the vulnerable.

Are your students more sophisticated about visual communications, having grown up with Instagram and Twitter and all of these new media?

I like to think so. It’s hard to think back to a time when we didn’t have a camera in our pocket, although it hasn’t been that long when you think about it. The biggest shift has been in the visual literacy students have in how the cell phone camera has allowed them to regularly observe and document their daily life. Once on a study abroad program we sat down to dinner, and the students brought out their phones and took pictures of the food. The phrase they taught me was: “Phone eats first.” And I love it. There’s no shame in it. I mean, when else in history has it been this easy to just snag a picture of anything and then go back and use the photo as a memory device?

Dr. Kyser Lough Assistant Professor, Journalism
Despite all the new technologies in photography that have emerged over recent decades, Lough teaches his students that basic principles still apply when it comes to photojournalism. “Storytelling matters, first and foremost,” he said. “We start there, and then we can think about the platforms we use to tell this story. It’s so easy to get lost in the shiny new thing and forget we have to start as good journalists and good storytellers.” (Photo by Jason Thrasher)
What’s the best photo you’ve ever taken?

Recently I haven’t been able to do as much photography as I have in the past, because my priorities are research and teaching. But we take our students out into the world as much as possible to get experiential learning, so I like to try and turn the camera around on them and those have been my favorite recent photos—the pictures of my students photographing. I’ve really enjoyed documenting the process as they grab their cameras and go out and do things. When I’ve taught study abroad, I took pictures of them photographing, and at the end of the program I wrote them a note and gave each one pictures of them out making photos.

The other answer to that question would be the times that I haven’t taken a picture. This is something that I usually wrap my photo classes with, this idea that just because we can doesn’t mean we should, especially in the day and age when we all have a camera in our pocket. I challenge my students to think about when to take a picture and when to simply use your five senses to really sit in that moment. Not everything has to be photographed.


The above feature was originally written and posted by UGA Research, and can also be round on the UGA Research website

 

Undergraduate student finds place in DMAC Lab

When Charan Ramachandran acted on his genuine curiosity of exploring a subject outside of his normal coursework, it paid big dividends—not just for him, but also for the professor.

Ramachandran, a graduating fourth-year student who majored in Entertainment and Media Studies and computer science, reached out to Bart Wojdynski, director of the Digital Media Attention and Cognition Lab, his freshman year asking if he could be involved with projects the lab was researching. Ramachandran participated in the experimental Research Living Learning Community his freshman year and one of the topics was encouraging students to reach out to professors whose work is of interest. Ramachandran learned of Wojdynski’s research with eye-tracking and wanted to understand more so he reached out.

Charan Ramachandran and Bart Wojdynski look at the eyetracking software in the DMAC Lab.
Charan Ramachandran and Bart Wojdynski look at the eye-tracking software in the DMAC Lab.

“I remember he said ‘I don’t know what I’m interested in, but for now I want to see what you are doing and how I can help,’” remembered Wojdynski, a Jim Kennedy New Media Professor and associate professor of journalism. “As time went by, he became an indispensable team player and helped with things we couldn’t do otherwise.”

Four years after volunteering as a research associate with the DMAC Lab, Ramachandran has some research credits on his resume and several new skills to take into the work force.

“The DMAC Lab has taught me a lot,” Ramachandran said. “My work there taught me how to produce an application on time and test it before delivery. For instance, I hadn’t developed mobile applications before, but this pushed me to learn how to do that and figure it out.

I have Dr. Wojdynski to thank for all that.”

Research in the DMAC Lab uses eye-tracking technology to study how consumers view and evaluate media message on a variety of platforms, including websites and mobile devices. Despite a pause in activities due to COVID, Ramachandran participated in numerous research projects including a Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities presentation analyzing social media by health orgs related to opioid epidemic and designing a web-based Twitter feed.

The largest project he was involved with was designing a custom Instagram app that was used in one of the first eye-tracking studies involving Instagram on a mobile device. Wojdynski explained that during COVID, it became clear that there were a lot of researchers interested in effects of viewing social media content in a realistic setting. In Jan 2021, the DMAC Lab purchased a new eye tracker and mobile phone stand with a high-definition video connection to the phone, allowing researchers to record everything on screen as the viewers scrolled their device.

As the lab group was designing a study to test effects of social media content, Ramachandran suggested the team build its own customizable Instagram app to present the content just like users typically view it.

Close-up of eye-tracking machine gathering data from an Iphone.
A close-up of the new eye-tracker that records and collects data based on sample content viewed on mobile phones. Ramachandran designed a customizable Instagram app to present content just like users typically view it.

“He learned code in Swift, but had to figure out a lot along the way to make it as realistic as possible,” Wojdynski continued. “Designing a submission form for creating custom posts, with time stamps , the number of likes, how to have hashtags to show up blue, a carousel effect—Charan figured out how to create all of that and presented four or five versions. It was amazing.”

The research will be presented at the International Communication Association conference in Paris in late May.

In addition to practical skills and research experience, Ramachandran found a network of friends.

“When we are in the lab, it doesn’t feel like a hierarchy at all,” Ramachandran concluded. “Dr. Wojdynski—he’s one of us and I’m one of them. Even though I’m an undergraduate, I feel like part of a team and put in a lot of effort to be an active member. I’ve made a lot of great friendships there.”

Ramachandran graduates in May and will move to California this summer to start work as a software engineer with YouTube.

Grady students to present research at CURO Symposium

On April 4, two Grady College undergraduate students, Ireland Hayes and Josie Lipton, will be presenting their research at the CURO Symposium, an annual event highlighting undergraduate research at the University of Georgia. 

Held by the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, this year’s symposium will take place from April 4-5 at the Classic Center in downtown Athens and feature both oral and poster presentations from UGA students. It is the first CURO Symposium since 2019 to be held in person. 

Ireland Hayes presents “Making the News: Rural Georgia Influencers”

Hayes, a third-year journalism major from Folkston, Georgia, will be presenting her research on how small communities throughout the state without traditional news coverage, like a daily paper or local news station, are filling those gaps. 

“I’m looking mostly at Facebook groups, talking to the administrators and moderators of the groups to see how they view themselves and how they decide what goes on and what might get taken off of the pages,” said Hayes, who has been working with Karin Assmann, assistant professor of journalism, as her mentor.  

Ireland Hayes sitting outside of Grady College working on her computer.
Hayes, who is from a mostly rural area in southern Georgia, said her hometown receives Jacksonville news. (Photo: Jessica Gratigny)

“When Ireland heard that I was working on a study about rural information networks here in Georgia, she asked if she could participate with her own set of research questions,” Assmann said. With her Qualitative Research Lab, Assmann hopes to support more students like Hayes and Lipton, as well as graduate students interested in doing this kind of research with her. 

“It’s exciting to see our student journalists wanting to engage with larger questions about the future of the industry and journalism’s role in society,” Assman added. “CURO is a great way to support these emerging scholars as they take their first steps into research.”  

“Dr. Assmann has been very helpful in getting me into that research mindset and teaching me how to conduct research, guiding me through that as I start this first project,” said Hayes. 

With first-hand experience living in a Georgia news desert, Hayes’ ultimate goal is to identify what impact Facebook groups and rural influencers have on news-starved communities. She is evaluating if Facebook groups are used out of necessity or if they are desirable. 

While her research is ongoing, Hayes intends to use the results to develop a pilot information pipeline system that is ideal for these rural news deserts. 

“That is the end goal of all of this,” said Hayes. “How can we create something to fill that need for reliable local information that is more fact-checked and standardized?”

Ireland Hayes' poster displaying her research.
Ireland Hayes’ poster displaying her research. (Created by Ireland Hayes.)
Josie Lipton presents “One Town, One Newspaper: A Case Study of Information Routines Among Citizens of Oglethorpe County, Georgia”

Lipton, a third-year journalism major from Seattle, is also studying news deserts. However, her research focuses specifically on Oglethorpe County, an area that recently had its local 148-year-old newspaper, The Oglethorpe Echo, revitalized thanks to a partnership with Grady and its students. 

Josie Lipton works on her research while sitting outside of Grady College.
Lipton, a third-year student, hopes to attend law school in the future. (Photo: Jessica Gratigny)

“UGA joined the project as a way to take over the paper and make sure that people in Oglethorpe County still have a news source, but they do still only have the one paper. So, my research, to sum it up, is about finding a balance between where people are getting their official news and how the community supplements that,” explained Lipton. 

And where do they turn? Again, the answer is Facebook. 

“You hear this association between Facebook and news and you immediately get goosebumps as a journalism major,” said Lipton. “But, it is really not as bad as you think.”

“It is a lot of smaller groups that function just to discuss what is going on in the community,” she added. “I found that a lot of people who are in charge of the big groups are like newsmakers. Because they’re informed on what is happening in the community, they use Facebook as a platform to keep other people informed.”

Lipton dissected the types of posts and topics discussed on Oglethorpe County Facebook news groups and determined that the topics “pets” and “events” comprised 56 percent of all content. She also interviewed the administrators of Oglethorpe County’s Facebook groups and found that residents view Facebook as a tool to get immediate access to information. 

“By the time a story came out in the Echo, it was already old news. Having Facebook groups allows for more immediate access…to things going on in the county,” Stephanie Maro, the administrator of the Facebook group Oglethorpe County Local News, told Lipton during her research. 

Lipton, who is also mentored by Professor Assmann, and whose research will contribute to Assmann’s ongoing project, thanks both Assmann and Kyser Lough, an assistant professor of journalism, for help and inspiration with her research. 

“Of course I thank Dr. Assmann,” said Lipton. “Dr. Lough has also been really helpful. He wasn’t directly involved in this research project. But just by taking his classes, I’d say he was really helpful in terms of encouraging me to see people how they are. I took his photojournalism class, and that really helped me get over my anxiety when approaching people.”

Josie Lipton's poster. Created by Josie Lipton.
Josie Lipton’s poster displaying her research. (Created by Josie Lipton.)

Both Hayes and Lipton will be presenting their research on posters in the Grand Hall of the Classic Center from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday, April 4. 

NIH awards $4 million grant to Emory University and University of Georgia to launch center focused on improving the health of Black children

Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn named co-director of Center for Children’s Health Assessment, Research Translation and Combating Racism

Many Black communities in Metro Atlanta face high levels of environmental exposures that can negatively impact the health of Black children, and scientists are faced with the challenge of effectively communicating the dangers of environmental exposures to diverse communities. To address these issues, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded a $4 million five-year grant to support research related to addressing health disparities through transformative communication strategies.

Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn, associate professor of advertising at Grady College, will direct the health communication initiatives of the grant and serve as co-director of the newly created Center for Children’s Health Assessment, Research Translation and Combating Racism.

With this grant, an Emory-led team of environmental health scientists and health communication experts from the University of Georgia will join forces to translate important environmental health research findings to key stakeholders in the community, academia and health care systems. The new Center will develop high-impact messaging strategies that can be used to improve children’s health by focusing on health literacy and best practices in prevention communication and dissemination.

Faculty from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and Spelman College, one of nation’s most prestigious historically black colleges for women, will also play a critical role in advancing the science generated by the Center and ensuring meaningful discussions and rapid feedback between a community advisory board and all members of the Center.

Linda McCauley, dean and professor at Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, will direct the new Center.

“This Center is uniquely positioned to foster excellence in research on children’s environmental health that will nurture the next generation of scientists and provide information that can benefit the Atlanta community, which has suffered from decades of environmental racism and has many of the highest levels of health disparities in the nation,” said McCauley. “Our goal is to improve the health of children, and we know better communications will lead to prevention and early detection of environmental health exposures.”

Ahn, who also directs the Games and Virtual Environments Lab at Grady College, will use her expertise in interactive digital media and health messaging at the new Center.

“We hope to expand the public health impact of children’s environmental health science by synthesizing existing research into innovative health communication interventions, curricula and policies,” Ahn said of the new project. “Together, we will identify target audiences among marginalized and under-resourced populations and design innovative health messages that can help us better communicate with audiences that have traditionally been challenging to reach.”

The Center will also partner with Sharecare, the digital health company whose comprehensive and data-driven virtual health platform helps people, providers, employers, health plans, government organizations, and communities optimize individual and population-wide well-being by driving positive behavior change.

Donna Hill Howes, RN, MS, chief nursing officer and SVP, corporate partnerships of Sharecare, commented, “Increasing access to information about children’s environmental health is critical to building strong, healthy communities. Working closely with our partners at Emory, UGA, and the Center, we believe that, together, we can effectively support the translation of health science to action-oriented information by leveraging our content and products, connecting stakeholders across fields, and utilizing our national reach to augment children’s environmental health.”

Emory is one of six academic institutions in a network of Children’s Environmental Health Research Translation Centers in the U.S., and it will serve as the National Coordinating Center for the network. The Coordinating Center will be led by Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Children’s Environmental Health Network. Other Centers were awarded to Johns Hopkins University, Oregon State University, the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and the University of Southern California.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P2CES033430. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of the National Institutes of Health.

2021 in Review: Research & Grants

Editor’s Note: This is part of our  five-part series highlighting stories produced by Grady College in 2021. The features includes three stories in each of the following subjects:
  • Student Successes
  • Faculty Honors
  • College Headlines
  • Research & Grants
  • Service & Partnerships
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but instead highlight a sample of just a few of the more than 210 stories about accomplishments by our students, faculty/staff and alumni.
We invite you to visit our Grady College News page for a full list of features posted in 2021. 

Research and teaching are the cornerstones of the work at the College and 2021 was no exception. Our Ph.D. students researched vital topics in their disciplines, winning honors and awards, while our faculty received accolades for their work, especially through their involvement with the 2021 AEJMC conference. Several faculty received grants this year, as well. Following are among the highlights of a busy year:

AdPR excels in advertising research productivity: A study published in July by the Journal of Business Research named faculty in our Department of Advertising and Public Relations the most visible authors or co-authors in the three leading peer-reviewed advertising research journals from 2008 to 2019. The study, “A Decade (2008-2019) of Advertising Research Productivity: A Bibliometric Review,” involved two reference and citation reviews: one of 818 articles published in Journal of Advertising (JA), Journal of Advertising Research (JAR), and Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising (JCIRA), and the second of 1,532 articles published in those journals plus 15 other journals where scholarly research in advertising is frequently published.

Michael Cacciatore awarded $2.5 million grant for research: Michael Cacciatore, co-director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at Grady College, was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program in August. The funds will provide research for PBS Digital Studios’ TERRA, its science-themed hub on YouTube, as they launch a new slate of STEM content.

Ahn leads VR project with grant from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association: In September, Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn and a team of researchers were announced as recipients of a nearly $500,000 grant funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The grant will fund a project called “Salient, Interactive, Relevant, Confidence, and Action (SIRCA): Using Virtual Reality Storm Surge Simulations to Increase Risk Perception and Prevention Behaviors.” The project uses VR to better communicate and educate the risks of storm surge and climate change among coastal residents of Georgia and South Carolina.