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Research

Faculty members and graduate students in the Department pursue and produce research that spans a wide range of the Communication discipline. 

Research within the department is generally focused in three broad curriculum areas:

  • Communication Science & Social Cognition,
  • Public Relations & Strategic Communication, and
  • Rhetoric & Political Culture

The Department of Communication is also home to the Mark and Heather Rosenker Center for Political Communication & Civic Leadership and the Center for Health and Risk Communication

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Listening to Each Other in a Challenging World

Calls for a need to step back and consider how to center our society on active listening skills.

Communication

Author/Lead: Andrew D. Wolvin
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Annie Rappeport
Dates:

Let’s reset to establish a more civil global society. We are poised as listening leaders across fields to help reimagine and recraft a more peaceful and positive global community. The world needs us to help our communities rediscover the beauty and value of listening and learning from each other.

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COMM Doctoral Student Authors New Book about Political Ads

Montgomery authors first book on horror framing and the presidential political commercials of the 21st century.

Communication

Author/Lead: Fielding Montgomery
Dates:
Publisher: Lexington Books
Cover of book by Fielding Montgomery

In Horror Framing and the General Election: Ghosts and Ghouls in Twenty-First-Century Presidential Campaign Advertisements, UM doctoral student Fielding Montgomery reveals a pattern of mostly increasing horror framing implemented across presidential elections from 2000 to 2020. By analyzing the two most common frameworks of horror within U.S. popular culture (classic and conflicted), he demonstrates how such frameworks are deployed by twenty-first-century U.S. presidential campaign advertisements. Televised advertisements are analyzed to illustrate a clearer picture of how horror frameworks have been utilized, the intensity of their usage, and how self-positive appeals to audience efficacy help bolster these rhetorical attempts at persuasion. Horror Framing and the General Election shows readers how the extensionally constitutive ripples of horrific campaign rhetoric are felt in contemporary political unrest and provides a potential path forward.

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Expanding and constraining critical communication pedagogy in the introductory communication course: A critique of assessment rubrics

Study presents an interpretive analysis of the presentational speaking rubrics used in the introductory communication course at 20 institutions in the United States.

Communication

Author/Lead: Drew Ashby-King
Contributor(s): Jeannette Iannacone, Victoria Ledford, Alyson Farzad-Phillips, Matthew Salzano, Lindsey Anderson
Dates:
Cover of the journal Communication Teacher

Rubrics are a commonly used tool to evaluate student work in the introductory communication course. Although rubrics may appear objective, they are continually interpreted by both instructors and students, often reflecting traditional classroom power dynamics. In order to understand how rubrics constrain as well as expand opportunities for the enactment of critical communication pedagogy, we conducted an interpretive analysis of the presentational speaking rubrics used in the introductory communication course at 20 institutions in the United States. In doing so, we identified three levels of rubric context: high, low, and shared. These contexts inform important theoretical and pedagogical implications for the introductory course, as they highlight existing power dynamics, instructor grading practices, and student agency.

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Emotion and Virality of Food Safety Risk Communication Messages on Social Media

Study investigates how the emotional tone of food safety risk communication messages predicts message virality on social media.

Communication

Author/Lead: Xiaoli Nan
Contributor(s): Yuan Wang, Leah Waks
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Lead author: Xiaojing Wang Samantha Stanley, Daniel Broniatowski
Dates:
Header of Journal of Applied Communications

This study investigates how the emotional tone of food safety risk communication messages predicts message virality on social media. Through a professional Internet content tracking service, we gathered news articles written about the 2018 romaine lettuce recall published online between October 30 and November 29, 2018. We retrieved the number of times each article was shared on Twitter and Pinterest, and the number of engagements (shares, likes, and comments) for each article on Facebook and Reddit. We randomly selected 10% of the articles (n = 377) and characterized the emotional tone of each article using machine learning, including emotional characteristics such as discrete emotions, emotional valence, arousal, and dominance. Conveying negative valence, low arousal, and high dominance, as well as anger and sadness emotions were associated with greater virality of articles on social media. Implications of these findings for risk communication in the age of social media are discussed.

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Attribution of Responsibility for Pick Up Artist Issues in China: The Impacts of Journalist Gender, Geographical Location, and Publication Range

Study content-analyzed 115 Chinese online news articles related to pick-up artist issues.

Communication

Author/Lead: Sophie Xia
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Tianen Chen
Dates:
Cover of the Journal of Communication Inquiry

Pick-up artists (PUAs) apply strategies from evolutionary psychology to exploit women emotionally, sexually, and financially. In China, PUA issues have been garnering attention from journalists and news media. However, scholars have yet to explore how such issues have been portrayed in Chinese online news media, in particular the attribution of responsibility. The current study content-analyzed 115 Chinese online news articles related to PUA issues to explore whom the responsibility for causing and solving the issue is attributed, and investigated the influence of journalist gender, geographical location, and publication range on the attribution of responsibility. The results indicated that (a) the responsibility for both causing and solving the issue was attributed to perpetrators and the society frequently and to victims sporadically and (b) the attribution of responsibility differs across geographical locations or when the news websites are national as opposed to provincial. Directions for future studies were discussed.

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Serving public interests and enacting organizational values: An examination of public interest relations through AARP’s Tele-Town Halls

This study illuminates how AARP’s communication reflected public interest relations.

Communication

Author/Lead: Lindsey Anderson
Dates:
Cover of the journal Public Relations Review

Public interest relations (PIR) is an approach to public relations scholarship and practice that contributes to the social good by integrating the concept of public interest into organizational goals and values. The need for PIR was emphasized during the COVID-19 pandemic as publics looked to organizations for information about a variety of topics (e.g., symptoms, vaccines). AARP created a series of tele-town halls to communicate with its publics, who are considered to be members of a “vulnerable population” during the pandemic. In order to understand how AARP’s Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls reflected the practices of PIR, I completed a critical thematic analysis of 28 virtual sessions that were hosted in 2020–2021. The analysis, which was guided by the tenets of PIR, found that AARP’s communication (1) highlighted common life course milestones of its publics, (2) emphasized the quality of the information, and (3) provided avenues to engage with the organization and its experts. Based on these findings, I developed theoretical implications that reflect a critical perspective on PIR and suggest future research avenues that seek to build this ethical and socially meaningful approach to public relations.

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Digitality, Diversity, and the Future of Rhetoric and Public Address

Article indicates how theorizing rhetoric and digitality transforms critical and historical traditions.

Communication

Author/Lead: Damien Smith Pfister, Carly Woods
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): E. Johanna Hartelius & Jessica H. Lu
Dates:
Cover of the journal Rhetoric and Public Affairs

The pandemic and economic catastrophes of 2020 and the forms of resistance that surged against racist systemic and physical violence indicate, we contend, that studying public address in the present moment requires attention to the mutual contingency of rhetoric and digitality. Relying on interdisciplinary literatures and a global perspective, we direct such attention along three vectors: platforms, commons, and methods. We indicate how theorizing rhetoric and digitality transforms critical and historical traditions. In expanding the purview of the public address tradition while retaining the tradition's hermeneutic potential, we emphasize the need to challenge disciplinary terms and the desirability of expanded analytical methods. We submit that by not attending sufficiently to the advent and diffusion of digital media technologies, public address scholarship misses opportunities to shape ongoing conversations about how rhetoric mediates public affairs; and that insofar as struggles for racial justice are bound up with, not just mediated by, digitality, the prospects of diversifying rhetoric's professoriate increase when research on this topic is central rather than peripheral.

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“It gives you a better chance of getting a good job”: Memorable messages, anticipatory socialization, and first-year college students’ understandings of the purpose of college.

Article finds that the memorable messages students received from their family, peers, and high school teachers reinforce the dominant neoliberal, job-centered understanding of college’s purpose.

Communication

Author/Lead: Drew Ashby-King
Contributor(s): Lindsey Anderson
Dates:
Cover picture of the journal Communication Education.

Higher education has been commodified as neoliberal ideology is reflected in and perpetuated through social discourses, such as memorable messages. These discourses socialize young adults to college and shape their understanding about the purpose of higher education. Through in-depth interviews with 20 first-year college students, Ashby-King and Anderson found that the memorable messages students received from their family, peers, and high school teachers reinforce the dominant neoliberal, job-centered understanding of college’s purpose. In turn, they suggest critical communication pedagogy as a form of resistance instructors and institutions can use to promote a more expansive view of higher education and teaching/learning.

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When the Black lives that matter are not our own: digital Black feminism and a dialectic of self and community

A new urgency has emerged within Black feminist writing online, advocating for a dialectic of self and community interests.

Communication

Author/Lead: Catherine Knight Steele
Dates:
Cover of the journal Feminist Media Studies.

Black women and Black feminist scholars have always pointed out the hypocrisy of advocating for civil rights and freedoms that do not extend to them. However, with the rise of digital culture and tools as the primary space and mechanism whereby Black feminists crafted arguments, a new urgency has emerged within Black feminist writing online, advocating for a dialectic of self and community interests. Black feminist writers have created a new rhetorical principle central to the #BlackLiveMatter movement, which began in the blogosphere with longform writing and enclaved communities. Before the hashtag or activism on Twitter or Instagram, the blogosphere provided a space for Black women to craft new arguments that centralized Black cis and trans women in the fight for justice. Black feminist writers insist that caring for themselves is integral to Black feminist praxis and social justice. Retracing this work from the blogosphere to social media reminds us of the importance of centralizing Black women in our discussion of digital culture and activism and the lessons this may provide in crafting a more just future.

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COMM Profs Author New Book on PR and Feminism

Aldoory and Toth publish The Future of Feminism in Public Relations and Strategic Communication.

Communication

Author/Lead: Linda Aldoory
Contributor(s): Elizabeth L. Toth
Dates:
A cover from new book by Linda Aldoory and Elizabeth Toth.

Professor Linda Aldoory and Professor Emerita Elizabeth Toth present a socio-ecological model for understanding and building a feminist future for public relations. Their approach acknowledges previous gaps in scholarship and practice caused by ideological, societal, mediated, and organizational factors constructing norms and expectations for gender and race. The book, entitled The Future of Feminism in Public Relations and Strategic Communication: A Socio-Ecological Model of Influences, was recently published by Rowman & Littlefield.

"Two of the field’s top feminist scholars have provided us with an ambitious and comprehensive assessment of gender in public relations. They have taken a wide lens, showing the interplay across levels of context. The volume provides a starting point for those new to the topic and a jumping off point for those eager to press forward."--Lana F. Rakow, University of North Dakota, Ph.D., professor emerita, Communication

"This book moves away from traditional liberal feminist inquiry into the pay gap and the glass ceiling and introduces a socio-ecological framework into PR scholarship. Drawing from sociology, cultural studies and environmental science, as well as international scholarship, the authors create a compelling case for studying women in PR and provide a thoughtful and reflective account of decades of scholarship and activism for equality of women in the PR industry."--Dr. Martina Topić, Leeds Business School, Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom

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