On a recent Friday, associate professor Rob Potter sat in front of an audience wearing a headset, wired to his head and wrists, that tested his brainwaves and showed the results on-screen for all to see.
Potter played guinea pig during a Sept. 26 session at Radio-TV to demonstrate some of the tools and services available through the Institute for Communication Research, a telecommunications program now part of The Media School.
Potter is director of the ICR, which was founded in 1974 to facilitate research by providing equipment and support. For the show-and-tell, Potter, lab manager Sharon Mayell and doctoral student Anthony Almond unveiled new equipment and software to an audience of about a dozen grad students and faculty.
“Part of the College’s commitment to communication research has been to add some new tools that some researchers may not be aware we have,” Potter said. “We are trying to demonstrate the new capabilities we have for them to answer research questions about media and how people are affected by or process it.”
For example, the headset Potter demonstrated is part of a new hardware/software package, Biopac. Mayell hooked up Potter’s headset, which tested his heart rate and facial muscle response while he watched various forms of media.
“These types of tools can help us measure things like attention, perception, emotion, motivation and attitudes,” Mayell said. Bringing the equipment to the session was a way of introducing their uses to researchers who could benefit.
The group also showed new software, such as Qualtrics, which replaces a previous program, Survey Monkey. Potter showed the program online and explored the uses of the online data collection, the way it imports images and provides website feedback.
Almond, a Ph.D. telecommunications student, presented two software platforms, Media Lab and Direct RT. These programs allow researchers to design questionnaires, experiments and surveys, measure psychological factors and conduct content analysis about the media.
“We are going forward with the research component with the new Media School,” Mayell said. “All the researchers in the Media School will have access to these and may incorporate some of these tools into their research.”
The Institute for Communication Research is located in Eigenmann Hall, but eventually will relocate to Franklin Hall when The Media School moves there in 2016. In the meantime, Potter said he hopes researchers will take advantage of the tools and support the ICR offers.
“These are types of measures that media companies like The New York Times, Nielsen, and Proctor and Gamble are using to figure out how people respond to products and advertisements,” Potter said. “We have that capability and we want to show it off.”