Graduate students across IU share media research at Common Ground
Graduate students from The Media School, across campus and from outside IU presented their research on media Friday at the third annual Common Ground, the research conference hosted by the Media School Graduate Association.
Research presented in the seven paper sessions and panels covered topics ranging from the impact of vaccine misinformation on mothers of different education levels, to differences in Western and Chinese beauty standards based on an analysis of selfies, to themes found in Donald Trump fan fiction.
Mediating Sight, Hearing and Touch
By Chris Forrester
Media School and School of Education doctoral candidates shared research about touch, understanding music and critical analysis of film.
Media School doctoral student Sean Purcell presented “Haptics, Skin and the Trouble of the Essentializing Touch.” Purcell’s work focuses on the idea of touch in haptic media studies, positing that such studies need to engage with skin-focused discourses.
“While haptic media studies reminds us of the technological and social constructions of touch, skin studies reminds us of the nuances of an individual skin,” he said.
Media School doctoral candidate Joshua Sites studies the psychological components of music production and analysis. He presented “Musical Information Introduced: Toward a Human-centered Music Message Complexity Index,” a look at message complexity analysis in music.
“Music is communication, because it contains information that is shared by minds,” Sites told the other researchers in attendance.
Zawan Al Bulushi, a doctoral candidate in the School of Education’s Department of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education, also presented at the paper session. Her research, “College Students’ Reading and Analysis of Multimodal Texts,” explores critical media analysis through her work with multilingual college students.
Al Bulushi said her project was guided by two questions: How do international students analyze self-selected YouTube videos on social issues, and how robust are their analyses?
Misinformation & Credibility in the Fake News Era
By Laurel Demkovich
Three graduate students presented their research on misinformation and credibility.
Doctoral candidate Xia Zheng presented his study, “Vaccine Misinformation’s Impact on Parental Vaccination Decisions Differs by Parents’ Educational Level.”
Zheng’s research stemmed from a 2005 Rolling Stone/Salon article, “Deadly Immunity,” which alleged that vaccines were associated with a higher risk for autism among children. The article was later debunked and retracted.
He used the CDC National Immunization Survey records from 2002-08, looking at years before and after the article was released. He specifically wanted to know whether mothers with high education levels were affected by the article.
He found that children of mothers with higher education levels showed a decline in vaccinations after the article was released.
Data from today could be different, Zheng said, but it’s still worth noting his results.
“Media influence is a long-term process,” Zheng said. “It’s not a very sudden change.”
Clara Boothby, second-year doctoral student in informatics, presented a paper she authored with third-year informatics doctoral student Dakota Murray, “Credibility of Scientific Information on Social Media.”
They set out to determine what readers perceive as credible when it comes to scientific information, such as non-peer reviewed academic publications, on the internet. They surveyed about 900 participants to determine what website site is best to share these publications.
Twitter was perceived as the least credible site among viewers. From there, Boothby and Murray looked at how to make a tweet more credible when sharing scientific information.
They found that the presence of an image affects the tweet’s perceived credibility, as well as the topic.
But that shouldn’t affect the research, Boothby said.
“If you’re a researcher, you’re not going to change what your research topic is based on if people think it’s science-y enough,” Boothby said.
Doctoral student Harry Yan presented his paper, “Welcome to the Matrix: The Effects of Bots Recognition on Self-efficacy, Third-person Perceptions and Policy Preferences.”
Yan examined social media users’ perceptions of political bots on social media. He defined bots as any computer algorithm that produces content and interacts with humans on social media.
Yan surveyed participants and asked them to look at social media profiles and determine whether they thought the profile was a real person or a bot.
He found that the longer participants spent looking at a profile, the more likely they were to guess wrong. Also, conservatives were more likely to think a conservative bot is a real person, whereas liberals were more likely to think a real conservative profile is a bot.
“Not all social bots are malicious with intention,” Yan said.
But there are many bots that do spread fake news and interact with real users and audience members, he added.
Media Polarization, Partisanship and Politics
By Kaleigh Howland
Comparative literature graduate student Meaghan Murphy and Media School doctoral candidates Xia Zheng and Minchul Kim presented their research on politics and partisanship in media.
Murphy deconstructed the techniques employed by an Infowars video, “Gun Owners ALERT!” to sway moderate viewers in her paper, “Red Pill Breadcrumbs: Using YouTube to Entice Moderate Conservatives to the Alt-right.” Murphy discussed techniques such as mimicking traditional news outlets with red, white and blue color schemes; using “Live” stickers despite never having aired live; and on-air personalities in suits at desks with papers.
Zheng discussed the link between people’s beliefs and their motivations and fears in his presentation, “Negative Bias, Political Attitudes, and Dynamic Coordination of Morality.” His survey of more than 250 sample citizens found that people motivated by defensive or aversive ideas leaned toward a social justice morality, biasing them toward liberalism. Those motivated by an appetitive system were drawn to order-based morality, slanting them toward conservativism.
Kim presented his findings from, “Testing Partisan Selective Exposure in a Multidimensional Choice Context: Evidence from a Conjoint Experiment,” a study he conducted with Yanqin Lu, MA’13, PhD’17. The researchers created an imitation mobile news app and asked more than 700 people to select their news based on headline, news organization, social endorsement counts and publication time. They found that while people are drawn to sources that confirm their views, they are not deterred by counter-attitudinal sources as much as other studies have suggested.
Research like this matters because of the growing concerns of animosity toward the other side, Kim said.
Quantifying Social Media Ecosystems
By Daniela Molina
Three graduate students showcased their completed and ongoing research analyzing social media platforms.
Sanchari Das, doctoral student in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, presented her analysis of social media tools celebrities use to publicize their work. Using Twitter as her primary social media platform for the research, Das analyzed 60 actors between ages 18-78 for her study, “How Celebrities Feed Tweeples with Personal and Promotional Tweets: Celebrity Twitter Use and Audience Engagement.”
Das created a coding scheme that broke down the celebrities’ tweets into four categories: personal, single, endorsement and ambiguous. Breaking down the data recorded, Das found that many celebrities use self-endorsement to promote projects, ideas and views. She said this analysis can help influencers and the general public better understand the potency of different types of content that draw audience attention and participation.
Hongtao Hao, a first-year master’s student at The Media School, compared selfies posted on Twitter and China’s version of Twitter, Weibo.
Hao’s study, “Different Ways of Self(ie) Objectification: Comparing Selfies on Twitter and China’s Weibo,” compares Caucasian women’s selfies to selfies taken by Chinese women. Through random sampling, the results showed that selfies on Weibo have higher face visibility and lower body exposure, and are more likely to employ selfie sticks to express cute expressions. The findings suggest different standards of beauty for Western women and Chinese women.
Brent Hale, a doctoral student in The Media School, presented, “Supporting Depression Sufferers Online: A Content Analysis of Comments Submitted to Depression-Related Imgur Posts.”
The study contributes to previous research that identifies the internet as a source of social support to those suffering from depression.
Good and Evil in Modern Storytelling
By Austin Faulds
It’s hard to face evil and even harder to examine and humanize it, according to the research presented in this paper session.
Graduate students Rebecca Waldie, Shadia Siliman and Ken Rosenberg each discussed their research concerning the representation and manipulation of emotions and morality through various media platforms, particularly with television and video games.
Siliman, a gender studies doctoral candidate, began with a presentation about the use of sexual violence against female antagonists in television as a tactic to instill sympathy for a particular character. This is referred to as the false comfort of sympathy, which teaches an audience to act sympathetically toward others in order to achieve personal comfort.
In “Embracing the Bad Victim on Television,” Siliman presented examples of shows like “Scandal” and “Mad Men,” which have both used the trope. Through her research, she wanted to prove that anyone can be a victim of sexual violence, not just good people, and just because an antagonist is suddenly revealed as a survivor, does not mean she is suddenly absolved of her moral misbehavior.
Rosenberg, a doctoral candidate in The Media School with a focus in media psychology, followed with his presentation about moral psychology in video game development, “Apply Dimensionality to the Discrete Moral Emotions of the Intuitionist Perspective using Narrative Videogames: Do the Values of Media Influence its Moral Salience?” He discussed model of intuitive morality and exemplars and the moral foundations theory.
In his research, Rosenberg strives to target the specific moral foundation of “care/harm,” which he believes is most relevant to gaming. He showed examples of games showing effects on prosocial behavior, which strives to benefit others. He wants to show how the effects of decisions made within games change the behavior of this moral foundation.
Waldie, a doctoral student in the communications department at Concordia University in Montréal, concluded with “The Protector vs. the Psycho-Killer: An Intersectional Exploration of Masculinity and Mental Illness in ‘Until Dawn.'” The paper examines the correlation of masculinity and mental illness through the lens of the 2015 survival horror video game “Until Dawn.” The game is about eight teenagers who have to survive being stalked by a violent entity known only as “the Psycho.”
While the male protagonist is represented as a strong protector to the female protagonists, the Psycho is represented as a weak masculine character who not only is unable to protect the female protagonists, but is actively seeking violence against them. This, in turn, paints mental illness as un-masculine, weak and something to condemn.
Media Factories of Race and Gender
By Daniela Molina
Expressions of black female liberation through horror films, toxic masculinity in the “manosphere,” representations of Nazi sexuality and political expression through Donald Trump fan fiction were the race- and gender-reated research topics four graduate students discussed in this session.
Jakob Breunig, a doctoral student in the departments of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, examined the frequent portrayal of sex in American Holocaust films in his paper, “Fucking Nazis: American Cinema and the Sexuality of Nazi Evil.” He specifically examined the characterization of Nazi sexuality.
Breunig said these films communicate Nazi villainy through Nazi “fucking” rather than genocidal violence. Breunig cited Lee Edelman, American academic and literary critic, to explain the process through which sexuality is mobilized to convey Nazi evil.
Gender studies doctoral student Kate Shindle followed with “Toxic Masculinity and the ‘Manosphore,'” an analysis of current events that suggests that toxic white masculinity and male entitlement have created a “manosphere” on the internet. Shindle’s research looks at the scholarly understanding of masculinity and the framework of hegemonic masculinity.
Shindle compared privileged and unprivileged men, and examined the impact hegemonic masculinity and the manosphere project on current and potential effects on patriarchy. Their work focuses primarily on the understanding of the manosphere and how masculinity has created a framework in understanding gender, sexuality, race and ability.
In “The Avenging Gaze: Demonic Possession as Black Female Liberation in the Film, ‘Abby,'” Media School doctoral student Andre Seewood examined the thematic differences between the “The Exorcist” and the black horror film “Abby,” which was withdrawn from theaters because of claims of copyright infringement by the makers of “The Exorcist.”
Seewood presented the concept of the avenging gaze among black audiences and labeled “Abby” as a black horror film that uses a demonic possession narrative to trace the new anxieties of black female liberation that confronted black communities at the time. In his paper, Seewood said he attempts to give agency back to black spectators whose collective cultural backgrounds provide a means to regard white films differently than intended.
Media School doctoral student Joe Roskos, who studies race, visual culture, advertising and augmented reality, examined slash stories about President Donald Trump in “Love Trumps All: Donald Trump, Real Person Slash, and Political Anti-Fans.” Roskos described fan fiction created by political anti-fans that questions Trump’s masculinity by criticizing him and demonstrating heteroflexibility, and argued that the stories encourage readers to be more politically active.
These narratives are used to criticize the president’s values and viewpoints, he said. Roskos argued that these works of political anti-fans combine reactionary and progressive satire with political expression.
By Austin Faulds
In one of the final paper sessions of the day, four researchers discussed their papers on various aspects of pornography, whether it be representation, dehumanization or technology.
Niki Fritz, a Media School doctoral candidate whose research focuses on mass communication effects and sexual health communication, discussed the lack of lesbian, gay and bisexual representation in pornography research. In fact, Fritz noted that there are currently no published analyses of lesbian and bisexual porn, and only one large study on gay porn. She said it’s important to have this kind of representation because not only does porn often dictate the attitudes couples have in relationships, but the internet can also be a useful space for identity creation for people in this demographic.
Fritz’s study, “Sexual Behaviors in LGB Pornography,” analyzed about 5,000 XVideos and Pornhub videos.
Yanyan Zhou, a Media School doctoral candidate who researches sex and media, discussed “Porn Use, Two Forms of Dehumanization, and Sexually Aggressive Thoughts and Behaviors: Sexual vs. Sociocultural Explanations,” a study with Chemnitz (Germany) University of Technology master’s student Tuo Liu and Media School doctoral student Harry Yan that analyzes dehumanization and sexual aggression toward women displayed in pornography. Zhou discussed the two dimensions of dehumanization, animalistic and mechanistic, and their relationship with young men’s pornography exposure and their sexually aggressive and violent thoughts and behaviors toward women.
Ellen Kaufman, a informatics doctoral student with a minor in sexuality from the Kinsey Institute, presented “Sex and Technology: A Co-constructed History.” Her study examined the historical relationship between sex and technology, particularly the myths surrounding both of them, such as the often-quoted phrase, “The internet is for porn.”
She traced the relationship back to the invention of the printing press and its subsequent publication of erotic stories such as “I Modi” (1524) and “Fanny Hill” (1748) as examples of this co-existence and co-development. She predicted that the trend will probably continue in the future with the integration of porn in VR technology.
Media School doctoral student Pragya Paramita Ghosh studied the cultural response of the banning of pornography in India through the rise of the animated, erotic character Savita Bhabhi in “Fantasy in a Time of Banned Desire: Savita Bhabhi and Animated Porn in India.”
While it is not illegal to watch or own pornography in India, it is illegal to produce or distribute it. Bhabhi, originally an erotic comic character, was adapted into a short porn film in 2013 that satirized the porn ban. This became the first indigenous Indian porn movie.
Paramita said that while there is only one official Indian porn film, there are plenty of other amateur ones illegally created and distributed on the internet, often filmed with cell phone cameras.