Headed by Prof. René Weber (Ph.D, M.D., M.B.A., M.A.), researchers from the Department of Communication have founded the Media Neuroscience Lab (http://medianeuroscience.org) in the Department of Communication at University of California, Santa Barbara. The idea for the lab began in 2009 at the International Communication Association conference when a group of scholars realized their mutual interest in brain science and social-psychological approaches to communica
tion research. In addition to addition to Department members, the Media Neuroscience Lab includes affiliated researchers from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, as well as from other universities around the world. Specifically, Peter Vorderer, the incoming President of the International Communication Association, is the newest supporting member of the Media Neuroscience Lab.
The Media Neuroscience Lab promotes research and teaching at the intersection of communication, technology, and neuroscience, and is open to all scientific research traditions. The Lab encourages collaboration among communication scholars, media professionals, and cognitive neuroscientists to build a rich understanding of shared research questions and methods. Regarding the Lab’s current research, Weber said “One of the big themes we are interested in is morality in narratives; that is, what function do they serve, and what kind of outcomes can be expected when moral domains are upheld or violated in complex narratives”. Other current topics of research include the effects of media violence, the neuroscience of counterarguing in persuasion, and the development of theory including statistical/methodological theory. Active members of the Media Neuroscience Lab meet every Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. in the Social Science and Media Studies Building, Room 4323. These meetings are open to everyone, including undergraduate students.
In addition to its role as a research center, the Media Neuroscience Lab offers services to scholarly and public communities. “We want the Lab to be an open, welcoming environment for scholars and students. We provide consulting, archival datasets, and research tools for researchers to use,” Weber stated. As an example, the Lab has developed a continuous response data collection tool for smartphones and browsers that collects data in real time and can measure heart rates when people put their finger on the cameras of their smartphones.
► The Center for Communication and Social Policy
Dan Linz. The Center was established to support research in the areas of media and public policy, such as projects on the internet, media censorship, rating systems for media content, and educational programming.
Andrew Flanagin and Miriam Metzger. This multi-method project explores issues of information credibility in the digital media environment that are prompted by the diversity of information sources and venues available online today.
Debra Lieberman. Health Games Research is a national program that provides scientific leadership and resources to advance the research, design, and effectiveness of digital games and game technologies that promote health.
See Dr. Lieberman's TEDxAmericanRiviera talk, "Can Playing Videogames Improve Our Health?" (13 minutes):
The Department of Communication engages in a wide range of research projects. Please browse the (alphabetic) listing of some of our current projects.
► Celebrity Activism in the Global Context
Cynthia Stohl and Michael Stohl (2011-2013). This research project examines the communicative dynamics of celebrity activism to better understand how their prominence influences the development of global networks to address a wide variety of issues and causes for an increasingly linked global audience.
► Collective Action and the Shifting Nature of Organization(s)
Andrew Flanagin, Bruce Bimber (Department of Political Science), and Cynthia Stohl (National Science Foundation). This research explores how people participate in public life through organizations in a time when digital media can make organizations seem irrelevant.
► Communication Challenges to Effectiveness
Dave Seibold, Karen Myers, and Mirit Shoham (Ohio University) (through Winter, 2012). Reviewing and analyzing the communication challenges that individuals, dyads, groups, and organizations (and their stakeholders) face that undermine “effectiveness” in those contexts, as well as what research suggest about strategies for increasing personal and system effectiveness in those situations.
► Conceptual Modeling of Human Communication and Media
Kenneth Harwood. Main aims of the modeling are to offer description and prediction of human communication through media.
► Data-Driven Frameworks for Analyzing User Interactions in Social Media
Andrew Flanagin, Divyakant Agrawal (Department of Computer Science), Stacy Patterson (Department of Mechanical Engineering), Bassam Bamieh (Department of Mechanical Engineering), and Amr El Abbadi (Department of Computer Science) (National Science Foundation). This research explores information diffusion over online social networks, using an integrated research approach that combines expertise in three key areas: (1) collection, querying, and analysis of massive datasets, (2) modeling and analysis of complex networks, and (3) analysis of social media and social interactions in the contemporary media environment.
► Effects of Media Consumption of Biomarkers of Stress
Robin Nabi and Tammy Afifi (some funding provided by ISBER and Faculty Senate). This research explores how consumption of various forms and genres of media influence the stress biomarkers of cortisol and alpha amylase. The goal is to begin to understand how the psychological effects of media consumption relate to physiological ones as well as to consider the role of interpersonal interaction during media consumption on the viewing experience.
► Engaged Communication Scholars
Dave Seibold and Kevin Barge (Texas A&M University) (through Summer, 2013). Producing an edited volume addressing key issues and challenges that engaged communication scholars face in conducting overtime projects with complex organizations dealing with intra- and inter-organizational communication and coordination challenges.
► Functions of Blogs in the 2007 Writers' Guild Strike
Linda Putnam, Ryan Fuller, and KK Holland. This project examines the role of blogs in the 2007 Writers' Guild Strike. Using a coding scheme developed from the literature on blogs, we have coded the functions of over 500 entries from 4 different blog sites sampled at specific turning points of the strike. In addition, the researchers interviewed blog writers and strike captains regarding their perceptions of the role that the blogs played in the strike campaign.
► Gr8 Textpectations: An Examination of the Role of Need for Closure in Parental Anxiety
Stephanie Robbins and Walid Afifi. This longitudinal study explores the personality and relational traits, such as the need for cognitive closure, which cause parents to experience anxiety as a result of their adolescent’s failure to respond to contact efforts via mobile phone or text message.
► Health Disparities during Economic Uncertainty: The Role of Communal Coping
Tamara Afifi, Walid Afifi, Annie Casillas, Sharde Davis, Amanda Denes (Funding through an ISBER grant and a Faculty Senate grant at UCSB 2011-2012). This study looks within Latino and Caucasian families who are highly uncertain about their family's economic future and testing whether parents who cope communally with each other can buffer the effect of economic uncertainty on adolescents' (and parents') physiological (assessed through the hormone cortisol and the enzyme alpha-amylase) and psychological health (i.e., depression, anxiety).
Peter Grabosky (ANU), PI; Michael Stohl, Partner Investigator; Associate investigators: Emma Thomas, Grant Wardlaw, Julie Ayling, Nigel Phair, and Sandy Gordon (Australian National University) (Australian Research Council 2009-2012). This project aims to transcend academic and law enforcement ‘silos’ by comparing and contrasting three types of illicit organization: youth gangs, conventional organized crime groups and terrorist organizations.
► Information and Communication Technology in the Global Social Justice Movement in Aotearoa/New Zealand
Cynthia Stohl and Shiv Ganesh (University of Waikato School of Management, NZ) (Marsden Foundation, New Zealand, 2009-2013). We explore the organizing processes that have created, maintained and transformed networks in the global social justice movement (GSJM) in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
► Interethnic Communication
Howie Giles, Jessica Gasiorek, and Maria Angels (Open University of Catalonia). The project looks at minority language use in Mexico (e.g., in the Chiapas) as a function of media ethnically-related viewing patterns as well as gang rivalries in the USA. Through 2013.
► Intergenerational Communication
Howie Giles with collaborators: Mei-chen Lin (Kent State), Charles Choi (George Fox), Hirosh Ota (Aichi Shukutoku University, Japan), Robert McCann (UCLA); Chan Thai, Jessica Gasiorek, and Abby Prestin. This project looks at: volunteering, elder abuse, death and dying, and aging from communication and international perspectives. Through 2013.
► Internet and Mobile Phone Use in Former Soviet Union Countries
Katy Pearce and Ronald E. Rice. Applying a digital divide perspective to understanding the influences on, and distribution of, Internet use in six countries.
► Interorganizational Knowledge Sharing Attitudes and Behaviors among Employees in the Humanitarian Sector
Melissa Bator (GRASSS 2011). An exploratory study of the current knowledge sharing attitudes and behaviors of senior leaders and program officers who work at the US offices of International Nongovernmental Organizations.
► Media Theory
Jim Potter. This ongoing work focuses on critical analyses of the media literature – identifying faulty assumptions; explicating key constructs; critiquing limitations in research practices; and examining the way scholars in our field build knowledge about the media.
► Sustainability at the Crossroads: Examining the Vulnerability of New Zealand's Global Environmental Positioning
Juliet Roper and Eva Collins (University of Waikato), George Cheney (University of Texas), and Michael Stohl (Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Grant 2010-2013). The research aims to understand how interested parties, including NZ policy makers, media, and business leaders think about, frame, and prioritise environmental, social and economic sustainability issues and with what consequences.
► The Impact of a Parent’s Presence on Facebook on Perceptions of Parental Privacy Invasions and Parent-Child Relationship Quality
M. Kanter, Tammy Afifi, and Stephanie Robbins. This experiment explores college students’ perceptions of privacy invasions when parents join Facebook and its subsequent effects on the parent-child relationship.
► Theories of intergroup Communication
Howie Giles and Cindy Gallois (University of Queensland, Australia). Work on sport communication, policing, and more generically with "intergroup communication".
► This Is between You, Me, and Facebook: Mediated Responses to Relational Transgressions
Stephanie Robbins and Anne Casillas. This is an empirical study examining relational factors which affect a relational partner’s choices to communicate via mediated communication after his or her partner has committed a relational transgression, as well as the potential negative effects of the communication on the relationship.
► "Three to Five Years Work Experience Required": Exploring the Role of Past Work Experience on Neophyte and Veteran Newcomer Socialization Processes and Organizational Identification
Courtney W. Davis (2011-2012). The research explores the effect of previous work experience, assisting organizations in facilitating new hires' socialization, as well as helping individuals in recognizing and capitalizing on their past.
► Towards Automating Privacy Controls for Online Social Networks
Miriam Metzger and Ben Zhao (UCSB Computer Science) (National Science Foundation 2009-2012). This project is a large-scale study of user behavior and decision-making regarding privacy in the Facebook online social network. It seeks to develop a means of automating user privacy preferences, and to understand what factors contribute to user privacy protection behavior.
► Uncertainty in the Lives of Immigrant Families
Walid Affi. This project explores the feelings of uncertainty and confusion experience by undocumented immigrants and war refugees in the United States. Read more about it in The Daily Nexus, a recent press release, and KCOY Central Coast News.
► Unpacking the Risk Assessment Process in Wildland Firefighting
Jody Jahn, Linda Putnam, and Anne Black (Rocky Mountain Research Station) (2010-2012, Joint Fire Science Program). This project examines wildland firefighter sensemaking about their memorable firefighting experiences. This project uses mixed methods to explore assimilation processes within the high reliability organization (HRO) context.
► Verbal Rumination and Its Effects on Friendships and Romantic Relationships over Time
Tamara Afifi, Walid Afifi, Sharde Davis, Annie Casillas, and Amanda Denes (2011-2012). A series of experiments and diary studies explore the effects of verbal co-rumination (both people verbally ruminating together) versus one person ruminating to a dating partner or best friend and the effects on relationship quality over time.
► Vocational Anticipatory Socialization of Traditionally Under-Represented Groups
Karen K. Myers (2011-2015). This study investigates the vocational socialization of traditionally under-represented groups (lower socio-economic status, Latinos, African Americans, and females) in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).