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Communications students to present at NCUR

Several School of Communications students will showcase their research at a leading, national conference.

Nine students in Elon University’s School of Communications will present their research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research April 3-5 at the University of Kentucky.

Titles and abstracts of the students’ research are presented below:

Michelle Alfini, “Moscow gets the Cold Shoulder: Framing of the 1980 Olympic Boycott in U.S., Soviet and British Media” (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Harlen Makemson)

“This study analyzes and compares frames in U.S., British and Soviet news coverage of the 1980 Olympic boycott. The study looks at news articles from print sources published in each country between May and August to show the differences in coverage in the months immediately leading up to the Games, during the boycotted Games and immediately following the Games. Previous research has analyzed framing of the 1980 Olympic boycott in U.S. and Soviet media; however, no previous research has addressed Great Britain, an interesting case in which the government supported the boycott, but the British Olympic team attended the Games anyway. The study consists of both quantitative and qualitative analyses. The quantitative aspect consists of content analysis in which the articles were coded based on which frame they exemplified best: International Conflict, International Cooperation, Success, Failure, Athletes or Olympics. To find the qualitative results, the researcher closely analyzed the individual articles of the more prominent frames to determine whether or not these frames served different functions in the different media systems and if so, what those different functions were. The results reveal that in each nation, the coverage was mainly focused on the effects of the boycott on athletes and the Olympic games as well as the implied failure of the boycott. The Soviet media was more likely to focus on the boycott’s failures and negative effects. Meanwhile, the U.S. media was more likely to focus on the ways that the boycott affects its athletes as well as how Western Europe contributed to the boycotts shortcomings and conveyed underlying tensions among the Western allies as a result of the boycott. The British media focused on ways that its nation fit into the narrative of the boycott through coverage of the boycott’s effects on their athletes or through coverage that claimed the British Olympic Committee’s decision led to the boycott’s failure. This research provides a basis for comparing U.S., Soviet and British coverage of the Olympics during a tense period of time, which can be used to analyze coverage of the 2014 Sochi Games.”

Joe Bruno (left) will present research he and Brian Mezerski (far right) compiled as part of a trip to Geneva, Switzerland, for the World Telecommunication Policy Forum. Also pictured (l-r): Julie Morse, Prof. Brian Walsh and Ryan Greene.

Joseph R. Bruno and Brian A. Mezerski, “A Widening Digital Divide: Infrastructure and Governmental Control in an Age of Expanding Internet Use” (Faculty Mentor: Prof. Brian Walsh) – Bruno will present.

“The digital divide defines the difference between populations that either have or lack access to information technologies. A major dimension and debate of the divide concerns Internet accessibility. As well-developed regions gain increasing access to advancing technology while underdeveloped regions have little to no infrastructure, the question remains: who in the future will control global Internet access, and what factors of access need controlling? Data was collected through surveys and interviews conducted at the World Technology Policy Forum & World Summit on the Information Society joint conferences in May 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland. In conjunction with The

Imagining the Internet Center, brief video interviews were recorded with a sampling of 63 conference attendees, representing telecommunications ministers, government officials, business representatives and concerned civilians from all sectors across the world. Survey questions addressed concerns on Internet governance and policy, as well as the threats and benefits presented by the projected doubling of Internet users in the next few years. Data was also gathered through content analysis of participant responses, as well as through literature review. An overwhelming number of respondents (73%) shared the philosophy that governments or organizations should not control access to the Internet and controlling bodies need to move towards an Internet completely free and open to all people. Coding analysis revealed key phrases, including: open, secure, global and no vested interest. Two major themes developed regarding conflicts that arise with increased global Internet access. First, respondents stated technology and infrastructure across the globe needs to be developed to allow more people to have access. Second, government control was seen as a hindrance to Internet access, and the control should be removed. Interviewees held that everyone can and should take advantage of the Internet no matter where they are, no matter what language they speak or what place they are in society. A consensus, as well as a sense of urgency, must now arise to deal with issues of infrastructure and governmental control; otherwise, existing global socio-economic disparities may be further deepened.”

Jill Capotosto, “Framing Climate Change: A Cross-Cultural Examination of Government Environmental Agencies’ Websites in Norway, China, Costa Rica and the United States” (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Barbara Miller)

“Climate change is one of today’s most pressing issues, but environmental response efforts cannot be successful without public adoption of environmentally conscious attitudes;  environmentally friendly attitudes may developed and shaped by the strategic communication efforts of environmental institutions and government agencies. This study involves a cross-cultural examination of the communication frames utilized by government environmental agencies to communicate with citizens about climate change. The countries of focus - China, Costa Rica, Norway and the United States - were selected because they vary greatly in their environmental performance, as well as across important cultural dimensions (as identified by Hofstede and other public relations scholars) that effect how individuals interpret and respond to messages. This study examines the ways that climate change is framed by each country’s environmental agency website, specifically studying how the government sites frame climate change causes and responsibility, environmental values and the need for climate change solutions (biospheric, egoistic, social/altruistic), and each country’s response to the issue. The sites for Norway and Costa Rica, both feminine countries with high environmental performance, highlighted biospheric and social/altruistic values, took responsibility for the country’s contribution to climate change, and emphasized international response measures. The U.S. site, meanwhile, focused on individual-level responses, emphasized egoistic values, and provided the most thorough scientific explanation of the sites studied. This cross-cultural examination of climate change framing may shed light on the influence of government communication on public policy, as well as on factors that contribute to communication that successfully generates public acceptance of progressive environmental agendas.”

Teressa Duncan, “Winning a war of ideals: The neglected use of artistic expression in cultural diplomacy” (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Glenn Scott)

“Bombs and soldiers are not the only option when “terrorism” is the enemy. The arts offer another type of diplomatic resource. In February 2013, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton observed that art, “reaches beyond governments, past the conference rooms and presidential palaces, to help us connect with more people in more places. It is a universal language in our search for common ground, an expression of our shared humanity.” This power to connect to people’s humanity can alter international perceptions. In a 2005 Report of the U.S. Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy, authors were so taken with the power of the arts in shaping the country’s international perception that they termed cultural diplomacy the “linchpin of public diplomacy.”

This paper critically analyzes this U.S. Advisory Committee’s recommendations through a contemporary global lens, weighing applications to current diplomatic situations and introducing the need for a new era of arts-driven public diplomacy. It examines research of public policy and communications scholar Nancy Snow, whose work analyzes U.S. ability to spread knowledge, wisdom, and empathy through cultural exchanges. Her historical context and application to modern day relations reveal a precedent for reform.

The U.S. has historically made arts diplomacy a major component of public policy, but that priority has slipped. This paper contends that as “soft weapons”, the arts should be deployed more effectively to win the war of ideals. In much the same way that scholar and anthropologist Benedict Anderson (1983) studied the development of print capitalism and the national print-language in Imagined Communities, this paper advances the concept of an international art-language and asserts that a new step in the adoption of human rights and democratic governance can occur through the promotion of artistic works.”

Shakori Fletcher (far right) will present research she gathered at the Internet Hall of Fame ceremony. Also pictured (l-r): Dr. Naeemah Clark, Katie Blunt, Aaron Moger, Ryan Greene and Jeff Ackerman

Shakori D. Fletcher, Ryan Greene and Jeffrey Ackermann, “The Ongoing Role of Original Principles in Internet Evolution: Internet Leaders Continue to Adhere to Early Ideals” (Faculty Mentor: Prof. Janna Anderson) – Fletcher will present.

“Do leaders in the ongoing technical and social evolution of the Internet continue to give voice to the principles expressed by its earliest innovators? Long-form, ethnographic video interviews were conducted in August 2013 at the Internet Engineering Task Force meeting in Berlin, Germany, with 23 people from among 2013 Hall of Fame inductees, Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) leaders and the Internet Society Board of Directors. These Internet developers, pioneers, and evangelists were interviewed in a formal, five-question process and asked to describe their views on the current state of the Internet, to identify challenges and opportunities, and to describe the best actions to take for a positive future. A six-student research team from Elon University recorded responses totaling more than five hours of content; the print transcripts total more than 75 pages. The interviews were posted as part of the Imagining the Internet Center’s documentary coverage of the 2013 Internet Hall of Fame Induction. Researchers later coded the qualitative content by implementing the Internet Society’s list of six “principles that guide our work” (in brief: the ability to connect, speak, innovate, share, choose, and trust), which have been generally recognized by Internet architects and diffusion experts since the emergent years of the organization in the early 1990s. Without being prompted about the principles, each of the interviewees mentioned several in his or her responses. For example 96 percent of the Hall of Fame inductees mentioned the continuing ability to innovate as crucial. The ability to connect (Internet accessibility on an equal and open basis for all), the ability to trust (to be able to safely and freely send and receive knowledge) and the ability to speak were also among the most-mentioned principles these leaders emphasized in sharing their thoughts about the past, present, and future of the Internet.”

Baron Smith, “Organizational Values in Crisis Communication: Exploring the Use of Corporate Codes of Values in Public Responses to Crises” (Faculty Mentor: Lucinda Austin)

“Over the past decade corporations have become more accessible to publics, due in part to the advent of social media and increased interaction between corporations and their audiences. However, this increased accessibility comes with a heightened degree of scrutiny. 

Corporations‘ actions, donations, or associations with other entities can be politicized and rapidly turn into a crisis. These crises often place corporations in situations where they are asked to take values-based positions on issues. Corporations are increasingly humanized, as seen in the Supreme Court‘s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and expected to act and communicate with sincere and consistent values. Although many corporations have published codes of values, questions remain as to how organizations use these values. What role, if any, do these values play in how corporations communicate during times of crisis?

Little research has analyzed how corporations adhere to these values in practice, specifically in handling crises. To examine the use of corporate codes of values in times of crisis, this study explores corporations’ public responses to crises and how these responses align (or not) with organizational codes of values. This study utilizes a qualitative content analysis method to examine the relationship between corporations‘ codes of values and their public responses during crises. Communication issued through press releases and social media pages of five high-profile crisis communications cases are examined, in conjunction with their corresponding codes of corporate values. Using a constant-comparative approach, each corporation‘s codes of values are compared with their public communication about the crisis to query whether corporate responses in crises follow published values or, if they deviate, how they differ. 

Findings suggest that while some corporations act with regard to their values in public communications during a crisis, particularly as justification for their position or reasoning when faced with scrutiny, many make only implicit references to these values and may issue communications without reference to them at all. Some organizational codes of values also convey vague and broad ethical ideals with no clear ties to organizations’ communications, rather than taking concrete positions in their statements. By doing this, perhaps corporations are still trying to remain largely neutral in their value-based positions. Lastly, some corporate codes of values are not clearly highlighted on company webpages.”

Gloria So, “From ‘Pockets of Poverty to Potential Prosperity’ in Appalachia: Connecting Mass Media Narratives of Poverty Stereotypes to Authentic Appalachia through Photovoice” (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kenn Gaither)

“General public discourse suggests that Appalachian people are often trapped in an ideological construct of hillbillies because of the circulation of Appalachian stereotypes in American visual culture. This research examines media narratives of poverty stereotypes in Eastern Kentucky through Photovoice, a participatory action research method that combines photography and social action. This research asks, how do local community members visualize and frame issues of poverty in Appalachia compared to mass media outlets? Using qualitative research methods including ethnography, participatory action interviews, and media narrative analysis, the study determines if past stereotypes persist today and if those stereotypes affect how Appalachians see themselves. The purpose of the research is to encourage participant and viewer action through the visualization of social issues and to provide tools to help people share their stories.

The research compares the framing of the media coverage through narrative analysis and content analysis during the period in which President Johnson declared the War on Poverty through a national outlet, The New York Times, and a local Appalachian newspaper, The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Kentucky, where Johnson launched the War on Poverty in January 1964.   

The research connects this past narrative analysis research to reexamine the present to study the power of media narratives and their lingering effects by looking at whether Appalachian people are still marginalized through media narratives. The research includes interviews with 10 community members in Eastern Kentucky about perceptions of media and stereotypes, two workshops and group discussions, and the implementation of Photovoice, which involves participant-produced photography to facilitate empowerment education among participants, and two photo exhibitions in local communities. Currently, the photos, narratives, interviews, and transcribed group discussion are being organized and analyzed for emergent themes.

Images hold tremendous power in conditioning people’s understanding of not only the world around them, but also the idea of the “self” within their environment. When scholars consider how images contribute to the definitions and perceptions of how people connect to their environment and interpret the lessons of images, they ask the crucial question: Who has the power to take images of others for their own uses? Consequently, regions such as Appalachia have been portrayed as fundamentally different from mainstream society because they are typically recorded from an “outsiders” perspective. In contrast, this research reveals a much needed other side to the story by placing the power and control in the hands of local community members. This research will address persistent social issues, illuminate misconceptions and stereotypes about Appalachia, and share personal experience stories.”

Kyrstin Wallach, “The Way in Which People Tweet about Their Favorite Artists and Its' Influence in Music Sales” (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Glenn Scott)

“Can Twitter be used in marketing an artist’s music during award shows? To answer this question, the author examined four artists at the 2013 MTV VMAs—Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, Drake, and Kanye West--who experienced a peak of references on Twitter during the show. Based on a content analysis of the tweets and secondary research, the study found that tweets converged toward the same topics, supporting Social Influence Network Theory. This study also found that the director’s filming directions during the award show might also influence the trends on social media during the show.”

Jason Waterman, “Effects of Heuristic Cues on Information Processing and Attitude Formation in Social Media Marketing” (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Qian Xu)

“The advent of social media as a prominent marketing tool has changed the way in which marketers must make persuasive appeals to consumers. As consumers’ relationships to their media evolves, the psychological reasoning by which they are persuaded evolves in conjunction. The present study examines the role of heuristic cues in social media marketing regarding consumers’ information processing, attitude formation, and decision-making. Prior research has established bandwagon cues and source cues as influential in the persuasiveness of traditional marketing, but this study proposes that these cues might have different implications in social media marketing. A 2x3 between-subjects experiment was conducted to explore the individual and interactive effects of bandwagon and source cues in tweets on the social media platform of Twitter. One hundred thirty-six participants were assigned to one of the six conditions to view a relationship building social media message. The persuasive message shared via Twitter was the same across all conditions but varied in the manipulations of source and bandwagon cues. The study found that when company was the source of a commercial message, consumers generated a more positive response towards the company message than when a friend of the consumer had shared the same message. Specifically, participants perceived the company as having a higher source expertise and brand attitude when the company tweeted the message as opposed to a friend or a celebrity. This is quite contrary to research on the role of source cues in traditional marketing. Significant results also emerged for participants’ affective and behavioral responses to the bandwagon cues and the interaction effects between the source and bandwagon cues. Both the underlying theoretical mechanisms and the practical implications for future social media marketing are discussed in the paper.”

Colin Donohue,
2/3/2014 11:10 AM