The faculty of the School of Media and Communication includes research scholars, journalists, television producers, new media artists, speechwriters, advertising executives and public relations practitioners. Many cross fields and bring less traditional approaches to communications and media into the classroom. By transcending these borders, the faculty of the School of Media and Communication finds compelling connections that have defined the school since it was founded in 1967 as the School of Communications and Theater.
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- Deborah A. Cai
- Senior Associate Dean
- Deborah Marshall
Prof. Postigo investigates how science is crowdsourced through online games
The term “crowdsourcing” has been flitting around the Internet in recent years to describe how users can come together to help solve a problem. It has evolved into sites like Kickstarter – and “crowdfunding” — where people go to raise money for a project from the masses.
And now, biochemists are looking outside their labs to the Internet for help in their research. Science is now being crowdsourced.
Hector Postigo, associate professor of media studies and production at Temple’s School of Media and Communication, and Casey O’Donnell, assistant professor of telecommunications, information studies and media at Michigan State University, have received a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to research how science is using the Internet, and the knowledge of their fellow humans, to help with their work.
Experts and laymen alike can visit a website to engage in a scientific problem that is constructed like a game. Through play and trial and error, the gamers are helping the scientists decipher the structure of proteins and nucleic acids.
“The research is important because it shows that communications systems that center ‘flow’ and ‘play,’ two concepts from creativity studies and ludology (the study of games), foster creative thinking, which might be the moment when we are at our smartest,” he says. “Crowdsourcing, critiques notwithstanding, has the capacity to tap into collective thinking, collaborative creativity and play.”
At the core of their research, Postigo hopes to discover how the presence of non-scientists impacts the process of scientific experimentation. But they are also looking into the games themselves and how they are designed to keep players interested and continue to assist in the science.
Game asks players to ‘fold’ proteins
On the site fold.it, gamers create protein structures, which allow scientists to predict how to target them with drugs.
“The more we know about how certain proteins fold, the better new proteins we can design to combat the disease-related proteins and cure the diseases,” the site explains. “We’re collecting data to find out if humans’ pattern-recognition and puzzle-solving abilities make them more efficient than existing computer programs at pattern-folding tasks. If this turns out to be true, we can then teach human strategies to computer and fold proteins faster than ever.”
The key to keeping users coming back is the creation of a successful gaming structure, Postigo says, noting fold.it’s use of forums, player profiles and high score chart.
“The research can impact innovation studies, creativity studies, education and science,” Postigo says. “Based on findings, we might be able to develop discovery and creativity paradigms for complex scientific systems that tap play and creativity as effectively as they might tap expertise.”
TV news steps up during JFK assassination, creates lasting images
As Americans tried to cope with and understand the assassination of their president 50 years ago, they turned, for one of the first times in history, to television for wide-ranging coverage of the unfolding event. On Nov. 22, 1963, television news earned the trust of a generation of viewers.
With the perfect confluence of events, experts and emerging technology, Paul Gluck, associate professor of media studies and production, said television news became the top resource for Americans to gather information about the death of JFK. For years, radio’s ratings had been deflating and the public needed visual images to help comprehend the tragedy.
“People didn’t rely on radio if they could see a television,” he said. “It was more comforting. America had an appetite to see it and understand it.”
And the industry was ready to step up.
Gluck, who teaches “History of Electronic Media,” said the early-1960s network news crews were the first generation of professionals who had “grown up” in the TV news business. Sensing the public’s thirst for detailed and up-to-the-minute information, it was the first time networks provided wall-to-wall news coverage.
Over the next several days, television aired images that have been permanently etched in the minds of the adults and children who watched the events live.
Sherri Hope Culver, assistant professor of media studies and production and director of the Temple School of Media and Communication’s Center for Media and Information Literacy, said TV coverage strongly affected the children of the 1960s, since kids don’t have the ability to remove themselves from the images they see on television.
“We know from research the earlier children learn something, the more likely that learning will stay with them as they age (assuming the learning is age-appropriate). Couple that learning with an impactful visual, and our senses make a connection that becomes a trigger for the memory,” she said. “That’s why advertisers like to make connections with young children. Something as basic as the type of toothpaste you use as a kid can affect which toothpaste you buy as an adult.”
Preschool age children process television imagery differently since they do not yet have the ability to understand how television works. Culver equates the experience of watching coverage of the assassination to the experience of watching 9/11 unfold on TV.
“Kids were seeing images of tall buildings falling and they’re not understanding that it’s a 10-second video clip being played over and over and over,” she said. “They get the sense that it’s continuously happening or that lots of buildings are exploding.”
Why the pictures remain
Adults, she said, have the self-awareness to take themselves out of the equation – to pull back and understand that the footage was captured by a camera operator, sent to an editor and is being replayed throughout the day.
“At a preschool age, kids are taking things at face value. Kids are not considering whether or not they’ve seen the footage before. What they see is what it is to them,” she said.
Culver believes children who had some sort of deeper connection to the assassination (whether they lived in Dallas or a place like it, or if their family had a personal connection to it) likely recall the images with more clarity.
“A child seeing a news report on the JFK assassination just one time might have minimal reaction, or might have a nightmare, but without a stronger connection or seeing the footage repeatedly, their fear would likely dissipate pretty quickly,” Culver said.
When national tragedy inevitably finds its way onto our televisions again, Culver believes it is up to adults to help children monitor and process the images they see and help them better understand the many levels of the situation.
“When a major news event takes place, this is an opportunity to have a conversation with your children or students,” she says. “Adults can help children to process the situation, evaluate whether or not this will affect the child personally, and help the child develop the coping skills to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life.”
Prof. Creech explores media’s role in covering military action
During the Vietnam War, the American military performed a series of secret military campaigns over Cambodia, dropping more than 2 million tons of bombs. But, according to a new article by Brian Creech, assistant professor of journalism, the American public didn’t know much about it because of the way mainstream media, specifically Time magazine, covered the war.
“A sense of mystery surrounded mainstream American reporting from the country,” Creech writes in “The Rising Tide of War: Discourses of American Military Power in Time,” which was published in Communication Review. “Officials denied military operations and cast a fog of uncertainty upon the military operations there that journalists tried to penetrate at their own peril.”
As a combined result of the government’s unwillingness to open up, and some media outlets’ unwillingness to dig deeper, “the mainstream American press, as exemplified by Time, served as a field of discourse whose conventions and practices shrouded military operations in a continued secrecy that prevented a sustained critique against U.S. military power from emerging,” Creech writes in the article.
Creech first became interested in Cambodia while working in the country as a teaching and program assistant for a University of Georgia travel-writing course.
“When in Cambodia, you can’t help but be struck by the way in which violence and war have impacted the culture, politics and daily life of that country,” he says. “Tourism is the main economic driver of the country now, and a significant portion of that tourism is dedicated to sites like killing fields, secret prisons and memorials dedicated to mine victims.”
He wondered how these bombings were portrayed in the American press and if they continued because the American people didn’t truly understand what was happening.
“For contemporary journalists, Cambodia is an important cautionary tale, where government obfuscation and a focus on military tactics obscured the scale and possible long-term consequences of the bombing,” Creech says. “For war reporters and international correspondents alike, transparency about the news-gathering process shifts public knowledge and debate around military intervention, allowing for more nuanced and careful analysis than what Time was writing about Cambodia.”
-Jeff Cronin, SMC Communications