Crossing Disciplines

My post last week on the differences between theater and communication work on effectively communicating science started me down a path of thinking on the many disciplines I have come across that often refer to the same thing with different words and perspectives.

A professor at my undergraduate institution once told me that communication and psychology are closely related, but communication is focused on the message while psychology is focused on the mind. Research in various scholarly journals will show that persuasion from a communication perspective looks at how can we design a particular message or document or video (etc.) to persuade a person more. Psychology in contrast looks at how that person receives a particular message. Nevertheless, there is much overlap where the two disciplines do not often agree on terms or how to treat certain concepts.

Similarly, public relations is often analyzed in the communication department and business schools. The particular tone of articles depends heavily on what journal it is published in and who publishes it: a comm or business scholar?

I think this shows a good bit of misunderstanding in each discipline that keeps their distance from the others. But for non-comm scholars it may seem easier to understand the message as a simple object to manipulate in a research study with little bearing on the results. As a comm scholar, I would make the same errors in my understanding of what variables are truly at play.

Post “Communicating Science” workshop

Last night we were fortunate enough to have Patty Raun from the School of Performing Arts visit our class for a workshop about communicating science in a more personal way. This was a very unusual workshop for graduate students outside of the arts and very entertaining.

However, I don’t know if I agree with the role of theater in this context. Yes, on multiple occasions we heard that the goal is not to make scientists into actors but the end goal seemed to be towards making the content more entertaining, or tied at a fundamental level to some sort of human emotion.

This was a fun exercise, but I don’t think it gets at the root of the problem. In order to do this, communication scholars have been working for now over a century towards understanding persuasive messages. Large grants are awarded to faculty members who focus on health campaigns that utilize stories not only in interpersonal communication, but also in traditional and new media. A couple of “bullshit” theories and experiments have helped us to understand this process better (see Melanie Green and Timothy Brock’s 2000 work on narrative transportation from the social scientific perspective, or Walter Fisher’s 1984 narrative paradigm from the humanist, rhetorical side).

ORI Savine Case

I looked at the Savine case on the ORI website, located at http://ori.dhhs.gov/content/case-summary-savine-adam-c .This case details the story of Mr. Adam Savine, who falsified his data and presented it in publications and at conferences.

Unfortunately, the legal jargon only tells one story. It tells the story of a bad academic in a psychology department who took the easy route and got caught. I would imagine that Mr. Savine felt pressured to edit his data to fit his hypotheses because of pressure to publish as a doctoral student in order to get some position after he completed his degree.

This cheating isn’t worth the risk. Luckily I operate from the perspective that there is no measurable (T)ruth, and that reality is relative. For me, there is no way to falsify the data because the data is what I see, and you could call it opinion instead of fact!! Sure, there are still plagiarism concerns- and what worries me most is that I’m not doing a thorough enough job in my review of the literature to discover if anyone has had similar ideas before.

But that’s not the case here. Mr. Savine believed that some aspect in his discipline of psychology was measurable. He then altered the data to fit his conclusion, and got caught afterwards.

Social science isn’t worth the trouble.

Week 4: Getting in the Groove

Nearly a month into the semester, I feel that both students and teachers are just now getting into a comfortable routine with courses and schedules. This moment (flexible among individuals) is important to note because it is when we expect all the bells and whistles of the course to be behind, leaving only the substantial parts ahead.

It is usually in this moment that I would come up with an action plan for the semester, usually in the form of a large calendar with dates from my multiple courses side by side. This way I could analyze the busy and slow weeks of the semester.

As I head into the second unit of my course, I’ll ask students to understand that it is now time to do work. The sun is getting lower in the sky, taking with it the warm summer weather and soon it will be cold in Blacksburg. For us students and teachers it is time to snuggle up close to the space heater with a laptop, some printed out pdfs and a cup of coffee. Does life get much better?

My generation? The class of 2017

In our first class, we heard some of the measurable data of students who were entering college in 2012. Granted, these sophomores and their 2013 freshmen class successors are not the majority of the VT student population, but even so I don’t believe that I have as much of a connection with their unmeasured needs and interests as my age would suggest.

I graduated with my B.A. in Communication-Media from N.C. State nearly 1 and 1/2 years ago, and understand the taxing mental and emotional challenge of being an undergrad in modern higher ed, but never felt super connected to the “millenial” college population. I purposely put this term in quotations, because I’m not sure if it accurately represents the group like other terms (Baby boomer, gen x).

Furthermore, I have witnessed much older teachers at times make better connections with these young students than I could ever hope for.

What do they want? I was great at “studenting” or managing courses to achieve the best grade irregardless of knowledge learned as an undergrad, and try to accommodate those with similar goals while throwing an appropriate curve ball every now and then. But is that enough? How can I be more engaged? How can I tie in current and practical concerns to theoretical lectures?

How do I connect with what is supposedly my generation!?