Fall 2016

Wrapping up my first full semester as faculty here in Communication at MSU, I can finally reflect on the semester and what’s been happening.

Media and Morality

I was involved in two media and morality  workshops, one at MSU and one at Radboud University in Nijmegen, as well as a media and morality discussion panel at NCA. As usual, I just wish we had more time for these things, as they bring together scholars on an important topic in a way we don’t get to do on a day-to-day basis. Most interesting themes in the area of media and morality from these talks, from my perspective:

  • Looking at both the positive and negative effects of moral portrayals, including character ambiguity, moral license or cleansing, and consequences for altruistic and egoistic behavior. Of course this touches on my own work, but also new stuff coming out from Mina Tsay and Maya Krakowiak, Morgan Ellithorpe and David Ewoldsen, and Sven Joeckel and Layla Dogruel, among others.
  • Focusing on the role of the audience in perception of morality, particularly in terms of attributions about character motivations and in terms of audience moral deliberation/entering the moral playground of narrative and video games. This has been driven by several folks, namely Matthew Grizzard and Tilo Hartmann in video games, and Clare Grall, Nick Bowman, and Ron Tamborini in narrative.
  •  Charting the developmental effects of sociomoral portrayals in media on children. This has been coming for a while (particularly from Robert Lewis and Lindsey Hahn) but I confess it hasn’t really interested me terribly… until I got involved in a project looking at moral intuition salience after points of moral conflict in Brave. Excited to work on those data with Serena Daalmans and Lindsey Hahn this coming year.
  • Identifying the neural correlates/ROI for moral reasoning in narrative. I can’t say much but be ready for some really cool papers coming out in the next year on this topic!

Media and Well-Being

Of course the big news in media and well-being research was the publication of the Routledge Handbook of Media and Well-Being, edited by Leonard Reinecke and Mary Beth Oliver. Such an incredible volume that pulls together established and new scholars to tackle this important topic.

Leonard and I are also currently working on the special issue of Journal of Media Psychology on Media and Well-Being, which will come out in 2017.

I have several papers under review in this area currently, which I hope to announce in the coming year. Not to tip my hand here, but I can say that the papers I’m most excited about in this area include one with Matthias Hofer on media use and well-being in the elderly, one on the psychological costs and benefits of binge-watching, and two on media use for recovery and personal expansion. So this area will get a lot of traction in the coming year (I hope!)

Teaching

Teaching this semester was incredible. I had a lovely graduate seminar on historical perspectives and current developments in mass communication theory. We covered a range of topics and perspectives, and I had the pleasure of reading excellent final papers extending or refining existing mass comm theories/perspectives such as Uses and Gratifications, Reinforcing Spirals, Two-step flow, and Social Cognitive Theory. It was a class I’d taken once from John Sherry and once from Steve Lacy, so it was especially exciting to teach from both those perspectives in my first term back at MSU.

In short, although I miss the VU and living in the Netherlands quite a bit some days, I am on the whole still overwhelmingly pleased to be back in East Lansing and with the incredible faculty, students, and opportunities available at Communication Arts & Sciences here at MSU. Onward and upward to 2017!

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