Diederich College Initiative on Communication Ethics, Values and Social Justice

The Diederich College Initiative on Communication Ethics, Values and Social Justice (DCI) was created by and for college faculty to initiate and sustain a variety of activities among faculty and students that would investigate various dimensions of communication ethics, values and social justice.

Underwritten by the generous funding provided by William Burleigh, scholarly activities promoted by the DCI include, among others:

1. Issuing position papers and promoting scholarship on pressing public issues in concert with an interdisciplinary team of researchers in the Diederich College of Communication.

2. Identifying trends, conducting surveys, and disseminating important information on critical public policy issues.

3. Convening conferences and publishing proceedings and papers and inviting nationally and internationally recognized scholars to participate in seminars and public lectures. Our annual Burleigh Ethics Lecture series is a prominent ongoing component in this mix.

We are pleased to announce the DCI’s annual Summer Research Grant award recipients, along with a description of their exciting summer research projects:

2013 DCI Summer Grant Awards

Journalistic Storytelling and the Problem of Truth-telling: Rehabilitating the Concept of Truth in Journalism Discourse

Dr. Karen Slattery, Department of Journalism and Media Studies

This funded research study defends the idea of truth as a touchstone for journalists in a new media environment. It begins by examining the standards and practices of journalism, which emerged in the old media environment and were embodied in the profession’s ethical codes. The codes are based on the concept of truth telling, which is understandable given the historical context in which the codes came about; they evolved in an era when journalism was seen as an essential mechanism of self-governance. The codes are under attack, at least indirectly, by those who deny the existence of truth. Dr. Slattery will argue that truth is an enduring concept that still has value and she calls upon philosophical traditions to defend that claim, specifically, correspondence and coherence theories of truth, and a tradition that draws on those theories and is further elaborated by Thurgood. This paper argues that the professional ethical codes contain core values that remain relevant and essential to the practice of journalism in the digital age. Underpinning Dr. Slattery’s argument is the claim that journalism, as traditionally understood, is still essential to self-governance and will remain so until it is replaced by another mechanism of equal value or utility. That mechanism has yet to emerge.

Research and Outreach Assistance for the Design and Production of Boys Next Door

Stephen Hudson-Mairet and Debra Krajec, Department of Digital Media and Performing Arts

This DCI grant supports the design and overall production of “The Boys Next Door” by Tom Griffin. Hudson-Mairet and Krajec will rely on a multi-tiered approach for this creative endeavor. This funding will be used to extend outreach to the Marquette and greater Milwaukee community to build awareness of the lives of people with cognitive disabilities and mental illness and provide assistance with the design process of the production itself.

Proposed outcomes include an open sharing website developed for outreach to the greater Marquette and Milwaukee communities, community connections, and a meaningful production. This play has cross disciplinary applications on campus with several potential connections to various areas of study including nursing, psychology, and social welfare and justice. Hudson-Mairet and Krajec anticipate chronicling the production activities for possible publication in the future.

Applying The Risk Information Seeking And Processing Model to Sexual Aggression Inflicted on Young Women

Dr. Jim Pokrywczynski, Department of Strategic Communication and Gregory J. Calhoun, M.A. Graduate, Marquette University

While a plethora of researchers have studied risk factors related to sexual violence, few studies have explored what differences account for the various ways women seek and process information about sexual violence. The study seeks to accomplish this by applying the Risk Information Seeking and Processing model (RISP) to the risk of sexual aggression among young women 18-25. RISP has been utilized to effectively explore the individual traits that influence how people seek and process risk information in a number of contexts. This work is an extension of work done by Greg Calhoun in his Marquette College of Communication thesis completed in 2012 that focused on only full-time female undergraduates at Marquette. By expanding the sample nationally and outside a college campus environment, Dr. Pokrywczynski and Mr. Calhoun will introduce a richer set of insights into the different communication environments that play a role in influencing how knowledgeable vulnerable segments in society are regarding sexual aggression. An added component, not addressed in Mr. Calhoun’s previous work, several message themes will be investigated that could be used in ads and persuasive message forms. These themes will also be tested for their resonance with respondents.

The “Hope for Athens” Historical Timeline Project

Danielle Beverly, Department of Digital Media and Performing Arts

The “Hope for Athens” Historical Timeline Project is designed to supplement and complement the reach of a feature length documentary titled “Old South”, which investigates racial conflict in a Southern neighborhood. Unlike the film, which specifically tracks 3+ years in the historically African American neighborhood, the Historical Timeline reaches back 150 years to see how this neighborhood was a thriving black community for 140 of those years, and then dramatically shifted due to gentrification and encroachment by an elite, white college fraternity known to fly a confederate flag and hold a yearly antebellum parade. Primary sources including census data, Sanborn Maps, original photographs, oral histories of residents (including new ones), and short video interviews will be procured, catalogued and then integrated into the interactive web-based timeline. Residents and community stakeholders will be invited to contribute their own memorabilia and content though open storytelling portals. Recognized historians will vet the research, the process and the outcomes. Launching during the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, “Hope for Athens” will be a robust, interactive 150 year picture of one block in Athens, GA – one that is highly emblematic of rapidly gentrifying and racially shifting communities across the American South.

Investigating Predictors of Preferences for Deliberative Qualities of Political Conversations Using the Analytic Hierarchy Process

Dr. Sumana Chattopadhyay, Department of Digital Media and Performing Arts and Dave Brinker, Jr. Graduate Assistant, Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, Pennsylvania State University

Deliberation is the cornerstone of every democracy. A healthy civic life cannot exist without citizens who are engaged with the political deliberative process. Recent studies of public deliberation have centered on how procedural discourse can improve public discourse or citizenship, measured in terms of post-exposure traits of citizen participants in deliberative events.

This paper examines a method for understanding how citizens approach deliberation before participating in deliberative events. An initial study used a unique method incorporating a portion of Saaty’s (1980) Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) to force pairwise choices between each of the deliberative qualities, resulting in a preference ranking. This ranking was shown to be statistically related to culturally-informed political worldview. This suggests that when ideal political discourse is not possible, respondents would prefer different types of discourse based on their political disposition.

We propose a replication and extension of the earlier study to extend the application of the AHP to document the consistency between the forced-choice rankings and the perceptions of the qualities of actually selected discourse (i.e., news media). The findings from the proposed research project will help better document the mechanism by which preferences for deliberative qualities become culturally-biased and by which actual media preferences become culturally biased as well. This project will help us test direction hypotheses (not proposed in the initial study) and enable us to build a model of discourse selection grounded in research consistent with theoretical and empirical research on ideologically-motivated reasoning.

2014 DCI Summer Grant Awards

Lady Killers: A Twenty-Year Study of Magazine Coverage of Women Who Kill Their Abusers

Dr. Pamela Nettelton, Department of Journalism & Media Studies
Previous studies have shown that magazine and newspaper discourse on domestic violence hold women as being responsible for the violence perpetrated against them. Women are judged for the violence that men do, expected to behave as victims, and encouraged to consider fund-raising for women’s shelters to be the most defensive action they take. But when a woman actively defends herself and shoots and/or kills her partner with a gun, how do media describe and judge that agency? This study of the discourse on domestic violence that appears in 20 years of 20 top popular magazines employs narrative analysis to consider how women who shoot back are characterized in the language and structure of that discourse.

Performance, Design and Outreach Opportunities of the College of Engineering Visualization Lab

Chester Loeffler-Bell, Department of Digital Media and Performing Arts
This proposal seeks funding for summer research into the theatrical production potential of the new $1.5 million Visualization Lab which was recently opened in the Marquette University College of Engineering. Over the summer, I will learn new technologies that will allow me create content to attract community producing groups and/or social activist organizations as partners. Ultimately, I will use this summer research as a mechanism to launch a resident theatrical company to be based in the Visualization Lab.

At the Interface of Schools and Families: Communication between Schools and Gay-and Lesbian-Led Families

Dr. Lynn Turner, Department of Communication Studies
Families headed by gay or lesbian parents represent a rapidly growing family type in the United States. Although the precise number of children being raised by gay men and lesbians remains elusive, estimates suggest that approximately 2 million children live in same-sex households in the United States (Perrin & Siegel, 2013). Some evidence shows that schools are not adequately supporting nor welcoming of members from gay- and lesbian-led households (e.g. Fioriello, 2013). Using a Systems Theory perspective, the current study explores the interface between gay-and lesbian-led families and the schools their children attend. The study explores the following: the role the school system plays in the lives of gay- and lesbian-led families, how these families communicate with the schools, and how responsive the teachers and administrators are to this communication. Specifically, we explore how gay and lesbian parents describe their children’s school lives and the communication strategies they and the schools employ to establish connections between them. We are interested in discovering a model of communication practices linking gay- and lesbian-led families with their children’s schools in an effort to determine the most efficacious strategies for best serving this population. We will interview school administrators and gay and lesbian parents in a qualitative approach toward reaching these goals.

Activists in the Suits: Shareholder-Corporate Communication on Societal Issues through Institutional Mechanisms

Dr. Nur Uysal, Department of Strategic Communication
Investors increasingly use ownership rights to influence a corporation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices and policies, challenging the traditional role of investor relations. However, shareholder activism with respect to CSR has thus far not received any scholarly attention in the field of strategic communication. This multidisciplinary study examines shareholder activism as a drive for change in CSR behavior. Specifically, the study will investigate the societal expectations voiced in shareholder resolutions—a formal mechanism for social shareholder activism—and corporate responses to these expectations. The study consists of two empirical studies. Using a large dataset, I will first analyze shareholder resolutions filed by institutional shareholders at U.S. publicly traded corporations between 1997 and 2013. Building upon the concept of organizational legitimacy, I will then develop and test two theoretical models to explain and predict corporate responses to societal expectations of shareholders voiced in these resolutions. This research project seeks to explain the larger role of communication in maintaining organizational conformity to societal expectations in today’s complex society and calls for an expanded role of investor relations that pushes corporations to meet or even exceed societal expectations of a broader set of stakeholders.

Mobile Communication: Interdisciplinary eBook and Companion Website Design (Faculty Development Grant)

Linda Menck, Department of Strategic Communication
The basis of this creative research project is to create an innovative and interactive Book and companion website for the study of mobile communication and the impact mobile is making on the democratization and changing landscape of digital content creation and distribution. This mobile communication eBook and website will be designed to be an interdisciplinary academic resource for students, and faculty teaching a variety of courses including advertising, public relations, corporate communication, design, digital media, journalism, marketing, and social innovation. The eBook and website will be an edited compilation of resources and contemporary articles written by digital and mobile industry thought-leaders, research findings from global leaders in measuring the digital world, case studies on a variety of topics in mobile communication, and news from leading publications covering the most contemporary issues in mobile technology, communication, marketing, commerce, etc.

2015 DCI Summer Grant Awards

Exploring Gender Segregation in Thai Creative Advertising Departments

Dr. Gee Ekachai, Department of Strategic Communication
Advertising creative departments appear to have gender segregation with women representing just 20% of all those working within creative departments worldwide. The proposed research project extends a cross-cultural research study previously conducted by Dr. Jean Grow and her colleagues who explored the underrepresentation of female advertising professionals in creative departments in several countries such as Sweden, Peru and Spain. The proposed project extends that research to an Asian context—Thailand, by investigating three primary aspects of Thai creative women’s experiences. First, it looks at relationships with colleagues and clients. Second, work/life balance is explored. Finally, the study examines how the environment within creative departments constrains creative women’s employment and advancement opportunities. This cross-cultural comparison study will provide insights whether the highly masculine advertising creative departments would be systematically transferred from country to country (or, in this project, from western to Asian culture) with local cultures and values having little influence on the industry environment and the roles creative women play. The findings will reveal whether Thai women advertising practitioners, like their western counterparts, are working within machismo environments where discrimination and gender segregation are staunchly entrenched, which can negatively impact their work/life balance, and may lead to constrained hiring, promotion and retention.

To Speak or Not to Speak: When Corporate and Political Interests Collide

Dr. Sarah Feldner & Dr. Jeremy Fyke, Departments of Communication Studies & Strategic Communication
This project will be a rhetorical analysis of corporate responses to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the state of Indiana. The analysis will consider the ways in which these statements both construct the identity of these organizations and legitimize corporate responses to political controversies. This analysis will be guided by the following research question: How do organizations respond rhetorically to political controversy? We intend to focus specifically on the identity maintenance, values advocacy and legitimation strategies that are used.

Civility and Incivility in the United States: A Contemporary Dilemma

Dr. Steve Goldzwig, Department of Communication Studies
With the ubiquity of mediated realities and the rising influence of our new social media, the forums for public contestation have become more diverse and complex. You Tube videos, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and assorted religious, political, and social blog sites (to name just a few examples) provide promiscuous platforms to resituate speech and visual imagery in a way that divorces the messages from their original contexts presenting scholars and audiences alike with a bewildering array of messages to confront and deconstruct. If we are interested in deliberative democracy in our hyper-saturated multi-mediated age, we are in for some hard work as we try to interrogate the various forms of civility and incivility we are apt to encounter. A key research question to be posed here then is as follows: Has the contemporary polarization we now encounter in the United States taken a turn for the worst? If so, how will that negative turn impact democratic deliberation -- a practice that depends on everyday civility?

Global Olympic Sponsorship: Impacts for Marketers & Society

Dr. Jim Pokrywczynski, Department of Strategic Communication
The Olympic Games provide the largest global reach for marketing sponsors. The research funded here will look at marketing campaigns of the past with particular focus on those with social values related to global cooperation, tolerance, environmental sustainability and social justice, among others. The research will feature work this summer, as well as travel next spring to access archives and interview individuals involved in thos campaigns.

Environmental Responsibility Disclosure and Corporate Transparency: The Impact of International Networked Stakeholder Activism on CSR Communication Strategy

Dr. Nur Uysal, Department of Strategic Communication
The challenges associated with environmental issues such as climate change will require a collaborative effort of corporations, citizens, and governments that requires transparency and communication on risks, opportunities, challenges, and strategies. Building on the Stakeholder Network theory and theories of how social activists inspire changes in organizational norms, beliefs, and practices, the study proposes that networked stakeholder actions are likely to induce corporations to adopt practices consistent with the aims of the broader social movement of climate change. Specifically, this research project is interested in how corporations’ relationships with NGOs affect the way they communicate environmental values online. The proposed research project is developed to make two important contributions to the CSR communication scholarship. First, by applying centering resonance analysis to identify core values and themes emerged from major multinational corporations’ environmental responsibility statements around the world the study will survey and demonstrate the international environmental CSR landscape. Second, drawing from a network theory of stakeholder influences this project explores the relationship between corporations’ structural position in the global environmental issue networks and their embraced environmental values.

Extreme Drinking Rituals for Turning 21: Insights for Anti-Drinking Campaign Strategies"

Dr. Joyce Wolburg, Department of Strategic Communication
Drawing from a ritual behavior model, this qualitative study examines the role of alcohol in the lives of college students, particularly its role in the celebration ritual for turning 21. This event is of special interest to creators of anti-binge drinking campaigns because it frequently involves excessive drinking (e.g., 21 shots for 21 years), and because it is a time when any behavior—no matter how risky—is typically acceptable to students. As more efforts are directed at extreme drinking events, this research provides a better understanding of the meaning that celebratory drinking provides and offers suggestions for campaign strategies.