Center for CMC

News archives

Working with Robots

[Posted 12.3.18]

Dr. Lionel Robert’s recent research on robot-human interaction in the workplace is expanding the boundaries of computer-mediated communication. Dr. Robert uses experimental approaches to investigate the way social aspects of human-robot relationships affect how efficaciously teams accomplish tasks. For example, in a recent study about embodied physical action (EPA) robots, he investigated whether attachment and team identity had an effect on task performance. Study participants who where exposed to an emotional attachment building task (such as constructing a portion of the robot) indeed performed better on tasks and demonstrated more team viability than participants in the control group. This was also true of participants in a group in which team members, including the robot, were given uniforms and asked to give their team a name.

Robert is also interested in trust between human and robot co-workers. In one experiment he manipulated surface level similarities (e.g., gender), deeper-level similarities (e.g., personal preferences), and risk of danger. Both levels of similarity increased human trust of robots, but deeper similarities led to greater trust when the risk of danger was high. As part of these research efforts, Robert is developing a theoretical model that can describe the relationship between perceived safety and human-robot work collaboration (HRWC).

Robert’s recent research underscores the importance of social dimensions in human-robot work relationships and provides a glimpse into the future of digitally-mediated communication. Social dimensions such as trust, emotional attachment, and team identity have implications for human perceptions of robots and ultimately, for people’s desire to work with robots.

Lionel Robert is an Affiliate of the Center for Computer-Mediated Communication who received his Ph.D. in 2006 from IU’s Kelley School of Business. He is currently an associate professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan.

Want to know more about Lionel Robert’s research? Check out his recent publications:

Robert, L. P. (2018). Personality in the human robot interaction literature: A review and brief critique. Proceedings of the 24th Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS 2018), Aug 16-18, New Orleans, LA.

You, S., Kim, J., Lee, S., Kamat, V., Robert, L. P. (2018). Enhancing perceived safety in human–robot collaborative construction using immersive virtual environments. Automation in Construction (AutoCon), 96, 161-170.

You, S., & Robert, L. P. (2018). Human-robot similarity and willingness to work with a robotic co-worker. Proceedings of the 13th Annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction (HRI 2018), March 5–8, 2018, Chicago, IL.

You, S., & Robert, L. P. (2018). Emotional attachment, performance, and viability in teams collaborating with embodied physical action (EPA) robots. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 19(5), 377-407.

CMC Research at AMPRA

[Posted 11.24.2018]

The 4th Conference of the American Pragmatics Association (AMPRA) took place November 1-3, 2018 at the University at Albany, State University of New York. The weather in Albany was rainy, but the leaves on the trees were colorful. Although it has the word ‘American’ in its name, the AMPRA conference brings together researchers, mostly linguists, from around the world to share their latest research and network. As was also the case when AMPRA was hosted at Indiana University two years ago, many of the presenters this year focused on the pragmatics of CMC. The Center for Computer-Mediated Communication’s Fellows and Affiliates were among this number.

CCMC Director Susan Herring and CCMC Student Fellow Ashley Dainas presented a paper titled, “Interpreting emoji pragmatics” that reported findings from a survey they conducted earlier this year of how people understand emoji in their discourse context. CCMC Fellow Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig delivered a paper on “newsworthy disinvitations” in online newspapers, institutional websites, and blogs, as reported in the media. CCMC Affiliate Anette Grønning (University of Southern Denmark) presented a recent study on “Discursive patterns among members of The Danish Parliament on Snapchat.” Also in attendance, although presenting research on other topics, were CCMC Student Fellow Will Allendorfer and CCMC Affiliate Dieter Stein (Düsseldorf University, Germany).

The talks of many researchers not affiliated with the CCMC also focused on CMC. For example, Maite Taboada (Simon Fraser University, Canada) presented a talk titled, “Are online comments like conversations? A multi-dimensional exploration of online news comments.” Michael Haugh (The University of Queensland, Australia) & Hsi-Yao Su (National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan) presented “Taking it too far or not being able to take a joke? A metapragmatic analysis of online discussion about the limits of teasing and taking offence on a Taiwanese variety show.” Alejandro Parini (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina) & Luisa Granato (Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina) presented on the topic of “Recruiting identities in the construction of YouTube technology product reviews.” And Jiang Yaqian (University of South Florida, USA) presented a paper titled “Exploring the interface of global-local meanings: A case study of a popular Chinese internet meme.”

The location of AMPRA 2020 has not yet been announced.

Professor Jannis Androutsopoulos Visits IU

[Posted 10.5.2018]

Professor Jannis Androutsopoulos visited Indiana University Bloomington from October 28 to November 3, 2018 as part of the celebration of the 40-year anniversary of IU’s partnership with Universität Hamburg. Professor Androutsopoulos is a sociolinguist who researches language in mass media and in so9cial media environments. He gave two public talks at IU. The first was on October 30 in the Indiana Memorial Union Faculty Room on the topic “Responding to online hate: How digital journalists interact with commenters in German social media.” This event was co-sponsored by OVPIA, the School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences. The second talk, sponsored by the Center for Computer-Mediated Communication, took place November 1 in Luddy Auditorium and was on the topic of “Style in digital punctuation.” Professor Androutsopoulos also met with a number of doctoral students and faculty during his visit.

Jannis Androutsopoulos received his doctorate in German Linguistics and Translation Studies from Universität Heidelberg in 1997. He has worked as a researcher at the Institut für Deutsche Sprache in Mannheim, Germany and as a Juniorprofessor für Medienkommunikation at the Universität Hannover. From 2007 to 2009 he was a Reader in Sociolinguistics and Media Discourse at King's College London in the UK. Since 2009, he has been a Professor of German and Media Linguistics at Universität Hamburg.

In addition to his work on media sociolinguistics, Professor Androutsopoulos is internationally known for his scholarship on multilingualism, including code switching and representations of multilingualism in popular culture. He recently worked on the management committee of COST Action IS1306: New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe, a program that sought to investigate what it means to acquire, use, and be “understood as a new speaker of a language in the context of a multilingual Europe.”

Jannis Androutsopoulos is an Affiliate of the IU Center for Computer-Mediated Communication.

Abstracts for talks:

Responding to online hate: How digital journalists interact with commenters in German social media

Tuesday October 30, 3-4:30 pm, Indiana Memorial Union Faculty Room

While anti-social behaviour on the Internet is not new, practices of verbal aggression and discrimination known as ‘hate speech online’, ‘internet hate’ or ‘cyberhate’ gained a much wider reach since the late 2000s and became associated with extreme-right populism in the 2010s. Those who use the Internet to spread hatred towards ethnic, sexual and other minorities exploit the conditions of anonymity and invisibility that shape digital public spaces and benefit from the affordances of rapid spread and interaction with professional news content, which characterize social media platforms. In Europe, hate speech has been identified since the mid-2010s as a serious threat to democratic participation and social cohesion, and has elicited institutional responses that range from the computational detection of hateful Tweets to protection guidelines issued by political and social organisations. Journalism is an important venue for such responses, especially the recent branch of digital journalism, in which the ability to monitor user-generated talk and interact with online users constitute key professional skills. Against this backdrop, this talk examines the resources provided by a leading German public service news website,, to raise public awareness of hate speech, and presents findings of an in-depth analysis of digital exchanges between journalists and online commenters on the organisation’s Facebook page. Based on a qualitative discourse analysis of these exchanges and interviews with editorial staff, I discuss how journalists delimit the boundaries of legitimate public expression by deleting user comments; what kinds of user comments they decide to actively respond to; how they take up and recontextualize portions of these comments; and how they actively challenge the presuppositions that underlie these users’ queries and requests. This study concludes that responding to hate online does not stop short at banning hateful comments from the digital public sphere. It also involves engaging in verbal interaction with producers and disseminators of hate speech, thereby resisting hate both at the level of content and through the display of non-discriminatory forms of public debate.

Style in digital punctuation

Thursday, November 1, 4:00 - 5:30 PM, Luddy Auditorium

An innovative use of punctuation signs in computer-mediated communication has been documented since the 1990s (Bieswanger 2013, Herring & Zelenkauskaite 2008) and gained new research attention with the spread of text messaging on smartphones (Gunraj et al. 2016, Squires 2012). This paper reports findings from on-going research at Hamburg University on the deployment of punctuation signs in text messaging, based on corpora of digital interaction among secondary school and university students in Northern Germany (Androutsopoulos 2018, Busch 2018). Drawing on sociolinguistic approaches to language style and a cognitive-pragmatic approach to punctuation, I examine the stylistic meaning of digital punctuation at the level of individual usage as well as community norms. Four points are discussed. First, only a subset of punctuation signs is frequent in the text-messaging data. Second, digital punctuation takes on interactional functions, in that messaging partners jointly manage their deployment to segment their messages and express interactional stances. Third, idiosyncratic preferences for specific digital punctuation signs or sign variants can be observed. Fourth, certain punctuation signs (or combinations) become publicly enregistered (Agha 2003) with social personae such as the “angry citizen” type in the discourse of the populist right in Germany. These findings suggest that punctuation signs constitute a multi-faceted stylistic resource in digital interaction, and that punctuation as a domain of usage is undergoing sociolinguistic change.


Agha, A. 2003 The social life of cultural value. Language & Communication 23(3), 231-273.

Androutsopoulos, J. 2018 Digitale Interpunktion: Stilistische Ressourcen und soziolinguistischer Wandel in der informellen digitalen Schriftlichkeit von Jugendlichen. In A. Ziegler ed. Jugendsprachen, 721-748. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Bieswanger, M. 2013 Micro-linguistic structural features of computer-mediated communication. In: S.C. Herring et al. eds. Pragmatics of Computer-Mediated Communication. 463-485. Berlin/Boston: Mouton de Gruyter.

Busch, F. 2018 Digitale Schreibregister von Jugendlichen analysieren. Ein linguistisch-ethnographischer Zugang zu Praktiken des Alltagsschreibens. In A. Ziegler ed. Jugendsprachen, 721-748. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Gunraj, D.N. et al. 2016 Texting insincerely: The role of the period in text messaging. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 1067-1075.
 Herring, S.C./A. Zelenkauskaite 2008 Gendered typography: Abbreviation and insertion in Italian iTV SMS. In J. Siegel et al. eds. IUWPL7: Gender in Language. 73-92. Bloomington: IULC.

Squires, L. 2012 Whos punctuating what? Sociolinguistic variation in instant messaging. In: A. Jaffe et al. eds. Orthography as social action: Scripts, spelling, identity and power, 289-323. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

For more on Jannis Androutsopoulos, see

Talk by Dr. Jing Ge, University of California, Berkeley

[Posted 9.27.2018]

On Tuesday, October 16, 2018, Dr. Jing Ge will give a talk titled, "Communicative Functions of Emoji Sequences on Sina Weibo."


The focus on the meanings, functions, and social uses of single emoji can no longer capture and portray an entire picture of emoji as an emerging graphical language in computer-mediated communication (CMC). In addition to modifying, illustrating and substituting for words, social media users string emoji together creatively to form sequences that function like utterances in online conversations. Such innovative and complex ways that users employ emoji sequences raise challenges for theoretical and practical understandings of emoji use and for the design of graphical elements in CMC. This study employs computer-mediated discourse analysis to analyze the pragmatic meanings conveyed through emoji sequences and their rhetorical relations with accompanying text, focusing on posts by social media influencers and their followers on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese Microblogging site. The findings show that although emoji sequences can function like verbal utterances and form relations with textual propositions, their usage differs from textual utterances in several respects. This study also observed creative usages that make the sequences more language like, even though there is not (as yet) a fixed grammar of emoji sequences. The resulting systematic and holistic view contributes most directly to the creation and use of a purely graphical language in CMC, provides a conceptual map for non-Chinese users to effectively deploy emoji to communicate with Chinese social media users, and generates new insights to inform emoji design in social media systems.

Biographical Note:

Jing Ge is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Anthropology Department and Co-Chair of the Tourism Studies Group at University of California, Berkeley. She has a Ph.D. in Marketing Communication from the UQ Business School at the University of Queensland, Australia and has close to 10 years of online communication industry experience. Her research focuses on computer-mediated communication (CMC), the language businesses and consumers use on social media, and humour. Her current interests include visual semiotics and graphicons in CMC. In her times away from research, Jing does long-distance trail running and drives a high-performance car on the track.

The talk will take place 3-4:30 pm in room GA 1060 (first floor, Global and International Studies Building).

Methods for Analyzing Online Conversation

[Posted 10.26.2018]

Dr. Trena Paulus, Professor in the Qualitative Research Program at the University of Georgia, is passionate about language-based research methods, particularly as applied to discursive phenomena in online spaces. She has used narrative analysis to explore how people make requests on crowdfunding sites and discourse analysis to describe the ways online grief support groups socialize new members. She has also explored how hyperlinks are used in service provider chat interactions using conversation analysis. Each of these projects illustrates how the structure of an interaction provides insight into social processes, and shows that the examination of discursive features is as relevant to online interaction as it is to face-to-face conversation. With her background in Education, Paulus has been especially concerned to demonstrate how language-based analysis methods (narrative analysis, discourse analysis, and conversation analysis) can reveal how learning is made visible as it occurs online. She is also a strong advocate for the expansion of language-based research methods to examine a wide variety of other social actions in online conversations more generally. Her recent literature review of how conversation analysis methods have been applied to online spaces shows that such methods have allowed scholars to examine interactional coherence, compare face-to-face and online conversations, describe how interactional “trouble” is resolved, and investigate how social actions are accomplished in asynchronous environments.

Dr. Paulus is currently putting the final touches on a methodological textbook, co-authored with Alyssa Wise, that will be published by Routledge in 2019, called Research Insight, Transformation, and Learning in Online Talk: A Research Framework.

Trena Paulus received her Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University in 2003. She is an Affiliate of the IU Center for Computer-Mediated Communication.

Selected articles from Trena Paulus’s recent research:

Paulus, T., & Roberts, K. (2018). Crowdfunding a “Real-life Superhero”: The construction of worthy bodies in medical campaign narratives. Discourse, Context and Media, 21, 64-72. doi:

Paulus, T., Warren, A., & Lester, J. (2018). Using conversation analysis to understand how agreements, personal experiences, and cognition verbs function in online discussions. Language@Internet, 15, article 1.

Paulus, T., Warren, A., & Lester, J. N. (2016). Applying conversation analysis methods to online talk: A literature review. Discourse, Context and Media, 12, 1-10. doi:

Zeigler, M., Paulus, T., & Woodside, M. (2016). Informal learning as group meaning-making: Visible talk in online communities. In O. Meijiuni, P. Cranton, & O. Taiwo (Eds.), Measuring and Analyzing Informal Learning in the Digital Age (pp. 180-196). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.

Paulus, T., & Varga, M. A. (2015). “Please know that you are not alone with your pain”: Responses to newcomer posts in an online grief support forum. Death Studies, 39, 633-640. doi:10.1080/07481187.2015.1047060

The Role for the Citizen in Online Visual Journalism

[Posted 9.20.2018]

Nowadays, we don't just read the news – some of us, at least, actively participate in creating it. Deborah Chung, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky and an Affiliate of the IU Center for Computer-Mediated Communication, studies the phenomenon of citizen journalism, whereby ordinary citizens engage in the news using interactive, participatory tools such as Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Chung and other researchers in the area have found that the most compelling contributions of these citizens are typically visuals shared via online news sites, magazines with accompanying website, and photo agencies. Mobile technology has allowed the widespread distribution of images and videos, especially during crisis situations, such as the London Bombings or during Hurricane disasters when professional journalists were not yet on the scene. Such visuals would not be possible without citizen journalists, and thus they are the amateur journalistic contributions with the highest news value.

Unfortunately, however, these contributions are not equally valued by professional journalists. As Chung found through an online survey, professional visual journalists generally express dislike toward citizen contributions. Professionals do think that citizen-created visuals are important within citizen journalism, but they do not think that the two disciplines share similar functions. Also, they do not believe that citizen journalism is as important to society as professional journalism. Yet at the same time, they consider citizen-submitted visuals to be a threat to their livelihood. Professionals, it seems, find it uncomfortable to no longer be the sole gatekeepers of the visual presentation of news.

Chung cautions against outright dismissal of citizen contributors, however. Instead, she encourages better communication between traditional news providers and emerging visual story tellers. Collaboration between visual professionals and amateurs will allow us to embrace the news of the future in a constantly changing, increasingly high-tech, interactive, social and participatory media environment.

Read more about online citizen journalism in these articles by Deborah Chung:

Chung, D. S., Kim, Y. S., & Nah, S. (forthcoming). A comparison of professional vs. citizen journalistic roles: Views from visual journalists. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies. doi: 10.1177/1354856518784022. link to article

Chung, D. S., Nah, S., & Yamamoto, M. (forthcoming). Conceptualizing citizen journalism: U.S. news editors’ views. Journalism: Theory, Practice, & Criticism. Advanced online publication. doi:10.1177/1464884916686596. link to article

Yamamoto, M., Nah, S., & Chung, D. S. (2017). U.S. newspaper editors’ ratings of social media as influential news sources. International Journal of Communication, 11, 684-700. download article

Nah, S., & Chung, D. S. (2016). Communicative action and citizen journalism: A case study of OhmyNews in South Korea. International Journal of Communication, 10, 2297–2317. link to article

Nah, S., Yamamoto, M., Chung, D. S., & Zuercher, R. J. (2015). Modeling the adoption and use of citizen journalism by online newspapers. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 92(2), 399-420. link to article

Research Spotlight: Fake News, Believability, and Confirmation Bias

[Posted 9.19.2018]

Many see the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal as an event that marks the beginning of a post-truth era – a time when truth and lies are indistinguishable. This problem has been made worse by society’s burgeoning social media habit. In light of these circumstances, how do we help people think critically about the credibility of news disseminated on platforms like Facebook and Twitter? The research of CCMC Fellow Professor Alan Dennis seeks to answer this question.

One strand of Professor Dennis’s current research focuses on people’s belief in news on social media. He finds that the way people interact with news on social media is strongly influenced by confirmation bias. His most recent research uses experimental methods to analyze electroencephalogram (EEG) data and participants’ neurophysiological responses to news headlines. When participants saw news stories that aligned with their pre-existing opinions, they focused their attention on them. In contrast, once the participants recognized that a story challenged their opinions, cognition stopped; they simply ignored it.

Dennis’ research has also examined how presenting additional information – flagging fake news, emphasizing the news source, displaying a reputation rating – influences how believable people found a particular news story, and whether changing the presentation mitigates the effects of confirmation bias. Flagging fake news articles had only marginal effects, he found, but displaying the news source before the headline and presenting reputation ratings for the source of articles did both strongly influence people’s beliefs in Facebook news posts. Moreover, the more believable the participants found the story, the more likely they were to say that they would read and share it on Facebook.

This research shows how confirmation bias and the visual manipulation of social media affect people’s belief in the stories presented through those media and, in turn, influences their behavior in sharing real – and fake – news.

You can listen to Alan Dennis talk about his research on fake news on the CCMC YouTube channel.

You can read more about Alan Dennis’ research in these articles:

Dennis, A. (2018). Fake news on social media: People believe what they want to believe when it makes no sense at all. Manuscript under review.

Kim, A., & Dennis, A. (2018). Says who?: How news presentation format influences perceived believability and the engagement level of social media users. In Proceedings of the 51st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE.

Kim, A., Moravec, P., & Dennis, A. (2017, December). Behind the stars: The effects of news source ratings on fake news in social media. Kelley School of Business Research Paper No. 18-3. Available at SSRN: or

Online Trolling and Its Perpetrators: Under the Cyberbridge

[Posted 4.12.2018]

The common advice to new internet users is to never feed the trolls ... But who are these trolls? What does it mean to troll? Why do people act that way anyway?

ILS Professor Pnina Fichman and Madelyn R. Sanfilippo, a postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Information Law Institute at New York University, address these and other questions in their book, Online Trolling and Its Perpetrators: Under the Cyberbridge (Rowen & Littlefield Publishers). Specifically, the book addresses the enabling factors, motivations, and impacts of trolling. It also discusses how online community members and administrators identify and handle incidences of trolling. Of particular interest, the authors explore different kinds of trolling. This includes drawing a distinction between “hard” and “light” trolling and considering cultural differences in trolling around the world.

For further reading, see “Beyond vandalism: Wikipedia trolls” (Journal of Information Science, 30(3), 2010) by Dr. Fichman and ILS Professor Noriko Hara, and “The bad boys and girls of cyberspace: How gender and context impact perception of and reaction to trolling” (Social Science Computer Review, 33(2), 2015) by Fichman and Sanfilippo.

Graphical Comments on Facebook

[Posted 11.12.2016]

Ashley Dainas, a Ph.D. student in Information Science, and Susan Herring, Professor of Information Science and Adjunct Professor of Linguistics, are researching graphical communication on the internet, or what they call “graphicons” (short for ‘graphical icons’) – a catch-all term for emoticons, emoji, stickers, GIFs, images and videos.

In a paper accepted for presentation at the upcoming Hawai’i International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), Dainas and Herring investigate the use of graphicons in comment threads on posts to graphics-rich Facebook Groups. They used a grounded theory approach to classify the graphicons into eight functional categories: Mention (vs. Use), Reaction, Tone Modification, Riff, Action, Sequence, Ambiguous, and Other.

Emoji were used most often overall, and GIFs were least common in the comment threads, while images and videos tended to specialize as riffs. However, each graphicon type did not perform only one function, but rather each was used to express multiple overlapping functions, leading the researchers to conclude that graphicons are part of a larger functionally-related ecology of visual communication devices.

Dainas and Herring recently presented this research at the third annual Americal Pragmatics Association (AmPRA) conference held in Bloomington, IN November 4-6, and they will also be presenting it at the 50th annual HICSS conference on the Big Island in Hawai’i in January.

Their HICSS paper is available here:

Herring, S. C., & Dainas, A. R. (In press, 2017). "Nice picture comment!" Graphicons in Facebook comment threads. Proceedings of the Fiftieth Hawai'i International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-50). Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE.

As a continuation of this research, Ashley Dainas is currently attempting to apply the graphicon classification scheme to the use of graphicons by trolls on Tumblr.

Romantic Messages: Email or Voicemail?

[Posted 11.12.2016]

Popular wisdom has long held that text and email, with their lack of nonverbal features, are less than ideal for expressing emotion. However, Professor Alan R. Dennis, the John T. Chambers Chair of Internet Systems in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, together with co-author Taylor M. Wells, recently published research that challenges this assumption. The researchers tested the psychophysiological responses of 72 college-age participants as they composed four messages, two via email and two via voicemail. The tasks were either utilitarian (a message coordinating a group project or giving feedback to a friend about a well-crafted resume) or romantic (expressing feelings for an individual he or she was interested in romantically) in nature.

Dennis and Wells found that communicating through email induced different emotional responses from voicemail, as well as more arousing psychophysiological responses, regardless of the task. Moreover, the romantic email used stronger and more thoughtful language than the romantic voicemails, suggesting the participants naturally adapted to the limitations of the email medium and compensated for its lack of cues. Taken together, these results suggest that the medium in which a message is sent influences the sender’s physiology and impacts what he or she chooses to communicate.

“The bottom line is that email is much better when you want to convey some information that you want someone to think about,” explained Dennis to the IUB Newsroom.

Dennis’s work on romantic emails has been featured in over 200 news stories, including the Huffington Post and USA Today.

You can read about Professor Dennis’s research here:

Wells, T. M., & Dennis, A. R. (2016). To email or not to email: The impact of media on psychophysiological responses and emotional content in utilitarian and romantic communication. Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 1-9.

Smartphone Apps Help Geographical Communities -- and Pets

[Posted 11.11.2016]

We are pleased to welcome Patrick C. Shih, a new Assistant Professor of Informatics in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington, as a Fellow of the Center for Computer-Mediated Communication. He defines his area of research specialization broadly as community informatics, with a focus on social media and the design of mobile applications. Shih and his collaborators have proposed a model in which mobile technology increases social presence, which then leads to increases in people having community identity, which further increases how aware and involved they are in the community and in local social support networks.

Recently, he has researched using social media, police reports, and local crisis information to assist emergency personnel to plan for emergencies before they happen, particularly in small communities. The local aspect is important, because many small communities do not have a lot of funding and need to rely on volunteers to plan for local events and emergencies. Shih and his co-authors have argued that harnessing the power of social media is a cost effective way for these communities to draw on local knowledge of common problems and solutions that the community has encountered in the past.

Related to providing access to community history and information, Shih was recently part of a research team that developed a timebanking smartphone application called Mobile Timebanks, which was designed to appeal to younger users. Timebanking refers to community-based volunteering in which participants provide and receive services in exchange for time credits; the contributions of younger adults, who tend to be very active smartphone users, are especially valuable to the community. As an additional benefit, according to Shih and his collaborators, timebanking strengthens social connection and a sense of community attachment.

Last but not least, Shih is a devoted dog owner who cares about the well-being of pets. He and a collaborator have coined the term Human–Pet–Computer Interaction (HPCI) to refer to the study of how technology can be designed and used to advance human–pet companionships. Their first foray into HPCI involved a personal information visualization prototype designed to inform pet owners about their dogs’ caloric inputs/outputs, as well as their pets’ exercise and movement habits.

You can read more about Professor Shih’s studies in these recently-published articles:

Han, K., Shih, P. C., Rosson, M. B., & Carroll, J. M. (2016). Understanding local community attachment, engagement and social supported networks mediated by mobile technology. Interacting with Computers, 28(3), 220-237. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier. doi:10.1093/iwc/iwu040

Nelson, J. K. & Shih, P. C. (2016). CompanionViz: Mediated platform for gauging canine health and enhancing human-pet interactions. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier. doi:10.1016/j.ijhcs.2016.04.002

Shih, P. C., Han, K., & Carroll, J. M. (2015). Using social multimedia content to inform emergency planning and management of recurring and cyclical events in local communities. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 12(3), 627-652. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. doi:10.1515/jhsem-2014-0071

Why Do People Watch Cat Videos on the Internet?

[Posted 10.28.2016]

Professor Jessica Myrick, assistant professor at the Indiana University Media School, has recently been investigating this phenomenon. She conducted a survey of 6,795 internet users who followed local Bloomington celebrity cat Little Bub, and asked how often they viewed cat and other animal videos, as well as why they watched the videos, among many other measures. The results were used to test a conceptual model of the relationship between procrastination, enjoyment, and happiness. (Professor Myrick donated 10 cents of her own money to Lil Bub’s foundation for needy animals for each participant who took the survey, raising almost $700.)

She found that the people most likely to view cat videos are agreeable, anxious, and shy; they also own or have owned cats. Few people actively seek out cat videos beyond structuring their social media experience to expose them to such content. When they do come into contact with cat videos, though, internet users are very likely to ‘like’, share, and/or comment on the contents. Professor Myrick also found that people felt more energetic and positive and that they experienced fewer negative emotions such as anxiety, sadness, or annoyance after watching cat videos. In the future she hopes to investigate the possibility of using cat videos as a form of low-cost pet therapy.

Her research has been featured on the BBC’s Why Factor and in the IU Bloomington Newsroom. She also has published an article about the study:

Myrick, J. G. (2015). Emotion regulation, procrastination, and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect? Computers in Human Behavior, 52, 168-176.doi:0.1016/j.chb.2015.06.001

Fellow Spotlight: Ilana Gershon

[Posted 9.25.2016]

Associate Professor of Anthropology Ilana Gershon is interested in how new media affect highly charged social tasks. She knows the exact moment she decided to study computer-mediated communication. It was in class; she was teaching an introduction to linguistic anthropology, and she asked the students to write down what they thought constituted a bad breakup. She was expecting stories about infidelity, about DVDs that were never returned, or loud, dramatic arguments until 6 a.m. Instead, everyone answered “breaking up on Facebook” or “breaking up by text.” She realized she had a new research project.

Anthropologists often are adept at uncovering cultural assumptions by examining the frictions that emerge when designed objects, laws, or institutional forms travel into new cultural contexts. Instead of using cultural difference to produce the friction, however, she turned to media that were designed to connect people and investigated the quandaries people face when trying to disconnect – the opposite of what these technologies were meant to help people do. The book that resulted, The Breakup 2.0, received the kind of press attention that nothing had prepared her for. She realized that studying new media, combined with the right topic, might provide her with a chance to reach a wider audience than her previous research had.

Currently, she is researching how new media affect hiring in the contemporary US workplace. Many students today believe that they need to treat themselves as though they are a business with a brand, and being hired is entering into a business-to-business contract. People worry about their Facebook profiles harming their chances to get a job, or are puzzled over what good a LinkedIn profile is anyway. She decided to investigate how one can use the tools of linguistic anthropology to sort through the advice that all job-seekers are now inundated with. She spent 2013-2014 traveling throughout the San Francisco Bay Area doing fieldwork, attending free workshops on how to search for a job, and interviewing everyone involved in the hiring process. This research is the basis of her book coming out with University of Chicago Press in March 2017: Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Don’t Find) Work Today. She worked on this project as a fellow at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (2013-2014) and a fellow at Notre Dame's Institute for Advanced Study (2015-2016).

For more information, visit Ilana's webpage:

Fellow Spotlight: Alan Dennis

[Posted 12.24.2014]

Professor Alan R. Dennis is the John T. Chambers Chair of Internet Systems in the IU Kelley School of Business and among the top 10 most productive researchers in information systems worldwide. He is also a major contributor to the study of computer-mediated communication. He became interested in CMC over 25 years ago as a Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona. Together with his advisor J.F. Nunamaker and a fellow student, Joe Valacich (who later became an assistant professor at Indiana University), he began publishing papers on Group Support Systems (GSS). GSS are interactive, computer-based systems that use elaborate communications infrastructure and heuristic and quantitative models to help teams solve problems and make decisions; they include tools for brainstorming, commenting on ideas, organizing information, and voting. Dennis’s research, which usually employs experimental methods, evolved as GSS transitioned from local area networks to the Internet. In 1995, he developed one of the first Internet-based GSS called TCBWorks, which was installed on six of the seven continents before it was licensed by a consulting firm under the name of Consensus @nywhere. Today this class of tools is represented by a diverse range of collaborative CMC applications, including email, chat, wikis, and Google Docs.

Alan Dennis is also well known for his contributions to CMC theory, especially Media Richness Theory (MRT). In a much-cited 1999 article (later expanded and published in MISQ in 2008) which he co-authored with Joe Valacich, titled “Rethinking media richness: Toward a theory of media synchronicity,” the authors advance an alternative explanation for communication effectiveness in work groups, Media Synchronicity Theory (MST). Whereas Media Richness Theory (MRT) proposes that task performance is improved when task needs are matched to a medium's ability to convey information, in MST, communication effectiveness is influenced by matching the media capabilities to the needs of the fundamental communication processes. This requires taking into consideration factors in the communication situation such as the individuals, task, and social context within which they are interacting, as well as whether the group is established or new.

In recent years, Alan Dennis has researched a range of topics including trust in virtual teams, individual cognition in teams, and Neuro IS. In addition to continuing his research on CMC, he is currently investigating how technology can influence subconscious cognition and change behavior to improve team creativity, increase student test scores, increase (or decrease) the amount paid in online Auctions, and lose weight.

Alan enjoys traveling and has presented research papers (or just vacationed) in Scotland, England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Turkey, Morocco, South Africa, and Botswana, all in the past few years. He’s also a regular attendee of the Hawai’i International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), where he has co-organized the ‘Internet and the Digital Economy’ track for over a decade.

For more information see Alan’s webpage:

Social Media Bubbles: A Cross-Language Comparison

[Posted 11.22.2014]

Language differences cause geographical and cultural divisions online. Moreover, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter seek to optimize exposure to information according to features such as user interests, background, and social context. This raises a concern that users are becoming trapped in their own personalized “filter bubbles,” exposed only to opinions that conform to their beliefs and political positions, potentially creating information “islands” and social polarization. Assistant Professor of Information and Library Science Xiaozhong Liu and his collaborators are developing text mining methods to connect concepts in two different languages on similar social media platforms (English—Twitter and Chinese—Weibo), comparing information shared on the two platforms in terms of topics and networks, in order to quantify the “language bubble” phenomenon.

Professor Liu presented the latest findings of this research at the Rob Kling Center for Social Media Colloquium on November 14, 2014. He and his research team had a paper accepted by the ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media earlier this year, and a second paper was recently submitted for consideration to another conference.

Shuai, X., Liu, Xiaozhong, Xia, T., Wu, Y., & Guo, C. (2014). Comparing the pulses of categorical hot events in Twitter and Weibo. Proceedings of the 25th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media, pp. 126-135. New York: ACM.

Today's Digital Divide: Technology maintenance

[Posted 11.22.2014]

In wealthy countries, the digital divide today is less about access than maintenance, despite representative surveys that focus on basic access measures. Telecommunications Assistant Professor Amy Gonzales has been working on developing the concept of 'technology maintenance,'or the idea that the poor are often challenged with maintaining access to digital technology, even after achieving initial in-home and public access, due to monthly fees, broken hardware that is expensive to replace, and limitations on public access (time limits, printing fees, etc). This idea is discussed in two journal articles, one published September 2014 in Mobile Media & Communication, the other scheduled for December 2014 publication in New Media & Society.

Gonzales, Amy L. (2014). Health benefits and barriers to cell phone use in low-income urban U.S. neighborhoods: Indications of technology maintenance. Mobile Media & Communication, 2(3), 233-248.

Gonzales, A.L., Ems, L., & Suri, R. (2014). Cell phone disconnection disrupts access to healthcare and health resources: A technology maintenance perspective. New Media & Society.

Crowdwork: The Future of Employment?

[Posted 11.22.2014]

Associate Professor Mary Gray is currently working on a book project, co-authored with Computer Scientist Siddharth Suri, that examines the future of employment through case studies of present day crowdwork on four different crowdsourcing platforms - including's Mechanical Turk, Microsoft’s Universal Human Relevance System, and MobileWorks, a startup with a social and entrepreneurial mission - comparing workers' experiences in the United States and India.

Gray is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, New England, in addition to maintaining an appointment as an Associate Professor in the Media School, with adjunct appointments in American Studies, Anthropology, and Gender Studies, at Indiana University. She presented a talk about the crowdwork project in a 'hot topics' session of the 2014 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit.

Read a January 2016 Op-Ed she wrote for the LA Times about the project here.

Wikipedia in Global Perspective

[Posted 11.22.2014]

Wikipedia includes articles in 288 languages, and more than 85% of Wikipedia articles are written in languages other than English. Yet while dozens of books about Wikipedia have been published, they all focus on the English Wikipedia and assume an Anglo-Saxon perspective.

Global Wikipedia: International and cross-cultural Issues in online collaboration, edited by Associate Professors Pnina Fichman and Noriko Hara of the Department of Information and Library Science, is the first book to address the global, multilingual, and multicultural aspects of Wikipedia. The collection explores a range of international and cross-cultural issues, including Wikipedia policy, collaboration, coordination, and conflict management. ‘Culture’ is taken to include gender differences. The national cultural contexts analyzed include Greek, Finnish, Polish, Italian, and Chinese.

The table of contents of the book can be found here.

Fichman, P., & Hara, N., Eds. (2014). Global Wikipedia: International and cross-cultural issues in online collaboration. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Virtual Games, Real Intimacy

[Posted 11.22.2014]

Intimacy is one of the most cherished aspects of human social existence. Guo Zhang Freeman's dissertation research explores how computing technologies such as multiplayer online games (MOGs) shape interpersonal relationships and (re)create intimate experiences. Guo will defend her dissertation in Spring 2015 in the Department of Information and Library Science.

The virtual world she has chosen to study is Audition, a MOG that attracts mostly young women in their late teens and early twenties; the object of the game is to “dance” with a partner through a sequence of keystrokes, keeping time with the music. Players earn more points if they are married in the game to their dance partner, who must be a member of the opposite sex, and collaborate on game-related tasks.

Drawing on data from multiple sources (interviews, ethnographic in-game observation, web forums, online documents), Freeman contrasts the traditional gender ideology of marriage in Audition with how in-game marriage is actually experienced by the young players. Since most of the players are female, the opposite sex requirement for a marriage to take place presents an a priori challenge; this leads players to create a variety of work-arounds to the opposite-sex marriage requirement.

Two of Guo Freeman’s recent co-authored papers have been accepted for presentation and publication by The 2015 ACM conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW), one of the top conferences on social computing and human-computer interaction. The first paper (Freeman et al., 2015) focuses on how players perceive, experience, and interpret their in-game marriages, especially with regard to representations of gender and sexuality. In the second paper (Zytoko & Freeman et al., 2015), Freeman collaborated with HCI designers to argue that collaborative activities such as online marriage in MOGs can potentially address evaluation challenges in online dating. She and her co-authors propose a series of design concepts for online dating systems in order to improve users’ abilities to evaluate their potential romantic partners for in-person meetings. The two papers will be presented at the 18th CSCW annual conference, March 14-18, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada and published in the conference Proceedings.

Freeman, G. Z., Bardzell, J., Bardzell, S, & Herring, S. C. (2015). Simulating marriage: Gender roles and emerging intimacy in an online game. In Proceedings of 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2015).

Zytko, D., Freeman, G. Z., Grandhi, S., Herring, S. C., & Jones, Q. (2015). Enhancing evaluation of potential dates online through paired collaborative activities. In Proceedings of The 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2015).

Back to top