Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Scientific Collaboration--How Knowledge is Advanced

Second summer session has begun here at Indiana. I'm teaching T340 --Electronic Media Advertising to 37 students!it seems like a good group of students, and were slowly getting used to one another. I must admit that my perception is that it's difficult for them and me to meet everyday.

Things around the faculty offices here at the Department of Telecommunications are rather quiet these days, as most of my colleagues, are in Dresden Germany at the International Communication Association conference. I was unable to attend the conference this year due to personal reasons, but was involved in a number of research studies that will be presented there by my colleagues and graduate students (to whom I'm very grateful).

One of the studies being presented is entitled Correlating Information Value of Individual Words in Radio Scripts with Physiological Indicators of Arousal. It's a collaboration between me, Seth Finn, and an IU doctoral student named Sungkyoung Lee. Sungkyoung is interested in the impact of individual emotional words on attention and emotional response to audio message. I have posted about some of SungKyoung's previous work here.

The current study began in 2003 actually--at another ICA conference in New Orleans. Academic conferences are often times to reunite with former students and former colleagues. Such was the case when I ran into Sandra Braman, someone I worked with at the University of Alabama who has since moved on to University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Sandra told me, just in passing, that she had chaired a research panel where someone had cited my work and made interesting connections between it, Shannon's Mathematical Theory of Information and work that this particular researcher had been doing on word choice in written texts.

Now, I'm still young enough in my academic career that having people cite my work is pretty darn exciting. But, because Sandra and I were literally just talking to each other as we were passing in the hallway of the conference hotel, I never heard the name of who had cited me or what the particular connections were. So, I tucked it away in my mind to eventually email Sandra and find out who she'd been talking about.

That day would likely have never come...as like most researchers I have more ideas to "get to someday" than I know what to do with. But, luckily, later that day I had Seth come up to me at a meeting. He was so interested in pursuing his interests in light of my work, that he had tracked me down. That began a collaboration which spanned several years. Like anything, it took awhile to get off the ground. In fact, we only had sporadic emails for an entire year. Then, last year at ICA in New York, Seth and I met face to face again--this time with Sungkyoung--and we began pursuing our question in earnest.

What was the question?
More about that tomorrow...but check back because the data are really intruiging.

Today I wanted to focus on a story of how collaboration happens (eventually) and how brining together curious people is how knowledge is advanced.

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