About the Edna Anderson-Taylor Communication Institute
The Need for the Institute
Communication is central to each of the most pressing issues of public concern today. These include addressing the science denialism that hampers effective responses to problems like climate change and public health emergencies. The rapidly evolving media and technology landscape raises concerns about the future of journalism, social media's part in promoting conspiracies and disinformation, the privacy and security of our personal data, and the ways in which artificial intelligence will touch all of our lives. These concerns intersect with longstanding societal antagonisms around race, class, and gender identity. All of these pose challenges for how we can educate and advocate for change in ways that are both effective and ethical.
It is increasingly clear that no one set of scholars or practitioners will be able to address such large, interconnected problems. An interdisciplinary approach that draws from a range of knowledges from different academic disciplines and professions is needed. The Institute meets this need by serving as a crossroads that brings scholars, practitioners, and students together from across campus and across our community to think together about the role of communication in these problems and how we can best work together to address them.
Current Activities & Future Plans
The Institute brings diverse groups of stakeholders together through a combination of activities. These include a speaker series, workshops, an annual symposium, and support for campus initiatives that help to promote the Institute's mission.
Our speaker series and workshops bring scholars, practitioners, and students together from multiple academic disciplines and professions around a given issue of concern. For example, we have hosted speakers from computer science discussing the opportunities and challenges of using artificial intelligence for social media content moderation, political scientists discussing the role of cyber and information warfare during the Russia-Ukraine War, and communication scholars discussing the challenges of combatting disinformation online or encouraging marginalized community members to undertake vital health screenings.
Our workshops have featured local attorneys providing training for journalism students and faculty related to updated public records laws in Utah, foreign correspondents discussing the challenges of reporting from conflict zones, and members of our local refugee community with media production expertise discussing the challenges and opportunities of using their skills to tell their communities' stories.
The Institute's first annual symposium brings together a collection of communication scholars and graduate students from all over the world to explore differing approaches to the study of identity and social media. Sometimes scholars working on the same problems are divided by their use of differing approaches. Our symposium brings together a group of leading faculty with expertise in critical/cultural and computational approaches to our topic to provide detailed feedback and discussion on work in progress by the next generation of communication scholars.
The Institute has also provided support to other campus initiatives that are in line with the Institute's mission. This includes partnering with the John R. Park Debate Society to host a public debate about ethical challenges for the future of journalism. The Institute is also providing support for communication students to complete a study abroad trip to the University of Utah Asia Campus where they will learn about the importance of international media communication, as well as similarities and differences in approaches to communication across cultures.
With additional funding support, we will continue these initiatives. We also hope to expand the Institute's opportunities. For example, we intend to fund a working paper series that will support and promote the work of students and scholars engaged in innovative communication research. We also intend to fund research interest groups that will bring students and scholars from different disciplines together around shared issues of concern to explore the intersections between their disciplines and possibilities for collaboration.