The H2 Professorship is a dynamic partnership with the College of Humanities, allowing both areas to appoint joint faculty and explore new course opportunities. Shared faculty draw from the wide variety of Humanities disciplines applied with the focus and innovation possible through Honors College curriculum, resulting in deeply challenging and enriching academic experiences.
Humor in Science Communication: Impacts on Public Attitudes Toward Science
Sara K. Yeo, Assistant Professor, Communication
This project examines humor in science communication in two ways: (i) as an outcome of science-related comedy; and (ii) as an influence on public attitudes toward science. Science communication research has paid remarkably little attention to the use of humor in messages about science on at least three dimensions. First, there is little empirical examination of the extent to which messages about science use humor and comedy. Second, as humor is subjective, the types of science-related comedy that viewers find funny is an empirical question. And, perhaps most importantly, there is a lack of scholarship on the effect of humor in science communication on public attitudes and perceptions. In this project, our goal is to quantify and examine the qualities of humor in science communication in online media and to use this empirical characterization of science humor in a series of experiments to identify its effects on public attitudes toward science.
Content analysis of science humor (2 student researchers)
Humorous science content is quite prevalent in online media. Content such as the television sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, the Facebook page “I Fucking Love Science,” or the Twitter hashtag, “#overlyhonestmethods,” have recently captured the attention of lay audiences. In this project, humor is conceptualized as both a dependent and independent variable. As a dependent variable, it is worthwhile to explicitly quantify the extent to which humor is used in online science communication. To this end, this project will analyze humor in content on two social media platforms, Twitter and Reddit. The nature of content analysis requires teamwork. Undergraduate researchers will collaborate on coding humorous content on these media using supervised learning software combined with manual content analysis.
Twitter. Twitter is a microblogging platform that uses hashtags to categorize posts. Recently, science jokes on Twitter have been tagged with hashtags such as “#SciLaughs,” “#overlyhonestmethods,” and “#sciencejokes.” Therefore, this is a fruitful platform on which to quantify the extent and types of science humor through content analysis of such tweets.
Reddit. Reddit, which terms itself “the front page of the internet” is a social news aggregation and discussion website on which users can rate content by voting on it. Science information is widespread on this social website. In fact, the subreddit, r/science, has over 15 million subscribers, making it a viable platform for content analysis.
Designing and pilot testing experimental stimuli (1 student researcher)
To determine the effects of humor on public attitudes toward science, survey experiments require stimuli that resemble real-world uses of humor in science communication. In combination with content analyses of science humor on Reddit and Twitter, an undergraduate researcher will design, pilot test, and analyze data using an experimental stimulus. This pilot test will inform a large-scale national survey experiment on humor in science communication.
Past H2 Professorships
This year we have selected two faculty who will lead and mentor individual research projects with selected students. Student applicants who are selected may use this research for their own thesis project. Students may also receive funding up to $1000 to fund participation in and presentations at relevant conferences.
Danielle Endres and Jerry Root, offer two topic areas under which this year’s H2 Professorship research works (with course credit) will be conducted. The H2 Professorships will select up to three students to work with each professor.
Danielle Endres Associate Professor, Communication, University of Utah Affiliated Faculty, Environmental Humanities, University of Utah Affiliated Faculty, Global Change and Sustainability Center, University of Utah Affiliated Faculty, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, University of Utah
This project examines the rhetorical dimensions of the “Utes” nickname that is currently used by the University of Utah. The Utes nickname represents an articulation between our University and the Northern Ute nation. Students will work with Professor Endres to craft an individual experience working within the scope of this topic.
Jerry Root Associate Professor, Languages And Literature, University of Utah
My research project explores the way medieval manuscript images help us understand the texts they illustrate. As contemporary “re-presentations” of the stories they illustrate, manuscript images give us a chance to rethink the representative strategies of texts – much in the way that a film version of a modern novel provokes us to think again about that novel. There is quite an explosion of digitalized medieval manuscripts right now. This would be a chance for undergraduate students to jump in early to a field that has exciting growth ahead. Student projects could focus on text/image relations, manuscript illuminations research, digital humanities projects. Students who liked IT 2102 should be well positioned for this project. Students will work with Professor Root to craft an individual experience working within the scope of this topic.
Christine Jones Associate Professor, Languages And Literature, University of Utah
Professors Jones is awarded the 2015 H2 Professorship for her courses in cultural archaeology would take a commonplace from modern life that we take for granted and put it under a microscope. Drawing one case study from each branch of my scholarly research, I would offer a fall class on the cultural power of the fairy tale and a spring class on chocolate as an optic through which to view colonial and medical history.
Dr. Jones seeks to combine the student learning that takes place in the classroom with real-life practice in the outside world. To that purpose—and very much in line with current trends in academic research as well as in pedagogy—she proposes to turn traditionally solitary pursuits such as writing into collaborative exercises.
Stuart Culver Associate Dean for Academic Affairs College of Humanities, College Of Humanities, University of Utah Associate Professor, English, University of Utah
two linked courses that will enable students to investigate the intellectual development and social significance of higher education in three distinct historical moments. My goal is to use this historical approach to help students contextualize the two key elements of their Honors College experience: their pursuit of an individual research project within a discipline and their participation in a larger community of learners.
Prof. Culver currently serves on the Dee Committee, to which his colleagues nominated him in recognition of his consistently outstanding record as an undergraduate teacher
Professors Holton and Lawson were awarded the 2014 H2 Professorship for their timely and innovative course surveying the use of drones in society.
“Drones and Society” is a two-semester course, highlighting current discourse surrounding popular drone technology and encouraging students to explore beyond commonly held uses and conceptions. Students examine readings, hear from guest speakers, take field trips and conduct in-field assignments.
Students will continue their work with hands-on drone navigation, team exercises and group projects designed to hone problem-solving, creative-thinking and teamwork skills.
Professor Basso received the 2014 H2 Professorship for a dual course proposal encompassing two separate, but significant social issues and the use of oral history in each: Military and American Society, and How to Age.
During the fall, Military and American Society explored the historical and contemporary relationship of American society and military through the study of oral history and case studies. This spring How to Age will discover generational relations within the family, workplace, culture and politics through oral histories.
Professor Laursen received the 2013 H2 Professorship for two courses that address mankind’s search for perfection. Imagined Communities explored the idea of utopia using Stalin’s reconstruction of Moscow in the 1930s, Disneyland, and Salt Lake City as case studies. Constructing the Ideal Human Being examined similar thoughts in relation to the human body through study of the Soviet Union’s New People, the horrors of the holocaust and current debates about the post-human and transhuman.