The Institute for New Media Studies launches the year with a U-wide conference and the second phase of the Digital Storytelling Effects Lab.
New media research conference launches INMS academic yearINMS kicked off the 2006-07 academic year by hosting its fourth annual "New Media Research @ UMN" conference on September 14-15, 2006. Conference participants represented a cross-section of U departments and disciplines where new media research is taking place, including health sciences, history, journalism, education, library science, and rhetoric. Topics of papers and posters included the impact of facial morphing in advertising; blogging; the pros and cons of HTML and Flash; exploring racial violence using interactive maps; and designing appropriate and effective internet-based HIV prevention programs.
The New Media Research Network (NMRN), an outgrowth of the annual conference designed to connect new media researchers and enthusiasts across campus, continues to grow. The NMRN consists of a blog,Wiki, map, listserv and other tools for sharing and collaborating among the network.
The goals of the conference are to stimulate cross-disciplinary discourse and collaboration in new media among University departments and disciplines. Assistant professor of learning technologies Aaron Doering, who attended the conference, observed that the event "was an incredible display of exciting research and collaboration."
Monthly breakfasts power new media interestAt the November 2006 New Media Research breakfast, INMS invited former INMS researcher, Jamason Chen, to present his work in stereoscopy and its applications in visual communication. Stereoscopy, or 3-D imaging, can enhance the user experience of digital media in teaching, research or general communication. Chen explained to attendess how 3-D imaging will allow for more sophisticated visual content to complement multimedia interactive functions.
At the December breakfast, INMS director Nora Paul and Design Housing and Apparel professor Sauman Chu presented their work on the second round of Digital Storytelling Effects Lab (DiSEL) studies. The new series of eyetracking studies, funded by a Digital Technology Center grant, will look at the design of "breaking news," supplemental links, and slide show navigation on online news sites.
A crash course in DiSELThe Digital Storytelling Effects Lab grew out of a desire for answers--or at least more information--for those who are creating and investing time in developing multimedia story forms. There is a wide array of options for presenting information online, but little is known about the effectiveness of different design or display approaches, particularly with regard to online news.
INMS director Nora Paul and Laura Ruel, assistant professor of multimedia in the University of North Carolina's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, decided that research comparing different presentation forms for the same information would be a useful way to get at underlying questions about design effectiveness. The result was the Digital Storytelling Effects Lab (DiSEL) project.
The projecct has a three-pronged research approach:
• Eyetracking: using sophisticated technology to track the movement of the viewers' eyes on the computer screen.
• Usability: using observation and assigned tasks to evaluate how easy a site is to use and navigate.
• Effects: using pre- and post- experiment surveys to see if a presentation influenced attitudes or information recall.
A grant from the University of Minnesota's Digital Technology Center is funding three more DiSEL studies, which will be conducted in February 2007. Working with College of Design professor Sauman Chu, the DiSEL researchers will be testing different design approaches for displaying breaking news, supplemental story links, and slide show navigation options. These are three areas where the approaches taken by news organizations vary widely and research will help identify the most effective approaches or determine if there is little difference between approaches. The Washington Post and the Star Tribune online teams have been helping provide content and formats to be studied.
"That the news industry is finally engaging with research into story forms and digital design is a sign of a new level of interest in moving news from the 'shovelware' stage to creating content which takes advantage of online's unique attributes," said Nora Paul. "Now if we can just get them to help fund this kind of research!"