Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Make Yourself Meme

Richard Dawkins (2006) created the term “meme” as a way of describing how culture is transmitted. Memes are key to this transmission through sharing and longevity. The concept of meme grew in an online presence (Shifman, 2009).

When the word meme began gaining popularity, I (embarrassingly) thought it was “Me – Me” because the memes were all about me. There were “25 Things about Me” and “Four Questions about Me” notes in Facebook (remember those?). Then there was “Gratuitous Picture of Yourself Wednesday” (Thanks, Tumblr!).  Famous bloggers posted their first memes. A coloring book was made. 

Recently, Colin McGinn discusses the role of memes in his New York Times article, Memes, Dreams & Themes. McGinn argues that memes spread like a virus through each other’s minds. When we have a commercial jingle or pop song stuck in our head, it’s a meme. Memes are not always silly – they are closely related to culture. Memes spread culture and ideas. They can spread art, ideologies, and unwritten rules.

McGinn asks us to consider the difference between memes (those that are “mentally manipulated”) and those that are themes (those that are “genuinely good,” like, say, the oxford comma). Intermixed within the question, is another question to consider: if a meme spreads, who is to say it’s not good?  Perhaps Gratuitous Picture of Yourself Wednesday (GPOYW) isn’t actually gratuitous, but these photos may be empowering or expressive. Is determining the value of a meme similar to determining the value of art?

I think the bigger question to the value of a meme lies at an exterior level: How are memes spreading? What makes a meme circulate? Memetic and cultural circulation seem closely linked to engagement, emotion, and creativity of the audience.

Likewise, literature about memorable messages tell us the ideas that stick are closely related to individual emotion and relatability (or recognition) in addition to an audience and value. These characteristics are linked to storytelling as a way of generating meaning. When your idea or product sits within a narrative or you can place it in your own narrative, ideas and memes can stick and spread.


And this is important, because marketing your selfie means people have to notice it.

--Janell Walther 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Final Project for COMM 354

Students in Dr. Angela Palmer-Wackerly's COMM 354, Health Communication, course produced this video as part of a final project that asked them to produce a health campaign.



Look familiar?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Congratulations to NCA Top Papers by UNL Graduate Students

Congratulations to Communication Studies doctoral candidate Jamie Downing who has two Top Papers at the upcoming NCA conference in Las Vegas in November 2015.  Her paper “Escaping Entelechy: Exploring Intersections of Piety and Style” is one of the Top Papers in the Kenneth Burke Society. Her paper, “Keeping the Feast: Digitality, Counterpublics, and Conversations Surrounding Christian Seders” is a Top Student Paper in the Religious Communication Division.

Congratulations to Communication Studies doctoral candidate Jon Carter who has a Top Paper at the upcoming NCA conference in Las Vegas in November 2015. His paper, “Good Metonyms Make Great Metaphors: Embracing the Opportunities for Scientific Forms in Non-Scientific Contexts” is one of the Top Papers in the Kenneth Burke Society.

Congratulations to Communication Studies doctoral candidate Julia Moore who has been awarded a Top Paper award and the Top Student Paper award by the Western States Communication Association’s Interpersonal Communication Interest Group for her paper, “Where is the critical empirical interpersonal communication research? A roadmap for future inquiry.”  The paper will be presented in at the annual meeting of the Western States Communication Association in San Diego CA in February 2016.

Congratulations to Communication Studies doctoral candidates Jordan Allen and Nicole Allen who have been awarded a Top Paper award by the Western States Communication Association’s Interpersonal Communication Interest Group for their paper, “Complicating and Critiquing the Classical Twin Methodology: Decentring Biogenetic Approaches to Twin Studies." The paper will be presented in at the annual meeting of the Western States Communication Association in San Diego CA in February 2016.

Top 10 Ways My Years in the US Army Prepared Me for Grad School in Communication Studies

For Veteran’s Day Nov. 11, 2015

10.  Sleep?!  You don’t need sleep!  You can sleep when you’re dead!  You’ve got a research paper due!

9.  Just like the military, the professors arm you…but with research studies, texts, and their years of knowledge!

8.  It’s not just a job…it’s an adventure! (You get to eat, breath, and live Communication Studies 24/7!)

7. Drill sergeants don’t yell, they simply talk loud enough so that everyone can hear them! (I never knew this whole time they were teaching me about Berger and diBattista’s (1993) study, Communication failure and plan adaptation: If at first you don’t succeed, say it louder and slower!) 

6.  On those super long class days when you don’t have time to stop for lunch, you realize that the vending machines in Oldfather Hall serve gourmet meals comparable to an MRE packet (meals-ready-to-eat)! 

5.  The army exercises your body – the Comm Studies’ profs exercise your mind!

4.  Forget the camouflage.  It won’t help you hide if you’re not prepared for class!

3. The Comm Studies' professors are like drill sergeants – they constantly push you to a higher level 
of achievement you never knew you could reach!

2.  The road march is long and hard and all uphill!  But the view from the mountaintop on graduation day will be well worth the journey!


1.  Now you’re ready to: “Be!  All that you can be…in Communication Studies!” HOOAH! J



by Carol Tschampl-Diesing, a first year PhD student and US Army veteran

Friday, October 30, 2015

Dawn O. Braithwaite wins the Ferris Award

Dawn O. Braithwaite, Willa Cather Professor and Chair of Communication Studies, will receive the James Ferris Award for Contributions to Communication and Disability Studies from the National Communication Association Disability Issues Caucus (2015).  Dawn and co-honoree Teresa Thompson (University of Dayton) are two of the earliest disability communication researchers in the communication discipline and published the Handbook of Communication and People with Disabilities: Research and Application (2000Erlbaum). 


The selection committee “recognized their important contributions to the field.” The award will be presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association in Las Vegas in November.

National Communication Association Disability Issues Caucus supports NCA’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity by promoting accessibility to all NCA activities for all interested parties, especially through coordinating efforts with NCA leadership to meet both the letter and spirit of ADA laws. The caucus also provides a forum for scholarship on disability and communication that includes the critical area of Disability Studies.

Congratulations to two NCA Award Winners!

Dr. Kathy Krone and her co-author Dr. Erika Kirby have won the National Communication Association’s Charles H. Woolbert Research Award.

The Charles H. Woolbert Research Award is named for one the discipline’s early founders. This is an association-level award whose winners are chosen by the NCA Research Board, celebrating research that has stood the test of time.  The Woolbert Award is in recognition of their research:

Kirby, E., & Krone, K. (2002). "The policy exists but you can't really use it": Communication and the structuration of work-family policies. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 30, 50-77.

Drs. Kirby and Krone will receive the award at NCA’s awards ceremony on Saturday November 21, at the association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas.

Erika Kirby is a Professor of Communication at Creighton University and earned her PhD in Communication Studies at UNL in 2000.  Kathy Krone is a Professor of Communication Studies and been a member of our faculty since 1991.

Based in Washington D. C. with 8,000 members, the National Communication Association is the discipline’s largest and oldest national association.


Dr. Bill Seiler has won the National Communication Association’s NCA’s Wallace A. Bacon Lifetime Teaching Excellence Award. This is an association-level award whose winners are chosen by a committee of those specializing in instructional communication and former award winners.

Dr. Seiler will receive the award at NCA’s awards ceremony on Saturday November 21, at the association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas.

Dr. Bill Seiler is a Professor of Communication Studies and been a member of our faculty since 1972.  He was Chair of Communication Studies for 21 years, ending his term in 2010. 

Dr. Bill Seiler is the embodiment of what is best about teacher-scholars in our discipline. His entrepreneurial spirit about teaching and his substantial contributions to basic course and instructional communication, his dedication to his undergraduate and graduate students, his generous mentoring across the discipline, his service contributions and collegiality all make Bill the embodiment of what the Wallace Bacon Award is all about.

Based in Washington D. C. with 8,000 members, the National Communication Association is the discipline’s largest and oldest national association.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dr. Carly Woods at Popular Knowledge, Public Stage Conference



She discussed, “A Tale of Two Lucys: Remembering Oberlin’s Early Orators.” She examined the dynamics of race and gender in the story of the first known U.S. college women's debating society at Oberlin College. She argued that public memory about the club should be expanded beyond well-known reformer Lucy Stone to include Lucy Stanton Day Sessions, an early member and the first African American woman to complete a college course of study. This interdisciplinary conference focused on how popular, public interactions shaped the character of knowledge in the long nineteenth century (roughly 1790–1910), as the way people thought and learned together was transformed by speakers and listeners, writers and readers.  



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Congrats to Breshears & Braithwaite on GLBTQ Communication Studies division Monograph of the Year Award!



Diana Breshears of the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Dawn O. Braithwaite, Willa Cather Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication Studies have won the National Communication Association’s GLBTQ Communication Studies division Monograph of the Year award for 2015. Their article, "Discursive Struggles Animating Individuals' Talk About Their Parents' Coming Out as Lesbian and Gay," was published in the Journal of Family Communication in 2014. Diana Breshears earned her PhD in 2011 from the Department of Communication Studies at UNL.

Two quotes from the nominating letters underline the significance of this research:

"I remember the exact day I picked up Garner’s (2005) book Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Telling It Like It Is and read it through in one sitting. As a lesbian parent and communication scholar I found her book to be groundbreaking. She opened up a world so few had ever documented and told the story through the eyes of the children. What particularly struck me was her discussion of how these children negotiate their parent’s sexual identity and allowed me to better understand the family dynamics my two children would face all their lives. Ten years later we have Breshears and Braithwaite’s research and discover, still, how little we know about the discursive worlds of children raised by gay and lesbian parents. This research stands alongside Garner’s as one of the few to position itself from the children’s perspective; more to the point it examines not only how these children negotiate their parents’ sexual orientation but also the dynamic of their parents’ coming out and how it impacts their own personal and familial identity work."

"Breshears and Braithwaite (2014) help redress the limited…understandings to date of gay- and lesbian-parented families in family communication. In doing so, the piece shifts the conversation about coming out away from the individual, focusing instead on how parental coming out impacts the whole family system, with a decided focus on the children in the family. When focusing on the children’s perspectives, the piece moves away from collecting children’s perspectives by asking parents to report on their children and instead asks the children directly to detail their lived experiences."

Congrats to Dr. Breshears and Dr. Braithwaite (pictured below at Dr. Breshears' doctoral hooding!) 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Charles H. Woolbert Research Awardee Dr. Kathleen Krone


Dr.Kathy Krone was recently awarded the prestigious Charles H. Woolbert Research Award from the National Communication Association for a paper she co-authored with University of Nebraska-Lincoln Alumini Dr. Erika L. Kirby. Their article 'The Policy Exists but You Can't Really Use It:'Communication and the Structuration of Work-Family Policies,” published in the Journal of Applied Communication earned the award for its continued conceptual and theoretical significance to the field of Communication Studies. Dr. Krone was kind enough to answer a few questions about the project and the award:
What initially inspired the article?
I was teaching a graduate seminar that included an introduction to structuration theory. At the time the theory had gained visibility among organizational communication scholars but very few had actually chosen it as a guiding theoretical framework for research. Erika Kirby was enrolled in that course.  She had earned her Masters’ in communication at the University of Minnesota and her advisor had been Scott Poole, a major scholar in organizational communication who also had written on the subject of structuration theory. Erika had exposure to the theory through Scott and through my seminar and it became the guiding theory for her dissertation. We had discussed everyday interaction around organizational policies as an interesting subject for research. I believe Erika also happened to be expecting her first child during the dissertation process and the subject of work-family policies and their uses was very salient to her and her husband. Linda Gallant, another earlier doctoral advisee, studied employee talk about EEO policies and how differences in interpretation across majority and minority group members complicated the implementation of these policies. Linda did not use structuration theory; took a more rhetorical approach instead, but these two projects were completed within the same 3-5 year period of time.   
When did the translational potential of the piece become apparent?
Dr. Braithwaite held an NCA leadership position and the association decided to begin a translational publication outlet that became what now is known as Communication Currents.  She knew of Erika’s dissertation and invited us to submit a translational essay as a prototype for how these translational essays should appear and read.  In addition, the subject of work-family/life are of great concern to many people who want and need to work but who also value having a life!  Erika’s dissertation also spoke to the importance of having a supportive supervisor to making these policies work well.  The Kirby &  Krone article directs attention to the importance of co-worker communication, so if organizations are serious about their support for work and family/life, we learned that the quality of communication on the part of both supervisors and co-workers about the use of these policies becomes very important.
Considering the continued popularity of the article, are there any changes or amendments that you would make if you could go back?
Erika’s work and my own work has taken a more critical turn over the years.  If I were to make any changes in the article or approach a similar project again, I might emphasize my current understanding that when organizations are required by law to offer certain policies, these policies often are written and implemented in ways that best serve the legal needs of the organization (i.e., help protect the organization against formal complaints and lawsuits).  Assuming that these policies exist mainly to benefit employees now seems a bit politically innocent to me!
Why do you think researchers and readers find the article interesting?
I think many people have experienced the complications associated with wanting and needing to rely on these policies and the realities of making them work well in practice.  Even today when the subject comes up in conversations people will complain about how the organization they work for (or used to work for!) paid lip service to work-life issues, but did not really care.  So, these policies and their use becomes an interesting site of contradiction to talk about and work through and around.  I also think there is some growing awareness of how much more support there is for work-family/life by corporations operating outside the U. S.  Organizations located in many northern European countries, for example, offer far more generous benefits related to work and life than do those located in the U. S. 
What advice or recommendations would you give future scholars seeking to make similar contributions to the field?
I would advise a future scholar to begin with an important and socially/politically consequential problem and then locate a promising theory or two that will help him/her learn more about that problem and also make an important difference in the everyday lives of people.  In my experience the process of bringing practice to theory first and then theory back to practice produces the most interesting projects and the most socially useful social theoretical developments.