Is social media creating a digitally dependent culture?

November 6, 2013

Unless you’ve taken a time machine back to the dark ages, you’re well aware that social media is everywhere. The question many ask is whether social media has invented a digital culture or simply removed the red tape to a bevy of information.

Suzanne Scott, assistant professor of Film and Media Studies in the Department of English at Arizona State University, teaches two courses on the impact of new and digital media on the media industry and fan culture. woman on laptop Download Full Image

“People want to talk about social media as if it is groundbreaking, which it is on many levels, but ultimately, it is just an extension of something we’ve always been attracted to, like building out our network of friends and colleagues. Platforms like Facebook have just made it easier to curate and broadcast this information like never before,” she said.

Networks such as Twitter have provided individuals with unprecedented access to celebrities and brands.  

“Twitter is oriented around making connections outside of your circles. You may have gone to Comic Con and waited in line for an hour just to ask Dan Harmon a question about 'Community.' I, on the other hand, can simply tweet him a question and he is more inclined to respond.”

Scott also references how social media is being used as an extension of the community following television shows. Shows such as "The Walking Dead" (#TheWalkingDead) and "Scandal" (#Scandal) list their tags at the bottom of the screen on each episode, encouraging the audience to go online to connect with fellow fans, producers and cast members. This increases the lifespan of a show that normally lasts only one hour each week.

But what happens when social media meets the classroom? Many professors will list electronic devices as unecessary distractions for their students during lectures. Realistically, that is probably true. Scott says that in her class, she notices students browsing the web, but that banning the devices altogether is not the solution. Instead, she sees it as a personal challenge.

“Simply telling students they can’t bring their devices to class doesn’t solve the problem. My goal is to find a way to turn this distraction into something that they critically engage with it,” she said.

For example, Scott encourages students to use YouTube and Google to find content related to the subject matter at hand that can be shared with the class. She also notices that students will search Twitter to see if there is a handle or hashtag they can follow. Students are also required to create a Storify page where they treat social media posts as scholarly evidence analyzing fan culture.

What do you think? Is social media creating an entirely digital culture? Visit the Project Humanities Facebook page now to chime in.

The Department of English is an academic unit in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

ASU researcher earns prestigious caregiving award

November 7, 2013

November is National Caregivers Month, a time to acknowledge the important role family and friends play in caring for their ailing and elderly family members.

Aptly timed, the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving recently named David W. Coon, associate vice provost and professor in the College of Nursing & Health Innovation at Arizona State University, and his fellow experts the recipients of the 2013 Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award. This is the highest award given in the caregiving field. The award recognized research advancements by the CarePRO Partnership, a group-based skill-building intervention for family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter presented the award to Coon and his associates at a recent gala. David Coon, PhD receives the Rosalynn Carter Leadership Award Download Full Image

“We are honored to be recognized by the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving on behalf of CarePRO, its participants and all the family caregivers who give so much to care for their loved ones,” Coon said.  

Program supports ‘hidden patients’

“Caregivers are often hidden patients, constantly attending to their loved one’s needs without attending to their own,” Coon said. “CarePRO aims to enhance the quality of life for both caregivers and their care recipients by teaching caregivers stress management and behavior management skills.”

Coon says more than 800 caregivers have participated in CarePRO across Arizona and Nevada with project findings showing significant reductions in participant depressive symptoms; decreases in distress associated with care recipient memory and behavior problems; as well as increases in their use of positive coping strategies, among other positive health-related outcomes.

Findings also showed over 95 percent of CarePRO participants said they benefitted from the program with increased understanding of memory loss and its effects on people, gained greater confidence in dealing with their loved one's problems and developed an enhanced ability to provide care.

“The sheer number of caregivers that have received support through this CarePRO partnership is just amazing,” Laura Baurer, director of national initiatives for the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, said. “Each partner has helped lay the groundwork to ensure the program will continue so that even more caregivers can receive this vital assistance.”

Arming professionals with tools to provide compassionate care

“CarePRO has become an important tool with which we can continue to provide the best care and support for our caregivers,” Jacob Harmon, regional director for the Alzheimer’s Association Chapter in Northern Nevada, said.  “Dr. Coon’s expertise and empathy has not only helped countless caregivers provide more comprehensive and compassionate care to their loved ones living with dementia, but also helped our staff become even more thoughtful care partners themselves.”

“CarePRO has been a tremendous gift, certainly for the caregiver participants, but also for the chapter itself,” Deborah Schaus, executive director of the Desert Southwest Chapter, said. “It is inspiring for staff to be out in the community, say at a conference, and have a former participant stand up and start talking publicly about how CarePRO changed his life.”

About the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving and CarePRO

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving is an advocacy, education, research and service organization. The Leadership in Caregiving Award recognizes leadership in implementing innovative partnerships between community agencies and caregiving researchers that bridge the gap between science and practice. Johnson & Johnson sponsored the award with a $20,000 stipend and a statuette designed by renowned sculptor Frank Eliscu, designer of the Heisman Trophy.  

The CarePRO Partnership includes Coon, the Desert Southwest and Northern Nevada chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Division of Aging & Adult Services, several Area Agencies on Aging in Arizona, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, and the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division. CarePRO, which stands for Care Partners Reaching Out, is part of a nationwide effort to provide evidence-based skills to caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Coon, who is one of the nation’s leading experts on caregiver interventions, designed the program based on research he conducted with colleagues while he was at Stanford University.  

Family caregivers interested in CarePRO should contact the Desert Southwest Chapter at (602) 528-0545 or the Northern Nevada Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association at (775) 786-8061 for ongoing CarePRO groups.