Research interests: Human-computer interaction, user experience, Internet of Things, security and data privacy
Brittany Andersen is a PhD candidate in the Emerging Media Studies Program (EMS) at Boston University College of Communication. At BU, her research focuses on how users perceive, evaluate, and respond to different types of media and technology. Brittany currently works as a User Experience Researcher at Ancestry, where she provides UX research and consulting for the company’s new and proposed product and technology lines. While working at Ancestry, Brittany is simultaneously working on her dissertation, which focuses on user motivations and barriers to partake in direct-to-consumer genetic testing.
Brittany received her MA from the EMS program in 2015. Prior to enrolling at BU, she graduated from the University of Massachusetts Lowell with her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and French. Outside of school, Brittany is an avid ballet dancer and volunteer researcher for the Cavalier Alliance, a non-profit dog rescue group focused on senior and special needs Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
Research interests: video games and virtual reality, interactive and immersive narrative, hostility and harassment in online communities
Tiernan Cahill is a PhD student in the Division of Emerging Media Studies, and a graduate of the EMS MA program. He also holds a B.Sc. in Political Communication and BFA in Writing, Literature, & Publishing from Emerson College.
Cahill’s research combines experimental and computational perspectives to investigate how users perceive and navigate virtual environments. A lifelong gamer, he is interested in exploring how video games tell engaging stories through interactivity and immersion, and the potential of emerging technologies such as virtual reality and procedural generation to further the expansive potential of the medium. Driven by concern over toxic elements in gaming culture, his research also addresses the normalization of hostility and harassment in online spaces. His recent projects have included a network analysis of user interactions in live-streaming chatrooms, a comparison of predictive approaches to modeling hostile commenting behavior, and an experiment testing how users respond to abnormal environmental cues in virtual environments. In his free time, he enjoys teaching computers to write poetry.
Lee Hair is a Ph.D. student in the Division of Emerging Media Studies, having also earned his Master’s in Emerging Media Studies at BU. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Classics from Austin College, after which he taught English as a second language for two years in Okinawa, Japan. In Japan, he became interested in the effects of interactive media in an educational context, as well as the online entertainment phenomenon of video game spectatorship. His work focuses on how online amateur content creators (like Patreon artists and Twitch streamers) negotiate authenticity and intimacy with their audiences, how platforms shape the way creators produce and distribute their work, and what motivates their fans to convert into paying consumers. Most of his research concerns crowdfunding, digital fandom, user-generated content, and livestreaming, but he also studies digital communities and online identity and interaction more generally.
Research interests:Technological affordances of digital platforms, human-computer interaction; online research methodologies; macro- and micro-level emerging media effects
Kate Mays is a doctoral student in the Division of Emerging Media Studies at BU’s College of Communication. She earned her Master’s in Emerging Media Studies from BU, and studied English and American Studies at Georgetown University, where she also wrote for and edited the school’s newspaper. Before returning to graduate school, Mays worked in academic publishing in Washington, D.C.
Her research examines how technology interacts with and affects our interpersonal lives, specifically in the context of mobile dating applications. She also conducts research in political communication, focusing on the agenda-setting and democratizing effects of old and new media in our digital environment.
Research interests: Artificial intelligence and emerging media, algorithmic and computational journalism, news media innovation and design
Sejin Paik is a doctoral student in the Division of Emerging Media Studies at BU’s College of Communication. She received her Master’s in Computational & Multimedia Journalism at Stanford University and Bachelor’s in International Studies at Emory University. Sejin has a wide-range of professional experience in the news media industry. She has worked at Google, where she helped launch an AI-driven news platform for a worldwide audience. She has been a local news reporter in the Bay Area and Atlanta, Georgia. She also worked in marketing at KBS, a national broadcast company in Seoul, South Korea.
Sejin’s research lies at the intersection of media, technology and democracy. She is interested in understanding the political and cultural effects of media dissemination through different communication channels and exploring the ethical questions that arise from new media technologies.
Research interests: Political economy of social media, political communication, algorithms, the regulation of communication technology
Alex Rochefort is a Ph.D. student in the Division of Emerging Media Studies at Boston University’s College of Communication. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Industry from Northeastern University. After graduating he worked in the music industry in New York City as a social media professional for Superfly, a company known for creating and producing the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and Outside Lands Music Festival. He returned to school and completed a Master’s in Corporate and Organizational Communication at Northeastern University in 2017.
Alex’s research interest is the political economy of social media, broadly conceived. He is particularly interested in the regulation of communication technologies, the ways that social media influence political ideology and participation, and the intersection of law, public policy, and governance of communication platforms. His most recent research has examined the emergence of social media a public policy issue.
Research interests: Social media use and its psychological impacts on users, as well as society as a whole; social & emerging media within the context of mental health and health communication; the divergent impacts of image based social media platforms as opposed to text based platforms
Briana Trifiro is a PhD student in the Emerging Media Studies Program at Boston University’s College of Communication. She received both her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Communication from Bryant University. Prior to her time at BU, Briana worked extensively in the media industry as an Executive Producer and Interim Executive Director at her local community television station.
Her research interests focus on the individual and societal impacts of social media use. She is primarily interested in the ways in which social media platforms impact the ways in which individuals perceive themselves, as well as the world around them. Her most recent research analyzes the impact of social media usage patterns on individuals’ self-esteem and emotional well-being.
Research interests: Empathetic communication; patient experience; social & emerging media in the context of health education
Sarah Parker Ward is a Ph.D. student in the Emerging Media Studies program at the College of Communication. Prior to entering the program, she received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from SUNY Potsdam and her masters in communication from Marist College. Sarah has worked in marketing for ten years as the owner of a digital agency, developing content and social media strategies for national and global brands.
At BU, Sarah is flipping her industry experience to explore the role the attention economy plays in perpetuating psychological stress and diminishing sustained attention. Beyond bringing greater clarity to these media relationships, she is also exploring potential interventions to mitigate such adverse health outcomes. In particular, her research focuses on the depiction and efficacy of contemplative practices and nature-based therapies. Dedicated to service leadership, Sarah has also served on nonprofit boards and committees in higher education, healthcare, and the arts. When she is not working, she can often be found reading or enjoying the outdoors with her three children.
Research interests: Intercultural Communication, International Communication, Media Effects Theories
Blake Wertz is a current PHD student in Boston University’s Department of Emerging Media Studies. Receiving his bachelors from Rollins College in 2008 with a dual major in International Relations and Asian Studies, he spent the next two years living in Japan, working as a teacher of English as a second language at multiple public high schools. Wertz returned to the states, where he completed his master of arts in Emerging Media Studies at Boston University, before continuing into the PHD program.
Wertz’s research interests include, but are not limited to, the psychological and social consequences of new media spaces. In particular, Wertz is interested both in studying the experience and potential pro-social outcomes of playing video games. Additionally, Wertz studies the democratizing potential and outcomes of internet and mobile technologies. He has recently submitted a time series analysis studying whether internet and mobile diffusion cause democratization and sociological conflict to the Journal of Communication. He is currently writing a proposal to study how to best design and use online discussion forums as a venue for discursive democracy.
Research interests: Communication technology and health
Jiaxi Wu is a first-year doctoral student in Emerging Media Studies. Her research emphasis is on communication technology and health with a focus on its impact on individuals cognition and behaviors. Currently, she is exploring both experimental and computational approaches. She is interested in revealing the effect of emerging digital media at both psychological and social levels.
Jiaxi received her B.A. in Journalism from Chongqing University in China and M.A. in Mass Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to enrolling at BU, she was a student facilitator for “Badgers Stepup”, a training program focuses on leadership development, bystander intervention, and alcohol education at UW-Madison. During her masters at UW-Madison, she was actively involved in several research projects on community paramedicine, mobile and video game. She has also interned at Global Times News and Sina Weibo in China.
In her leisure time, Jiaxi enjoys traveling and making good Chinese food at home. Hotpot is her favorite food. She also likes music and she plays hammered dulcimer.
Research interests: how emerging media technologies could be used to promote pro-social behaviors and to empower individuals, Human-Robot Interaction
Li Zhang is a Ph.D. student in the Division of Emerging Media Studies. He holds a B.A. in Chinese Literature from Peking University, and an M.A. and
M.Phil. in Comparative Literature from SOAS, University of London and Columbia University respectively. Broadly speaking, Li Zhang’s research interests focus on how the proliferation of emerging media technologies could be used to promote pro-social behaviors and to empower individuals. He has also become more interested in Human-Robot Interaction (from bot accounts on social media to personal assistant gadgets) for the novel opportunities it provides for studying social, political and psychological issues. Outside school, Li Zhang practices Tai Chi and likes to fish.
Research interests: Political impact of digital media, governmental use of digital media, agenda setting and agenda building effects
Yiyan Zhang is a Ph.D. student in Emerging Media Studies at the College of Communication at Boston University. Prior to BU, Yiyan earned her bachelor’s degree in advertising (major) and economy (minor) from the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University, China. She also worked as a research assistant in the Laboratory of Public Opinions at the School of New Media at Peking University.
Yiyan’s research includes the relationship between digital media and civic discussion and engagement, as well as the mediated effects of digital media between governments and citizens, especially in the non-Western context. She is also interested in the theoretical and methodological development of agenda setting and agenda building effects in the digital era. As an international student studying in the U.S., Yiyan is also interested in the role of culture in studying emerging media.
Emerging Media Studies PhD Graduates
Research interests: Exploring the social, emotional, and civic dimensions of media.
Sarah Krongard earned her Ph.D. from the Division of Emerging Media Studies at Boston University’s College of Communication after successfully defending her dissertation in the fall of 2019. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Cinema and Media Studies from Wellesley College and her Master’s degree in Technology, Innovation, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Through her research and practice, Sarah examines media’s relationship with social, emotional, and cognitive development in formal and informal learning contexts.
Sarah’s professional experiences are situated at the intersection of media, pedagogy, and youth advocacy. She was a board member and the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (MASCD), promoting social and emotional learning in K-12 schools. She has served as a Teaching Fellow for multiple courses related to media and learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in addition to several Communication courses at Boston University. As an Instructional Designer at Lesley University, Sarah designed online and blended learning experiences for students and faculty. She is passionate about media literacy education and conducts workshops on the subject with K-16 students.