Creating a Center for Mobile Media

General thoughts on what a Center for Mobile Media should do:

The Center for Mobile Media at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be the hub that unites the disparate efforts of academic and industry researchers, professionals and students. It will create a focused and disciplined way to pull together multidisciplinary research projects from across campus for greater impact in mobile media research and practice. It will be a vehicle driven by academics, students and industry, all working together on common problems and concerns, with input from the end user.

Mobile devices are the most ubiquitous communication devices in the world – they outnumber televisions and reach a larger audience than radio. They bridge all the digital divides: economy, age, geography, education, race, religion and ethnicity. No matter which side of the divide you are on, you are more likely to have a mobile device than any other communication tool. Mobile devices also are the best way to communicate internationally. They have the greatest opportunity to unite people in a worldwide conversation. However, their use for news and information is still relatively new, basic, and open for development – particularly in the United States.

More and more, the conversation that matters is the digital conversation – the conversation of youth, as well as opinion leaders, business leaders and government leaders. If you are not part of that conversation, you risk becoming an uninformed, second-class citizen. If we want to create a global conversation, the way to do it is through mobile media.

The Center for Mobile Media will organize cross-disciplinary research efforts and projects by giving grants to professors or students in any disciplines who want to add to the knowledge or practice of using mobile devices to spread news, information and commerce.  We will seek innovative and effective uses of mobile media and then publicize those ideas and best practices. We will also consider commercial applications of these ideas and practices.

Using mobile media for news, information, advertising and social networking is still new and developing. We have much to learn about the interconnectedness of mobile media and social media as they are used to spread news and information effectively.

The Center for Mobile Media will work on these tasks by helping research professors, professors of practice and commercial businesses plan together to answer different questions ranging from: What’s the most effective user interface, to what is opinion leadership in mobile social networks, or how do we determine credibility of messages on different devices? Professors of practice will create practical research questions that stem from their use of devices in the field. Answers to those questions will help us use mobile devices to better inform and engage more people and to spur research questions.

How will it work?

The Center for Mobile Media will be a multidisciplinary re-granting center. The Center will seek larger grants to subdivide for smaller faculty or student projects. The Center will issue worldwide requests for proposals that help innovate or scale the use and understanding of mobile media for news, information, advertising or transactions. It also will help other innovative mobile projects get grants in exchange for public dissemination of the knowledge gained. The center will consider all of these pieces as building blocks that can be aligned and realigned for different and future purposes. The Center has minimal overhead costs because it doesn’t need a building or a large staff.

Examples of Center for Mobile Media Research Projects

1) Does the credibility we associate with a video news message vary according to the size of the device on which we view the message? For instance, is greater credibility associated with a message on a 72-inch screen than a 2-inch mobile screen? If there’s a difference, does it vary by age, with young people perhaps giving the smaller screen greater credibility? Should this affect the types of messages we use to reach different audiences on different devices? What’s the best device to use if you want to get political information to a 20-year-old American male or a teenaged Egyptian woman?

2) Students at the Raikes School of Computer Science and Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the College of Journalism and Mass Communications created an iPad photojournalism app designed to encourage user engagement with the people in the photos or the issues they depict. This app will be used for future photojournalism projects. It was field-tested by UNL students working in India in May 2012. Because of that field test, we know what additional changes and improvements need to be made.

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