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BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: Sexuality starts with the biological.[Brian H. Spitzberg, Senate Distinguished Professorof Communication, San Diego State University]You have genes from both male and female,but the question for communication approachis how that gets expressed, how it gets negotiated,how it gets understood, how it gets shapedand molded by culture and society.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: [How and when did the field of communication and sexualityemerge?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: The field of communication and sexualitygoes back at least to ancient timesfrom a poetic and rhetorical perspective.Remember that for most of human history,women were not allowed to be on stage, for example,to reveal or represent their own gender.But more scientifically speaking, communicationand sexuality goes at least back to Darwin.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: Because Darwin was interested in the expression of emotion,he was interested in sexual selection,and he was interested in why a sexually dimorphic speciesbehaves the way it does.So for example, the peacock male has all this flowery feather,and it wants to show off and it wants to attract a mate.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: But it makes no sense from a traditional natural selectionperspective, because that makes it better target for predators.And so Darwin had to struggle with the questionof how does sex get expressed and what function does itserve.[What other fields or disciplines is communicationand sexuality related to theoretically?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: The field of communication and sexualitygoes back centuries, at least to Ancient Greece,when people were first developing the idea of dramaand dramatic representation.For much of human history, for example,women were not even allowed to represent their own genderon stage.The scientific study of communication and sexualitygoes back to at least Charles Darwin,who was interested in trying to figure outhow natural selection and sexual selection interact.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: So for example, the male peacock hasall these beautiful feathers to attract a mate,but it makes it much more vulnerable to a predator.So Darwin struggled with how sex gets represented,how it gets expressed, and what function it serves.Communication and sexuality is certainly related to biology,so that we are increasingly becominginterested in the neural substrates of sex.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: To what extent is sex wired in the brain?We're also very interested in the field of psychology,because psychology is very interested in howwe interpret sex, how we understand sexuality.It's very closely related to anthropology,which is interested in how culture shapes and molds sexand how sex is expressed within culture.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: It's very related to sociology, whichis interested in how sex gets constructed in a society.[What first inspired you to start research in this field?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: One wonders howsomeone would not be interested in communication and sexuality.Every part of our development, as childrento teenage to adult years, is significantlyinfluenced by our learning about sex and sexuality,about the comprehension of what is taboo and what is not.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: We struggle with our own identification,with whether or not we are attracted to one gender asopposed to another.We struggle with trying to figure outhow our sexuality plays out in the marketplace of sexuality,especially in the realm of trying to find a mateand or partner.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so one has a natural personal connectionwith the idea of studying communication and sexuality.I became interested in it mainly because in any kindof research endeavor, one of the thingsthat you have to account for is does sex make a difference.And if so, in what ways.So when I was doing research, especiallyon the area of communication competence and communicationskills, one was interested in the degree to which our societyis more feminine, that is, is it more empathic,is it more interested in cooperative and collaborativeways of interacting, or is it more agentic or instrumental,more goal-oriented and task-oriented?
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And those are not necessarily two ends of the same continuum.So is the most skillful communicationone that's found some kind of balance between the assertiveand the collaborative?Then when I got more interested in such thingsas obsessive relationship intrusion,one needs to account for the fact that about 70% to 80%of all stalking victims are female and about 70% to 80%of all stalkers are male.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: There has to be a sex-based explanationfor those kinds of results.[What key thinkers have most inspired you, and why?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: Well, certainly, Iwould go back to Charles Darwin as an inspirational thinker.Here was someone who, in a context thatwas completely unprepared for it, in which it took yearsof careful observation and a struggleagainst the religious doctrines of his timeand his own personal familial inclinations,was able to construct a theory that has withstoodthe test of time and today is still generatingan enormous amount of research on communication and sexuality.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: Other thinkers who are in that veinwould include people like David Bussin psychology, Todd Shackelford, also in psychology.In our own field there are people like LaFrancewho's doing research on the differences between flirtation,seduction, and promiscuity on the basis of sex differences,and the degree to which it fits into certain kinds of theoriessuch as error management theory.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: [How has the field of communication and sexualitychanged in recent years?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: The field of communication and sexualityhas changed substantially over time.For a long time it was largely either rhetorical, that is,we looked at great texts or speeches to see to what extentthat gender or sexuality is represented or expressed.It then moved significantly into whatmight be considered the self-report stage of science,where we simply throw lots of questionnaires at peopleand then see to what extent do peoplediffer based upon how they self-identify their sexuality.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: More increasingly, however, thereare exciting ways that are being lookedat now in terms of the ability to meta-analyze prior research.There's a lot of brain imaging and bringing biology backto our understanding of sexuality as a communicationprocess.And significantly, I think one of the big next stagesis going to be the study of big data and sexuality.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: [What are the fundamental questions in communicationand sexuality at the moment?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: Far and away,one of the fundamental questions isto what extent sexuality is more biological versus morecultural.We know that it is both, and the question which is moreis really overly simplistic.It's much more question of under what conditions does culturematter more and under what conditionsdoes biology matter more.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And there may be instances in which we can't reallyseparate the two.As a simple example, most of the researchshows that universally, men are more significantlyinfluenced by physical attraction than women are.It is important to both.There's quite a bit of research thatshows that men are more sexually jealous whereas womenare more relationally or intimacy-based jealous.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: But those differences are not huge.So biology makes a difference, but cultureis going to shape and mold how that biology gets expressed.So that's one of the really fundamental questions.Going forward, other significant questionsare going to involve the bringing back of biology.So the study of hormones, the study of neuroimaging.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: Finally, one of the big sets of questionsthat we can only now begin to answer becauseof the accessibility is the kinds of questionsthat we can answer through big data.So we now have corpuses of enormous amounts of data,such as from dating sites, online dating sites,and some of the recent research indicatesthat approximately 1/3 of Americansare going to meet their future matethrough online dating sites.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: So you have tens of thousands of people,and you can do market-based researchon the degree to which, for example,an inch of greater height for a malegets that male this much higher in attractivenessof a potential mate.And you can actually start calculating thatto a very high degree of precisionto test certain kinds of hypothesesabout error management, about sexual selection, and so forth.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: [Are there any major academic debates in this field?What are the principal areas of contention, and why?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: There are several debates thatare significant in the field.Some of them are presaged by some of the thingsthat we've been talking about.So for example, biology.There are many people who are deeply suspicious of bringingthe biology into the study of communication,because once you do that, we tendto treat people as automatons or mere expressions of genetics.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: But all the genetic and social evolutionary theoristsagree that culture plays a significant role.And so how do we differentiate those,how do we incorporate both into an understanding of sexuality?In terms of the other significant areasthat the field is going to be grappling with,recent events show how significant thingslike sexual aggression, sexual coercion, date rape,are to society.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: As significant as these are, we stillstruggle with the question of responsibility.Where does responsibility lie to express one's consent or lackthereof?So the whole issue of consent is a communicative negotiation,and yet as a society, we're stilldebating along this continuum of is itthe female's role or the male's role.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And, of course, it is both their roles.But when someone is severely victimized,we have a tendency to want to polarizewhat is ordinarily a relational and negotiated kind of process.And so we're really grappling with issuesof responsibility and consent when itcomes to issues of sexuality.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: The other significant area, I would say,is the area of what might be consideredthe liminal space of sexuality, whichdeals with these gray areas between categoriesthat we traditionally have dealt with.As an example, you can go into the national associationsrepresenting transgendered peopleand see that they have an entire twopages of vocabulary for types of transgendered activities.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so we are having to redefine whatwe mean by our traditional conceptions of sex,which we traditionally have thoughtof as either male or female.And clearly those two categories,as useful as they are in most instances,are beginning to fall apart at the seams.[How have advancements in technology impacted the fieldof communication and sexuality?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: The emergence of technologycan have a variety of effects.I would say that we still don't know what their effects are.Back in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, when communicationwas a relatively young field, there was this notionthat technology and medium were sort of a hypodermic needle,that they had this strong effect,that they could penetrate the veil of culture, and so forth.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And the media themselves would be the message,as McLuhan or someone else might say.Increasingly, we've discovered a much more moderated wayof thinking about media.And so we know that media makes a difference,but it always is contextually embeddedwithin a more complex process.The theories that we developed in the '50s,'60s, and '70s are still around and evidence indicatesthat they still make a difference,but they did not envision social media.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: So these are massive changes.Media used to be top down control.There were people who produced messages and distributed themwith relatively little feedback back to the source.Social media makes every individual the productionsource of information.So communication technologies havemade communication much more horizontalcompared to how it used to be.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: How that affects sexuality is much more difficult to say.One can conjecture, for example, that peoplewho used to be at the margins of their culture nowcan at least find people who are like them,so that they can feel a sense of identification,a sense of homophily with those of like mind and expressionof their sexual orientations, andtheir sexual predispositions, and their sexual desires.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so we have far more outlets for creating sexualitythrough social media than we ever have before.[Are there any classic or seemingly untouchablestudies in this field that have been re evaluatedin light of recent academic developments?How did this come about, and by whom?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: I don't know that there are classic studiesthat we would necessarily say are untouchableor that had been significantly reevaluated.Part of the problem is that it takesa long time for social sciences to accumulate enough evidencethat we can conduct some kind of meta-analysisso that we know what the total set of findingsare across perhaps tens of thousands of people.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: As a simple example, LaFrance et al.conducted a study in which they looked at flirtation,seduction, and promiscuity, and theyfound that for the most part, most of the research that'sbeen done demonstrates exactly what you would expectfrom an error management theory perspective,and error management theory comes out of social evolution.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: So men in general are more sexually orientedin their thinking and thought process,they think more about sex, they are more attracted to sexthan women are.But the effect sizes, the amount of difference,is not that huge, and the amount of differencechanges somewhat depending upon the nature of the study, howthe study is conducted.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: So we are constantly reevaluating the best wayto do the research and constantly reevaluatingwhether or not there are more subtle or complex waysof asking the kinds of questions that we're interested in.There are certain other important areas of studythat have been done that are much more gearedtowards significant issues of the day.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: So as a simple example, there is significant research nowthat shows that sex education, when comprehensively applied,is much more beneficial to all the outcomes of interestto conservative thinkers than abstinence only education.Abstinence only education, basically, is a failure.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: Comprehensive sex education doesn't work all that well,but it works better.And so that gets into the significant policy issuesthat, for a long time, we thought maybewe could control the sexuality and communicationprocess through an educational intervention.And what we're finding is that ithas, to a large extent, a pretty resilient life of its own.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: [How important are research methods for a rigorous analysisof communication and sexuality?What are the key research methods being employed?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: Methodology is fundamental.I often tell my own students, don'tlook at what people say they're studying,look at what they're actually studying.So in the field of sexuality, the vast majorityof what we know at a scientific levelis based upon self reports.And so questionnaires, surveys, personality inventories,and so forth, are fundamental.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: There are lots of problems with self reports.People often talk a much better game than they actually play.Nevertheless, people will often admit amazing thingsin self reports, and so it's alwaysa question of how you validate the research that you'reengaged in.As a simple example, Kory Floyd and someof his students such as Perry Pauleyhave been doing research on affectionate communication.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: Now affectionate communication is notnecessarily sexual in nature.So friends engage in affectionate behavior.But they find correlations between self reportsof affectionate behavior and cortisol response,so something that we have no conscious controlover is significantly predicted by touch behavior.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so we know that there are significant waysof getting at sexual information through self reports.If we go back to some of the classic researchsuch as the Kinsey studies, they did lab based research,they did videotape based research,they did very much more hands on, if you will,kinds of research.But they also used self reports.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: The best survey methods currentlyindicate that we do a fairly good job with self reportinformation, but there's a lot that we can't reallyfully get at.So big data is going to be one of the ways of gettingat that, because that's much more spontaneous and much moreauthentic.And other ways are going to involve more laboratory basedresearch, looking at things like hormones,looking at neuroimaging, to see if thereare substrate kind of causes of the differencesthat are expressed in sexuality.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: [Can you provide any examples of key research in this field thathas had a direct impact on public or social policy,and what changed as a result?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: There are several studiesthat I would say have not yet had a policy impact,but are likely to in the long run.So one set of studies are studiesthat look at abstinence only education, in which they havefound that abstinence only education isa fairly abject failure at changingpeople's behaviors, sexual disease risks,and unwanted pregnancies as opposed tocomprehensive sexual education.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: There are other kinds of studies thatare being done that I wouldn't call landmark, necessarily,but they're at the edge of thingsthat are going to become very important to public policy.So there have been studies that aregoing to be at the cutting edge of what I think are goingto have policy implications.So for example, there's research on the rapeculture on college campuses, which is very big in the news.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And obviously there's a lot of interestin trying to figure out how do wealter an entire cultural system of a college campusso that people are more capable of engagingin fully autonomous, individual, self-expressive aspectsof their sexuality without having to worry about thingslike a lack of consent or coercion or aggression.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: There are other kinds of studies thatcan be done on the degree to which various kindsof communication media can make a difference in this sense.So there's very fascinating researchon things like social contagion and emotional contagionthrough social media.That we can develop, design, and test the validityof intervention strategies in which wesend certain kinds of messages out to social networksand see to what extent that influences those people'sbehavior, which might be tailor madefor certain kinds of college campus interventions.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And then finally, I think that there'sa fascinating area of research thathas to do with everything from rapeeducation, or anti-rape kinds of programs,to safe sex education and HIV prevention, and to what extentcan we construct message campaigns, health communicationmessage campaigns, that will significantlyalter the responsiveness of the society.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: When AIDS first started, health communicationwas really only getting started in this understanding of howto influence people.When you add in social media to the rolethat health intervention campaigns can play,you add an amplifying potential effectof changing people's behavior in two ways.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: One is you can catch certain trends before they get outof hand, so we might have been able to catch certain diseasevectors before they get out of hand,and second, we might have been able to intervenein those areas and give messages that would have preventedcertain kinds of behavior that would'vebeen considered high risk.[Of all the studies that you have conducted,what do you feel is the most significant, and why?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: Of the studiesthat I've conducted related to communication and sexuality,probably the most important is the descriptive meta-analyticresearch that I've been doing on stalking.So it began with only a few studies.Stalking only became an actual crime in 1990here in California.Since then, every state in the United Stateshas passed anti-stalking legislation,and about two dozen other countries have passed it.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: Initially the research indicated that stalkingwas mostly due to people who were mentally disordered,but as we started to look carefully and startdoing real research science on stalking in society,we found that the typical victim is a perfectly normal person,and the typical stalker seems to bea fairly normal person, relatively indistinguishablefrom other people.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: But after 525 studies, over a million cases studied,we still find somewhere around 70% to 80% of victimsare female, and 70% to 80% of stalkers are male.Now, from a sexuality perspective, that's starkand it means something's going on.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: It may be cultural, it may be biological,it may be a combination of both.But what we also found, and we were onlyable to do this through our meta-analytic database,we found that if you look at general population,and if you look at clinical and forensic samples,the differences stand up.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: But if you look at college samples,the differences are much less between males and females.Still there, so at the college level, about 65% of victimsare female, and about 35% of the perpetrators are female.And so you get not a huge difference,but a big enough difference to suggest that maybewhat we're seeing is a cultural shiftin women's ability to, in essence,engage in the pursuer role.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And that that cultural shift may be most manifestin college campuses.[For students new to this field, what literature would yourecommend they read for a preliminary understanding,and why?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: There are several significant preliminaryworks that could be looked at for studying communicationand sexuality.There was an excellent book on communication and emotionthat has several chapters that aresexuality related edited by Peter Andersen and LauraGuerrero.There's also a significant compilationof meta-analytic kinds of studies and chapterson sexuality and communication by Canary, Dan Canary,and Kathryn Dindia, I believe.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so those would be two good places to start,because they're fairly expansive and because theytry to bring in a variety of different perspectives,but especially the evidence for meta-analytic research thatsummarizes all the other research that's been done.So those are some of the places that I would start.There are a wide variety of books by people like Woodsand others that look at the more cultural constructionof sexuality in our society.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: [What are the key knowledge areas and skills that studentsdevelop in pursuing study of this field,and how might these benefit students' academicor professional development?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: Going forward,I think there will be few substitutes for anyoneinterested in sexuality that wouldn't includea significant exposure to issues of biological development.So there's a lot of interest, for example,in neotony, a lot of interest in epigenetic issues,which have to do with not just the XY chromosome,but at what points of neonatal and early childhood developmentdoes exposure to certain chemicals,exposure to certain environmental stimuli,influence the developmental course of such thingsas, perhaps, sexual orientation, perhapsas a person's malleability of self concept of sexuality.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so increasingly, to bring the biological in,means that communication studentsare going to need to look at the biological side of sexuality.Beyond that, I think the other big area isgoing to be looking at culture.And there are at least two ways in whichculture enters into it.One is to understand intercultural theories.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: How groups that are very differentcome together and interact.And there's an enormous amount of research on intergroupcommunication that becomes relevant to everythingfrom how gays interact with heterosexualsand so forth to literally the degree to which weview male and female as different co-culturesin our society.But then there's also the questionof cross-cultural study, and cross-cultural studyis what is common in the sexes across cultures.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And both of those are going to bevital to a full comprehension and understandingof the role that sexuality plays in communication.Clearly any student going forwardwill be benefited by studying multiple methodologies.There's a significant trend going forwardof people needing to at least be knowledgeable and familiarwith a variety of methodological orientations.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: So that would, broadly speaking, include conversation analysis,it would include ethno-methodology andethnography, it would include experimental methods,it would include quantitative methods such as surveysand modeling, and it would include, perhaps,performance studies, and, increasingly,big data analysis.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so how to harvest, analyze, and interpret big data.In terms of other kinds of tools that would be significant,it's not so much that someone needsto be able to do all those different methodologies,but they need to understand what they can bring to the table.[What is your sense of the trajectory for research in thisfield over the next 5 years?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: Of course, it'salways dangerous to try to identify trajectoryof where a field will go.Five years ago, we could not have envisioned the rolethat social media is playing in our society.And so certainly keeping a thumb on the pulse of technologyis going to be an important one.A second area, though, that I thinkis going to be significant is whatmight be considered broadly the Internetof Things and wearable technologies.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: So wearable technologies are goingto be able to tell us a wealth of information about hormones,about physiology, about activity levels.So as a simple example, one of the kindsof studies that we're currently doingin one of my interdisciplinary groupsis the study of the degree to whichsocial media, such as tweets, can predict thingslike flu outbreak.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: Well, what if we find that there aresex differences in those kinds of patterns and trendsto the extent that we can identify thingslike sexual selection differencesin terms of who's communicating with whom about diseases.That tells us things such as, is the anti-vaccination crowd morefemale driven or is it more male-driven,and does that tell us something about the kinds of fearsin parenting practices that we might be able to excavatefrom such social media, to the extent that sportsand the Title IX kinds of questions about sportsequality in our society become important,then wearable technology will give usall sorts of physiological data.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: The military is currently looking at wearable technologyis one of the ways of seeing whether or not women can engagein combat activities.And so there are a variety of ways in which technologyis going to provide new avenues of studying sexualityand communication in our society than we've ever had before.The importance of the degree to whichpeople are exposed to popular media is also changing.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so we now live in an era in which most of the young cohortis not watching TV on television schedule.They're downloading the media, and so there'sthis echo chamber possibility in which people onlyare exposed to the media that representthe kinds of identification that they're interested in.So to what extent does this amplify communicationand sexuality effects?
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: So do people who are now minorities in our societybecomes more pushed or pulled into that particular arenaor area of interest because they can be so amplifiedby exposure to media that tells them that their way of thinkingis validated.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so there's going to be any number of waysin which the large media process is going to be involved.And then finally, we have access to the brain in waysthat we've never had before.And neuroimaging is going to give us insightsthat we can't even imagine right now in terms of understanding.As a simple example, one of the early hypothesesis that women may have a larger corpus callosum than men.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: That's the area of the brain that connects the rightand left hemispheres.Is that a possible explanation of what has traditionally beenviewed as women's intuition?That maybe women think differentlybecause they have greater immediate accessto both sides of their brain?It's an interesting hypothesis.You have all sorts of problems of figuring outhow to define something like intuition.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: But we know that, for example, women have greater sensitivityto nonverbal expressiveness, and that women have greater abilityto engage in nonverbal expressiveness than men.To what extent do we start seeingthat in the brain structure?And so there are a variety of very exciting areasthat communication and sexuality is going to move into.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: [What are you currently investigating, and why?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: Currently I'minvolved in an interdisciplinary grant project in which we studythe degree to which social media and cyberspace mapsonto real space.So a lot of the early research on cyberspacebasically went out into the internetand went out into social media, and justbrought back enormous amounts of datainto what's going on in cyberspace.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: But I'm currently working with geographersand computational linguists, and part of what they're doingis looking for geospatial aspects of what'sgoing on in cyberspace.So right now we have applicationslike Yik Yak where you can identify a given areaand say I want to see all the tweets in that area.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: There are lots of ways in which we can do that geospatiallyacross the entire globe.And we can also identify those peoplewhose tweets have specific GPS coordinates, so we can actuallydrill down.As a simple example, we recently created this dashboardin which you put in a search term,and it will show you all of San Diego,and it will show you where certain tweets pop updealing with that issue.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: So what do we do?We put in Adderall, and what pops up?Our campus, and an area in PacificBeach where a lot of the college students live.And so that gives you an idea that what'sgoing on in cyberspace also is going on in real space.And that gives you all sorts of potential insightsinto how to understand people's behavior.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: [What are your own scholarly ambitions for the future?What would you like to investigate next?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: I have a variety of ambitions.Among them is to continue making a contributionto an understanding and developinga theoretical model of how memes diffuse in society.So I have just recently completed a significant projecton that, published in Communication Theory,and it's an attempt to say, how do weput our hands around this enormous beast of big data?
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: Because we know that social media's not going to go away.It will take a variety of new twists and turns,but it's not going to go away.Once you've empowered people to communicatein these kinds of ways, they're goingto find ways of making it useful for their lives.Whether to do it in a purely expressive manneror to do it in a more instrumental manner.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so you go back 10, 15 years, therewas not a hue and cry for telephonesthat had cameras in them.To a large degree, cameras were put into phonesbecause they could.But now that we have cameras in telephones,they are an integral part of our social fabric.And so I'm interested in trying to figure outhow to explain, at a broad level,why communication messages spread out the way that theydo in social media forms.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: That's going to involve understandingthe message, the person, both beneath the skinat the neurological and physiological level,but also above the skin as in termsof personality, sexuality, biological sex and so forth.It's going to involve understanding social networksand how social networks affect things.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: It's going to involve the society and culture.To what extent are there counter memesout there, institutions that are tryingto push down the messages that other people construct?So think of Occupy Wall Street, for example.You have powerful forces that don'twant to hear those voices.To what extent do those countervail one another?
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And that's going to involve geotechnical aspects.What is the digital divide and how does thataffect who has access to the big dataand to the construction of messages within it.And so that's a huge challenge, and it's notgoing to be easy to wrap your hands around it theoretically.Thus far, most of the research that's been donehas been atheoretical.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: Let's go out there, grab the data, and see what it shows us.What we next need are theories thatsay what to look for and give us guidance as to why do expectthis as opposed to that.[What are your hopes for the future of the fieldof communication and sexuality?]
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG: My biggest hope for the fieldis that we begin to get the kind of recognition and credibilitythat other, more established kinds of disciplines have.So I would like to see us not haveto struggle with explaining to peoplewhat a communication degree is, or what a communicationdiscipline can do.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: Communication is consistently rankedby businesses as the number one skillthat they look for in their graduates.Most businesses can teach you a fair amountof what the content of the job isthat they want you to perform.But they're not equipped to teach you howto be a better communicator.But the research suggests that the growth in elevationin an organization is going to be made more upon people skillsthan it is upon your technical skills.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And so while there are exceptions,there are PhDs who are driving busesand there are high school dropouts whoare billionaires, for the most part, getting educatedmakes a difference.It would be nice to get the communication field to a levelthat we are contributing to the general sense of whatwe can do for society, at least at the same levels as moretraditional disciplines such as psychology, anthropology,sociology, and so forth.
BRIAN H. SPITZBERG [continued]: And I think that we're on the verge,because communication is the link thatconnects us to one another.There is no such thing as a relationshipexcept through the process of communication.There's no such thing as educationexcept through the process of communication.And so we now have to start proving that we canbring something to that table.
Brian H. Spitzberg, Communication and Sexuality
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Professor Brian Spitzberg discusses the history of communication and sexuality studies and what he expects from future research.
Professor Brian Spitzberg discusses the history of communication and sexuality studies and what he expects from future research.