Fake news is, well, much in the news these days so consider this post to be our department's contribution to the new milieu.
It is remarkable how people consistently find a way to use communication media and other types of innovations in new and unanticipated ways. We see this often in organizational communication studies, in the blossoming field of social media research and of course front and center in anecdotal and journalistic reports of human behavior. The tendency of people not to adopt and use innovations as intended by the designers of innovations plays out across settings and contexts of all types. Call it what you like: Reinvention, adaptation, user creativity, decentralization. Individuals have their own motivations and purposes-uses & gratifications-for new technologies, programs, practices and knowledge that others have communicated to them.
Changes in social media environments and the collectivities that comprise the groups and crowds that inhabit them are grist for the mill of academic research. A number of our graduate students and faculty use the social media ecosystem as the basis for their work. And accelerating rates of change in this ecosystem pushes us to find faster ways to conduct studies before the landscape shifts from under one's feet. Having a sense of what's next in social media and consumer use of communication technology is part of what's great about having undergraduate students with us at Michigan State. Their behavior (and the behavior of their little sisters and brothers) and the ways that they learn to critically assess their behavior and that of their friends and family helps the rest of us to know what to study.
There are constants, of course. The magnetic personality, the persuasive speaker, the opinion leader, and the maven seem to operate across new and old contexts of communication. But the dissemination of information and thus the acceleration of change have become sudden and sometimes, dramatic in both rate of change and outcomes.
If you want to study the future, study communication.