Rabindra (Robby) Ratan (CV) is an Associate Professor and AT&T Scholar at Michigan State University’s Department of Media and Information as well as Director of the Social and Psychological Approaches to Research on Technology-Interaction Effects (SPARTIE) Lab. He is also an affiliated faculty member of the MSU Department of Psychology, the MSU College of Education’s program in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology, and the MSU Center for Gender in a Global Context. Ratan received his Ph.D. from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, his M.A. in Communication from Stanford University, and his B.A. in Science, Technology and Society, also from Stanford University.
Dr. Ratan conducts research on the effects of human-technology interaction, focusing on how media technologies (e.g., avatars, agents) influence meaningful outcomes (e.g., equity, inclusion, motivation) across societal contexts (e.g., education, health, business). He is particularly interested in the Proteus effect (i.e., avatar characteristics influencing user behaviors), artificial social agents, virtual meetings, the metaverse, and toxicity in online gaming. Examples of current and recent research questions include: 1) In what ways can avatars and virtual worlds be harnessed to improve performance and motivation in education, health, and business activities? 2) How can virtual meeting platforms better support well-being and social equity? 3) Who will populate the metaverse and what will they do? 4) How can social interactions with transportation technologies (e.g., autonomous vehicles, escooters, etc.) be designed to improve user trust, safety, and adoption? 5) To what extent are gender stereotypes in the video game context responsible for gender disparity in STEM fields and how can video games/avatars better combat stereotype threat?
Dr. Ratan has authored over 50 peer-reviewed articles in publication venues such as Media Psychology, the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Communication Research, Computers in Human Behavior, Games and Culture, and New Media & Society. He has received over $2M in grant funding from the National Science Foundation, the Superior Health Foundation, non-profit organizations, and technology companies, such as Spin Mobility (Ford Motor Company) and Techsmith, Inc. He has received multiple teaching awards, including the 2017 MSU Teacher-Scholar Award and the 2015 MSU AT&T Instructional Technology Award, he was a 2014-2015 MSU Lilly Teaching Fellow, and he adopts an inclusive and non-traditional approach to teaching (e.g., academic raps, skateboard in class, teaching philosophy). He also started teaching in Virtual Reality in 2022, which his students resoundingly prefer over traditional online teaching methods. He has held leadership roles in his field (e.g., the International Communication Association), helped organize global conferences (e.g., Meaningful Play), and has conducted peer reviews for over 40 academic journals and proceedings. He has hosted over 30 episodes of SpartieCast, his lab's podcast, written opinion pieces for Wired Magazine and TheConversation.com, and has been interviewed as an expert on media technologies in news outlets such as National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and the Washington Post.
For more info, please see his CV or Google Scholar pages.
MI101: Understanding Media (undergraduate)
MI299: Understanding Virtual Reality Experiences (undergraduate); Taught in Virtual Reality
MI401: Avatar Psychology (undergraduate); Taught in Virtual Reality
MI401: Understanding Future Media: Reflections in the Black Mirror (undergraduate)
MI960: Media & Technology (Ph.D.)
UGS200H: Video Game Impacts: Play with Meaning (honors undergraduate)
CAS 496: Hip-Hop, Communication & Society (undergraduate)