Rabindra (Robby) Ratan is an Associate Professor and AT&T Scholar at Michigan State University’s Department of Media and Information.
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, examining how media technologies (e.g., avatars, agents, automobiles) influence meaningful outcomes (e.g., persuasion, education, health/safety). He is particularly interested in the Proteus effect, media-rich transportation contexts, perceptions of media as self-representations and/or social others, avatarification for health and education, and gender stereotypes in gaming contexts.
Here are some specific examples of recent research questions (updated 10/2019):
- What are the true (and testable) psychological mechanisms of the Proteus effect phenomenon (i.e., that people conform behaviorally to their avatars' characteristics) and what are new/creative ways that the effect be harnessed toward meaningful outcomes (e.g., healthy food choices)?
- How can social interactions with transportation technologies (e.g. autonomous vehicles, escooters, etc.) be designed to influence users (e.g., trust/adoption, safer use) based on an understanding of research on digital avatars and agents?
- To what extent do people perceive their media technologies to represent the self/social others, what technological affordances influence these perceptions, and how can these perceptions be harnessed to promote positive behaviors?
- How should avatar-use experiences be designed harness the Proteus effect to improve student performance and self-efficacy in educational settings?
- How should peer-review video essay assignments be designed to facilitate media literacy and content learning in large and/or online courses?
- How can video game-based/gamification approaches be used to improve the applicant assessment process in hiring contexts?
- To what extent are gender stereotypes in the video game context responsible for gender disparity in STEM-field pursuit and how can video games/avatars be designed to combat stereotype threat?
- To what extent does virtual reality augment or counteract effects of adult media use on relationship satisfaction and negative attitudes about women?
Dr. Ratan has authored over 30 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, The Information Society, Sex Roles, Body Image, PsychNology, New Media & Society, CSCW, and HICSS.
Dr. Ratan loves teaching, especially large classes, where tries to make the discussion engaging and interactive for as many students as possible. He has received multiple teaching awards, including the 2017 MSU Teacher Scholar Award and 2015 MSU AT&T Instructional Technology Award, and he was also a 2014-2015 MSU Lilly Teaching Fellow. He experiments with new technologies and teaching approaches, including rapping and riding a skateboard in class to keep students' attention. A description of his larger teaching philosophy is here.
MI101: Understanding Media (undergraduate)
MI401: Science Fiction and Technology (undergraduate)
MI960: Media & Technology (Ph.D.)
UGS200H: Video Game Impacts: Play with Meaning (honors undergraduate)
CAS 496: Hip-Hop, Communication & Society