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Nancy Whitmore says merger of Gannett and GateHouse Media could help save money, but at a cost.
Innovation

Butler Prof: ‘Local Newspapers Near Crisis Point’

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 30 2019

To understand media mergers like the proposed one between Gannett and GateHouse Media, Nancy Whitmore says “you need to understand the state newspapers are in. And it is a sad state.”

Whitmore, a Professor of Communication at Butler University, explains that mergers are often meant to help papers hold on long enough to figure out a more permanent business model for surviving the digital age. In the time when local print papers provided the main source of information, advertising dollars were key. Now, as most of that money goes to big technology companies such as Google and Facebook, more newspapers have tried to hold their ground with funding from subscriptions. Whitmore says this model mostly works for larger national outlets, but local newspapers struggle to convert readers into digital subscribers.

So mid-sized and smaller papers are “really in a tight spot.” Gannett and GateHouse both focus on these sorts of local outlets.

Horizontal mergers between similar companies can help save money, often by combining and sharing human resources, editing, design, and printing teams. The combined company would also be able to boast a more widespread audience—a draw for advertisers looking to reach the most people.

But good journalism will still be expensive, and combining companies usually means cutting jobs. Whitmore says it’s hard to tell how many layoffs a Gannett-GateHouse merger could cause, since most local newsrooms are already spread thin, but some job cuts would be likely. And there would be consequences.

“I think we are almost at a crisis point here,” she says. “If you’re not getting local journalism, you are losing the independent voice that is monitoring those in power.”

According to Pew Research Center, the number of Americans working in the newspaper industry has been slashed almost in half since the early 2000s. Wages are down, closures are up, and many of the papers that survive have started to publish less frequently.

While mergers and acquisitions can keep some struggling outlets on their feet, about 1,300 communities in the United States have lost local newspaper coverage altogether.

Whitmore says ethical concerns sometimes surround the idea of big companies owning so many media outlets, but a financial need to merge for the survival of local journalism might start to outweigh those worries. Plus, since GateHouse and Gannett own mostly local papers that aren’t in direct competition with one another, Whitmore says combining the two companies might not raise regulatory concerns.

“But mergers are expensive,” she goes on to explain, “and they don’t always work out well. You’ve got different cultures—different ways of doing things. It’s not always smooth sailing.” 

Whitmore predicts that, if anything holds back a merger between Gannett and GateHouse, it will probably be the financing. Given the already-dismal state of local outlets, she’s not sure a deal can be done. But for the sake of local newspapers, she hopes it works.

Because without journalism, even at the most local level, Whitmore says communities will be left vulnerable to “people in power doing unseemly things.”

 

Nancy Whitmore (Professor of Communication at Butler University) specializes in research and teaching about the laws, ethics, and economics surrounding the media industry.

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell) 

Nancy Whitmore says merger of Gannett and GateHouse Media could help save money, but at a cost.
Innovation

Butler Prof: ‘Local Newspapers Near Crisis Point’

Nancy Whitmore says merger of Gannett and GateHouse Media could help save money, but at a cost.

Jul 30 2019 Read more
Of the 37 climate scientists Carol Reeves has interviewed across the United States, all of them feel a moral obligation to help save the planet.
Innovation

Global Warming? Climate Change? How do we talk about what’s happening? Butler prof looks to set the rhetoric record straight

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 22 2019

Of the 37 climate scientists Carol Reeves has interviewed across the United States, all of them feel a moral obligation to help save the planet. All of them want to tell the world how bad things will get if we don’t take better care of our Earth. The thing is, not all of them have the right words to make people listen.

An English Professor at Butler University, Reeves studies how climate scientists communicate with one another, with policy makers, and with the public about their research findings. While not a climate scientist herself, she teaches courses about the rhetoric and language of science. Through working with students on how to talk about climate change, as well as through interviewing climate scientists over the past several years, Reeves has learned about the nuanced challenges scientists often face in discussing their research.

“In science, you don’t talk about absolute facts: You talk about evidence,” Reeves says. “But normal people listen to dramatic claims. They have trouble getting that we have loads of evidence from research to support that we are heading into a really terrible time if we don’t do anything about it. We are going to have more extremes, more heat waves and draughts, more heavy rains, more wildfires, and stronger hurricanes.”

Reeves says we might view this summer’s heat waves as a sort of “test run” for what climate scientists are warning about the future, and how that heat will continue to affect us.

“Extreme and prolonged high temperatures place an enormous burden on communities and citizens, especially the most vulnerable,” she says. “If you’re wealthy enough to be sitting in your cooled home, you may dismiss this very clear sign of climate change. But if you’re poor, or if you have to work outdoors, you probably wish someone would get to work on the problem.”

Starting in 2008, Reeves decided to start conducting interviews with climate scientists to gain more background for the unit of her class that discusses climate change. She focused on those scientists involved in writing climate assessment reports for the United Nations—reports that analyze where the climate is now, and what will probably happen in the future. These scientists also look at how climate change is already affecting the Earth, and they build recommendations for what humans can do to help.

Researchers see a stark future in the data, but they struggle to spread the word. Reeves says policy makers and members of the public often misunderstand the concept of climate change, especially the way scientists talk about it. This has caused climatologists to sometimes disagree among themselves about what kind of language to use when sharing their research.

“You have a set of data,” she says, “but you have to write about that data, and you have to decide how strong your language is going to be.”

Reeves explains that scientists need to balance the ethical responsibility to stay within their data with their desire to help the public understand.

“It is a tenuous balance between explaining the science in a simple and clear way without simplifying and over-stating,” she says.

But it doesn’t matter what the studies show if people don’t want to think about the future. Scientists want to convince the population that, even though we are facing so many other problems, we need to put climate change at the top of the list. They just aren’t sure how.

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

Mother with children
Innovation

The Precarious Position of Muslim Orphans to Be Focus of Butler Professor's Research

BY Marc Allan MFA `18

PUBLISHED ON May 01 2019

Nermeen Mouftah, Butler University Assistant Professor of Religion, was in Egypt for her first project. She was studying the ways Islamic reformers have turned to literacy to improve conditions in their countries.

But, while doing that research, she noticed that nearly every nonprofit organization not only had some kind of literacy project, but they also did work with orphans. That got her thinking about Muslim orphans, their care, and their place in Islamic society. She wondered: How does Islam shape the legal, biological, and affective negotiations involved in the care and abandonment of vulnerable children?

This year, thanks to a $12,000 grant from the University of Notre Dame’s Global Religions Research Initiative, Mouftah will do four months of fieldwork to investigate what she calls the Muslim orphan paradox: the precarious condition faced by millions of Muslim orphans that makes them at once major recipients of charity, yet ostracized for their rootlessness.

The world has approximately 140 million orphans today, but military conflicts in countries from Burma to Yemen to Syria have left Muslim children disproportionately affected, Mouftah says. As a result, many Muslim-majority countries face high numbers of child abandonment. The level of care these orphans receive is largely contingent on how people view family, childhood, and community.

Giving to orphans is seen, by in large, as a laudable form of giving in these societies, she says. However, what the care of orphans should look like is highly contested, as a consensus among Islamic legal schools is that adoption is prohibited, Mouftah explains. As a result, there is much debate about whether, and how, to raise a non-biological child in Muslim society.

So, as part of her research, Mouftah will be going to Morocco and Lebanon over the summer, and Pakistan in December. Morocco and Pakistan because they’re Muslim-majority countries that have some of the largest numbers of orphans and strong ties to the inter-country adoption market. Lebanon, on the other hand, takes in a large number of Syrian refugees.

“One of the things I'm interested in is trying to question some kind of universal idea of what the ideal way to care for orphans is,” says Mouftah, who’s finishing her first year at Butler. “I’ll be doing that by looking at multiple forms of care across different countries and institutions who have distinct views on, and methods of, orphan care.”

Mouftah will be listening in on the debate and discussions people are having first hand about the best way to do things when it comes to caring for orphans, she says. She will be observing different practices, watching who people are influenced by when it comes to orphan care, and what they are aspiring toward, as well as what the problems people run into when trying to care for orphans.

One of the major issues she’ll be looking at is the Islamic taboo against fictive kinship—taking in a child and raising that child as if he or she were one’s biological child. Some of her research is looking at how some Muslim families are using the approach of non-fictive kinship, meaning the child knows that he or she is not the biological child of the parents.

That, Mouftah says, is parallel with trends of adoption in the United States, where people have moved toward open adoptions that let the child know who their biological parent is/was.

“Many times in the Koran, it says to help the widows, and the orphans, and the vulnerable,” she says. “So they're elevated figures to care for. But because of various laws, and the stigmatization of orphans, and especially abandoned children, adoption is widely looked at with skepticism.”

Rather than adoption, one of the ways some Muslim organizations care for orphans is through sponsorships similar to the child sponsorship commercials seen on American television.

“We clearly don't have this worked out,” she says. “When you look at the historical story, we're clearly feeling our way through the dark. We don't know what to do. It's not until the Victorian age that there is the institution of the orphanage. But institutions are not the best places for children to flourish. I won't be shy to lay out some practical plans based on the research.”  

Mother with children
Innovation

The Precarious Position of Muslim Orphans to Be Focus of Butler Professor's Research

Nermeen Mouftah, Professor of Religion, will do fieldwork to investigate the Muslim orphan paradox.

May 01 2019 Read more
Innovation

Combating Counterfeit Meds: Butler Prof Navigates the dotcom World of Prescriptions

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Apr 17 2019

Before you buy medication from an online pharmacy, you may want to think twice.

And after listening to Butler University Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice John Hertig, who studies the impact of counterfeit online drug distribution worldwide, rattle off the numbers, you may want to avoid medication sold on the world wide web all together.

62% of medicines purchased online are fake or substandard."At any one time, there are between 35,000 and 45,000 illegal online pharmacies operating worldwide," he says. "The issue with those illegal online pharmacies, in addition to not operating under the laws and regulations of the United States, is that about 50 percent of them sell counterfeit medications. So in addition to just being the criminals who now have your credit card data and home address, about half the time they're going to ship you counterfeit product."

Hertig is a board member of the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), whose mission is to protect patient safety. His research looks at why patients are going online ("No surprise, it's because of cost, but it's also because it's an ecommerce world, and people are not aware of the risks"), and whether pharmacists, nurses, and physicians adequately educate their patients about the risks.

The dangers, Hertig says, are the possibility of getting either a substandard or falsified drug. Substandard could be counterfeit, meaning it might not have any of the active ingredient in it—it could be sugar pills—or there might not be enough, or too much, of the active ingredient. Sometimes, counterfeiters might cut 100 real pills into 1,000 pills by diluting them with sugar, brick dust, antifreeze, or chalk.

Falsified drugs are real, but they haven't been labelled, stored, or handled appropriately.

Hertig says there are ways to tell if an online pharmacy is legitimate. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) owns the ".pharmacy" top-level domain, and there's no way to obtain a dot-pharmacy web address without going through the association.

"If you go to cvs.pharmacy, you're good," he says. "If you go to walgreens.pharmacy, you're good. If you go to bestdrugsever.com, even though the website might look legitimate, you need to second-guess that."

The ASOP and NABP are both heavily involved in consumer education (more information is available at BuySafeRx.pharmacy), as is Hertig in conjunction with the Indiana Coalition for Patient Safety, and a network of hospitals. They've developed toolkits and are working to determine how much doctors, nurses, and pharmacists know about online pharmacies.

This summer, Hertig will be working on a Butler Summer Institute project with Kyla Maloney '22, a Pharmacy student whose research will summarize the possible link between illegal online pharmacies and patient harm worldwide. She plans to do a comprehensive review of the available literature regarding this kind of patient harm and unearth data that can be used for patients and providers to make better-informed healthcare decisions.

Maloney says that during an introductory pharmacy class, she was exposed to the world of online pharmacies and the massive issue surrounding adulterated drugs from these sites.

"The impact these pharmacies have on the economy, health system, and patient well-being were quite intriguing to me," she says. "Pharmacists have a professional responsibility to deliver exceptional care for our patients; in many cases, the ease and convenience of online pharmaceuticals may aid in that mission ... I am hoping this literature review will allow me to help make the world of pharmacy just a bit safer for my future patients."

Innovation

Combating Counterfeit Meds: Butler Prof Navigates the dotcom World of Prescriptions

Before you buy medication from an online pharmacy, you may want to think twice.  

Apr 17 2019 Read more
Pharmacy
Innovation

Butler Provides Critical Clinical Expertise to Insurance Industry

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Apr 04 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Eric Farmer ’07 remembers being frustrated.

It was around 2014, and Farmer, an HIV Clinical Pharmacist at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, was working at one of the largest providers of HIV care in Indiana, yet he was spending most of his time filling out paperwork.

The Affordable Care Act was in the midst of being implemented, and many of Farmer’s patients were having issues with their health insurance marketplace plans covering the HIV medications he prescribed. So, Farmer was looking for an “in” at the Indiana Department of Insurance in hopes of influencing the process on a larger scale.

Then, an email from a former Butler University professor popped into his inbox.

Carriann Smith, professor of pharmacy practice, was working on a project —with the Department of Insurance—on marketplace health insurance plans. Would Farmer be interested in helping?

“It was unbelievable timing,” says Farmer, who graduated from Butler with a degree in Pharmacy in 2007. “I was desperately looking for a way to improve the process when it comes to deciding what drugs insurance companies cover on marketplace plans. We were having issues with plans covering some of the HIV medications and not others, and I wanted to influence the process on a much bigger scale than just my institution.”

Now, about four years later, the partnership between Butler and the Department of Insurance, which has involved about 25 Butler undergrads, five Butler alumni, and 11 Butler faculty, is doing just that—influencing the process. The tool they created, which insurance companies in Indiana fully implemented last year, specifies what medications insurance companies should cover for 17 diseases that are health priorities in the state.

One purpose of health insurance plans available on the marketplace, Smith says, was to provide a level playing field, and to make sure individuals with certain diseases were not discriminated against by insurance companies in terms of the level of coverage provided.

However, prior to this tool, insurance companies were deciding which medications to cover for each disease. There was limited external clinical perspective or dialogue with experts about why certain medications would or would not be covered, Smith says.

“Our tool takes into account all of the latest research, the published literature, and uses the clinical experience and expertise of our faculty, as well as external experts,” Smith says. “The goal is to bridge the gap between the regulators, the insurance companies, and the clinicians, and get everybody on the same page. We look at the evidence and, based on that evidence, say 'Is that side effect of that medication really true, or is a prior authorization really needed, or, from a clinical perspective, this really should be covered.' Medicine is not always black and white, and this now allows for more of a dialogue.”

The Department of Insurance now shares the tool with insurance companies in Indiana, who in turn use it while finalizing their marketplace insurance plans for the year. Plans are then submitted to the Department of Insurance for approval. The tool is used by the insurance companies when deciding which medications to cover for the 17 diseases it looks at.

By providing this expertise, and in turn, this tool, to insurance companies, Butler is adding a clinical perspective to the medication decision-making process when it comes to designing insurance plans. Most insurance companies have limited clinical expertise on staff when thinking through which drugs should be covered. As a result, the clinical perspective is not always taken into consideration or discussed. This process adds that clinical expertise, which in turn could result in a more thorough development of  insurance plans.

“Our goal is not necessarily to make more drugs covered, but to make sure the key products are covered,” Smith says. “We need to weigh the benefits and potential side effects for patients. So our job as clinicians is to carefully consider the literature and evaluate whether or not a treatment is best.”

Keeping up with the latest literature and research has been the main focus of Drew Johnson, a P3 Pharmacy major, who has been involved in the project since 2018. Johnson reviews all of the generic products that come to market and makes sure the tools for bipolar, depression, and MS reflect the most current medications.

To do that, Johnson collaborates with clinical pharmacy specialists, reads up on drug industry newsletters, sifts through literature in the latest databases, and, occasionally, whips out his notes from the clinical experts who recently taught his classes at Butler to see if there is a particular drug in the pipeline that he should be aware of.

“Without having an external clinician looking at these plans, it is possible for the insurance company to look past the clinical perspective,” Johnson says. “Our involvement helps to ensure that quality insurance programs are sold throughout the state of Indiana to all individuals.”

That was essentially why the Department of Insurance reached out to Butler in the first place.

Jenifer Groth, spokesperson for the Department of Insurance, says the Department reached out to Butler in an effort to leverage the pharmacy program’s expertise, as the Department worked to determine if insurance carriers were covering an adequate amount of prescription drugs.

Which all leads back to Eric Farmer and all that paperwork.

As the Affordable Care Act was being implemented, Farmer was noticing that many of his patients with marketplace plans were having trouble getting coverage for the HIV medications he was prescribing.

“Keep in mind, when it comes to HIV, these pills are expensive,” he says. “To control HIV, the first line regimen is usually $2,500 to $3,000, and it only gets more expensive from there.”

The problem was, Farmer was seeing that most of his patients with marketplace plans were getting denied those first line regimens. The insurance companies were asking for prior authorizations for those drugs. Sometimes, insurance companies would not only ask for a prior authorization, but they would instead recommend trying a different drug—usually one from the 1990s, or one that was no longer on the market in the U.S.

“HIV is a field that moves super fast and many insurance companies weren’t keeping up,” Farmer says. “I would spend the majority of my day filling out paperwork, and I am lucky that I was able to. Imagine a small primary care doctor in rural Indiana—if he or she gets a prior authorization back from an insurance company, they likely won’t have the time or person power to fill out that paperwork. Instead, they will just ask the insurance company what will they cover, and just prescribe whatever the insurance company says they will cover. As a result, that patient is not getting the best care.”

Now, Farmer is working on the HIV tool to help guide insurance companies. One aspect of Farmer’s work is determining what medications should be covered, and which should require prior authorizations and which shouldn’t—all from a clinical perspective.

 

Media Contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

Pharmacy
Innovation

Butler Provides Critical Clinical Expertise to Insurance Industry

Butler has developed a tool that could aid in a more thorough development of insurance plans.

Apr 04 2019 Read more
Innovation

Bracket Busted? Turns Out Your Politics May Be The Reason Why

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Mar 27 2019

It’s March. Time to tune in to endless hours of college hoops, fill out a bracket despite having not watched a minute of college basketball all season, and fire up the live stream at the office. This is the one place void of politics. Right?

Right?

Wrong. That’s according to new research from Butler University Assistant Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism Ryan Rogers. Turns out, according to Rogers’ research, those who lean liberal politically fill out brackets differently than those who lean conservative. And those differences, according to his study, are magnified when decisions are made in groups of like-minded individuals.

“When we broke groups up by political ideology, and had them fill out brackets together over the Internet, even though the task was something seemingly mundane, we saw how certain traits and values became more salient, and then how conformity is even more prevalent when a group thinks similarly,” Rogers says. “This then led to consensus more readily during the decision-making process.”

In his study, 118 people were divided into small groups based on self-identified political ideology—conservative or liberal. Then together, over the Internet, each group filled out an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket.

The purpose was to see how groups of political liberals compared to political conservatives when it came to predicting winners in the tournament. The study also examined how political ideology influenced collective intelligence, or the ability of a group to perform a task and make decisions.

Rogers found that the results certainly differed based on political ideology.

Conservatives tended to go with the safe pick, while liberals went with more underdogs. Conservatives picked more upsets correctly, though, as they tended to pick the safer ones, such as a nine-seed over an eight-seed, while liberals picked riskier upsets, such as a 16-seed over a one-seed. Conservatives were more effective in picking first round wins, and liberals were more effective in correctly picking winners in later rounds.

In short, conservatives were more likely to predict a lower risk team, and tended to play it safe. If an expert picked a team, it was likely the conservative would go with the expert’s pick. Liberals tended to struggle in the early rounds, going with the risky upsets, but then performed better in the later rounds, as some of their risky choices paid off later.

When next March rolls around, he says, it might be a good idea to consider your own political leanings when filling out a bracket, and how that might impact the teams you pick.

“Traits inherent to these groups provided different strengths and weaknesses in their decision making,” Rogers says. “Broadly speaking, prior research and literature shows that conservatives are likely to be more risk averse, and liberals tend to be more optimistic, and more open to emotion.”

Filling out brackets confirmed that these groups have different cognitive dimensions consistent with these ideologies, Rogers says, and when interacting within like-minded groups on the Internet, those differences are only magnified.

“Look at websites today like the Huffington Post, Breitbart, The Blaze, Slate, these sites highlight the traits and values of the groups they represent,” Rogers says. “Basically, these sites reinforce traits and values, creating a feedback loop appealing to those who conform to those respective political ideologies already.”

So, when it comes to something as simple as filling out a bracket, or as important as discussing the issues of the day or reading the news, it might be beneficial to cultivate as many different perspectives as possible, Rogers says.

“Conformity in decision making is even more prevalent when a group shares traits, and as we see with this study, that even carries over to a bracket,” he says. “A mixed group might be most effective.”

Innovation

Bracket Busted? Turns Out Your Politics May Be The Reason Why

It might be a good idea to consider your own political leanings when filling out a bracket.

Mar 27 2019 Read more
Innovation

New Butler Research Shows Hearing Loss Linked to Cognitive Ability in Babies

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Mar 01 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—It is fairly typical for individuals with profound hearing loss to experience other cognitive issues. There could be issues with memory or paying attention, for example. But are those other problems related to a lack of experience with language, or is there something else at play?

That is the very question Butler University Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders Tonya Bergeson-Dana wanted to answer. Does hearing loss have an effect on other systems of development?

According to new research Bergeson-Dana co-authored in the journal PLOS One, the answer is yes.

“When one thinks about hearing loss, they think about hearing impairment, hearing aids, or maybe American Sign Language (ASL). No one thinks about the cascading effects on other systems as the child is developing,” she says. “What we are really seeing here is that hearing loss certainly has an effect on other systems in development, and not only that, but it starts very, very early, when the individual is an infant.”

Individuals who have hearing loss have other cognitive issues separate from their hearing impairment, she says. The assumption, though, she says, has largely been that those issues are related to a lack of experience with language.

The bigger question at play is if hearing loss is connected to the larger cognitive system, and therefore has a cascading effect on cognitive development. This is important, Bergeson-Dana says, because that would mean hearing loss has a direct effect on cognitive functions.

“What we are really looking at is whether congenital hearing loss has an effect on other systems in development,” she says. “We wanted to know how early this might start, and how impactful hearing loss is on the rest of the whole system.”

Forty-three infants, half of them hearing impaired and half of them hearing, aged seven-to-23 months, were presented with the same image over and over again. Once they acted like they were bored of the image, a new image appeared.

The purpose was to see how quickly the babies tired of the photos. Previous studies show that babies who get bored quickly have increases in cognitive functions. So, this was used as a measure to see if deafness slows cognitive development.

The rate of habituation, or how quickly a baby got bored with an image, was different between hearing babies and deaf babies. Babies with typical hearing were faster to habituate than babies with hearing loss. It took hearing impaired babies an average of eight-and-a-half trials before they got bored, compared to seven trials for hearing babies.

These findings, Bergeson-Dana says, can have major implications on how hearing loss is treated.

“We definitely should be treating hearing impairments much earlier than we do because of these clear cascading effects,” she says. “But more than that, we also need to provide children with cognitive skill interventions, in addition to just treating their hearing impairment.

“Before, we have just focused on their hearing impairment, but this study shows we have to think about the baby as a whole child, not just as a child with a hearing loss. The ear is connected to the brain.”

 

Media Contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

Innovation

New Butler Research Shows Hearing Loss Linked to Cognitive Ability in Babies

Hearing loss is connected to the larger cognitive system, and has a cascading effect on cognitive development.

Mar 01 2019 Read more
Innovation

Butler Professor Uses Past to Predict Sports Attendance

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Feb 05 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Everybody knows when the Golden State Warriors are in town.

There’s a buzz around the arena earlier than usual, as fans make sure to arrive at least 90 minutes before tipoff to catch a glimpse of Stephen Curry’s famous pregame ritual, complete with two-ball dribbling drills and circus-like shots from the tunnel. All of a sudden, a random Wednesday night in name-that-NBA-city is not so mundane. And game No. 24 on the drawn-out NBA schedule is not so meaningless. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize when the winners of three of the last four NBA titles comes to town, attendance will be up.

But, what about all those other random games packed into an 82 game NBA season? When Curry isn’t there to get the crowd excited? When the weather is bad? Or when the average person cannot name a single player on the opposing team? Turns out there is a way to predict attendance on those nights, too.

King’s findings were certainly accurate. Published in the Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology, King was able to predict attendance at every regular season game from the 2015-2017 NBA seasons, on average, within five percent. Enter Butler University Associate Professor of Operations Management Barry King. And enter his algorithm-based, machine learning approach to NBA attendance predictions.

“We were able to predict attendance by looking at home team popularity, Twitter followers, day of the week, home team winning percentage, home city’s total personal income, and other variables,” says King, who specializes in predictive analytics. “By taking those predictor variables, along with historical data, we were able to come up with an accurate forecast that can have many applications beyond just the NBA.”

King’s findings were certainly accurate. Published in the Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology, King was able to predict attendance at every regular season game from the 2015-2017 NBA seasons, on average, within five percent.

To get an accurate prediction, King explains, he trained a type of algorithm (Random Forest) to predict an outcome using historical data. This, he says, is machine learning. Machine learning leverages historical data to inform future forecasts.

So, King trained the machine. He plugged in attendance data from the 2009-2013 NBA seasons into the algorithm, along with predictor variables like home team popularity, popularity of the opponent, day of the week the game occurred, home team winning percentage, home city’s total personal income, and capacity of home venue.

“We are among the first to use machine learning to predict attendance,” he says. “That is unique because it takes historical data into consideration. We believe that training the machine on historical data enabled us to get a much more accurate prediction of future attendance. Taking history into account, and teaching the machine that history, enables the machine to come up with future forecasts.”

King has applied this method of predictive analysis to the NHL and MLS. And the accuracy remained. While he now has the ability to accurately predict the attendance for these professional sport leagues, he believes the application goes beyond the wide world of sports.

“This has carry over to the business world and how companies can run their enterprises better,” he says. “As a manager of a basketball team, I would certainly like to know how many people are likely to show up for a random February game so that I can plan to have more staff on hand, if needed, or start to think about amping up the promotions, if attendance looks low. This could also help teams determine ticket price levels.”

Machine learning, King says, is an important area when it comes to forecasting. In the future, he says, he would like to build his prediction tool into an app that industry people can use to easily access this information, and then make decisions based off the results, on their own.

King says the information can also be applied to coming up with scheduling at a hospital, crews on airlines, and those are just some examples.

“Real world solutions often start with having a good idea of what the future might look like,” he says. “We now have a way to make accurate future predictions, based on historical data. I see this being useful in many industries.”

Innovation

Butler Professor Uses Past to Predict Sports Attendance

King was able to predict attendance at every regular season game from the 2015-2017 NBA seasons within five percent.

Feb 05 2019 Read more
Innovation

Butler Researcher Shows Link Between Social Media and Happiness

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Feb 01 2019

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS—People flock to Facebook to see the latest wedding news, vacation photos, new baby arrival, or home purchase. Most people, research indicates, head to their newsfeeds to passively watch and compare, much more often than post their own news or updates.

But, it turns out, some of us prefer to look at and compare ourselves to certain types of individuals: those who make us feel better about ourselves. And that, in turn, can lead to an increase in happiness and life satisfaction.

That’s according to new research from Lee Farquhar, Butler University Associate Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism in the College of Communication. Humans continually observe those around them to see how they fit in, a process called social comparison theory. This innate concept holds true in the world of social media, according to Farquhar’s research. It not only holds true, but the more individuals engage in that type of behavior on Facebook—comparing themselves to others in various ways—the happier and more satisfied they were with their life.

“There is no secret that Facebook intensity has been associated with negative social consequences, such as anxiety, narcissism, and loneliness,” says Farquhar, whose own previous research has revealed those very things. “But this looked at something new. When individuals positively compared themselves to other Facebook users, they had higher levels of reported happiness. These findings nuance previous scholarship that largely indicated heavy Facebook use has a detrimental effect on one’s psychological well-being. It is not the amount of Facebook use that matters, but rather, how one feels they measure up in comparison with those around them.”

Farquhar’s research, published in the Journal of New Media & Culture, surveyed 406 college students and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Workers. The average age was 32, and 46 percent were male.

The participants went through a series of questions about their social media use, such as time spent on Facebook, how they would feel if the social media outlet was taken away from them, and how often they look at others on Facebook, for example. They also measured life satisfaction and happiness.

The average life satisfaction and happiness scores were about a five out of seven. And, the more frequently one engaged in Facebook activities, the happier one was, Farquhar says. This, he says, can most likely be explained by downward social comparisons.

When individuals positively compared themselves to other Facebook users, they had higher levels of reported happiness and life satisfaction. So, he says, it is likely that individuals were seeking out others who made them feel better about themselves.

“For example, if the user wanted to feel better about his or her career, they might compare to an individual who is unemployed, or had a less appealing job. That same type of comparison could be done for virtually every other aspect of one’s life, like intelligence, family life, the list goes on,” he says. “It is not simply the amount of social comparing one does that matters, but the type of comparison that predicts happiness and life satisfaction.”

This targeted, downward social comparison, was the predictor of happiness and overall life satisfaction, Farquhar says. Facebook is the ideal medium for this, he says, because it allows users to select particular people or elements to hone in on for comparison, while blocking out those elements, or people, that are unwanted.

What this study didn’t account for, Farquhar explains, is the long-term impact of this behavior.

“I wouldn’t encourage people to spend more time on Facebook looking for people to look down on,” he says. “Looking for peers to look down on to make oneself feel better is not the prescription here. We believe the more time spent on there, the less satisfied with life one will eventually be, as one is bound to run into unfavorable social comparisons.”

But, he says, the findings are important for adding a more nuanced understanding to the social media behemoth. For so long the conversation has focused on doom and gloom when it comes to Facebook. While that may still be true, it is important to understand the medium in a more detailed way.

Facebook lends itself to downward social comparison, and therefore, makes the user feel better. So, he explains, for some, social media can have a positive impact, even if it is fleeting. This study also helps us understand how users interact with the medium on a more intimate level.

“We assumed the results would fall in line with the body of literature that says social media interactions make you feel worse and were surprised to see any sort of uptick,” Farquhar says. “We assumed, you go online, look at others, and feel worse. We believe downward comparison is going on and this adds another dimension to the complex conversation about Facebook.”

 

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

Innovation

Butler Researcher Shows Link Between Social Media and Happiness

  Turns out social media can make you happy.

Feb 01 2019 Read more
Innovation

New Study by Butler Professor Shows Why Electoral Integrity Matters

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 30 2018

INDIANAPOLIS—As the 2018 midterm elections near, there is an increasing focus on how difficult it is for some people to actually cast a vote in certain states.

For example, voters in North Dakota, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, and New Hampshire, among others, are facing restrictive voter ID laws and purges of voter names from the rolls. In Georgia, allegations of voter suppression against black voters have reached a boiling point. According to a recent report from the Associated Press, about 53,000 voter registration applications are in limbo because information on applications doesn’t exactly match up with names on drivers licenses or Social Security cards.

These challenges to electoral integrity have an impact on citizen confidence in elections, according to new research from Butler University Assistant Professor of Political Science Greg Shufeldt. His research found that the higher a state ranks when it comes to electoral integrity, or how states run elections, the more likely individuals are to feel like their vote is being counted fairly.

Essentially, those states that ranked higher in electoral integrity had citizens who felt more confident in the democratic system, according to Shufeldt’s research.

“Citizens that live in states with lower electoral integrity are going to be less likely to have confidence in the election process and are less likely to think that their vote is counted fairly and that has consequences,” says Shufeldt, who studies political parties, political inequality, and American politics. “If you don’t think your vote is counted fairly, are you going to keep voting? Probably not.”

Shufeldt’s research, published with Patrick Flavin from Baylor University in State Politics & Policy Quarterly, looked at two different measures of electoral integrity (one led by researchers at MIT and one led by researchers at Harvard). They tested which components of each electoral integrity measurement had a relationship with voter confidence through statistical analyses.

The aspects that impacted citizens’ confidence in the electoral system the most? Personal experience. Examples include problems with the voter registration process, polling site accessibility, availability of ballots, simplicity of the voting process, voter ID laws, violent threats against voters, and simply the presence of qualified candidates on the ballot.

“Broadly, what citizens directly experience impacts their perceptions about whether or not their vote is being counted fairly the most,” Shufeldt says. “The things that a voter would experience going to the polling place are the types of things that are much more likely to have an impact on their confidence, as opposed to the things that happen in a government office that they don’t see.”

All of this matters, Shufeldt says, because if a person doesn’t feel like the process in their state is legitimate, and therefore, that their vote is going to be counted fairly, then there’s a good chance they will stay home on election day, he says.

“This impacts voter turnout,” he says. “My research showed that there is a direct correlation between having confidence in the electoral integrity of your state, and whether or not your vote is being counted fairly. In turn, where you live can determine your desire to show up and your confidence in the system. That is hugely problematic for our democratic system. Where you live is determining the experience you have at the polls.”

This isn’t all just some accident, says Shufeldt. 

States chose their election laws and, he says, states are choosing to go in very different directions in terms of how they conduct their elections. So, who controls state government matters a whole lot for the quality of democracy in one’s state, he says.

According to past research from Shufeldt, Republican-controlled states are increasingly pursuing measures that are damaging electoral integrity, whereas majority Democrat-controlled states are more likely to pursue policies that would lead to higher electoral integrity rankings.

“Because states are increasingly under one party control, some states are able to implement tougher voter ID laws, purging their voter rolls, and are adding additional restrictions or checks to the election process, while other states are choosing to go in a different direction and pursue reforms like making voter registration automatic,” he says. “If you assume that elections play a key and central role in a democratic government, states are choosing wildly different ways to conduct those elections.”

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

 

Photo by Erik (HASH) Hersman via: freeforcommercialuse.org

Innovation

New Study by Butler Professor Shows Why Electoral Integrity Matters

Professor Greg Shufeldt's study shows that electoral integrity has impact on citizen confidence in elections.

Oct 30 2018 Read more
NY Giants Vs. Cleveland Browns
Innovation

Research Reveals Why Long-Suffering Fans Continue to Watch

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 29 2018

There are films like The Notebook that make viewers reach for the tissue box, but they will watch the movie again and again despite all the tears. Why do people want to put themselves through the repeated misery?  Researchers have found that there is a reason for this.

There are two different ways people are entertained when it comes to media, says Ryan Rogers, Butler University Assistant Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism. There’s enjoyable entertainment and meaningful entertainment and tear jerkers fall under the meaningful category, he says.

“You might say The Hangover was fun and enjoyable, but The Notebook was meaningful,” he says. “You enjoyed both, but they gave you different processes of being entertained.”

So, Rogers took the idea of these different types of entertainment, and found that they could be applied to that long-suffering Buffalo Bills fan, for example. He found that the same dichotomy that exists with movies, exists with sports, too.

“Fans watch for enjoyment and for victory and cheering with friends when things are going well—that excitement and sense of craziness when their team is winning. But, I found that there are also other reasons fans watch that are more akin to meaningful experiences,” Rogers says. “Even if the Bills lose, their fans keep watching every single year because of a deeper, meaningful experience they are deriving from watching.”

Rogers surveyed 277 people, half male and half female, with an average age of 39. His findings, which were published in Media Watch Journal, revealed that even when a fan’s team isn’t winning, even when there is absolutely no hope, those fans continue to tune in because they are gaining meaningful experiences.

Yes, when a team is winning, fans experience enjoyment. But watching teams with no hope might still provide a deeper, more meaningful form of entertainment for people, says Rogers.

“This explains why Browns fans, for example, are Browns fans when intuition tells us otherwise,” Rogers says. “Even when there is no hope, even when a team is eliminated mathematically from contention, fans keep watching and we found that is because they are deriving other, more meaningful appreciation from it.”

Rogers says his research revealed that watching a team struggle is meaningful because of who one is watching with. Often times individuals watch with family, or grew up watching with parents, and so when they watch now, they are reminded of those times, he says.

There’s also that sense of suffering and struggling as a group. Camaraderie is built around a collective struggle, says Rogers. Also, struggling through something can be enlightening and can provide insights that the thrill of victory does not, says Rogers.

“We know why fun and funny movies entertain us, but sad movies also captivate us because of the deeper emotions they tug at and the deeper introspection and deeper feelings they cause us to have,” Rogers says. “The same thing can be said for sports fans, and particularly for fans of struggling teams. People enjoy watching sports because it gives them a feeling of positive emotions and decreased negative emotions. This perfectly explains why people watch teams that absolutely stink.”

So, take solace Browns fans, and remember there is reason why you turn on your television every Sunday.

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

NY Giants Vs. Cleveland Browns
Innovation

Research Reveals Why Long-Suffering Fans Continue to Watch

The same reasons people enjoy tear jerkers can be applied to watching sports says Butler Professor Ryan Rogers.

Oct 29 2018 Read more
Innovation

Bracketology and the Collective Brain

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 22 2018

 

  

INDIANAPOLIS—It is believed by most that many brains are more powerful than one. So, when it is time, for example, to guess how many gumballs are in a jar, the average of the group’s guesses is probably better than most of the individual guesses.

But, there isn’t much out there that really explains why that is, says Ryan Rogers, Butler University Assistant Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism.

Rogers looked into this concept using one of America’s favorite past times—filling out March Madness brackets. He wanted to find out what exactly makes collective intelligence effective.

“Yes, we know crowd sourcing is beneficial, but what are those traits, and tasks, that are going to make the group impactful in its decision-making process?” Rogers says. “What kind of group is most effective and what kinds of tasks lend itself to crowd sourcing?”

Individuals were divided up based on their backgrounds and expertise in college basketball. One group was made up of serious college basketball fans. The other group was made up of college basketball experts, for example, journalists, former players, coaches, or others with insights beyond just being an engaged fan.

Each group then filled out NCAA tournament brackets using collective intelligence software. The goal, Rogers says, was to see how group make-up would impact the effectiveness of collective intelligence, and therefore, the infamous activity of avoiding a busted bracket after, well, one round.

The results, published in the Journal of Creative Communications, showed that the experts and the fans performed similarly throughout the first few rounds of the tournament. However, the experts gained a real edge over the fans as the tournament progressed—as the task became more difficult. When it came to the later rounds—games that are typically more challenging and complicated to predict—the experts had more success in picking winners than the fans.

“There’s a passion and there’s an interest,” he says. “It is not just about having a buddy who knows basketball, but our study showed that it is about the group dynamic, and that specific traits impact how successful the group will be. In addition to the traits of a group, our study showed task matters, too. The more difficult the task, the more important the make-up of the group.”

The results are important, Rogers says, because they can be applied to many fields and subject matters much more complicated than guessing gumballs in a jar or filling out a bracket.

The experts separated themselves in the later rounds of the tournament—when the task was more complicated and collective wisdom, therefore, mattered more, Rogers says. This distinction is a crucial finding.

When it comes to solving a complex engineering problem, for example, he says, it would be important to think about getting a group of experts together. Rogers compares that to asking a bunch of stargazers to solve a complex astrophysics problem. Collective intelligence, he says, wouldn’t help that group.

“Their love of the subject matter won’t matter because the topic is highly complex,” he says. “They simply don’t have enough technical knowledge to leverage the wisdom of the crowd. That is what, essentially, this study teaches us. It is not just that many brains are better than one, but who the group is made up of that impacts its effectiveness.”

 

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656
 

 

Innovation

Bracketology and the Collective Brain

Assistant Professor Ryan Rogers has new research that reveals when many brains are better than one. 

Oct 22 2018 Read more

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