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SS 2019 Think Tank: Communication as a Dynamic Process 

Dr. Gary Bente | Dr. John Sherry | Dr. Ralf Schmälzle
Rationale and Objectives: Although researchers often talk about ‘communication processes’, prevailing theories and methods are usually very static and not at all process-oriented. In this course, we will explore cutting-edge methodological and analytic tools for answering novel questions, including: use of virtual reality and studies of realistic social interactions, multi-modal and process-based measurements, analytic methods from nonlinear dynamics and machine learning, and simulation and computational modeling. The course will be highly interactive, involving discussions, hands on training on measurement and simulation technologies , data collection and data analysis and visualization.

Think Tank


SS2019 Python Course - Vizard - WorldViz VR

Dr. Gary Bente | Sado Rabaudi 

Rationale and Objectives: Virtual Reality (VR) has developed into an important tool for the study of human communication and cognition, providing unprecedented possibilities to unite experimental control with ecological validity. This class introduces into the use of motion and face capture technologies and provides a basic training in VR programming to employ these technologies to create immersive experiences in virtual environments. The course uses the unique facilities of the Center for Avatar Research and Immersive Social Media Applications (CARISMA). Software training will be based on the Python-based VR development platform VIZARD, which allows swift access to the most important functions of interactive animations.

Python Coding

WorldViz VR


SS2019 Codes and Code Systems - Nonverbal Communication

Dr. Gary Bente  

Rationale and Objectives: This course lays the conceptual and methodological groundworks for nonverbal communication research. It introduces the students to the major theories of nonverbal communication and discusses controversial points of view that still govern the field. A major goal is to provide the students with research tools and methodological skills to conduct their own studies. In the first part of the course, we explore the various subsystems of nonverbal communication (face, gaze, body movement) and their functions. In the second part, students will be introduced to the state of the art methodologies to study nonverbal communication, including various coding techniques, motion capture, character animation, and parameter formation as well as graphical and quantitative data analysis. With the help of these methods, students then develop and conduct their own research projects in the third part of the course.

Nonverbal Communication


SS2019 Communication Neuroscience

Dr. Ralf Schmälzle  

Rationale and Objectives: In this course students will read foundational literature on research at the intersection of communication science and neuroscience. For example, we will learn about how the brains of people who talk to each other start to synchronize and how the brains of recipients (e.g. TV viewers, listeners of radio shows, readers of newspaper articles) tune in to messages. Such work can not only inform our understanding of communication, but it also opens up exciting possibilities for applications. This course is appropriate for students with no prior background in brain imaging. Basic training in both functional neuroanatomy and neuroimaging methods will be provided in the first half of the course.

Communication Neuroscience


FS2019 Integrated Reception Process Analysis: Analyzing Audience Responses

Dr. Gary Bente  

Rationale and Objectives: The course introduces into the Integrated Reception Process Analyses, which combines content coding, psychophysiological measurements, continuous response measures and eye tracking to study audience responses to dynamic media content, including TV, film, music, games, internet use. The first part covers the scientific foundations of the various measurement techniques and provides hands-on training to use state of the art sensors and devices to capture audience responses in real-time. Students will then be trained in the use of a proprietary software for the integrated analysis of stimulus features and response patterns. The course will conclude with a small student study making using these methodologies.

Audience Research

DJ Mixing

SS2019 Introduction to Communication - Public Speaking

Dr. Allison Eden  

Rationale and Objectives: In this course students will address theoretical and practical perspectives of human communication, including interpersonal, intercultural, health, and mass communication. Students will develop communication skills that prepare for future professional experience, including formal public speaking, informal or extemporaneous speaking, interviewing, conflict resolution, and group communication. Students will increase comfort and familiarity with communication behaviors and skills through practice and feedback to decrease communication apprehension and public speaking anxiety.

Communication 100

Female Speaker

SS2019 Entertainment Media

Dr. Allison Eden  

Rationale and Objectives: Entertainment Media are a driving cultural and economic force of Western society and is one of the biggest, flourishing industries today. People dedicate large amounts of their leisure time and money to suspenseful movies, interesting books, humorous television, pleasurable art, and games and virtual worlds. This class provides an overview of the most important theoretical models and empirical findings in the field of media entertainment and theorizing on media use from an entertainment perspective. The class will focus on the psychological underpinnings and effects of media entertainment.

Entertainment Media

TV Screens

SS2019 - Effective Research Collaborations

Dr. Ashley Sanders-Jackson  

Rationale and Objectives: The purpose of this applied research course is to introduce graduate students to a range of interdisciplinary research methods, techniques, and approaches – particularly within the realm of Engineering, Communication and Health. Students will be exposed to cutting edge research across the three disciplines. Students will complete or largely complete a research project based on research from two or more of the disciplines to advance fundamental understanding of issues that are beyond the scope of individual disciplines. This project will be chosen with an eye toward producing necessary pilot data for a grant submission.

Research Collaborations

Brainstorming Session

Independent Studies

[Describe Independent Studies]  


Nonverbal Behavior and Psychophysiology 
Dr. Gary Bente  

Computer Vision/Machine Learning 
Dr. Ralf Schmaelzle

Human Electroencephalography Research
Dr. Ralf Schmaelzle

Independent Studies


Research Teams

[Describe Team MSU]

Team Bente

Nonverbal Communication & VR

Team Eden

Media Psychology and Public Speaking Training

Team Schmaelzle

Communication Neuroscience





We believe that learning science and doing science must go hand in hand. In order to mix the physical reality with the virtual one, you need a space to tinker, experiment, and build skill.

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