Since my first publication in the Winter 1972-73 issue of the Journal of Broadcasting, I have published 3 sole-authored books, 3 edited books, 2 annotated bibliographies (one with a co-author), as well as numerous sole-authored and multi-authored articles in many different journals and chapters in many edited books. I have also made numerous presentations at our disciplines major conferences; recent presentations have focused on highlighting student (graduate and undergraduate) research. I also prepared 16 final reports for funded research projects. Please see my vita for a complete list of my publications.
My area of focus continues to be media communication and I believe its study must focus on finding the answers to three basic questions. First, what are the institutions that produce media images, how do they operate, and what kinds of constraints do they face? Second, what kinds of images are reflected in media content? And third, how do these images impact upon people? The second and third of these questions are very much interconnected; one cannot answer the third question without first answering the second. My major research interest has been and continues to be finding answers to the second and third of the above questions. The theoretical focus of my research is that of cultivation theory. Specifically, this theory examines mass media images and how these images impact upon people's conceptions, beliefs, and behaviors. The basic underpinning for this research is that, for most people, the media, especially television, play an enormous role in day-to-day existence and people's understanding of the world.
Today, however, one of the most interesting and complicated changes is in how we watch TV. As we progress in the 21st century, although we spend more and more time with many different types of "screens," the screen we continue to watch the most is television. We watch on the big screen TV sets in our homes but also on our mobile phones, iPods, tablets, and computers. Today, WiFi connections and devices with 3 or 4 G capability make it almost impossible to not watch. Recent viewing statistics show that people are watching more and more and now spend more than 33 hours a week watching across any number of screens. Children, in particular spend many hours with media; a recent survey of 8 to 18 year old children found that they spend 7.5 hours a day with media that expands to more than 10 hours a day with multitasking.
A significant portion of my research is focuses upon what people see, beyond specific programs, scenes, actors or actresses, when they watch television. This is examined by conducting content analyses of samples of television programs. These analyses yield, not what any one of us might see on a particular evening of viewing, but rather the enduring images and patterns that we see week after week and year after year. In short, these patterns encapsulate a bird's-eye view of the world of television.
But this is not enough; as noted above, the study of the media must also focus on media effects, particularly relationships between viewing and people's perceptions about the world. While people acquire some of their perceptions and conceptions about the world from personal experience, there is also a large body of information that cannot be experienced first-hand. Consequently, people, some more than others, rely upon outside sources, such as the mass media, to learn about and form conceptions relating to any number of issues. The research I pursue searches for patterns of relationships between viewing (and exposure to other media) and views about the world that reflect the images that are seen on television (as uncovered in the content analyses of samples of television programs). This research is guided by a basic theoretical principle that viewing is related to people's conceptions about the world. It is also guided by a number of other theoretical principles such as a notion my colleagues and I call "mainstreaming" (the expression, among those who watch more television, of a commonality or homogenization of views by those demographic subgroups who would ordinarily hold divergent views about the world). Essentially the research seeks to explain some of the roles that television plays in society. Today with an expanded media environment, our research is exploring the role of the new media, and perhaps new venues of viewing, in the cultivation process.
Over the years I have used data from a number of different sources. A substantial portion of my research has used data collected as part of the Cultural Indicators project at The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, where I served as the Research Administrator (overseeing this project and assisting faculty and students) for more than 15 years. I have also collected more than 20 years of recent television content data as part of class projects. In my studies of cultivation, I use well-known national data sets such as the General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Corporation. This research has examined images relating to gender roles, aging, drugs, alcohol and drinking, health, sex, and violence.
I typically teach 4 courses each year, including a required course (Comm 603 -methods-procedures) in our MA program. I enjoy teaching and strive to be a rigorous but fair teacher. I enjoy teaching all the courses I teach and cannot say that any one course is a particular favorite – my favorite course is typically the one I'm currently teaching. I am interested in my students and in my teaching I try to impart my enthusiasm for the subject matter, some firsthand knowledge of the area, and practical experience. As a teacher of media communication, one of my major goals is to give students the tools to be able to evaluate the media. For example, in regard to television, I want my students to understand the types of images to which they are exposed and to be able to make judicious use of the media in their lives. A favorite assignment is to have students "live with" a specific television program during the course of a semester and to write a critical evaluation of what they see, focusing upon specific areas such as violence, gender roles, science, etc. Consequently, I strive to have my students become media literate.
I am also a strong proponent of a liberal arts education. As a graduate of a small women's liberal arts college, I very firmly believe that a strong grounding in the liberal arts will be of utmost importance to students at many different stages in their lives. Consequently, I try to advise students to go beyond the minimum requirements in meeting distributional requirements.
I serve as the director of the department's MA program in Communication and as such serve as the initial advisor for all of our first year students. In addition, I have overseen numerous theses, have served on the numerous thesis committees, and often am the primary advisor of our graduate students who choose to take the comprehensive exam.
On the national level I am on the editorial board of several journals (Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Journal of Communication, Health Communication, Communication Research Reports, and Human Communication Research) and often review manuscripts for other journals in the field (e.g., Mass Communication & Society, International Journal of Communication).
I belong to five professional organizations:
International Communication, Association
Broadcast Education Association,
National Communication Association,
Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication, and Eastern Communication Association
Dr. Signorielli's Curriculum Vitae