A recent graduate of the University of Wyoming at Casper, Dillon Reed, took his passion for communications across the pond to Paris, France, for the 72nd Annual International Communications Conference on Digital Communications in health at the end of May. Reed was selected to present a research paper at this esteemed conference at which he collaborated with Assistant Professor of Communications Dr. Li Li.
This research paper has been a long time coming. Thanks to flexible online options at the University of Wyoming at Casper, Reed was able to complete her bachelor’s degree in communications after moving with his wife and three children to Lantana, Texas. After growing up in Casper, Reed was surprised to find out how many people wore masks during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.
Reed shared, “I was like, ‘Why is it so different here? Why, in a state that I guess looked a lot like Wyoming, and in many ways it does. I thought they’d all have their middle fingers up, you know, like, “We don’t wear masks.” But everyone was doing it.
This inspired his research. Research that began as an independent study he was simultaneously working on at UW in Casper, and ended up opening doors for him internationally.
“So that led to my curiosity, which was, ‘What are people talking about? I only had the Wyoming story,” Reed said.
Social media seemed to him to be the ideal platform to gather information for his newspaper. The anonymous social media platform Reddit became Reed’s main source for his research.
“I wanted to know what the overall conversation was nationally. And the only way to do that was to do ethnographic research on the internet. So I chose Reddit, because it’s anonymous,” he said.
Much of this research project was about asking the right questions and conducting thorough research and data collection. Although Reed collected and managed the entire research document, Dr. Li played a vital role.
“I came up with the research questions and basically all the methodology on how we were going to do the research. Dr. Li only came after I had collected all the data. We had to coding the data because it was more qualitative and then it became quantitative, so we had to work together to code all the different units of measurement,” Reed explained.
Reed spent a lot of time searching for the keyword “mask” on Reddit and used Reddit’s filter options to find what was important to the public. This allowed them to see what the overall thoughts and opinions of people across the country were.
He shared, “Sometimes it was useful, sometimes it was garbage. I mean, because trolls were posting, and then other trolls on the internet decided they liked the troll’s post. Next thing you know, the most important comment is just that someone is a complete jerk to someone.
It took Reed about a month and a half to collect and sort through all the data. Once that was done, Reed and Dr. Li collaborated to code everything. They also used Gastil and Black’s “Key Characteristics of Deliberative Conversation and Discussion,” which included different measures they used to judge each communicative event.
“Basically what we were trying to figure out was that people were communicating in a way that helped drive the narrative – for or against wearing a mask – or that people were kind of jerks, and we got discovered that people were just some kind of fools. Unfortunately, you know, there hasn’t been a lot of conversation back and forth,” Reed said.
As a communication specialist, the lack of communication between people of different opinions was frustrating for him to analyze. Despite this, impartiality was an essential aspect of this project.
“The goal was to objectively observe what everyone thought about it. And it was truly mind-blowing,” he said.
Once the research paper was completed, they submitted it to both the National Communication Associations Conference and the International Communications Conference on Digital Health Communication. While the national conference was not interested, the ICC accepted their research paper.
After Reed told his wife about it, she told him he couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
“She said, ‘People can’t do that. Like, you have no right to say no. Whether we put that on credit cards or whatever it takes to get you to France, you go there,” he shared.
And so it went. Being selected to present to internationally renowned authors is an opportunity Reed does not take lightly. In addition to presenting, Reed also got to see keynote speakers at the conference.
“They were talking about how doctors communicate with patients. It was largely about organizational and institutional health communication and because of COVID it would be about how a certain government handled the use of social media during COVID and how it presented information.
He noted a certain irony the day before his presentation at the ICC.
“The keynote speakers were talking about many of the issues discussed in Li and I’s article and how we needed to look at them. … Then I’m like, ‘Well, do I have a paper for you!’ “
Reed shared that although it was an international conference, everyone presented in English.
“It’s an English-speaking university community. I mean, it doesn’t matter what language you speak natively. If you write something that gets published, it will end up being in English,” he said.
It served him well, at least inside the doors of the conference. Outside of the conference, it was a different story.
“Once I was outside of this conference, everyone in France was speaking French. I mean, weird and crazy concept, right? Far fewer of them speak English than I think most of us in America would assume.
Reed plans to continue to use the skills and knowledge he learned at the University of Wyoming at Casper at every opportunity that comes his way. UW at Casper even helped him prepare for his old job at Moser Energy Systems in April 2021.
“UW at Casper prepared me in ways I never even imagined,” he shared. “I hear people say how ‘I wish school had prepared me for this’, and every step of the way while I was working for Moser it was like ‘Wow! School made me totally prepared for this.
Today, Reed enjoys working as her own boss in freelance marketing. He enjoys using his communication skills to connect customers with the product they are looking for. At one point, Reed thought about getting a doctorate. However, that’s not in the plans at the moment.
“I really have to ask myself, ‘Why do I want to do this?’ he said. “I mean, with an investment like that, you better apply it. It’s one of those things you don’t get just because you want to.
Although he won’t be pursuing a doctorate at this time, Reed thinks anyone could benefit from a degree.
“I think it would do everyone a big favor if they all had a degree just to have an understanding of the world that is outside of themselves.”
Visit UW at Casper’s website to learn more about the degrees and programs they offer.
|PAID BY UW TO CASPER
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