Two University of Houston-Victoria assistant professors will use $10,000 summer grants from the university to advance their research about the use of social media usage and empathy in moral decision-making.
Rupak Rauniar, assistant professor of management in the UHV School of Business Administration, and Justin Bell, assistant professor of philosophy in the UHV School of Arts & Sciences are this summer’s recipients.
UHV has given the awards the past five summers to junior faculty pursuing promising research projects. Junior faculty members are faculty who are on a tenure track but are not yet tenured. A committee of tenured UHV professors evaluates proposals and then recommends who receives the awards.
“We are proud to continue our support of our junior faculty’s summer research endeavors,” said Jeffrey Cass, UHV provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Our assistant professors have made good use of this funding in the past, and I’m sure Drs. Bell and Rauniar will continue on with that tradition. Their projects are intriguing, and I look forward to hearing about the results of their research.”
Rauniar’s study attempts to explain the attitudes, intentions, beliefs and behaviors of social media users. Analyzing data collected will shed some light on how businesses can engage their stakeholders and customers on online social network sites, such as Facebook.
“It’s not enough for a business to just have a Facebook page,” Rauniar said. “Businesses are looking to tap into the online community and really want to engage with their consumers on multiple social media sites. They want ideas to build up and promote those connections.”
Rauniar began his social media research last year by examining what causes satisfaction in social media exchanges. He next plans to review the existing literature on the subject, develop theoretical research model and testable hypotheses, and conduct large-scale research survey. He hopes to have the data analysis completed by the end of the year and a paper on the subject submitted to a recognized journal for publication early next year.
“The proposed study is expected to provide a significant addition to the social media literature because of its implications for practitioners in terms of social media-based communication and marketing,” he said. “It also could have an impact on social media educators and trainers in terms of instructional design and development of successful social media sites of engaged communities.”
Both he and Bell were appreciative of the university providing the grant.
“The way a lot of fields work is you have to be up and running to get access and money,” Bell said. “It’s often a Catch-22. If you don’t have money, you can’t get money. This grant provides a great kick-start to get around that problem.”
Bell will be investigating the role of empathy in the moral philosophy of John Dewey and those who follow his ideas. The summer research is a piece of a larger project on how pragmatist philosophers, such as Dewey, deal with moral imagination, the uniquely human ability to think of others as moral beings, not as objects whose value is only in their usefulness.
“This work ties in with not only how we think through our ethical decisions but also what makes me want to act ethically when I’m interacting with another person,” Bell said.
Bell is spending the summer researching how the role of empathy impacts moral imagination.
“This is something that has been brought up in past literature, but it hasn’t been fleshed out,” he said. “There are a lot of tools in the philosophers I read to show when empathy is positive or negative.”
Bell said grant money will help pay for two summer research trips. He has been invited to present a paper in Poland about American 20th-century philosopher Richard Rorty. He also will travel to Eugene, Ore., for the Summer Institute of American Philosophy.
“I hope to enter into some dialog with prominent professors and scholars in the field,” Bell said. “Rorty does work that I think significantly supplements what’s going on in Dewey’s works.”
Bell said he has worked on this research for the past few years and plans to do so in the future. He’d like to ultimately publish a book on the subject.