Dr. Sophie Janicke-Bowles, Assistant Professor in the School of Communication

School of Communication Assistant Professor Sophie Janicke-Bowles, in collaboration with Dr. Katherine Dale from Florida State University, has received a $10,000 conference award granted by the Faculty Development Council at Chapman University which allows them to host the first Positive Media Psychology Conference in April 2021.

Positive media psychology is an emerging field that explores the way media can positively affect personal and societal well-being and help individuals thrive. This particular field of study is relevant to academics and community members alike because current research can offer insights into how individuals can maximize the positive effects of media use (including social media) in their daily lives.

This is the first conference of its kind, which puts Chapman and the School of Communication at the forefront of the innovation of a new and crucial field of study in today’s digital age.

The goal of this positive media psychology conference is to further anchor this new and interdisciplinary field within the communication and psychological disciplines, broadening the exposure of these types of issues to the academic and broader community.

This conference will address a variety of themes, including (but not limited to):

  • Media Effects: What happens when we are exposed to and engage with inspiring media? How does media use affect pro-social behaviors? Under what circumstances can media positively change the way we see the world?
  • Emerging Technology: How can digital media be used to promote well-being?
  • Personality: What personality attributes predict exposure to and use of inspiring media? Are some people more likely to experience positive media effects than others?
  • Psychological Processes: What specific psychological processes can help media consumption lead to well-being and flourishing?

The conference will bring top scholars in the fields of communication and positive psychology to Chapman. For example, the Donald P. Bellisario Professor of Media Studies at Penn State University, Mary Beth Oliver who is one of the most cited positive media psychology professors and world-renown distinguished positive psychology professor Sonya Luybomirsky are on their list of keynote speakers. 

The two-day conference will finish with a free afternoon session on Saturday, April 17, 2021, on the topic of digital well-being, with the purpose of inviting community members to have an open dialogue with scholars. In an effort to hear concerns from the public and share the research directly with a non-academic audience on the topic of digital well-being, the conference addresses a dire need of media literacy in the digital age. A poster session will be held to promote the dialog on concrete and evidence-based digital well-being actions, workshops, and products that can help to increase digital well-being.

Thus, while primarily an academic conference, Dr. Janicke-Bowles and Dr. Dale try to walk the fine line of increasing the visibility of positive media psychology as a discipline with theory-building research, as well as acknowledging the importance of applied research that benefits society in concrete ways.

In addition, the School of Communication allowed Dr. Janicke-Bowles to create her own courses within the field of positive media psychology which allows her to educate future communication scholars on the importance and relevance of this new field. She is currently (Spring 2020) teaching a graduate class in the School of Communication on Positive Media Psychology and was able to implement a new course for undergraduates in the course catalog on Mindful Communication, which addresses some of the underlying causes for problematic communication and mental health as a consequence of problematic smartphone usage.

She also is part of a group of scholars who are writing the first Positive Media Psychology textbook, which will be released in the Spring of 2021, in order to educate future scholars in this field.

If you are interested in receiving updates about the conference, please sign up here.