Clemson faculty are among the thousands of scholars nationwide sharing their knowledge and expertise at TheConversation.com, a nonprofit, independent news organization dedicated to unlocking the knowledge of academic experts for the public good. Their analysis appears in media outlets around the world.
Here’s a roundup of some of the latest articles, which can be found in full at news.clemson.edu/topic/the-conversation.
Understanding a Grim Statistic
Heidi Zinzow, professor of psychology, writes on the risk factors of gun access with its contribution to suicide rates shortly after a grim statistic was released by Harvard Public Health: Fifty-four percent of firearm deaths in the U.S. are not from homicide but rather suicide — and easy access to a gun is a key risk factor.
Basic safety measures and mental health screenings are the first common steps in preventing firearm use, Zinzow explains. Training and education on firearms are other tactics that Zinzow touches on to positively influence the decreasing use of firearms to lessen the overall suicide rate from firearms.
Ukraine’s Savvy Social Media
Communication professor Brandon Boatwright explains how and why the Ukrainian government turned to social media during the war with Russia in 2022 as a form of raising global crisis communication and public diplomacy.
Through the nation’s verified social media accounts, posted propaganda was able to reach audiences across the globe. Ukraine’s public relations have strengthened thanks to its online media presence, raising awareness and gaining allies for their cause through something now called “selfie-diplomacy.”
Religion principal lecturer Robert J. Stephens explores for U.S. readers one of India’s most important holidays: Krishna Janmashtami. Stephens explains why Hindus celebrate the birthday of a beloved god renowned for his compassion and wisdom in the Bhagavad Gita. While the holiday’s celebrations are among the grandest in South Asia, many devotees observe the birthday to express their own faith in different ways around the world, he says.
Michael Childress, associate professor of biological sciences and environmental conservation, explains how scientists are migrating corals in the Florida Keys to cooler waters in an attempt to save them from rising ocean temperatures. Coral bleaching is the result of being in warm waters for long periods of time, which ultimately weakens and kills corals. This matters because living corals support the lives of 25 percent of all marine life. With warmer temperatures, algae flee the corals, giving them a bleached, white appearance.
In regulated water temperatures, algae can reattach to corals, allowing them to flourish again. Despite this, these bleachings have continued to occur more frequently and more rapidly in the past decades. Thanks to active scientific efforts in the Florida Keys, the coral reef is increasing its chances of survival.
Companies often espouse their supposed virtue — known as “virtue signaling” — to reap benefits like higher sales, positive investor sentiment or better employees. Clemson management professor Lori Trudell and her Auburn University colleague Brian Connelly wondered what happens when companies emphasize their values and then do something wrong. They examined corporate communications and media coverage for every company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 to develop a database of both virtue signaling and misconduct. Their findings? Investors dislike companies that say they’re good and then behave badly — unless the money is good.
Understanding and Combating Dangerous Social Media Trends
An engineering professor specializing in understanding how humans interact with computers — Kapil Chalil Madathil — and a psychology professor with expertise in mental health — Heidi Zinzow — studied why young people often participate in dangerous social media challenges.
The answer is, in part, to feel included among peers who have already done it. The two Clemson professors conducted a series of studies with their research teams to better understand what motivates teens and young adults to participate in risky challenges. Four key factors emerged: social pressure, the desire for attention, entertainment value and a phenomenon called the “contagion effect.”