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The big lessons of political advertising in 2018

By: Travis Ridout, WSU professor of political science, Erika Franklin Fowler, and Michael Franz

The 2018 midterm elections are in the books, the winners have been declared and the 30-second attack ads are—finally—over.

Travis Ridout.
Ridout

As co-directors of the Wesleyan Media Project, which has tracked and analyzed campaign advertising since 2010, we spend a lot of time assessing trends in the volume and content of political advertising.

Because we have television data that span a number of elections, we can provide detailed information on how prominent TV ads are overall or in any given location, how many different types of sponsors are active and how the content of advertising compares to prior election cycles.

Of course, television is not the only medium through which campaigns attempt to reach voters. But online advertising, which represents the biggest growth market, has been much harder to track.

What role did political advertising play in the 2018 midterm elections? Here are our top observations.

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Salon

‘Who is Scott Free?’ A search for meaning after Trump’s misuse of a medieval idiom.

From the moment he tweeted “covfefe” in the middle of the night, President Trump has been perplexing his millions of Twitter followers with cryptic messages ranging from vague threats to North Korea to his retweets of Islamophobic videos without any comment.

But on Monday, a curious person by the name of Scott Free caught the Internet’s attention.

The unfamiliar proper noun appeared in Trump’s remarkable tweetstorm Monday, in which he wished a long prison sentence on his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and insisted longtime adviser Roger Stone would not testify against him, leading some to question whether the statements amounted to witness tampering.

Paul Brians.
Brians

People have been assigning wrong origins or spellings to the age-old idiom for years, according to the 2008 book “Common Errors in English Usage” by Paul Brians, a retired English professor at Washington State University.

People might think the term has something to do with Scottish people (or an unfortunate “Scott”) or that it is “scotch-free,” somehow related to whisky. Others, Brians noted, have erroneously believed “scot-free” alludes to Dred Scott, the slave who sued for his freedom only to lose in an 1857 Supreme Court case.

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Washington Post

Expanding research communities and collaborations

From the depths of ocean dead zones, to wide swaths of forests, and rising up to the troposphere, where most weather changes occur, the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) 2014 Community Science Program portfolio seeks to parse functional information extracted from complex ecosystems to address urgent energy and environmental challenges. These massive, data-intensive undertakings require interdisciplinary approaches, many leveraging additional expertise through a new inter-DOE-Facility partnership.

Reflecting its vision of serving the scientific community as a next-generation genome science user facility, the DOE JGI has joined forces with the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to provide complementary scientific resources to significantly expand genomic understanding to cellular function. The inaugural round of eight accepted proposals showcases the synergy between these two DOE user facilities.

Five of the eight new DOE JGI-EMSL proposals going forward will focus on carbon cycling and three relate to improvements in biofuels production. Each of these projects will tap the capabilities at both facilities to further the research in ways that would not otherwise be possible, and all are targeted for completion within an 18-month time window.

Matthias Hess.
Hess

Two of the carbon cycling projects involve the study of cyanobacteria. Matthias Hess, research scientist and arts and sciences alumnus at Washington State University-Tri Cities, will build off the DOE JGI’s pioneering work in filling in gaps in the tree of life through the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea (GEBA) pilot project and a recent spin-off focused specifically on cyanobacteria.

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Bio-Medicine

John Chau Wanted to Change Life on North Sentinel Island. Was He Wrong?

The death of a young American missionary on a tropical island at the hands of an indigenous group has left us to wonder: Are they better off with us or without us?

Because of their isolation, researchers say, the islanders have no immunity to infections and diseases of the outside world. Even a common cold could kill them. They posit that Mr. Chau put these people in grave danger and he should have never visited.

John Bodley.
Bodley

John Bodley, an anthropologist at Washington State University, agrees.

“There is no question that this attempt to make contact was totally wrong and a major violation of their human rights to autonomy,” he said. “Outsiders need to respect their wishes and treat them with dignity as fellow human beings. Respect means we don’t assume to know better how they should live.”

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New York Times

How where you’re born influences the person you become

By Samuel Putnam, Bowdoin College and Masha A. Gartstein, professor of psychology, Washington State University

As early as the fifth century, the Greek philosopher Thucydides contrasted the self-control and stoicism of Spartans with the more indulgent and free-thinking citizens of Athens.

Today, unique behaviors and characteristics seem ingrained in certain cultures.

Italians wildly gesticulate when they talk. Dutch children are notably easygoing and less fussy. Russians rarely smile in public.

Masha Maria Gartstein.
Gartstein

As developmental psychologists, we’re fascinated by these differences, how they take shape and how they get passed along from one generation to the next.

Our new book, “Toddlers, Parents and Culture,” explores the way a society’s values influences the choices parents make – and how this, in turn, influences who their kids become.

The enduring influence of cultural values

Although genetics certainly matter, the way you behave isn’t hardwired.

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WTOP