Study examines efficacy of tech news online

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

Ron Yaros, assistant professor in communication, is trying to get your attention.

Yaros, along with four U graduate students, is developing a research project that focuses on how the public perceives and communicates online news relating to science and technology.

“In newspapers, people can choose to turn the page or not, but online, there is endless competition for attention and space,” Yaros said. “If a reader doesn’t understand a single word in a story or is simply not interested in it, they’re gone.”

In order to grab and hold a reader’s attention, the group will study the way the public reads graphics and text within scientific Web sites.

They will experiment with different Internet structures and then survey participants to see how readers understand complex scientific information, even if the reader has little or no background information about the subject.

“We would like to learn how the structure of graphics, video and text affects the way a reader or viewer understands the subject being presented,” said David Zemme, a graduate student in communication who is involved with the project. “After we learn how (they) recognize information, we can create a new structure that helps them understand information better.”

This project will enhance online techniques while providing a snapshot of human behavior, Rue Wood, a graduate student in communication, said.

“I know that this project will change the way people see things,” Wood said. “Hopefully our results will stimulate both the news source and the news reader.”

Yaros said he expects to have results from the research study in three to five years. He hopes to publish a summary piece in the journal for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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