Faculty Profile: Dr. Janie Diels
Dr. Janie Diels, assistant professor of communication and new media studies, teaches students about the influence of media on our everyday lives.
“Compare TV shows from the ’60s and the ’70s to shows today, and you’ll see that they require more from viewers,” she says. “There are more characters, more complex characters and more complexities in the plot lines. With the exception of reality TV, pop culture is, in fact, getting smarter.”
However, she can’t say the same for the language of political discourse. After conducting a study on the topic with Bill Gorton, assistant professor of political science, Diels found that while IQ has increased, the amount of abstract language used in presidential debates has decreased.
“While the population has become better able to think in terms of the abstract, presidential elections have become so close in recent years that winning requires wooing the uninformed and disengaged voter—the so-called ‘undecided voter,’” she says. “This leads to a strategy of highly concrete and personalized messages instead of the kind of discourse that triggers thinking about the collective.”
Diels also studies stereotypes.
“American politics can often be described by the group concepts studied in social psychology,” she says. “In general, Americans favor social policies that they see benefiting people like them, and oppose policies that they see as benefitting an ‘other.’ How policies, such as health care reform, are framed in the media impacts public opinion of the policy.”
Diels takes pride in teaching classes like COM 101, Human Communication and COM 350, Seminar in Communication Inquiry.
“I really love my job,” she says. “Alma College is such a warm, supportive, welcoming environment. I can’t think of anything that would better suit my strengths and personality.”
In her spare time, Diels enjoys being with her family, biking, and, of course, watching TV.
“We have two kids still in diapers, a big clumsy black lab, and four needy cats so there isn’t much time for anything else right now.”