Ph.D. Alumna Karyn Sporer Receives Award and Grant
Karyn Sporer, a 2016 graduate of UNOs School of Criminology and Criminal Justice doctoral program and currently an associate professor of sociology at the University of Maine, along with Paige Toller, Ph.D., an associate professor in UNOs College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media, were recently awarded the Rose B. Johnson Article of the Year by Southern Communication Journal. Their article, entitled “Family Identity Disrupted by Mental Illness and Violence: An Application of Relational Dialectics Theory” was published online March 23, 2017. This paper was an extension of Sporer’s dissertation, on which Toller served as an outside committee member.
Sporer was also recently awarded funding from UMaine’s Summer Faculty Research program to conduct research analyzing Twitter accounts. Her research project consisted of reviewing a subsample of more than 4,300 tweets looking for emerging themes that justify or promote extreme violence. One of Sporer’s goals in conducting this research is to help agencies find strategies to counter violent extremism and radicalization.
Sporer’s research project entitled “Justifications for violence: How jihadist sympathizers rationalize terrorism and mass murder,” focused on related tweets occurring within 24 hours surrounding three separate mass-casualty events: the Paris coordinated event (November 2015), Nice cargo truck event (July 2016) and the Orlando Pulse Nightclub event (June 2016). They were chosen because of their similarity in high number of casualties, intense media focus and social response.
Sporer hopes to continue doing research in this area and bring additional awareness to the issue. Her goal is to help create successful methods for countering violent extremism by using words to combat words. Eventually, her findings could be used to compare the messaging techniques of other extremist groups. If there are similarities, strategies could be devised to further combat hateful narratives online overall.
“The issue isn’t going away; we can’t stop anyone from going online and it’s not illegal to sympathize,” Sporer said. “But we can find a message to successfully minimize people’s justifications for violence,” she noted.
Karyn Sporer, Ph.D.
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