From proteins signaling cells to the global introduction of a new technology, communication is ubiquitous. New capabilities allow us to analyze communication instantaneously and gather data on information processes previously too small to be known or too big to be effectively understood. The challenge with this growth is to assess what is useful; comprehend how it might create, enable, or resist change; and determine how it instructs us in what it means to be human.
Here are two areas in which WPI's writing faculty members are working.
Medical Humanities and Digital Diagnostic Narratives
As columnist and physician Lisa Sanders put it, “every patient tells a story.” Our story is how we make sense of life, and how we understand and transmit experiences that can be overwhelming, especially those of ill health. Stories continue to mediate and transform medical technologies, helping physicians and patients define “diseased” and “normal” states.
Intentionally and unintentionally, patients’ stories are being overwhelmed by a health system in transition. Some of the greatest changes in healthcare will be enacted by the wide-scale adoption of systems known as Electronic Medical Records (EMR), used by clinicians to structure patient interactions. This digitization of patient narrative is a crucial moment for humanities scholars who have long defended and improved this key element of medical care, and for patients who could lose the ability to compose an individualized story. The Digital Diagnostic Narrative is a new and innovative focus for writing researchers productively collaborating with faculty in biology, biomedical engineering, information technology, industrial engineering, and computer programming.
Analytics is a crucial new area of data-intensive communication research. Integrating data mining, knowledge discovery, systems modeling, societal dynamics, and visual design, analytics is a meeting space for science, technology, and humanity; therefore, it’s in natural alignment with WPI’s educational and research mission, which emphasizes humanity and technology.
In WPI's new Analytics Lab—created in partnership with Dimensional Insight—faculty members develop and test new methods for accessing and examining data, establish new metrics to identify associations within data, theorize, develop, and test methods for analyzing “big data,” explore the application of analytics for organizations and business, and conduct research for clients.
In fields like biology, bioinformatics, genetics, and pathology, these associations can lead to new knowledge. In organizations, analytics promise descriptive, predictive, or preventative recommendations for action. The field has broad cross-disciplinary application in theoretical, applied, and methodological pursuits.