All posts by Stacy Landry

Congratulations graduates of the Department of Communication

Posted on: April 26, 2017

Congratulations graduates of the Department of Communication. For the second year in a row, one of our majors is the general undergraduate Convocation Speaker for the entire University. While this is a pretty amazing programmatic feat, it's even more impressive when you meet Matt St. Germain, this year's Convocation Speaker, and listen to him. He is friendly, driven, socially responsible and welcoming-all traits that you might associate with future leaders. Matt has accepted admission into our LINKed MA program.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down to lunch with four of our 12 new Communication degree CAS scholarship winners. I asked their opinions for ways to improve the undergraduate experience in our department and they had great ideas. I ran out of notepad paper. These four stars are McKenna Jennings, Gabrielle Dolenga, Victoria Gan, and Brooke Wylin.

If you are thinking of Communication as a potential degree and have questions, contact me ( In the recent Washington DC March for Science, which took over the National Mall for a day, "science communication" as a key skill and necessary new ability for future researchers, journalists, policy advocates, supervisors and engineers, and scientists and their managers was emphasized again and again. We can teach you how to be a leader in science communication!

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March for Science

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Science March DC April 2017As we were being driven toward the Washington DC National Mall On Earth Day, April 22 for the March for Science you could see people streaming toward the Washington Monument.  On sidewalks, in raincoats, carrying thousands of homemade as well as preprinted signs, walking in groups of 2, 3, 4 and more, a lot of them grouped by disciplines.  Entomologists on the left (“Black Widows for Science!”), physicists ahead dressed in Albert Einstein wigs and lab coats, science communication researchers on the right (“Science not Silence!”).  A hundred thousand graduate students, lab post docs, professors and researchers, federal government staffers, one girl wearing a space shuttle made out of cardboard, a boy dressed like Bill Nye the Science Guy (best sign:  “Without science, Bill Nye would be just a guy”), and me wearing all Green & White and holding a large Spartan umbrella and responding “Go White!” to calls every 60 seconds of “Go Green!”.  It was a proud day to be a MSU Spartan.
A Voice of America television crew followed me and a PhD from the MSU college of education for several hours, chronicling our experiences as we met an MSU physicist and listened to an MSU pediatrician rally the growing crowd (“What do we want?”  “Science!”  “When do we want it?”  “Now!”)  They were just one of the many many media organizations on-site with cameras rolling.  Questlove and his Big Band up on stage with a rocking horn section.  Bill Nye the Science Guy whipping up the mass of scientists, young and old.  Thomas Dolby thrilling the crowd in the light rain with his smash hit “She Blinded Me with Science!”  It was all serious and all fun.  It may also be just the start of researchers, academics and scientists and students standing up for knowledge and facts and their role in continuing to make a better world.


James W. Dearing, PhD
Professor and Chairperson

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2017 MLK Poster Competition Final Results

Posted on: March 23, 2017

In a close battle for the prize, this year’s annual MLK Poster Competition brought out work from a wide array of talented advertising students from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. The purpose of this competition was to promote the theme “Overcoming Obstacles,” which challenged students to design posters that encourage, influence and inspire dialogue about  important topics such as diversity, inclusivity, social justice, unity, civil rights and/or cultural differences.

The winners were determined by a public vote on the college’s Facebook page. The three finalists with the most ‘likes’ at the end of the voting period were the winners. The top three posters will receive scholarships of $1,200, $800 and $500. The winners from the MSU Department of Advertising + Public Relations include:

  • First place - Marissa Siegel, senior
  • Second place - Alison Mass, junior
  • Third place - Adam Awdish, senior

Students feel that the best way to get real experience in creative advertising is to find a way to bring their ideas to life in a way that will get a public reaction. In collaboration with MSU Federal Credit Union, ComArtSci received submissions that took several different angles on the theme.

17239849_10154190425995303_8014018888746447565_oMarissa Siegel, First Place

“The inspiration for my poster comes from the Americans that peacefully stand up for their beliefs every day. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for peace and equality throughout his life, and paved the way for the present generation to do the same,” said Siegel. “In a turbulent world, race, religion, party affiliation and gender threaten to divide us, but when we come together to support a meaningful cause, these barriers dissolve. MLK said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.’ Carrying on this legacy of advocating for justice is so vital, and that’s what I aim to show in my poster.”

17192607_10154190425990303_8481275156905512486_o-2Alison Mass, Second Place

“My piece is simple and bold and my inspiration came from TV
pixels. Each individual one is a different color but together they are all seen as one cohesive image. I wanted it to be easy to read with an easy message to understand. My goal was to defy the hearts and flowers idea of ‘diversity’ and make it a bit more realistic,” said Mass. “I was motivated to enter this contest because I wanted to promote the beauty of diversity and inclusion without exploiting all the liberal views and media hype happening in society today.”

Adam Aw17192501_10154190426100303_7170394498454263910_odish, Third Place

“I wanted to create a simple, powerful piece. I tried to
play off old propaganda posters and chose to stick with minimal copy so I could let my imagery speak for itself. Using different shades of a fist was my way of showing that, together, we are all more capable of solving problems if we put our differences aside and work together,” said Awdish.“I figured the best way to show unity and the ability to overcome obstacles together would be with this simple, powerful imagery and short, to-the-point copy.”

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Spencer gets drafted for his dream job early in the game

Posted on: February 21, 2017

Jamal SpencerSometimes in order to pursue your dream, there comes a sacrifice. In recent journalism grad Jamal Spencer’s case, this meant making the decision to leave Michigan State University early, back in 2009, to pursue his aspiration of becoming a sports reporter through a once in a lifetime offer.

People ask him, “Was it worth it?” Following his dream meant giving up undergraduate experiences and prolonging the process of earning a bachelor’s degree.

“It was incredibly difficult,” said Spencer. “Only one man in my family had graduated from college and that was my father. So, attending MSU was a blessing and receiving my diploma was the goal, but as my academic career progressed I realized the importance of job experience and networking.”

As a Detroit native, Spencer jumpstarted his career by working as a sideline reporter and production assistant for Fox Sports Detroit. After this, in spring 2011, he was able to finish a couple more credits toward his degree before taking off for his next job in Fargo, North Dakota where he later became Sports Director. Years after, he reached a point where he wished to move closer to home. Fortunately for him, the perfect opportunity arrived. Spencer packed his bags and moved back to his home state as the newest Sports Director at WZZM 13 in Grand Rapids.

“I was granted a few career opportunities that I felt I couldn't pass up and I promised my parents I'd return to get my degree, which I did in the fall of 2016,” said Spencer. “My parents joke that it was like getting drafted into pro sports after your junior year.”

How it all started

Spencer said that his entire athletic background consisted of a strong passion for baseball. However, once he realized that he wasn’t going to grow up to be a major leaguer, he decided to drop his bat and pick up a career that still involved talking about them.

“My mother and I would visit my grandma often and she always watched the 6 p.m. news,” said Spencer. “Sitting there quietly, I figured that if she’s giving these news anchors this much respect then this might be a career path worth following. I’m glad I did.”

As the Sports Director of WZZM 13, Spencer is responsible for production, film and editing content daily for the local sportscast. He is also the anchor for the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. sportscasts Monday through Friday. In addition, he takes the time to search for local stories that will appeal to the same target audience and engage them on a personal level through social platforms.

“I try to do as much as possible everyday.” said Spencer. “I went back to MSU in 2016 and took two classes in East Lansing during the summer, then finished with another class in the fall, all while working my full-time job as Sports Director in Grand Rapids.”

Forever a Spartan

Being a Spartan is more than just wearing green and white. Students and alumni take a pledge to remain passionate, devoted and have grit while earning their degree and using it to succeed in their fields. For Spencer, his undergraduate years at MSU were, without a doubt, the best years of his life thus far.

“It was amazing,” said Spencer. "The campus was changing and I made lifelong friends, many in the ComArtSci building. I lived in the Sparty’s on the first floor. My favorite JRN class was Ethics of Journalism taught by Manuel Chavez, who is a tremendous professor and made our class feel like a family for a semester.”

Spencer continued to discuss his highlights in ComArtSci. “The most helpful resource was without a doubt my professors. Geri Zeldes, Folu Ogundimu, Manuel Chavez, Bonnie Bucqueroux all cared about my well-being as well as my academic success. They stressed the importance of focus and L.A. Dickerson stressed the importance of internships, and both of mine led to jobs that got me to where I am today. The ComArtSci staff was by far the most helpful resource in helping me reach my goals.”

For more information about resources at ComArtSci that will assist you, click here.

By Emmy Virkus

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Creating a game and skating with it

Posted on: February 13, 2017

In the class MI 497: Game Design Studio, media and information students with enthusiasm for game design are given real-world opportunities to create digital gaming experiences for users. A team of six students from the class, ranging from 3D art, programming and design roles, created a game called “Bunny Skate,” which reached #38 in the kid's 9-11 category on the App Store in December 2016.bswp

“We wanted to create a fun mobile experience that anyone could play,” said Sage Miller, a media and information senior. “Most feedback came from friends and family, however, we were able to connect with many gamers from across the world through Twitter and sent them early versions of the game.”

The creators describe the game  as an “endless skating adventure.” The object of the game is to control the bunny and skate around an ice rink through a variety of environments, collecting carrots meanwhile avoiding wolves and other obstacles along the way. Once you have collected the carrots, you can use them to purchase a chest, which allows the player to receive a random hat throughout the game. The goal is to obtain as many hats as possible, with a number of 50 possible during the course of the game. Some of these hats hold a secret power that can assist your character through the course.

“I think the idea sparked from the time of the year and what fit for our scope of the project,” said media and information senior Evan Jones. “We wanted to make a mobile game so we had to keep it simple and fun. We knew we wanted to release it around Christmas time so ice and other snowy environments were necessary.”

Bunny Skate was approved and published on the App Store and Google Play just a couple of days before Christmas. The students said they are pleased with how the game turned out, but it was no walk in the park to create the successful finished product.

“We had a rough beginning. We started with a different kind of game and we struggled to find the 'fun' in what we were doing,” said media and information senior Clark Ruiz. “But after four weeks, we scrapped that idea and started working on what would become the game you know (Bunny Skate)! It was great once we had the final idea, since we were able to polish something simple.”

Miller said one of the greatest features of the game is that it’s accessible,  “It's easy for anyone to pick up and have fun with it.

Each team member highlighted how important it is to collaborate with others and be on the same page. Trusting each other's skills while allowing each person to take charge of certain elements was critical to overcoming obstacles as a group and making it to the finish line.

“The collaboration between the team members was great,” said Jones. “We all came together with our different strengths and used them to our advantage. I think teamwork and being able to work well with others will make you a better person in the long run."

Jones continued, “Communication is the key when working with a group. Making sure everyone was on the same page and on task was something that we did well.”

For more information on Bunny Skate, visit here. Test your skills, download on iTunes or on Google Play today.  

Team Members:

Clark Ruiz - 3D Art
Evan Jones - 3D Art
Alec Velthov - 3D Art
Matthew Smith - Programming
Homer Chen - Programming
Sage Miller - Design

By Emmy Virkus

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Indigenous Language Games are launched by MSU Faculty

Posted on: January 23, 2017

thumbnail_manoominMedia and Information’s Elizabeth LaPensée and Jon Whiting contributed to two new games called “Manoominike” and “Mikan” for the Duluth Children’s Museum in Minnesota. With the help of the museum and a committee of Anishinaabe community members, these games pinpoint specific teachings about the practice of ricing in Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe language). These games launched at the free Manoomin Exhibit Opening in Duluth  on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.

“I'm blown away by seeing the Manoomin exhibit at the Duluth Children's Museum, which will be up for several years with the games Manoominike and Mikan in a wiigiwaam structure,” said LaPensée.

With assistance from the committee and community members, the collaboration on Mikan involved design and art by Elizabeth LaPensée, programming by Tyler Coleman, and sound by Jon Whiting, while Manoominike involved design and art by Elizabeth LaPensée, videography by Joellyn Rock, programming by Logan Sales, music and language by Ojibwemowining Digital Arts Studio, and sound by Jon Whiting. The game, Manoominike (meaning “ricing”) in Anishinaabemowin, gives users a motion-controlled experience that is surrounded by elements and imagery of modern ricing in a fabricated wigwam, a real-life look and feel. The second game called Mikan (meaning “find it”) is a mobile game that intends to pass on phrases about ricing in Anishinaabemowin such as jiimaan (meaning “canoe”).

mikanThe greatest challenge of all involved creating games that could be played in short experiences in a museum, while honoring the vastness of the ricing tradition,” said LaPensée.

The Manoomin exhibit and the Manoominike and Mikan games were made possible through support from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Legacy Fund and the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation's Anishinaabe Fund.

“I'm grateful for input from the committee as well as community members who see what I hope to pass on through these games –the importance of ricing and sustainable harvesting practices directed at youth, the next generations, who will continue these teachings,” said LaPensée.

By Emmy Virkus

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MSU alum walks into strategic sector of Campbell Ewald

Posted on: January 18, 2017

In the advertising industry, it can be tricky for students to decide on the concentration that best suits their skillset or interests. From creative to production, account, strategy and more, each team comes together as one to make up an agency and make the magic happen for clients. For 2014 communications grad Ken Walker, he credits a specific class that he took as an undergrad at ComArtSci, ADV 342: “Account Planning and Research,” for pointing him in the direction that led to his position today at Campbell Ewald, an advertising agency in Detroit.

“Initially, I didn’t understand the different departments and their roles in an agency as an undergrad,” said Walker. “I think in order for me to discover my niche, it took different courses that were tailored toward each aspect and component that an agency needs. That makes the ADV courses more valuable, because working as an account person, you learn what every department does, which that in itself has its own value to your growth in this industry.”

“Planning” for the future

After interning as an account executive for a couple years at a local agency in Okemos, Walker landed a position post-graduation as a strategic planner at Campbell Ewald on the Cadillac account. With this role, his hope to “be the voice of the consu14117718_10207414730347698_5314308850025772459_nmer” came to life, for he is now in a department that is more hands-on and he has a bigger input on a campaign’s augmentation.

“I knew right a way that I didn’t want to be an account person after working as an intern, because I wanted to have the ability to give some insight or thought when it comes to creating ads,” said Walker. “If you’re a thinker, I think planning is always a good choice, but if you have some ability to use some level of persuasion, then an approach with more research involved is your saving ground.”

A strategy for strategy

In the words of Walker, strategy is the ability to give an insight from a point-of-view that the client, the account team and creative team hasn’t thought of yet. The challenge of this is that consumer behaviors are constantly evolving, but it’s up to you to find a new, strategic way that makes sense for the campaign’s message and target.

“The key to strategy and planning is curiosity. Your curiosity is what makes you better, and it causes you to always ask ‘why’,” Walker said. “You can challenge research that way, and become more equipped by constantly finding more useful insights out of the data.”

Walker continued, “Strategic planning is all about connecting the dots and bringing everything together. Everybody has an opinion, but you can inspire effective creative in ways that encapsulates everybody’s thoughts if done the right way.”

Life in the agency

The culture in an agency is very different from that of your “average corporate America role,” but Walker states that the fast-paced atmosphere never allows for a dull moment.

“Advertising, as a whole, is an industry that is easy going,” Walker, said. “My favorite thing about working at Campbell Ewald is how highly collaborative it is. The agency is one of the few that promotes an open architecture (which) helps inspire us all, no matter the department.”

Everybody brings their own personal story and skillset to the workplace, too, according to Walker, which makes it a special place to be and create.

“Diversity is important in this industry. (Campbell Ewald is) actively improving the ways that we educate each other about our differences and how they make us who we are,” he said. “I think a lot of the effective work that our agency has created (i.e. the recent Find Your Words campaign for Kaiser Permanente) has been mindful of different cultural tensions, because ultimately we want to compete with culture, not advertising.”

Advice for the aspiring

Just like many students toward the end of their college careers, Walker felt lost in terms of how to approach finding where he belonged in the advertising industry. Based on his experiences, he has a couple of useful tips for students that are about to graduate.

“I can attest that MSU has the best advertising department. It is both robust and challenging, which will teach and prepare you for all aspects of this industry,” said Walker. “The courses are there to help you find your way, but you must be resourceful.”

Walker states that it is up to the student to define their future.

“It’s your job to be proactive enough to talk to your professors on a personal level, because you are part of a network where Spartans are literally all over the world. If you learn how to be resourceful and proactive at such a young age in college, that persistence is only going to help you build life-long useful connections.”

For more information about Campbell Ewald and the work they do, visit here.

By Emmy Virkus

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Field Experience program gives students a glimpse at life in the Big City

Posted on: January 11, 2017

By Emmy Virkus, Senior AD+PR Major

Just a couple of days after Michigan State University released students for winter break, I had an amazing opportunity to travel to the Windy City with 38 other students and two faculty members. During this experience with ADV 402, a field experience course offered at ComArtSci, we visited several companies in the advertising and public relations field. We were able to make connections with MSU alumni and gain a firm grasp on how the communications industry thrives in Chicago.

c0n2nfoviaesj-k-jpg-largeMy study away trip was insightful, reassuring and most importantly, fun! Each student was assigned to their own itinerary for the week, which included a list of companies and times that we had to report to each one. While our faculty leaders John Besley and Andy Corner were there to make sure things ran smoothly, each student was primarily responsible for their own transportation to each site, living arrangements, food and free time, which we all made sure to take great advantage of.

Our group visited a total of 22 companies in a span of four days. Students were given the option to arrive in Chicago a day early to explore and prepare for a non-required visit Monday morning at the top public relations firm in the United States, Edelman. For me, this addition to the trip was extra exciting because I plan to build a career in Public Relations. As a bonus, Edelman has been on my radar as a potential place to work for quite some time. Some of my best friends came on the trip as well, so we took an early train in on Sunday morning and had a free day to walk around, eat some Lou Malnati’s pizza (yum) and soak in the city lights before our busy week.

A common message that a lot of these companies told us was that a company’s collaborative, fun culture is the key to success. Going by the “work hard, play hard” motto, employers stressed how important it is to consider your co-workers as family and friends, and maintaining close relationships with them outside of the office. One of my favorite takeaways from this trip was hearing the stories from MSU alumni about how they got to where they are today. As some students have already started to hit the panic button because they haven’t found a job yet, these employers made sure to emphasize how success will find its way if we stay persistent, confident and true to our values.

c0ssjfguuaaxuiq-jpg-largeOn Tuesday night, we had a student and alumni mixer set up for us at a restaurant called BlackFinn. Since going to each company consisted of group tours and soaking in a lot of information, it was difficult to stand out and talk to employers one-on-one. This was a great chance to be more personal with the alumni, exchange business cards and ask last-minute questions about their work. It was a great way to relieve stress while getting to know everybody on a personal and professional level and my favorite portion of our week.

This was my second field experience trip with ADV 402 (first being in Los Angeles), and I strongly encourage all students to take advantage of these special opportunities. To gain perspective from a wide range of professionals, while building connections at the same time, isn’t something you get in the classroom. My eyes have been opened on these trips because now I know what I want to do, what I don’t want to do, where I want to live and I have a great list of contacts to help me along the way.

Thank you to #ComArtSci, our alumni and our universal Spartan Network!

A full list of companies visited:

Edelman, Starcom, Burson-Marsteller, H+K, Leo Burnett, MSL Group, Zocalo Group, Ketchum, Zeno Group, Mosaic, Jascula Terman, Groupon, Intersport, Current Marketing, Finn Partners, Weber Shandwick, Ogilvy, Big Ten Network, Walker Sands, Fishman Public Relations, Time Inc. and Henson Consulting.

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New CSD M.A. Program Director brings inspiration to continue department success

Posted on: December 9, 2016

There are certain moments in life that lead professionals to where they are today in the workforce. Sometimes, these moments can even have such an impact that may personally affect people on a deep and emotional level. With hard work, dedication, and a competitive drive - Spartans WILL find a way to enrich the lives of others by using their knowledge and capabilities they have developed from their own expescreen-shot-2016-12-09-at-1-16-56-pmriences.

While he completed his undergrad at the University of Michigan, new Professor of Practice and Director of the Communicative Sciences and Disorders (CSD) Master of Arts Program Matt Phillips has done just that.

“I am a person who stutters,” said Phillips. “While I now experience a great deal of
fluency, I have spent a vast majority of my life managing – or hiding – my disfluent speech minute-by-minute, every day. I have a personal understanding of the impact of a communication disorder, but I also have an appreciation for what the field of speech-language pathology can do to change someone’s life. Having received such a gift is what inspired me to pursue this career.”

Where it all began

Phillips attended the University of Michigan from 1987-1991 where he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology. Through his studies, he developed an understanding of not only neurobiology, but also of human behavior – two things that the practice the study of communicative sciences and disorders requires expertise in.

“We (as speech-language pathologists) facilitate the development or rehabilitation of neurological function for communication, cognition, and swallowing,” Phillips said. “To be effective in this endeavor, a clinician needs to relate to the client (and family) on a personal level. I will also add that my experience at University of Michigan expanded my understanding of the world and my own place in it.”

Phillips continued. “Our field emphasizes evidence-based practice, which merges evidence from current research with the client’s strengths and needs, as well as the clinician’s expertise and context. As a Professor of Practice I am asked to bring the experiences of my own clinical work in evidence-based practice to classroom instruction.”

Discovering his inspiration 

CSD students are typically attracted to the field through a compassionate desire to help others. Since this path is intense and competitive, it is crucial for students to have the academic ability as well as the appropriate personal traits such as critical thinking, perseverance, teamwork, service, and communication strategies that will help them succeed. Phillips’ favorite part of the job is the opportunity to work with students in CSD and help them reach that level.

“CSD students are both intelligent and well-rounded individuals. It is an absolute pleasure to work with students of this quality on a daily basis,” he said.

Future objectives and goals 

Faculty from the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders are internationally-recognized as scholars and researchers of the highest caliber. Additionally, the students’ success showcases the program’s value and their ability to use what they’ve learned to make a positive impact. Phillips claims that he wants to sustain the strong momentum and build upon that reputation.

“Our graduates continue to make a difference in the lives of those they serve and I hope to further develop the curriculum, develop evidence-based models of clinical supervision, and expand the diversity of our students and the cultural responsiveness of our training program.” said Phillips.

If you’re interested in the CSD graduate program, or want further information about the study, click here.

By Emmy Virkus





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Warm and Sunny East Lansing

Posted on: December 8, 2016

Fake news is, well, much in the news these days so consider this post to be our department's contribution to the new milieu.

It is remarkable how people consistently find a way to use communication media and other types of innovations in new and unanticipated ways. We see this often in organizational communication studies, in the blossoming field of social media research and of course front and center in anecdotal and journalistic reports of human behavior. The tendency of people not to adopt and use innovations as intended by the designers of innovations plays out across settings and contexts of all types. Call it what you like: Reinvention, adaptation, user creativity, decentralization. Individuals have their own motivations and purposes-uses & gratifications-for new technologies, programs, practices and knowledge that others have communicated to them.

Changes in social media environments and the collectivities that comprise the groups and crowds that inhabit them are grist for the mill of academic research. A number of our graduate students and faculty use the social media ecosystem as the basis for their work. And accelerating rates of change in this ecosystem pushes us to find faster ways to conduct studies before the landscape shifts from under one's feet. Having a sense of what's next in social media and consumer use of communication technology is part of what's great about having undergraduate students with us at Michigan State. Their behavior (and the behavior of their little sisters and brothers) and the ways that they learn to critically assess their behavior and that of their friends and family helps the rest of us to know what to study.
There are constants, of course. The magnetic personality, the persuasive speaker, the opinion leader, and the maven seem to operate across new and old contexts of communication. But the dissemination of information and thus the acceleration of change have become sudden and sometimes, dramatic in both rate of change and outcomes.

If you want to study the future, study communication.

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