Kathrin Karsay

Kathrin Karsay
Assistant Professor, School for Mass Communication Research

KU Leuven
Personal Website

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on several projects dealing with questions related to mobile media use in daily life and how it affects us on a societal and individual level.

I want to highlight one project about health influencers on social media, led by Raffael Heiss (MCI Innsbruck). In this project, we will use an original citizen science approach to develop a taxonomy of popular health influencers among children and teens in Austria. By applying a mixed methods design, we will also study the effects of exposure to health influencers on cognitions, attitudes, and behavior among youth. We also have two doctoral students, Sascha Gell and Elena Engel, who started working on this project this summer.

I also have been busy working with Elien Beelen investigating the effectiveness of trigger warnings and the nature and effects of mental health portrayals on social media. Another exciting project is about digital disconnection. Together with Lise-Marie Nassen, I just finished developing a study to investigate why smartphone users change the notification settings of their smartphone and its associations with smartphone use and digital stress.

All the mentioned projects have been developed within the last year since my appointment at KU Leuven, and, thus, I am naturally very enthusiastic about them. I can’t wait to see the first results published.

What has been your most memorable project so far, and why?

It must be a transnational research collaboration on adolescents’ media use. The idea for this study was born at ICA 2016 in Fukuoka; Laura Vandenbosch also mentioned this project in her Spotlight interview. With joint efforts, we collected data from almost 2000 adolescents from Austria, Belgium, Spain, and South Korea. This project encapsulates the essence of what makes the job attractive to me: meeting up with researchers across the globe who are genuinely interested in a topic and creating new insights together.

Which achievement are you most proud of, and why?

Having it made so far in academia – while staying (almost) sane in the process. All kidding aside, I am proud that I have managed to have people trust in my abilities, so they provided me with guidance and mentorship when needed and autonomy and freedom when requested. I aspire to become an equally good mentor as the ones I have.

What is an important question from parents and practitioners that we as academics cannot provide a good answer to yet?

The question is as simple as it is hard: How do media influence us? Witnessing recent methodological, theoretical, and epistemological discussions in our field about how we currently do and did communication research in the past made me question how meaningful our past findings are. Thus, I believe we need to improve the informative value and overall quality of our research to come up with better answers for parents and practitioners. Clearly, not an easy task, which can only be taken step by step.

What would be your work motto?

I don’t have a work motto. However, I believe that diligence and teamwork, topped off with a pinch of pragmatism has been a mix that has worked for me so far.

Which of your publications is your favorite, and why?

Probably the key publication of my doctoral dissertation, a meta-analysis on sexualizing media use and self-objectification. At the time, we saw a staggering amount of empirical evidence on the topic, yet no synthesis. Since I had been reading all these studies anyways, it made sense to properly analyze them. I liked the study findings, I still know all studies included, and learned a lot about meta-analysis. Unfortunately, I haven’t done another meta-analysis since then. However, if the opportunity arises, I would love to do a meta-analysis again.

If you had unlimited resources, what kind of project would you want to do and why?

It frustrates me to be so aware of all the methodological limitations we face in our daily research. Thus, I would like to do a project that I would affectionally call the “ultimate linkage study.” This project would link content analytical data with survey data, log data, and physiological data – across cohorts and cultures. All of it to understand how and when certain levels of digital media use and content affect us as individuals. Nothing easier than that, right?

If you had to give one piece of advice to young CAM scholars, what would it be?

Stop overcompensating by excessive work hours or taking on an endless number of projects or tasks. Instead, establish work routines that are sustainable for you. Focus on the positive sides (in my opinion): getting creative and creating knowledge, being surrounded by smart people with high intrinsic motivation, and being part of a community across the globe.

Who would you like to put in the spotlight next, and why?

Anne-Linda Camerini. Anne is always busy working on innovative topics with sophisticated approaches for data collection and analysis. On top of that, she is an extremely loyal colleague I enjoy working with—or occasionally strolling the streets of Paris together. I like her critical mindset, and I find her research genuinely inspiring! I believe CAMmers would feel equally reading about her latest projects and her answers to this set of questions.