Dr. Traci Carte is an award-winning researcher and teacher who joined CAST as the Director of the School of Information Technology over a year ago. Carte earned her Ph.D. in Information Systems (IS) from the University of Georgia, spent 15 years as a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma, and served as the chair of the IS department at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

She was originally attracted to Illinois State because of the School of IT’s collaborative structure. She said, “What the school of IT does that is so unique and exciting is that it puts very technically competent faculty and students in CS under the same roof and in the same classes with IS majors who provide a behavioral perspective… this interaction between the more technical and more behavioral sides can produce really exciting outcomes.”

As an expert in the area of computer-mediated communication, Carte took some time to answer questions about her most recent research on using communication technology to manage negative emotions:

Can you tell us a little bit about the recent research you conducted?

“The title of the paper is Negativity Decontamination: Communication Media Affordances for Emotion Regulation Strategies. We went into a helpdesk environment at a company in Oklahoma and did multiple rounds of interviews with those helpdesk employees to talk about how they use technology to manage emotion. Helpdesk employees are a target of negativity all the time—they are constantly dealing with people who are not happy. There is a lot of turnover in helpdesks because of that emotional baggage that comes with the work. So, when people stay in that position, they do so because they’ve figured out how to manage that negativity. That’s the notion of negativity decontaminating. We went through a series of activities that these helpdesk employees engage in to either stop the negativity from coming in or figure out how to process it as quickly as possible.”

What kinds of practical implications or use might the results of your research have?

“So if we aren’t helpdesk employees, how might this help us? We found some basic things that were done with email to deal with emotions, that can apply to people in any field. For example, you might delete an email immediately after reading it if it evokes a negative response. Holding onto it and rereading it will simply help you hold onto those negative feelings, escalate them, and maybe even cause you to share that negativity with coworkers.”

How might this research be generalized or used in other academic settings?

“A fundamental and relatively new theory in information systems that we were exploring is called media affordances. That’s the notion that when technology is developed, there is an intentional use attached to it based on the idea of the developer. That intention affords people certain things that they can do with the technology to achieve a goal. The affordance literature in what we’ve done here can be applied to other technologies and contexts with different goals—things like social media or virtual teams.

I would hope that the average person, maybe a non-IS researcher (other students, faculty, staff) reading this study would understand that we use technology all the time. The better we get at intentional use, the better we are as a user.

Right now, in the time of COVID-19, I’ve been doing a lot of presentations to students about how to use technology as part of class teams, and how to become more intentional in their use of communication technology.”

Upcoming: Carte’s upcoming paper that has been accepted for publication highlights the idea of conflict asymmetry, with a focus on teams and groups of people using technology to collaborate.

To learn more about Carte’s work, or different majors within the School of Information Technology, check out the department’s website.