The Provost’s Research Awards supports individual or collective research projects that contribute significantly to the growth of the university’s research portfolio. This year, a relatively small research team composed of Barbara Millet, Juan Chattah, and Soyeon Ahn, received the award to pursue an ambitious research project.

The team’s project, The Congruence-Association Model in Musical Multimedia: New Insights from Eye-Tracking and Facial Expression Capture, explores the effect music has on multimedia experiences. The grant allows the team to embark in studying a topic that, although discussed at length from speculative perspectives, has not attracted sufficient empirical attention. Millet remarked that “by introducing objective data from eye tracking and facial expression capture technologies, we will expand on an established framework for musical multimedia.”

The team members are experts in widely diverse areas of study, bringing their strategic minds to advance in the understanding of very complex phenomena, while learning from each other’s perspectives. Ahn’s expertise is on meta-analysis and statistical modeling; Millet’s expertise is on product design and user experience; and Chattah’s expertise is on film musicology and music composition. Reflecting on the group’s dynamics, Ahn asserted “It’s incredible to see how the same phenomenon can be seen differently when explored from different perspectives.”

While pilot testing and meta-analytic research are underway, the study officially begins in June. Preliminary meta-analytic research serves to “develop a theoretical process model,” according to Millet; meta-analysis combines data and results from multiple studies to gain a broader perspective on the topic.

Proposals for the Provost’s Research Award are evaluated for their scholarly, scientific, and/or creative merit.  This project intersects the social sciences, the humanities, the arts, and involves the use of state-of-the-art technology to gather data. Chattah highlighted that the results of such study will be of great interest to scholars and the industry alike, mentioning that “many different areas are interested in knowing how music affects the multimedia experience, from film scoring, to advertising, to cognitive engineering, and beyond.”

The deadline to apply to each school was Oct. 20, 2017 and the winning research proposals were announced in early March. The award provides “both salary support and support for direct research costs,” according to the UResearch website. The funding period lasts for one year, starting on June 1, 2018 and concluding May 31, 2019.

All three members showed excitement about the prospects of building a long-term professional relationship, mentioning “this award allows us the opportunity to keep working together.” They praised UM and its leadership, for supporting initiatives that break disciplinary silos; they agree “we’re fortunate to be part of an institution that supports interdisciplinary work.”