Theses and Dissertations - Department of Interdisciplinary Studies

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    An interdisciplinary artistic inquiry within the performative paradigm
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2017) Upshaw, Allison; Sekeres, Diane C.; Shwery, Craig S.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    The three articles in this dissertation reveal and explore how the arts have and can be used in the academy for research purposes. The Arts-Based Research (ABR) strand probes disciplinary specialties, the performing artist strand locates the researcher, and the interdisciplinarity strand binds conceptual frameworks into a braid that knowingly continues to strengthen itself for other uses. We begin by learning about the ways in which other researchers have employed arts-based methods in a variety of disciplinary research projects. Next, we look at the ways in which the arts can be used in teacher training programs, and finally a practical investigation of how different artistic practices can reveal understanding not available through standard inquiry methods. Set in an imaginary television studio with the researcher as host, the first article introduces the audience to Dance, Drama, Music, and Visual Art as they speak about various roles they have played in academic research. Guests introduce themselves by giving a little background on a few of the ways they have been recognized and utilized in ABR projects. The format of the show is very relaxed with the guests feeling free to ask the hosts questions about her own role in ABR projects. The second article creatively (re)presents a case study of 20 preservice teachers exploring the use of dance as an instructional strategy for classroom teachers. The article is based on information collected from participant and researcher journal entries, field memos, and discussions. Scattered throughout are examples of data collection designed to draw the reading audience into the research process, while strands of aesthetic meaning-making, teaching artistry, and critical performance autoethnography are braided throughout the article in order to reflect, analyze, and embody the resulting narrative. The final article of this trilogy layers the use of drama, music, dance, and visual spectacle in an effort to uncover understandings that cannot be determined through traditional scientific procedures. Selected data from the second article is used as the foundation for a multilayered artistic investigation. Unlike the other articles, which display single strand connections to each interdisciplinary set, this article is a reflection of the totality of those groups. This article incorporates the interdisciplinary, critical performative autoethnography, and performative paradigms, which I have detailed as the conceptual frameworks through which I move. It displays the disciplinary specialties of my degree: aesthetic meaning-making, performance, and arts-based research methods; finally, it incorporates my location as artist, researcher, and teacher.
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    The journey of antisemitism: how hate is translated to perpetrator behavior
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2017) Colburn, Kimberly; Jacobs, Steven L.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    This research takes on the imposing task of discovering the roots of perpetrator violence against the Jewish people within the context of the Holocaust that took place during World War II. By taking an interdisciplinary approach to the consideration of, among other things, the role of Christianity in the persecution of Jews, this research aims to pull together the work of multiple experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, theology, and history in order to garner a fuller understanding of how ordinary people might commit atrocities. While authorities on multiple subjects are considered, this is also a work of original research aimed at finding the commonalities and thematic strains that might exist among those who were, in fact, perpetrators of violence. This research examines the ways in which hate is translated to perpetrator behavior. It analyzes religion, ideology, and nationalism as forms of indoctrination of antisemitic violence in the ordinary person turned concentration camp guard. It follows the stories of 100 men and women who enacted violence against Jews during the years of 1938-1945.
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    Advanced analytical tools for geomagnetic storm prediction: ensembles and their insights
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2017) Larkin, Taylor; McManus, Denise J.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    With the prevalence of technology found in modern society, the potential impact from strong geomagnetic storms cannot be underestimated. The primary drivers of these storms, coronal mass ejections (CMEs), are large explosions of solar material that are capable of being Earthward directed. Their effects have been well-studied in the literature, primarily by astrophysicists and others concerned with space weather. Because of the opportunity to obtain data about these phenomena, many studies have been done that build empirical models to predict if an impending CME will cause a strong geomagnetic disturbance. Two main types of data are typically used: data collected at the Sun and right before a CME's arrival to Earth. The former results in more timely predictions but less accuracy while the latter delivers better model performance but leaves much less time to prepare on Earth. Adequately dealing with this trade-off is still a growing area of research. In addition, creating and implementing advanced ensemble models for prediction and inference tasks based on machine and statistical learning theory have been lacking. Hence, this dissertation focuses on positing such models as well as present solutions for the trade-off problem. The first work presents a new ensemble model based on random forests (RFs) to classify geoeffective CMEs using both types of data. This approach not only makes competitive predictions but also provides a reliable way to investigate the importance of the predictor variables (or features). The second work establishes a two-stage meta-learning framework that uses the first type of data in the first stage and both types in the second. The postulated method focuses on the trade-off problem, which is not addressed in the first work. The third work seeks to improve initial CME classification by incorporating CME image data. These images are introduced into a convolutional neural network (CNN) to create a set of deep learning features that increase the predictive power of models that only use the first type of data. While the domain is specific to geomagnetic storm prediction, the methods proposed can be applied to a variety of prediction problems in other fields.
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    Making sense of safety
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2016) Huey, Marcy Rayburn; Meares, Mary M.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    The increased calls for an improved academic safety culture currently being issued by regulatory organizations outlines a very prescriptive approach to addressing safety in colleges and universities. This study focused on how academic researchers made sense of and responded to the safety programs that have been instituted by their organizations. The focus was on scientific researchers who have active research laboratories. The data was collected using semi-structured interviews and analyzed with grounded theory. The results indicated that these researchers grounded their understanding of safety and of institutional safety programs in their professional identity, developed during their own educational and early professional experiences. Further study is warranted to determine if these findings are indicative of these scientific fields across the country. This data suggested that prescriptive compliance requirements regarding safety activities would not be easily accepted by these groups if they were not consistent with this identity. While they were not overtly noncompliant, they did resist institutional safety requirements placed on them that were not in line with the social norms of their professional group. These results could lead to an altered approach towards addressing safety concerns at colleges and universities.
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    The Jewish lived experience in Cuba
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2016) Franklin, Dorothy Duggar; Adams, Natalie G.; McKnight, Utz Lars; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    This research utilized an interdisciplinary qualitative approach to inquiry that requires border-crossing as its methodology for discovery in order to fully understand the lived experience of the Jews of Cuba. The study included a deep read of the Jewish Diaspora with a starting point being 597 BCE, then followed thousands of years of waves and world-wide movements, eventually leading to those Jews who settled in Cuba. For access into the lives of the present-day Jews, interviews with four participants who represented a cross-section of the Cuban Hebrew community were conducted; visits to the synagogues and to the kosher butcher shop were made; and many trips to the Ashkenazi and the Sephardic cemeteries in Guanabacoa, Cuba, were also made in order to take photographs and personally visit the sites. The four respondents interviewed were English speakers, were over 20-years old, and were citizens of Cuba. They were asked identical questions via e-mail with follow-up correspondence. For other narrative resources, 19 unpublished recorded stories were transcribed and included in the study to gain further access into the lives of Cuba’s Jewish population. To complete the inquiry, one published narrative was used to show parallels between those who were interviewed, as well as to show the similarities to those voices from the unpublished group. The end research result finds that today’s Cuban Jews, whose rich historical past on the island began as early as 1492, have survived despite all odds, and thrive with their traditions and laws intact. This research covered a period of 4 years—and four separate trips to Cuba.
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    Space and consequences: the influence of learning spaces on student development and communication
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2015) Parsons, Caroline Sue; Holley, Karri A.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Learning spaces can provide a site for social change by influencing student development and communication in colleges and universities. During a time when teaching, learning, and technology is changing rapidly, researchers and practitioners are addressing the need for learning spaces that promote student development in a modern university setting. From a social constructionist standpoint, this study sought to explore how the design of learning spaces influences three outcomes of student development and communication: 1) student dialogue and community building, 2) interactive learning, and 3) socialization into future professions. McArthur's (2011) paradigm of user-experience of instructional space was utilized to assess the influence of physical and virtual space on these three outcomes. Qualitative analysis of the learning spaces in a liberal arts undergraduate initiative, which employs the use of roundtable classrooms and minimal technology, was conducted. Collection and analysis of interviews and focus group data from students and faculty in the program, in addition to classroom observations, field notes, photographs, sketches, and historical documents, resulted in the finding that the low-tech roundtable classroom not only employed user-design experience principles, but also empowered students to spark their own dialogue, interactive learning, and socialization. While this study found support for the idea that virtual learning spaces can positively influence student development and communication, findings suggest that in-class use of technology can hinder dialogue and learning. Classroom dialogue followed a consistent pattern of socializing intellectual talk, resulting in a typology of instructor follow-up statements.
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    Examining the impact of perceived and internalized hiv stigmas on HIV-related civic engagement
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2014) Kirkpatrick, Billy Daniel; Johnson, Diane E.; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    As the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to impact the American South, funding, services, and outreach for those affected by the disease is at a premium. Effective advocacy is critical not only to support people living with HIV/AIDS but also to prevent infections. Those living with HIV/AIDS provide powerful advocacy, unmatched by others. However, HIV stigma, which impacts various aspects of the lives of those living with HIV, can also have a negative impact on the willingness of this population to advocate on issues related to HIV. Those who benefit from this funding and services are often clients of AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) and, in addition to stigma, these individuals face issues of race, poverty, rural-ness, and the like. Literature has often treated stigma as a singular element, not differentiating between the unique manifestations of perceived and internalized HIV stigmas. For this study, it was hypothesized that both perceived and internalized stigmas would negatively impact HIV-related civic engagement, and that the impact of internalized stigma would be stronger than that of perceived. Further, it was predicted that self-efficacy, along with various demographic variables, would moderate these relationships. Clients of 9 ASOs in Alabama were surveyed. Findings revealed no relationship between perceived stigma and civic engagement, however, a significant negative relationship was evident between internalized stigma and civic engagement. Among the moderators, levels of employment and income provided significant effects. Findings indicate that ASOs could possibly increase HIV-related civic engagement among clients by providing programs designed to reduce internalized stigma and by offering opportunities to engage that are not hindered by factors relating to lacking income or employment.
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    The Ethiopian income tax system: policy, design and practice
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2013) Gemechu, Taddese Lencho; Bryce, James; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    Ethiopia used income taxes as one of the principal sources of domestic government revenue since the beginning of modern taxation in the 1940s. The Ethiopian income tax system is "schedular" in structure and orientation, the computation, assessment and collection of income taxes based on some identified sources of income, like income from employment, income from rental of property and income from business. The basic aim of this dissertation is to turn a critical attention to the design and structure of the income tax schedules and test whether the schedules, as they are currently designed, are adequate instruments for achieving the fundamental tax policy goals of Ethiopia. The dissertation uses the four schedules (identified by alphabets "A," "B," "C" and "D") of the "main" income tax system of Ethiopia to test whether the schedular design of the Ethiopian income tax system is adequate for achieving the fundamental aims of equity and administrability. The main finding of the dissertation is that the existing income tax schedules are riddled with a number of gaps as to make them inadequate instruments of the fundamental goals of tax equity and administrability. The basic principles of both horizontal and vertical equity are often observed in their breach both in the income tax laws of and the practice of income taxation in Ethiopia. Drawing upon the numerous cases of discrimination among different categories of taxpayers and sources of income, the dissertation calls for a serious rethinking of the schedular income tax system of Ethiopia. In rethinking the schedular income tax structure of the Ethiopian income tax system, the dissertation recommends two pathways of income tax reform for Ethiopia: the internal reorganization of the income tax system of Ethiopia, which maintains the schedular orientation of the income tax system but requires "internal" changes on a number of levels; and the complete overhaul of the schedular income tax system in light of the alternative models of income taxation developed both in the theoretical literature and the practice of income taxation in both developed and developing income tax systems of the world.
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    How can I pay this bill?: the role of social influence in compliance with medical bill payment
    (University of Alabama Libraries, 2013) Cybulsky, Matthew Paul Michael; Guadagno, Rosanna E.; Hornsby, Joseph Allen; University of Alabama Tuscaloosa
    In two pilot studies, and two full studies, I examined the use of two social influence tactics: 1) normative cues and 2) default option messaging in billing correspondence and its effect on patient compliance with medical bill payment. In the two main studies following my two pilot studies, I integrated social influence theory and behavioral economics to extend my findings and add to the literature on social influence and consumer behavior patterns in healthcare markets as it relates to behavioral economics. With respect to social influence, I utilized Cialdini's (2009) principles of social influence (authority, social validation, commitment, etc.) and the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM; Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) as my theoretical framework. The ELM posits that persuasive messages are processed by one of two routes: central or peripheral. Central processing occurs when an individual is thinking carefully about a persuasive message and considering the merit of the persuasive argument. This takes more cognitive energy and resulting changes in attitudes tend to be longer lasting. When a persuasive message is processed peripherally, individuals are paying more attention to cues accompanying the message such as: attractiveness of the influence agent and quantity of the arguments. Furthermore, an individual's own ability or motivation to engage in cognitive processing also affects which route people use to process social influence appeals. Social influence and behavioral economics, are both used as the theoretical framework for the four studies reported in this Dissertation.. In my first pilot study, I hypothesized normative cues would increase the number of payments from healthcare consumers by suggesting the use of available cash from Federal tax refunds (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). To examine this, the first pilot study used a correspondence letter utilizing a normative cue containing social validation information that stated: "Many people plan on using this year's tax refund to pay their bill. You may want to consider doing the same." Half the subjects - those in the experimental condition -- received the manipulation in a letter that arrived eight days before the actual invoice. All participants received the invoice without a normative cue. Results indicated that, experimental subjects were significantly more likely to pay relative to control subjects. In the second pilot study, experimental participants received the same manipulation as an invoice. Again, results indicated that experimental subjects were significantly more likely to pay relative to control subjects. These results suggested normative information can increase patient-consumers' compliance with medical bill payment and led to the design of two follow up studies that examined different cues and patient-consumer information (Study 1) as additional variables. Thus, our first main study (Study 1) used normative cues suggesting patient-consumers make payments that varied by experimental condition. As with the pilot studies, the following three normative cues were used on invoice letters: "Most patients in your situation make a first time payment around $115.00. Consider making a similar payment";"23% of patients receiving this letter pay within two weeks"; and "Most patients in your situation make a first time payment within two weeks. You may want to consider doing the same". Our results revealed that patient-consumers complied more with payment in experimental conditions more often versus control, although there were also significant differences between the experimental groups with the 23% group paying less that the other experimental groups. This is likely because this manipulation provided negative normative feedback that less than ¼ of people like them complied with the payment request. The second full study (Study 2) utilized default options - a manipulation typically seen in behavioral economics studies (Beshears et. al, 2009). I expected to conceptually replicate the default effect reported in clinical research (Lowenstein, 20007; Halpern, 2007) and replicating the finding of the three previous studies. In this study, two correspondence letters sent to patients included either an opt-in or a control message for payment plan enrollment. In order to ease the medical debt burden and make payments more manageable, I predicted the opt-in enrollment for payment plans to increase patient-consumer compliance for accounts paid and/or enrollment in payment plans. Unfortunately, preliminary analyses indicated that the data were not properly randomized, but did yield outcomes consistent with previous studies, and inconsistent with the randomization failure, indicating the opt-in letter increased compliance of payment versus control. Overall, these studies provide new knowledge about ways to help consumers reduce medical debt by increasing their compliance regarding medical bills (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979; Hastie & Dawes, 2001; Thaler, 2004).