Inspirational media can be defined as that which orients users toward matters beyond themselves that are more important than typical concerns and which prompts in users a need to express related positive thoughts and to display related prosocial behaviors. In such situations, inspiration is triggered by the emotional reactions we experience toward particular portrayals in the content, specifically portrayals that elicit the emotions of awe, elevation, admiration, gratitude, and hope.
Most of us have experienced those feelings while reading or watching media. In fact, you can probably name a movie or a website that made you feel those ways. But, to date, no one has systematically examined media content to understand which “particular portrayals” inspire. One major element of our three-year research project is to do just that.
To that end, we are conducting a series of studies that seek to quantify the inspiring content in television shows, films, YouTube videos, frequently shared news stories, and social media posts. Our goal is to answer a set of broad research questions, including:
- What forms of print and electronic media content inspire?
- Where and how are such messages encountered and shared?
- How are emerging and social media technologies being used to create, produce, and distribute inspirational messages?
- What are the characteristics of inspirational media messages that “go viral”?