- My research, conducted largely within the Social and Psychological Approaches to Research on Technology-Interaction Effects (SPARTIE) Lab, examines how media technologies (like virtual worlds, video games, and avatars) influence meaningful outcomes (like learning, health, and well-being).
- I teach a range of classes, from large intro lectures on media history & research to smaller courses on niche topics (e.g., Understanding Virtual Reality; Avatar Psychology). I started teaching in VR in early 2022, which my students resoundingly prefer over traditional online teaching methods (e.g., video calls).
- My outreach aims to bring public awareness to the lab’s topics and centers around SPARTIE-Cast, through which we produce podcast episodes and short-form (e.g., tiktok) edutainment videos, as well as written op-eds (e.g., on the metaverse and money) and media interviews (e.g., for Marketplace on NPR).
- I serve as a consultant and speaker on the social and psychological implications of new media technologies (e.g., the metaverse, avatars, agents/AI, augmented/virtual/mixed reality).
- I love my work, but I also love to play (games, sports, music), especially with my awesome kiddos.
Rabindra (Robby) Ratan (PhD, University of Southern California; MA/BA, Stanford University) is Associate Professor Director of the SPARTIE Lab at Michigan State University (CV). He has received over $2M in research grant funding and published over 60 peer-reviewed articles from his ~2 decades of psychological and social research on avatars, agents/AI, virtual reality, online games, and virtual worlds—the bedrock technologies of the metaverse. Dr. Ratan has received multiple teaching awards and teaches his remote classes using virtual reality platforms. He also engages in public outreach as an expert interviewee (e.g., for Marketplace on NPR, the Washington Post, the Canadian Broadcasting Company) and op-ed author (e.g., for TheConversation.com, Wired), and serves as an expert consultant and invited speaker on issues of the metaverse and future media technology.
Rabindra (Robby) Ratan (CV) is an Associate Professor and AT&T Scholar at Michigan State University’s Department of Media and Information as well as Director of the Social and Psychological Approaches to Research on Technology-Interaction Effects (SPARTIE) Lab. He is also an affiliated faculty member of the MSU Department of Psychology, the MSU College of Education’s program in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology, and the MSU Center for Gender in a Global Context. Ratan received his Ph.D. from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, his M.A. in Communication from Stanford University, and his B.A. in Science, Technology and Society, also from Stanford University.
Dr. Ratan conducts research on the effects of human-technology interaction, focusing on how media technologies (e.g., avatars, agents) influence meaningful outcomes (e.g., equity, inclusion, motivation) across societal contexts (e.g., education, health, business). He is particularly interested in the Proteus effect (i.e., avatar characteristics influencing user behaviors), artificial social agents, virtual meetings, the metaverse, and toxicity in online gaming. Examples of current and recent research questions include: 1) In what ways can avatars and virtual worlds be harnessed to improve performance and motivation in education, health, and business activities? 2) How can virtual meeting platforms better support well-being and social equity? 3) Who will populate the metaverse and what will they do? 4) How can social interactions with transportation technologies (e.g., autonomous vehicles, escooters, etc.) be designed to improve user trust, safety, and adoption? 5) To what extent are gender stereotypes in the video game context responsible for gender disparity in STEM fields and how can video games/avatars better combat stereotype threat?
Dr. Ratan has authored over 60 peer-reviewed articles in publication venues such as Media Psychology, the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Communication Research, Computers in Human Behavior, Games and Culture, New Media & Society, Computers & Education, the International Journal of Communication, and SIGCHI. He has received over $2M in grant funding from the National Science Foundation, the Superior Health Foundation, non-profit organizations, and technology companies, such as Spin Mobility (Ford Motor Company) and Techsmith, Inc. He has received multiple teaching awards, including the 2017 MSU Teacher-Scholar Award and the 2023 and 2015 MSU AT&T Instructional Technology Award, he was a 2014-2015 MSU Lilly Teaching Fellow, and he adopts an inclusive and non-traditional approach to teaching (e.g., academic raps, skateboard in class, teaching philosophy). He also started teaching in Virtual Reality in 2022, which his students resoundingly prefer over traditional online teaching methods. He has held leadership roles in his field (e.g., the International Communication Association), helped organize global conferences (e.g., Meaningful Play), and has conducted peer reviews for over 40 academic journals and proceedings. He has hosted over 30 episodes of SpartieCast, his lab’s podcast, written opinion pieces for Wired Magazine and TheConversation.com, and has been interviewed as an expert on media technologies in news outlets such as National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and the Washington Post.
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