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University Of South Carolina School Of Journalism And Mass Communications

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Planar LED Video Wall Provides Impressive Medium to Visualize Data

Founded in 1923, the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina is a nationally accredited program and one of the oldest communications schools in the country. The school teaches all types of communication—from time-tested techniques to the unbounded possibilities of digital media. Its mission is to improve and strengthen the societal roles of the professions of journalism and mass communications through teaching, research and service.

In 2019, the school opened its new Social Media Insights Lab, housed in a newly built state-of-the-art facility on campus. The goal of the new lab is to provide students with experience using social media analytics and help them understand how to harness data in their work. The lab uses AI-powered analytics software from Crimson Hexagon, a leading social media analytics platform.

To visualize the AI software and the work being done, the school engaged multimedia solutions company Advanced Video Group to install a nearly 16-foot-long, 7-foot-high Planar® TVF Series LED video wall with a 1.5mm pixel pitch (TVF1.5) in an 8x4 configuration.

Supporting academic initiatives

The Planar TVF Series LED video wall is used in the Social Media Insights Lab to facilitate work in social media analytics and to help communicate findings. “Social media analytics is a growing trend in academia,” said Randy Covington, director of special projects with the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. “We use the lab to support classes and faculty research. We’re also working with other units in the university such as University Communications and the College of Education." While the Social Media Insights Lab is housed in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, it is an initiative of the College of Information and Communication.

Social Media Insights Lab Manager Kaitlyn Park said the lab functions as a resource for students, helping groups learn about social media listening, including how to apply it in their coursework and future careers. “The software can be accessed anywhere, but the lab is really where it comes alive with beautiful, high quality images,” Park said.

A public-facing demonstration facility

The School of Journalism and Mass Communications is also using the lab as a demonstration facility for developing opportunities outside of the academic realm. “It’s intended to be as much outward-facing as inward-facing and a way to generate revenue for our program,” Covington said. “We have projects evolving where students will be working with companies to assist with their social media analytics.”

The goal is to make the lab a profitable initiative, according to Park. “We’ve brought in and conducted presentations for local businesses, agencies and different community groups. The LED video wall is obviously a key component in that.”

As a strategy to initiate outreach, the school has been producing public-facing reports that examine social media data and gauge sentiment about trending topics. “The reports are intended to demonstrate what we’re capable of and how this technology can be used across disciplines,” Park said.

One of the more notable topics the school has been tracking includes public sentiment in South Carolina leading up to the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries. The school has also generated in-depth reports on each of the Democratic presidential candidates, which has attracted media attention.

“Local media have come in to do stories—we have about eight different clips of us looking at graphs on the video wall and discussing the correlations and larger implications of what social data can mean,” Park said.

However, she emphasizes that the data would not carry the same level of impact without a stunning LED video wall to highlight it. “If you want to be cutting-edge, you need a keen visual to display your work,” she said.

During the consulting process for a video wall, Covington and the school emphasized to Advanced Video Group their priority for a visual technology that looked sharp, offered a ‘wow factor’ and would most optimally showcase the significance of the work being done.

“The Planar TVF Series fit all of their requirements,” said Hunter Overton, technical operations manager with Advanced Video Group. “Clarity was very important, and it definitely delivered on that. The video wall is versatile in what it can do and allows a lot of information to be displayed at once. Having the resolution of LED ensures viewers don’t miss any of the details being presented.”

Although LED was a higher investment, Covington said it was money well spent because of the positive feedback.

“The Crimson Hexagon software offers tools for data visualization and the LED video wall allows us to bring in people and conduct real-time presentations in a very impressive way,” he said.

When the school built the lab, a glass wall was put in to maximize viewing into the space. As a result, the lab and the Planar TVF Series LED video wall have become a stop for both School of Journalism and university campus tours.

“We’ve been in operation for a year now and the lab has been spectacularly successful,” Covington said. “Planar has been a part of our success story.”