New Book: Disability Rights Advocacy Online – Out now!

I’m excited to announce that my book “Disability Rights Advocacy Online: Voice, Empowerment and Global Connectivity” was released in October 2016. Both hard back and e-book versions are available from the Routledge website, as well as on Amazon and other online vendors (where it’s cheaper!).

Book Cover_2

Book cover: Disability Rights Advocacy Online

This book charts the recent digitalization of disability rights advocacy in the U.K. and the U.S., and discusses the implications of this transformation for disabled citizens and other traditionally under-represented groups. In just a few short years, disability rights groups have gone from using the Internet much less than other advocacy organizations to pioneering new uses of social media to foster a deep sense of agency and unify a very diverse community. To read a full book synopsis, click here.

Workshop at the University of Melbourne: Political Action in the Digital Age

I am delighted to join colleagues from across Australia and the U.S. at a workshop on Political Action in the Digital Age organized by the Pop Politics Aus group at the University of Melbourne on June 29-30. My presentation is titled “When in Shock, Turn to the Internet,” and discusses the virtual response from the American disability community to the election of Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. President.

This is the first of three events at which I will speak during a brief visit to Australia over the next few days to connect with leading researchers in the fields of disability and technology, as well as online politics at the Universities of Sydney and Newcastle. I will publish more details about the other events in the next few days.

At the U.N. for COSP10 with IDPP

COSP10

This week I am in New York to participate in the historic 10th Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations’ Headquarters. The biggest disability rights conference in the world, COSP brings together all the countries that signed the CRPD, U.N. agencies, and civil society organizations for a series of talks on the advancement of disability rights
around the globe.

The Institute on Disability and Public Policy at American University has organized three side-events during COSP and co-sponsors two more. I am moderating the three IDPP events and sharing some of the latest IDPP research on Accessible Global Governance together with IDPP Executive Director Dr. Derrick Cogburn. To know more about IDPP’s side-events and the program for the week, click here.

New Article in Public Relations Inquiry: ‘Crowd-Sourced Advocacy: Promoting Disability Rights Through Online Storytelling’

pria_6_2.coverI am thrilled to share the publication of a new single-authored article in the journal Public Relations Inquiry. The article, titled “Crowd-Sourced Advocacy: Promoting Disability Rights Through Online Storytelling,” examines the emergent promotional tactic of creating protest counter-narratives by aggregating personal stories collected from supporters of online disability rights networks. The content, potential efficacy, and implications for those involved are reviewed. This article is part of a special issue on promotional cultures and PR that includes research presented at the “Powers of Promotion” 2016 ICA Pre-conference in Tokyo. To access the full article, click here.

Abstract:

This article sheds light on the emergent advocacy technique of building policy counter-narratives by crowd-sourcing, organizing, and disseminating personal life stories online. Focusing on the case of disability rights groups in the United Kingdom, this article uses qualitative in-depth content analysis to examine 107 blog posts containing personal disability stories published in 2012–2013 by two anti-austerity groups. Although each of these groups managed its blogs differently, with one carefully curating stories and the other publishing crowd-sourced narratives without any form of editing, they generated virtually identical counter-narratives. These accounts challenged the dominant news narrative that presented disability welfare claimants as ‘cheats’ and ‘scroungers’. They did so by retaining the overarching structure of the dominant narrative – which functioned as the de facto coordinating mechanism for the crowd-sourced counter-narrative – and replacing its content with three alternative arguments drawn from personal life stories. The implications of this new advocacy technique for disabled people and other marginalized groups are discussed. This includes considerations about the development of a form of story-based advocacy that is both effective and respectful of the people who ‘lend’ their lived experiences for advocacy purposes. This article concludes by highlighting the need for research to investigate whether the new voices that emerge through these processes are ‘being heard’ and can successfully re-frame public discourse about sensitive policy issues.

Media Justice at the 2017 ICA Conference, May 25th

I am excited to present a paper on “Crowd-sourced Disability Storytelling, Mobilization and the Problem of Being Heard” at this year’s ICA pre-conference on Media Justice: Race, Borders, Disability and Data. This event brings together international scholars, activists and policy practitioners to discuss the role of media in the emergence and/or repression of new voices and the representation of minorities. A detailed program is available here.

Media Justice will take place at the Sherman Heights Community Center, 2258 Island Avenue, San Diego on Thursday May 25th between 9:00am – 5:00pm.

There is no cost to participate in this event but registration is essential. To register, click here.

UMD Disability Summit 2017 Presentations

This Friday (April 21st) I will participate in the University of Maryland Disability Summit for the first time. I look forward to this event that brings together researchers, disability rights advocates and inclusion champions in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and from across the nation. A full program for the day is available here.

Together with colleagues from the AU Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) I will be presenting on several disability grassroots advocacy topics, including:

  • Virtual disability protest under the Trump administration (10:00am, Colony Ballroom)
  • Using ICTs to enhance the participation of the disability community in global governance processes (with Derrick Cogburn and Maya Aguilar – 10:00am, Colony Ballroom)
  • The CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) iOS App (poster presentation, Colony Ballroom)

 

Presenting at ISA 2017 in Baltimore

I look forward to presenting my latest research at the International Studies Association’s Annual Convention 2017 in Baltimore this week.

Panel: Social media and activism – Power and resistance in the 21st Century

When: Thursday, February 23rd, 8:15am – Where: Marriott, Stadium 4 room

This paper, which I wrote together with Paul Reilly (Information School, University of Sheffield) and Mariana Leyton-Escobar (School of Communication, American University), compares online crowd-sourced advocacy efforts that use personal stories of disabilities to affect key public debates in the UK and the U.S., including recent virtual protests that followed the inauguration of U.S. president Donald Trump as part of the Women’s March on Washington (January 2017). Here is a copy of the abstract:

Storytelling transcends cultures. It can speak to global audiences, change public attitudes, serve as policy evidence, and challenge dominant media narratives on sensitive social issues. Thus, advocacy organizations and activist networks increasingly use social media to crowd-source, co-create, and distribute personal stories, which originate in the private sphere and become public narratives online. Yet, story-based advocacy is also controversial as sharing the intimate accounts of groups that have been discriminated against may foster further stigmatization. Communication scholars have yet to discuss the implications of this global advocacy trend for digital citizenship. Whose voices do we really hear in online stories? How are they collected, edited, and re-mediated? Ultimately, who is empowered by this approach? To address these questions, this paper compares the use of personal stories in online disability rights campaigns in the UK and the United States. By combining the analysis of blog posts and YouTube videos featuring stories of disability with interviews with leading advocates in both countries, different digital storytelling practices are revealed. In particular, a trade-off between maintaining spontaneity and editing personal accounts to achieve policy effectiveness is identified and discussed in the context of different political cultures, media systems, ethical principles, and policy-making traditions.

On February 21st, I also discussed my recent book “Disability Rights Advocacy Online: Voice, Empowerment and Global Connectivity” (Routledge 2016) as part of the ISA working group on Accelerating Change in Global Governance: Enhancing the Participation of Excluded and Marginalized Voices Through Information and Communication Technology.

New Chapter in “Protest, Politics, Emotion” Book of Blogs

I was delighted to contribute one short article about the digitalization of disability rights advocacy to “Politics, Protest, Emotions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.” This book, which is edited by Paul Reilly (University of Sheffield), Anastasia Veneti (Bournemouth University) and Dimitrinka Atanasova (Queen Mary, University of London), was published earlier this week and includes contributions by 37 academics around the globe who study the nexus between emotions, grassroots activism, and information technology. Students of political science and strategic communication who are interested in grassroots mobilization dynamics, online advocacy and organizing will find the case studies reviewed in this book to be both accessible and highly relevant to their work. The book can be accessed freely here and downloaded as a in pdf format here. My article (#32) can be found here.

Presenting Two Papers at HICSS 50

This year I am presenting two papers at the 50th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) – a new conference and network for me, as well as my first visit to beautiful Hawaii.

The first paper is entitled “Technology, Voice and the Problem of ‘Being Heard’.” I will present this as part of an exciting Symposium on Social Movements and IT on Wednesday January 4th, 1:10-4:pm in Kona 1.

The second paper, with Derrick Cogburn, Erin Spaniol and Maya Aguilar of the Institute on Disability and Public Policy at AU, is entitled “Building Accessible Cyberinfrastructure in the Global Disability Community: Evaluating Collaboration Readiness and Use of the DID Policy Collaboratory” and can be downloaded freely here.  It is part of the Global Virtual Teams mini-track on Friday January 6th from 4 to 5:30pm.

The Google Voter: New Article in Information, Communication & Society

Earlier this month, the journal Information, Communication & Society published the paper “The Google Voter: Search Engines and Elections in the New Media Ecology,” of which I am the lead author. This article, which can be accessed freely on the journal’s website,  discusses some of the main research findings from the VoterEcology project, on which I collaborated with Profs. Andrew Hoskins (University of Glasgow) and Sarah Oates (University of Maryland, College Park), as well as Dr. Dounia Mahlouly (King’s College, London). The paper fills an important gap in our understanding of contemporary information-gathering practices and media environments that surround elections, focusing on the use of search engines by voters in the U.S. and the UK. While search engines remain the primary channel for citizens in these and other democratic countries to engage with election-related information online, there is a dearth of research about the implications of this practice. This paper combines Google Trends data with the analysis of news media coverage to shed light on the opportunities and drawbacks generated by search engine use in elections and reflects on the need to develop innovative methodologies capable of exploring the new media ecologies that are emerging from the interaction of novel and more established forms of media.

Contribution to U.S. Election 2016 Report

Colleagues at Bournemouth University’s Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community put together an amazing report about the 2016 U.S. Presidential election with 83 short contributions from 90 leading scholars in political communication, digital media, journalism, and strategic communication. I contributed one article to this report, which was released last Friday just ten days after the election. My paper (in Section 4: Diversity and division) discusses the implications of the election results for the American disability movement and for grassroots political organizing among minorities and under-represented communities more generally. This is the third report of this type to which I am able to contribute following previous ones about the 2015 UK general election and 2016 EU membership referendum. These innovative publications are available freely both online and in PDF, providing a wonderful teaching resource.