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.

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UK 2015 Election Report – Now out!

Surprised by the result of the 2015 UK General Election? Find out what happened behind the scenes in a new report published by Bournemouth University’s Media School together with the Political Studies Association. “UK Election Analysis 2015: Media, Voters and the Campaign” can be found here. It was edited by the indefatigable Dan Jackson and Einar Thorsen, and includes contributions from 91 UK academics in the fields of communication, media studies, journalism, and political science. I contributed an overview on the UK Independence Party (UKIP)’s popularity ratings among British Google users prepared together with Paul Reilly at the University of Leicester. This considers the rise of UKIP as a popular (and populist) “brand” among wired voters (and non-voters).

ISA 2015 Paper

Sadly, other work commitments have kept me from attending the 2015 International Studies Association’s Convention in New Orleans in person this week (this is after participation to another conference in NOLA in 2012 was cancelled due to a hurricane! I start to wonder if I will ever make it to the Big Easy?!). However, my co-author Dr Paul Reilly was there to present our latest joint effort, which focused on the popularity of populist parties in Italy (Five Star Movement) and the UK (United Kingdom Independence Party) among Google users during the 2014 European Parliament election campaign.

The poster, entitled “Populist and Popular? Tracking Citizen Interest in Anti-Establishment Parties with Google Trends”, can be downloaded here.

VoterEcology Key Findings Report Out Now

I recently presented on behalf of the VoterEcology project team at a knowledge-transfer event organised as part of the Google Data Analytics Social Science Research programme. Here we talked with Google and ESRC representatives about the challenges and opportunities involved in using Google Trends for social science research, as well as ideas for further work in this area. Given the relevance of internet search trends for political communication scholarship and practice, we thought it would be useful to share the report we prepared for this event on the project’s website. This aims to be as jargon-free (in and of itself an accomplishment for a bunch of academic people!) and user-friendly as possible, and includes examples from all the four country case studies explored in the research (the U.S., the UK, Italy and Egypt).

To download a copy, click here.

Just Published: Google Trends as a Research Method Article

My paper on using Google Trends in academic research is out – thank you to the First Monday team for their super-quick copy-edit efforts. Here is the abstract, you can access the full paper (open access) by clicking here.

Search Engines: From Social Science Objects to Academic Inquiry Tools – by Filippo Trevisan – First Monday, 19(11)

This paper discusses the challenges and opportunities involved in incorporating publicly available search engine data in scholarly research. In recent years, an increasing number of researchers have started to include tools such as Google Trends (http://google.com/trends) in their work. However, a central ‘search engine’ field of inquiry has yet to emerge. Rather, the use of search engine data to address social research questions is spread across many disciplines, which makes search valuable across fields but not critical to any one particular area. In an effort to stimulate a comprehensive debate on these issues, this paper reviews the work of pioneering scholars who devised inventive — if experimental — ways of interpreting data generated through search engine accessory applications and makes the point that search engines should be regarded not only as central objects of research, but also as fundamental tools for broader social inquiry. Specific concerns linked to this methodological shift are identified and discussed, including: the relationship with other, more established social research methods; doubts over the representativeness of search engine data; the need to contextualize publicly available search engine data with other types of evidence; and the limited granularity afforded to researchers by tools such as Google Trends. The paper concludes by reflecting on the combination of search engine data with other forms of inquiry as an example of arguably inelegant yet innovative and effective ‘kludgy’ design (Karpf, 2012).

Forthcoming Article in First Monday

I just got news that my paper “Search Engines: From Social Science Objects to Academic Inquiry Tools” was accepted for publication in the Internet studies journal First Monday. In this article I argue that, although so far most academic work on search engines has focused on their role in contemporary information gathering practices and their implications for democracy, social science scholars have much to gain in approaching these platforms as useful research tools too. In particular, I discuss the challenges involved in integrating accessory search engine applications such as Google Trends into social science research, including analyzing data obtained through these media in conjunction with the outputs generated by more traditional methods such as content analysis. Watch this space for a link to the article once that is available online (November/December 2014).

Paper Accepted for ISA 2015 Convention

Just got news that the paper I proposed for next year’s International Studies Association’s (ISA) Annual Convention together with Paul Reilly (University of Leicester) was accepted. The title is “Populist and Popular: Using Google Trends to Track and Conceptualize Emerging Transnational Trends in Democratic Politics.” This study continues my working paper series on blending search engine data drawn from Google Trends with established political communication methods to explore emergent global phenomena in democratic politics such as the rise of populist parties and movements. Bring on New Orleans in February then, especially considering the pouring Glasgow rain outside my office window at the moment!

APSA 2014 Pol Comm Pre-conference Paper Now Online

The paper that I presented at the 12th APSA Political Communication pre-conference on the 27th of August in Washington, DC together with Dounia Mahlouly is now available on the website of the George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. Click here to download a copy (password protected – pre-conference attendees only). This is part of my Voter Ecology project on search engines and elections in the UK, the U.S., Italy and Egypt.

MeCCSA Conference 2014

After presenting at the 2014 Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association’s Conference yesterday in Bournemouth it was time to catch a glimpse of the beach. However, if you were unable to be at our panel, you can still read about the role of search in elections in the UK, the U.S., Egypt and Italy on the research blog I curate for the VoterEcology Project.

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Talk at Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland – Nov. 20th, 2013

I will be talking about the Voter Ecology Project at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park on Wednesday Nov. 20th, 2pm. My presentation is entitled “No Laughing Matter: Political Gaffes and Online Information Search in Election Campaigns” and will discuss how publicly available search engine data can help journalists, campaigners, and researchers alike to reach beyond appearances in considering patterns of information consumptions in times of elections. I look forward to discussing this work and how online media are transforming political reporting more generally with students and faculty at the cutting edge of journalism scholarship. The event will take place in Room 1109, Knight Hall.