My latest article titled Beyond accessibility: Exploring digital inclusivity in U.S. progressive digital politics was published recently in the journal New Media & Society. This work, which is part of a journal special issue on Vulnerability and Digital Media, draws on the experience of digital organizers with disabilities in the 2020 U.S. election campaigns to sketch a new framework to understand and study inclusivity in online politics as a “process.” This breaks with the restrictive interpretation of inclusion as an “outcome” of digital political participation and is intended to open new avenues for elevating under-represented voices in political communication research and practice.
The 2020 U.S. election was a watershed moment for inclusivity in digital politics due to activist pressure, cultural change, and the pandemic. The article highlights key role of disabled advocates and digital organizers – both from inside campaign organizations and from outside through initiatives like #cripthevote – in making candidates and their organizations more responsive. With digital campaigning center stage during the pandemic, crisis again proved to be an innovation catalyst in digital politics. Now, the sustainability of digital inclusivity depends on whether cultural change that views disabled people as full citizens and a key group to mobilize takes root in political organizations for the long term.
Here below is a copy of the abstract, you can find the full paper here(please get in touch directly if you’d like a pre-print version):
This article explores inclusivity in the context of digital politics. As online campaigns and digital participation become increasingly central to democratic politics, it is essential to better understand the implications of this shift for marginalized and politically vulnerable people. Focusing on people with disabilities, this study applies a grounded theory approach to investigate what factors shape inclusivity in digital politics and begins to theorize this under-researched concept. Through interviews with self-advocates and election professionals with disabilities involved in innovative digital mobilization efforts for progressive US political organizations and campaigns, as well as a review of related strategies, this article illuminates digital inclusivity as a “process” connected to, but also distinct from the “outcomes” of social and political inclusion and exclusion. Key incentives and obstacles are identified, and emerging principles of digital inclusivity that are simultaneously community-rooted and sensitive to the context of contemporary US politics are discussed.
This piece reflects on current trends that emphasize open science practices and values in communication research, and discusses the need to better understand and counter their implications for research with marginalized populations and by marginalized researchers. The seed for this work was planted at an ICA 2020 roundtable organized by Katy Pearce and Jesse Fox, and expanded collaboratively by a diverse team of authors including: Adrienne Massanari, Julius Matthew Riles, Lukasz Szulc, Yerina Ranjit, Cheryll Soriano, Filippo Trevisan, Jessica Vitak, Payal Arora, Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn, Meryl Alper, Andrew Gambino, Carmen Gonzalez, Teresa Lynch, Lillie Williamson, and Amy Gonzales.
Here’s the abstract — a pre-print full text version is also available for download below:
The open science (OS) movement has advocated for increased transparency in certain aspects of research. Communication is taking its first steps toward OS as some journals have adopted OS guidelines codified by another discipline. We find this pursuit troubling as OS prioritizes openness while insufficiently addressing essential ethical principles: respect for persons, beneficence, and justice. Some recommended open science practices increase the potential for harm for marginalized participants, communities, and researchers. We elaborate how OS can serve a marginalizing force within academia and the research community, as it overlooks the needs of marginalized scholars and excludes some forms of scholarship. We challenge the current instantiation of OS and propose a divergent agenda for the future of Communication research centered on ethical, inclusive research practices.
I love running focus groups, both from a research and human perspective, but traditionally this method has been far from universally accessible. For example, traditional focus groups present important challenges for people with communication disabilities and disorders, which currently are over 10% of the U.S. adult population.
As someone who cares deeply about the inclusion of traditionally under-represented voices in research, I think there’s a lot that we can do to re-think methodologies to make them more accessible. In an article I published in the journal Qualitative Research earlier this year, I drew on my experience organizing, moderating, and analyzing focus groups to discuss low-cost, relatively straightforward, and flexible solutions to ensure that people with communication disabilities and disorders are equally as empowered as any other participant to contribute their perspectives, opinions, and experiences to these studies. While this article can only begin to scratch the surface of this issue, I hope it will help us start a conversation about how to adapt and innovate qualitative research in all fields to make it simultaneously more inclusive and more valid.
You can find the full article here (get in touch directly for a pre-print version, if you like):
Participating in focus groups can be challenging for people with communication disabilities. Given that more than 1 in 10 adults has a communication disability, focus groups that overlook their needs exclude a large part of the population. This research note makes a unique contribution toward creating more inclusive focus groups by discussing a variety of strategies employed in a recent study of political participation among Americans with disabilities that included a high proportion of participants with communication disorders. Universal design principles can support the “mainstreaming” of communication disabilities in focus group research, contributing to more inclusive and representative social science scholarship.