I 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.
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.
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.
A new article I co-authored together with colleagues at the University of Glasgow/MRC’s Social and Public Health Sciences Unit was just published in the journal BMJ Open. This work discusses perceptions and experiences of e-cigarettes among UK teenagers. E-cigarettes have emerged as a potential safer alternative to smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes and have become popular among young people, as well as older smokers, in a number of countries in very recent years. Anti-smoking groups and public health scholars are divided on the potential benefits and dangers of e-cigarettes, and this paper seeks to inform the policy debate by shedding light on the awareness and impressions of 14-17 year olds, a key target market for e-cigarette makers as well as tobacco manufacturers. The full paper can be accessed freely here.
Disability & Society just published a new piece by myself and Charlotte Pearson (School of Social and Political Sciences/Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow) entitled “Disability Activism in the New Media Ecology: Campaigning Strategies in the Digital Era“. This work, which can be downloaded online ahead of print, explores the ways in which different disability activist groups in the UK are engaging with changing media landscapes in which both “new” and “old” forms of media interact to form public opinion and influence political decision-making. The paper focuses in particular on the case of the anti-welfare reform protests at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, in which self-advocates from Disabled People Against Cuts used both online and more traditional offline tactics to foster positive coverage of protest by traditional news media organisations.
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).
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).
The article on ethical challenges in researching sensitive issues online that I wrote together with Paul Reilly (Media & Communications, University of Leicester) is now available for download from Information, Communication, and Society‘s website. Click here to access the abstract, HTML and PDF versions of the article. If you’re interested but don’t have a subscription to Taylor and Francis journals, click here to download a free copy of (for a limited time only).
As good news tend to come in pairs, after finding out a couple of weeks ago about my paper acceptance for Information, Communication and Society, I also heard yesterday that one of my articles was accepted for publication in Disability Studies Quarterly. This is a study of online media and empowerment in Scottish disability organizations and is scheduled for publication in the July 2014 issue of the journal. Watch out for a link to a free copy in the summer!
A paper I recently wrote with Paul Reilly (University of Leicester) about ethical challenges in social media research on sensitive issues has been accepted for publication in Information, Communication and Society. While this should be available soon on the journal’s website, a previous version presented at the 2012 European Communication Conference in Istanbul can be found here.