How can we use Google Trends to map information flows in election campaigns? Andrew Hoskins (University of Glasgow), Sarah Oates (University of Maryland, College Park), Dounia Mahlouly (King’s College, London), and I addressed this question in a recently published book chapter titled: “Mapping the Search Agenda: A Citizen-Centric Approach to Electoral Information Flows.” The chapter is included in the volume (Mis)understanding Political Participation: Digital Practices, New Forms of Participation, and the Renewal of Democracy, which is edited by Jeffrey Wimmer, Cornelia Wallner, Reiner Winter, and Karoline Oelsner, and published by Routledge.
This chapter builds on a previous article and applies a new methodology that uses Google Trends data to map key information demand trends in elections in the U.S., UK, and Italy, comparing Internet search trends to the salience of key figures and issues in the news media in each country. Findings for the Italian case (which explores the 2013 general election) are particularly relevant in light of the upcoming Italian election on March 4, 2018. Italian voters demonstrated a particular inclination to looking for information about anti-establishment leaders online by going directly to websites and social media accounts run by parties and other movements, instead of the websites of established news organizations. In light of this, the chapter reflects on how low levels of trust in traditional news outlets boost the relevance of the Internet as a source of alternative news and augment opportunities for political groups, particularly anti-establishment ones, to control the agenda and steer public debate.
My latest article is just out in the Australian Journal of Political Science. “Connective Action Mechanisms in a Time of Political Turmoil: Virtual Disability Protest at Donald Trump’s Inauguration” examines the forces that underpin the rapid formation of online counter-publics in the wake of disruptive political events such as Donald Trump’s election. Both the advantages and disadvantages of connective action as a response to this type of political upheaval among traditionally marginalized populations are discussed through a case study of virtual disability protest at Donald Trump’s inauguration (the “Disability March“). This article is part of a forthcoming special issue edited by Ariadne Vromen (University of Sydney) and Andrea Carson (University of Melbourne) for the Australian Political Science Association’s POP Politics Aus Group. Please contact me if you need a link to a free copy of this article. Here is the abstract:
This paper explores the connective action mechanisms that underpin the rapid formation of online counter-publics in the wake of disruptive political events through a case study of crowd-sourced disability protest launched in response to Donald Trump’s election as U.S. President. Coverage of this protest in U.S. news media is reviewed also as a first step towards assessing the ability of this initiative to influence public discourse. Findings suggest that controversial election results can spur mobilisation, but by themselves do not appear to be sufficient for connective action to really flourish and succeed. Personal action frames that typically are central to connective action struggled to emerge in crowd-sourced contributions that focused on Trump and his politics. The reasons behind these outcomes and their implications for the potential effectiveness of crowd-sourced protest are discussed.
Second Australian talk – I will discuss my book “Disability Rights Advocacy Online” during an invited seminar at the University of Newcastle. The event on Monday, July 3rd will start at noon in Room GP2.01 at the Callaghan Campus. Free registration is available here and the seminar will also be streamed live online. Anyone can join remotely by clicking here. The official Twitter hashtag for the event is #DisabilityRightsUON
I look forward to connecting with a wonderful group of scholars that does some great work on multiple aspects of disability and discuss how the book can help us to understand some of the latest developments in disability rights advocacy, including grassroots mobilization in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as U.S. President.
Special thanks go to my colleague Prof. Bronwyn Hemsley for being the driving force behind this event.
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.
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: 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.
This week I will attend the 9th Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the U.N. headquarters in New York City as part of the delegation from American University’s Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP), of which I recently became Deputy Director. This year marks a particularly important occasion as it is the 10th anniversary of the CRPD. In collaboration with other partners, IDPP has prepared two side events to this conference. These include:
- Disability and Digital Societies side event: Wednesday, June 15th, 8-9:30am, UN conference room 11 – click here to attend this side event remotely;
- Accessible Global Governance side event: Thursday, June 16th, 6:15-8pm, UN conference room 11 – click here to attend this side event remotely.
More information about each event is available here.
Earlier this month I started a new job as tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Public Communication Division at American University’s School of Communication. It’s incredibly exciting to be in Washington, DC and I received the warmest of welcomes from a fantastic group of colleagues with whom I look forward to collaborating over the coming years. Following several weeks of anticipation, teaching starts today and it’s terrific to meet the students too, who are the center of a very vibrant learning and research community here at AU. Keep an eye out for more updates from DC in the coming weeks, but now I need to run to go teach another class!
Routledge just released a great volume on media representations of disability in the run up to, during and after the 2012 London Parlyampic Games. This book was edited by Dan Jackson, Caroline Hodges, MIke Molesworth and Richard Scullion at Bournemouth University and is entitled “Reframing Disability? Media, (Dis)empowerment and Voice in the 2012 Paralympics.”
I contributed one chapter to this book, which focuses on media representations of disability rights protesters during the London Games. The full citation is: “Contentious Disability Politics on the World Stage: Protest at the 2012 London Paralympics,” pp. 145-171. For more information about the book on Routledge’s website, click here.
I was awarded a grant from the Principal’s Early Career Mobility Fund to visit Columbia University and will be heading to New York for two weeks in spring 2015. I will be based at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, where I will liaise with Prof. Amy Fairchild and colleagues to discuss collaborative plans for the study of contested public health policy debates (e.g. e-cigarette regulations, ‘soda-tax’ proposals) on both emergent and established forms of media in the UK and the U.S. I am thrilled to have been able to secure this visit, which will no doubt enhance the comparative aspect of this new and exciting research project.
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).