As the October 7 Brazilian elections draw closer, I talked to Folha de São Paulo – Brazil’s most-read newspaper – about Google Trends and what it can tell us about key election information trends. Although Google Trends data can’t predict election outcomes, they show a marked rise in interest for populist firebrand and presidential hopeful Jair Bolsonaro. Read the full article here (in Portuguese).
I published a new article in The Conversation about the online misinformation and broken media system that aided the success of populist and far-right parties in the Italian parliament election held on March 4. Here is a short excerpt from the article – click here for the full text:
“The rise of these populist and far-right parties was supported by dramatic shifts in the information diet of Italian voters. […] The problem is not simply that misinformation is readily available online, but also that a large proportion of Italians find this content credible.” And this is in no small part due to Italy’s broken media system, which has undermined the credibility of journalists. “Long-term efforts to restore trust in journalism among Italian audiences are essential. This will involve strengthening media literacy skills, boosting the independence of the public broadcasting sector, and possibly reorganizing media ownership so that it is not as tightly concentrated. Without this ambitious set of measures, online misinformation and propaganda are unlikely to go out of fashion in Italy anytime soon.”
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.
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.