New Trends in Citizen Media: Disability Media

Citizen media have flourished and taken on new forms on the internet, and people with disabilities have been among the pioneers in this area as they sought to increase their agency in how disability is represented and aimed to create media that are not only accessible, but also relevant to people with a wide range of disabilities. I explored the evolution of “Disability Media” — media created by people with disabilities with a view to presenting distinctive disability viewpoints on key issues and experiences relevant to the disability community — and their relationship with ever changing technologies in an entry in the recently published Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media.

There is an incredible amount of grassroots innovation in today’s disability media, and this new entry seeks to capture and critically discuss the work of these citizen media activists in conjunction with long term trends in media representations and technological evolution. Here’s a short summary of the entry (contact me for a pre-print copy of the full text):

Disability and disability-related issues are often ignored or misrepresented in mainstream news and popular media. Disability scholars have also argued that initiatives launched by major news organizations to provide better representations of disability, such as the BBC’s Ouch! website, have fallen short of expectations to incorporate the perspective of persons with disabilities effectively (Riley 2005). In addition, traditional forms of media are not fully accessible to Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, nor to people with different disabilities including, to name a few, blind and vision-impaired people, people with intellectual disabilities, and language processing issues. To address these problems, disability communities and Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) have built alternative media outlets with a view to providing accessible news coverage, enhancing the visibility of disability issues, and contrasting ableist and stereotypical representations of disability both within news and popular culture (Ellis and Goggin 2015a; Haller, 2010). While historically most of these efforts were oriented toward the provision of information to the disability community and meeting its various accessibility needs, the proliferation of digital media has enabled exponential growth in the disability media sector. Dozens of new disability news websites, blogs, podcasts, sign language video services on YouTube and other media are created every year, and can reach ever expanding audiences (Ellis and Goggin 2015b). Importantly, many of these outlets seek to have an impact beyond the disability community and influence legacy media and non-disabled audiences more broadly.

This entry provides a brief history of disability media initiatives and reviews their relationship with the changing technologies and organizational structures that support them. In particular, grassroots projects that seek to empower aspiring disabled writers, reporters, and videographers and augment the visibility of their content, such as Rooted in Rights and The Disability Visibility Project, are presented. The entry discusses how these initiatives, which follow in the footsteps of community-based projects that equipped people with disabilities with key journalistic skills (Thorsen, Jackson and Luce 2015) and build on the use of unmediated storytelling in disability rights advocacy (Trevisan, 2017), empower new disabled voices to challenge the status quo, enrich news and popular culture with more diverse disability representations, and can become catalysts for the participation of the disability community in key civic moments such as elections and important policy debates.

Doing Inclusive Research: Tips for Accessible Focus Groups

Doing Inclusive Research: Tips for Accessible Focus Groups

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):

Trevisan, F. (2020) Making focus groups accessible and inclusive for people with communication disabilities: a research note. Qualitative Research, published online before print.

And here’s the abstract for a quick preview:

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.

“Sport Communication and Social Justice” Special Issue Published

C&S CoverThe double special issue of Communication & Sport I co-edited with Dan Jackson (Bournemouth University), Emma Pullen (Loughborough University), and Mike Silk (Bournemouth University) is out! We’re very proud to include thirteen top-notch articles that discuss the nexus of communication, sport, and social justice as it relates to race, gender, disability and more in this double special issue. In the introductory article, we sketch out an ambitious agenda for this nascent field of inquiry and hope this will help foster innovative intellectual pursuits at the crossroads of scholarship, practice, and activism.

Check out the special issue here. Read our introductory article here.

New Article on ‘Story Banks’ in Grassroots Advocacy

4.HERO-size-2-1024x252“Mobilizing Personal Narratives: The Rise of Digital ‘Story Banking’ in U.S. Grassroots Advocacy” is a brand new article by myself, Bryan Bello (American University), Michael Vaughan (Weizenbaum Institute) and Ariadne Vromen (University of Sydney) that was recently published in the Journal of Information Technology and Politics. In this piece, which is part of a larger project on the recent evolution of digital storytelling in grassroots advocacy in both the U.S. and Australia, we offer the first definition and critical evaluation of digital story banking techniques that are increasingly popular with advocacy groups in the U.S. For a brief summary and little teaser on the full article, check out this post on the AU Center for Media and Social Impact’s blog.

Here is a copy of the abstract; for a full copy of the article click here or, if you need an open access pre-print copy, please get in touch directly:

This article interrogates digital “story banking,” a storytelling practice that has become increasingly popular among U.S. grassroots advocacy organizations. Through the examination of LinkedIn data and in-depth interviews with story banking professionals, this technique emerges as the centerpiece of the growing institutionalization, professionalization, and datafication of storytelling in progressive advocacy. Following the 2016 election, political crisis and an increasing awareness of changing information consumption patterns promoted story banking diffusion. Story banking ushers in the era of stories as data and political story on demand. Yet, political constraints currently limit story banking to a reactive approach based on news monitoring, algorithmic shortlisting of stories, and audience testing. Furthermore, an unresolved tension has emerged between the growing centralization of storytelling functions and the participatory potential of crowd-sourced story banks. The implications of these trends for progressive advocacy organizations and the groups they aim to represent are considered.

 

New White Paper: Accessibility in Global Governance

AGG cover pageOn International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2018, the Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) launched a new white paper report on “Accessibility in Global Governance: The (In)Visibility of Persons with Disabilities.” Co-authored by the IDPP Executive Director Derrick Cogburn and myself, this white paper is the culmination of a two-year research project that included subject matter expert interviews and a global survey of disability rights advocates from over 50 countries, most of whom in developing parts of the world.

This research, which was supported by The Nippon Foundation, is the first study to comprehensively map barriers to accessibility at United Nations meetings, conferences, and events, as well as other important international forums. In addition, the report also offers examples and recommendations based on recent international conferences that pioneered the use of accessible Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs, including both web-conferencing software and telepresence robots) to facilitate effective remote participation for people with disabilities.

To read and download the full report, click here.

Now in Paperback – Disability Rights Advocacy Online

Book Cover_2

Book cover: Disability Rights Advocacy Online

My book Disability Rights Advocacy Online: Voice, Empowerment and Global Connectivity is now available in paperback edition. Click here to order your copy and use discount code FLR40 at check out for 20% off. If you are interested in using the book for one of your classes, you can also order an inspection e-copy – I’d love to hear from you if you plan to include this work in your courses!

The book examines the rapid and unexpected digitalization of disability rights advocacy in the UK and the U.S., discussing the tension between the ability of digital advocacy to enhance the stakes in democratic citizenship for Internet users with disabilities and persisting Web accessibility issues. Given the urgency of crises faced by people with disabilities and other marginalized groups around the world, this book draws valuable lessons for anyone interested in progressive digital advocacy and inclusive social change. To read the full synopsis, click here.

Populists Triumph in Italian Election amid Misinformation and a Broken Media System – New article in The Conversation

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.”

New Book Chapter: “Mapping the Search Agenda” – Election case studies from Italy, the UK and the U.S.

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.

Connective Action Mechanisms in a Time of Political Turmoil: Virtual Disability Protest at Donald Trump’s Inauguration – New article

 

AusJPS coverMy 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.

New Chapter in “Protest, Politics, Emotion” Book of Blogs

I was delighted to contribute one short article about the digitalization of disability rights advocacy to “Politics, Protest, Emotions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.” This book, which is edited by Paul Reilly (University of Sheffield), Anastasia Veneti (Bournemouth University) and Dimitrinka Atanasova (Queen Mary, University of London), was published earlier this week and includes contributions by 37 academics around the globe who study the nexus between emotions, grassroots activism, and information technology. Students of political science and strategic communication who are interested in grassroots mobilization dynamics, online advocacy and organizing will find the case studies reviewed in this book to be both accessible and highly relevant to their work. The book can be accessed freely here and downloaded as a in pdf format here. My article (#32) can be found here.