On June 23rd, 2016, a majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union (EU). In this brief analysis piece, I reflect on how news media in the United States covered this unexpected result. While American journalists sought to apply familiar templates to communicate the upcoming EU referendum to domestic audiences, they may find it difficult to do so going forward as the UK-EU negotiations move into unchartered territory. This article is part of a large report on the EU referendum, media, and voters edited by Dan Jackson, Einar Thorsen, and Dominic Wring and published by the Political Studies Association, Bournemouth University, and the University of Loughborough. You can access the full report for free here.
Paul Reilly (Information School – University of Sheffield) and I continue our collaboration on ethical challenges in online research with a new article about studying Facebook groups in post-conflict Northern Ireland in the journal Information, Communication and Society. In this article, we discuss the development of an ethical stance for the study of Facebook pages associated with the 2012 Belfast flag protests.
To access a copy of the article, click 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.
Surprised by the result of the 2015 UK General Election? Find out what happened behind the scenes in a new report published by Bournemouth University’s Media School together with the Political Studies Association. “UK Election Analysis 2015: Media, Voters and the Campaign” can be found here. It was edited by the indefatigable Dan Jackson and Einar Thorsen, and includes contributions from 91 UK academics in the fields of communication, media studies, journalism, and political science. I contributed an overview on the UK Independence Party (UKIP)’s popularity ratings among British Google users prepared together with Paul Reilly at the University of Leicester. This considers the rise of UKIP as a popular (and populist) “brand” among wired voters (and non-voters).
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.
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).
In a slight departure from my usual research focus, earlier on this year I took a leading role in a qualitative study investigating the effects of the recession and drastic cuts to welfare provision in the UK on the daily lives and health of people living in some of Scotland’s most deprived areas. A key findings report from this project is now available on the website of the GoWell Research and Learning Programme. Click here to download a copy. This work links to some of the issues I explored from the perspective of campaigners in my PhD, including the ability of those most likely to be affected by radical welfare changes to oppose these policy plans and influence decision-makers at the national level. Most notably, this work found that, despite mounting financial difficulties and worsening mental and physical health, people in deprived areas strive to retain control of their budgets and preserve their quality of life. However, a number of constraints emerged that severely limit both individual and collective agency under these circumstances, making it especially difficult for those most badly affected by austerity policies to come together to influence policy-makers. This project is now in its write-up phase so watch out for further publications in the coming months!
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).
I am thrilled to say that I have signed a contract to publish my first book in the “Routledge Studies in Global Information, Politics, and Society” series edited by Ken Rogerson (Duke University) and Laura Roselle (Elon University). The book is entitled “Disability Rights Advocacy and New Media in Britain and America” and builds on my doctoral research. This work, which will be released in 2016, explores whether the Internet can re-configure political participation and policy-making to be more inclusive experiences for users with disabilities, enhancing their stakes in democratic citizenship.
Hot off the press: my latest article on the use of online media among Scottish disability advocacy organizations in Disability Studies Quarterly, Vol. 34 n. 3. Although online organising and campaigning have changed quickly in very recent years, this research, which was carried out between 2009 and 2010, asks fundamental questions about why advocacy group choose to adopt participatory technologies and how they try to manage them. In particular, I discuss the relationship between technological preferences and organisational ethos, structure and mission, which delayed the involvement of several prominent disability advocacy groups in Web 2.0 platforms in Scotland. To read the full text, click here (open access).