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.
Colleagues at Bournemouth University’s Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community put together an amazing report about the 2016 U.S. Presidential election with 83 short contributions from 90 leading scholars in political communication, digital media, journalism, and strategic communication. I contributed one article to this report, which was released last Friday just ten days after the election. My paper (in Section 4: Diversity and division) discusses the implications of the election results for the American disability movement and for grassroots political organizing among minorities and under-represented communities more generally. This is the third report of this type to which I am able to contribute following previous ones about the 2015 UK general election and 2016 EU membership referendum. These innovative publications are available freely both online and in PDF, providing a wonderful teaching resource.
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.
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!).
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.
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).