Disability and Digital Storytelling Talk at UAB’s Institute for Human Rights

Today (10/11) I am in Birmingham, AL to give a talk on “Using Digital Storytelling to Promote Human Rights: The Experience of Disability Advocates” at the Institute for Human Rights at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. The talk is scheduled for 6-7:30pm CDT in Heritage Hall. Accessible virtual participation with closed captioning will be available for this talk via Blackboard Collaborate using this link: http://tinyurl.com/trevisan-lecture-uab-ihr

In this talk, I will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using crowd-sourced personal stories to counter negative portrayals of people with disabilities in popular and public discourse, and advocate for disability rights using examples and case studies from both the United Kingdom and the United States.

On Thursday, October 12, I will also be a guest speaker in UAB’s Digital Storytelling course (part of the Media Studies program) and give a lecture on representations of disability and disability rights activism to students in UAB’s School of Medicine.

This visit will conclude with a tour of the Lakeshore Foundation, a leading training, research, and advocacy center that aims to empower people with physical disabilities and chronic health conditions through sports, recreation, and physical activity.

I am extremely grateful to the Director of the Institute for Human Rights, Associate Professor Tina Kempin-Reuter, for this invitation and for organizing such a wonderful program.

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New Article in Public Relations Inquiry: ‘Crowd-Sourced Advocacy: Promoting Disability Rights Through Online Storytelling’

pria_6_2.coverI 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.

Abstract:

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.

Media Justice at the 2017 ICA Conference, May 25th

I am excited to present a paper on “Crowd-sourced Disability Storytelling, Mobilization and the Problem of Being Heard” at this year’s ICA pre-conference on Media Justice: Race, Borders, Disability and Data. This event brings together international scholars, activists and policy practitioners to discuss the role of media in the emergence and/or repression of new voices and the representation of minorities. A detailed program is available here.

Media Justice will take place at the Sherman Heights Community Center, 2258 Island Avenue, San Diego on Thursday May 25th between 9:00am – 5:00pm.

There is no cost to participate in this event but registration is essential. To register, click here.

Presenting at ISA 2017 in Baltimore

I look forward to presenting my latest research at the International Studies Association’s Annual Convention 2017 in Baltimore this week.

Panel: Social media and activism – Power and resistance in the 21st Century

When: Thursday, February 23rd, 8:15am – Where: Marriott, Stadium 4 room

This paper, which I wrote together with Paul Reilly (Information School, University of Sheffield) and Mariana Leyton-Escobar (School of Communication, American University), compares online crowd-sourced advocacy efforts that use personal stories of disabilities to affect key public debates in the UK and the U.S., including recent virtual protests that followed the inauguration of U.S. president Donald Trump as part of the Women’s March on Washington (January 2017). Here is a copy of the abstract:

Storytelling transcends cultures. It can speak to global audiences, change public attitudes, serve as policy evidence, and challenge dominant media narratives on sensitive social issues. Thus, advocacy organizations and activist networks increasingly use social media to crowd-source, co-create, and distribute personal stories, which originate in the private sphere and become public narratives online. Yet, story-based advocacy is also controversial as sharing the intimate accounts of groups that have been discriminated against may foster further stigmatization. Communication scholars have yet to discuss the implications of this global advocacy trend for digital citizenship. Whose voices do we really hear in online stories? How are they collected, edited, and re-mediated? Ultimately, who is empowered by this approach? To address these questions, this paper compares the use of personal stories in online disability rights campaigns in the UK and the United States. By combining the analysis of blog posts and YouTube videos featuring stories of disability with interviews with leading advocates in both countries, different digital storytelling practices are revealed. In particular, a trade-off between maintaining spontaneity and editing personal accounts to achieve policy effectiveness is identified and discussed in the context of different political cultures, media systems, ethical principles, and policy-making traditions.

On February 21st, I also discussed my recent book “Disability Rights Advocacy Online: Voice, Empowerment and Global Connectivity” (Routledge 2016) as part of the ISA working group on Accelerating Change in Global Governance: Enhancing the Participation of Excluded and Marginalized Voices Through Information and Communication Technology.

AU IDPP Seminar: Storytelling and Digital Disability Advocacy

The Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) has launched its second seminar series on Disability, Development and Global Governance. Following an introductory session from IDPP’s director Dr. Derrick Cogburn, I was pleased to facilitate the second session in this fall’s series on Sept. 20th on the topic of personal stories in digital disability rights advocacy. You can find a brief summary of the event by clicking hereidpp-seminar_room

IDPP seminars will continue every Tuesday between 12-1:30pm in the School of International Service’s building, room 300, until December 6th. Anyone can attend. To check out the amazing line up of speakers from AU and the broader Washington, DC policy community, click here.

APSA 2016 Presentation – Sept. 1st

I will present some of my most recent work on crowd-sourced story-centered counter-narratives as an advocacy tactic at this year’s American Political Science Association’s (APSA) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA on September 1st. In this presentation, I will discuss the mechanisms that regulate story-centered counter-narratives and how these can be an important opportunity for the empowerment of politically inexperienced citizens. Click here to access the full conference program.