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.

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.

 

European Ideas Network Summer University 2019

I’m delighted to be in San Sebastian-Donostia in the beautiful Basque Country over the next couple of days to speak at the 2019 European Ideas Network‘s Summer University. I am grateful to EIN and the European People’s Party Group in the European Parliament for extending an invitation to meet and discuss with its members about the challenges and next steps in the fight against online disinformation and “fake news” in Europe. In my talk, I will explore the factors that created a ‘perfect storm’ for the growth of disinformation, share some of my latest work on how U.S. organizations and campaigns are trying to contrast it, and offer some ideas for a more proactive approach to this problem.

Advocacy and Personal Stories in Australia and the U.S. – Seminar at Melbourne University

I’m currently in Australia on a fieldwork trip for a new project and will present some preliminary insights at the University of Melbourne on Wednesday February 13 together with my colleague and collaborator Ariadne Vromen of the University of Sydney. This new work explores recent changes in how advocacy organizations approach storytelling and reviews the role of digital technology in the ‘datafication’ of storytelling techniques. The seminar will take place between 1:00-2:00pm in the Arts West North Wing building, room 253. We’re grateful to the Media and Communication Program for giving us this opportunity to discuss some of this new work.

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.

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.

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.