My latest article titled Beyond accessibility: Exploring digital inclusivity in U.S. progressive digital politics was published recently in the journal New Media & Society. This work, which is part of a journal special issue on Vulnerability and Digital Media, draws on the experience of digital organizers with disabilities in the 2020 U.S. election campaigns to sketch a new framework to understand and study inclusivity in online politics as a “process.” This breaks with the restrictive interpretation of inclusion as an “outcome” of digital political participation and is intended to open new avenues for elevating under-represented voices in political communication research and practice.
The 2020 U.S. election was a watershed moment for inclusivity in digital politics due to activist pressure, cultural change, and the pandemic. The article highlights key role of disabled advocates and digital organizers – both from inside campaign organizations and from outside through initiatives like #cripthevote – in making candidates and their organizations more responsive. With digital campaigning center stage during the pandemic, crisis again proved to be an innovation catalyst in digital politics. Now, the sustainability of digital inclusivity depends on whether cultural change that views disabled people as full citizens and a key group to mobilize takes root in political organizations for the long term.
Here below is a copy of the abstract, you can find the full paper here (please get in touch directly if you’d like a pre-print version):
This article explores inclusivity in the context of digital politics. As online campaigns and digital participation become increasingly central to democratic politics, it is essential to better understand the implications of this shift for marginalized and politically vulnerable people. Focusing on people with disabilities, this study applies a grounded theory approach to investigate what factors shape inclusivity in digital politics and begins to theorize this under-researched concept. Through interviews with self-advocates and election professionals with disabilities involved in innovative digital mobilization efforts for progressive US political organizations and campaigns, as well as a review of related strategies, this article illuminates digital inclusivity as a “process” connected to, but also distinct from the “outcomes” of social and political inclusion and exclusion. Key incentives and obstacles are identified, and emerging principles of digital inclusivity that are simultaneously community-rooted and sensitive to the context of contemporary US politics are discussed.
Published less than two weeks after the November 3, 2020 election, this volume includes immediate reaction and analysis pieces – including research findings and new theoretical insights – that help readers understand the campaign and its significance for the future of American democracy. U.S. Election Analysis 2020: Voters, Media, and the Campaign is a valuable resource for researchers, educators, journalists, and policy-makers that is freely accessible and organized around seven main topics, including:
- Policy & political context
- Candidates & the campaign
- News & journalism
- Social Media
- Popular culture & public critique
- Democracy in crisis
You can find our introduction with a brief overview of the contents of each section here.
We’re grateful to the Center for Comparative Politics and Media Research at Bournemouth University, the APSA Information Technology and Politics Section, the Political Studies Association’s Media and Politics Group, and the IPSA Political Communication Research Committee for their support.
I’m delighted to share my latest open access article ‘Do you want to be a well-informed citizen, or do you want to be sane?’ Social Media, Disability, Mental Health and Political Marginality, which was published earlier this month in Social Media + Society. The article reviews evidence from focus groups with voters with disabilities to explore their experience with Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. From this, social media platforms emerge as both empowering tools and sources of mental health problems for this traditionally marginalized group in an increasingly polarized political context such as the U.S.
This article is part of a forthcoming special issue on Social Media and Marginality expertly edited by Katy Pearce, Amy Gonzales, and Brooke Focault-Welles.
Here is a copy of the abstract, for the full open access article click here.
This article examines the experiences of people with disabilities, a traditionally marginalized group in US politics, with social media platforms during the 2016 presidential election. Using focus groups with participants with a wide range of disabilities, the significance of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook is discussed. Results highlight ambivalent experiences with these platforms, which support some elements of political inclusion (more accessible and more relevant election information) but at the same time also exacerbate aspects of marginality (stress, anxiety, isolation). Four coping strategies devised by participants to address digital stress (self-censorship, unfollowing/unfriending social media contacts, signing off, and taking medication) are illustrated. The relationship between these contrasting findings, social media design and affordances, as well as potential strategies to eliminate an emerging trade-off between discussing politics online and preserving mental health and social connectedness for people with disabilities are discussed.
“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.
Last week, I published a piece on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog about what Google Trends can tell us about televised debates and other important election moments (spoiler: not as much as some news coverage suggests). With insights from my research with Google Trends in the U.S., UK, and Italy, this article provides a useful resource on how to correctly interpret Google Trends data for journalists, campaign staff, and voters interested in knowing more about digital information flows related to the 2020 election campaigns.
My latest article “Using the Internet to Mobilize Marginalized Groups: People with Disabilities and Digital Campaign Strategies in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election” was recently published in the International Journal of Communication. This article discusses how the 2016 campaigns – particularly Hillary Clinton’s – tried to engage with the disability community online and draws key lessons about the inclusion of people with disabilities and other minority groups in digital election strategy planning. The full paper can be accessed freely here.
Here’s the abstract:
It is important to understand the implications of online election campaigning for groups that have been marginalized in politics. To this end, this article discusses a focus group study on digital campaigning in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with voters with a wide range of physical, mental, and communication disabilities. Digital campaigns can deepen or curtail opportunities for people with disabilities to be active citizens. Participants in this study had high expectations to learn about the candidates through new media platforms, particularly Google and YouTube. However, the 2016 campaigns seemed to struggle to understand Americans with disabilities as an emerging online constituency. This mismatch between demand and supply in online election communication is discussed with a view to illuminating the sociotechnical foundations of digital campaigning and its effect on political participation among citizens with disabilities. There are important opportunities for digital mobilization and inclusion here, but their realization is dependent on a cultural shift that values people with disabilities as full citizens.
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.
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.
My 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.
Third and final talk of this Australian trip – I am excited to join a pioneering panel on “Disability and Digital Citizenship” at the 2017 Australia-New Zealand Communication Association’s conference later today at the University of Sydney. The panel will start at 2:30pm in New Law 106.
This panel brings together a number of scholars doing work on disability, technology and different aspects of participation and inclusion, from economics, to media, to politics. I will present some new research on how Americans with disabilities used the Internet to participate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Thanks to my colleagues Prof. Gerard Goggin (of the conference organizing team) and Prof. Haiqing Yu for inviting me to this panel.