Another facet of my research focuses on social media and the role it plays in identity construction, impression management, and the social construction of reality.
My interest in this specific area began with he explosive growth of the social media platform Facebook, which resulted in a multi-study research project that investigated how young African American adults use Facebook as an impression management tool.
Constructing Digital Cultures: Tweets, trends, race, and gender came out early 2018. Constructing Digital Cultures examines how user-generated narratives on Twitter renegotiate dominant ideas about gender and race. Using an in-depth, qualitative examination of individual tweets, the different kinds of dialogue that characterize the platform, and various ways in which people connect, Constructing Digital Cultures provides insight into the nature of digital culture produced on Twitter and the platform’s potential as a virtual public sphere. This volume investigates arenas of discussion often seen on Twitter—from entertainment and popular culture to politics, social justice issues, and advertising—and looks into how members of ethnic minority groups use and relate to the platform.
The idea for the book came out of the unprecedented takeover of Twitter by shows featuring African American female leads, such as Empire and Scandal. This prompted an investigation into how fans of these shows utilize Twitter for collaborative meaning-making, and how this contributes to cultural understandings of race and gender.The findings from this investigation were presented at the 2016 PCA/ACA conference.
At the 2018 ICA conference in Prague, Czech Republic, I organized a panel entitled “Can you hear me now? Marginalized voices on social media”. The panel featured Brooke Foucault Welles, Sarah Jackson (Northeastern University), Summer Harlow (University of Houston), and Gwen Bouvier (Maynooth University, Ireland), and addressed current issues facing research into marginalized groups on social media.
A recent research project entitled “Degrees of Freedom: Exploring agency, narratives, and technological affordances in the #TakeAKnee controversy” extends this work by investigating the nature of user agency on various social media platforms and the extent to which this agency is constrained and/or enabled by the technological affordances of each platform. This research question is addressed using the narratives that came out of the #TakeAKnee controversy as a case study. Preliminary findings were presented at the 2018 PCA/ACA conference. This work appeared in Social Media + Society.
In 2019, I presented my latest research on the influence of corporations on political narratives created on social media at the PCA/ACA convention in Washington, DC.
In 2020, I collaborated with Gwen Bouvier from the Zhejiang University in China to co-edit a volume that further examined the extent to which Twitter can serve as a public sphere. “Twitter, the public sphere, and the chaos of online deliberation” appeared with Palgrave MacMillan and features 11 chapters that examine the nature of interaction and communication on Twitter. As opposed to my 2018 book, this volume takes a less celebratory approach, focusing on how the communication on Twitter can be chaotic, uncivil, and highly affective, and shedding light on how Twitter’s main contribution to democracy is its ability to connect people.
A recent research project, undertaken with Giulia Ranzini from VU Amsterdam examines how racial dating preferences interact with people’s behaviors on Tinder, the popular dating app. This research was presented at the 2019 ICA conference in Washington, DC and appeared in Communication Research Reports in 2020. A follow-up study has been submitted to the 2021 ICA conference.
In November 2020, the ZDF interviewed me for a segment on cancel culture. The item (in German), was uploaded to their YouTube channel. You can view it here.
On March 7 & 8, 2019, I will be visiting the Centre for Media Studies at the University of British Columbia to give a guest lecture on Twitter and the commodification of political narratives. More information on the event can be found on the Centre’s website.
On March 5, I appeared on Maine Calling to discuss social media shaming. You can find the episode here.
On January 30, 2019, I appeared on Maine Calling to discuss the recent scandals surrounding Facebook. Fellow guests were Rich Brooks and Amanda O’Brien. You can find the show here.
Starting in November 2018, I am part of the Maine Humanities Council “World in your library” speaker series. This program features Maine-based speakers, and my talk will center on social media and democracy.
On November 1, Penny Rheingans (University of Maine), Kim McKeage (Husson University), and myself appeared on Maine Public to discuss algorithms, social media, and information literacy. You can listen to the episode here.
I am very excited to announce that on June 4 and 5 I will be speaking at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Radboud University Nijmegen on my book. Specific details regarding the talk at the RU can be found here.
In May 2018, UMaine Today published a piece on the social and political impact of the #MeToo movement. The article, which can be found here, featured work by Professor Amy Blackstone (Sociology, University of Maine) and myself.
On April 12, I will be a part of a panel on “The media and #MeToo” with Brett Anderson (New Orleans Times -Picayune), Amy Blackstone (Professor of Sociology, UMaine), and Susan Gardner (Director, Rising Tide Center). We will discuss issues and challenges arising from reports of sexual harassment on social media. The panel will start at 1pm in the Bangor Room, University of Maine Memorial Union. More information can be found here.