Essay on importance of cross-platform social movement research

I have an essay in Human:Putting the Social into Science on the need for cross and multi-platform research to understand contemporary social movements such as Black Lives Matter. Drawing on my forthcoming book Digital Contention in a Divided Society, I argue that we need to move away from studies involving the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of Twitter hashtags to explore how activist content is distributed across online platforms. Thanks to Laura Lightfinch and Victoria Wood for their help with this. The piece can be read here

Presentation at AoIR Life 2020 conference

#AoIR 2020 Life Conference, 26-31 October 2020.

Suay Ozkula, Jenny Hayes and I have a paper at the AoIR Life 2020 conference this month. Suay has created a short video summarising the paper, which can be found on the AoIR 2020 playlist.

The title and abstract can be found below:

Ozkula, S., Reilly, P.J. and Hayes, J. (2020) Easy Data, usual suspects, same old places? A systematic review of methodological approaches in digital activism research, 1995-2019, Selected Papers in Internet Research 2020. Research from the Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers. 

Burgess and Bruns (2015) have linked the computational turn in social media research to a rise in studies that focus exclusively on ‘easy’ data, such as the ‘low hanging fruit’ provided by Twitter hashtags. This paper set out to explore whether this preponderance of easy data and studies focused on the 2011-12 protests is evident in research between 1995 and 2019 through a systematic review of digital activism literature (N = 1444). A particular focus of the review was the extent to which digital activism research revolved around the use of computational digital methods, case studies based in Europe and North America and data gathered from single online platforms (e.g. Twitter). The review showed that most of these studies focused on social movements, campaigns, activists, and parties based in the United Kingdom and United States, and were conducted by researchers based in universities in these countries. In contrast, there were relatively few articles addressing activism, institutions and platforms in non-Western /Global South contexts with the exception of the Arab Spring in 2011. In terms of methodological approaches, traditional research methods and big data digital methods studies were prevalent. In response to the easy data hypothesis, the study found that Twitter was the most researched platform in the corpus, but that digital methods were not as commonly deployed in these articles as traditional methods. Thus, the paper concludes argues in favor of greater diversity in digital activism research in terms of its methods, participants, and countries of origin.

Suay Ozkula summarises our AoIR 2020 paper