Arguing Politics on Facebook

“In modern politics, even the leader of the free world needs help from the sultan of Facebookistan.” ― Rebecca MacKinnon

Rebecca A. Hayes, Andrew Smock, and Caleb T. Carr published, “Face[book] Management: Self-Presentation of Political Views on Social Media” in the 66th volume of Communication Studies, November-December 2015.

Why the study? During the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, SNS (social network sites) had little if any effect on political communication or the election outcome. However, by 2012’s election cycle, SNS political communication was firmly embedded in the process, both promoting political discussion and increasing participation. The authors argue that the frequent tension between political disclosure on Facebook and maintaining friends on the site leads many users to employ face management.

“The management of political communication warrants study as it results in selective political exposure, potentially homogenizing an otherwise politically heterogeneous environment. The popularity and growing diversity of Facebook, combined with the availability of tools allowing users to filter the content they are exposed to and to limit which members of their network may view their shared content, make it an ideal setting to study self-censorship and the management of political communication.”

Research questions that guide the study:

How are users managing their disclosure of and exposure to political activity on Facebook?

What personal characteristics distinguish someone highly engaged in political Facebook management behavior? Continue reading “Arguing Politics on Facebook”


War/Violence Journalism Promotes Islamophobia

“The story of America’s resurgent Islamophobia is in many ways a media story. …[Media coverage] emphasizes combat, violence, and war. And not just as rhetorical devices for metaphorical struggles against extremism, but rather to describe a narrative of a literal, actual war against ‘radical Muslims’ or ‘Islamists.'” — Max Fisher, Vox, 7 December 2015

Leticia Anderson published “Countering Islamophobic Media Representations: The Potential Role of Peace Journalism” in the 11th volume of Global Media and Communication, 2015.

Why the study? The study was conducted in Australia, and the media there has consistently been identified by Australian Muslims as “a central social institution contributing to experiences of fear and exclusion among targeted communities.” The authors extend earlier research about peace journalism to address growing Islamophobia:

“Given the significance attributed to the media by Muslim individuals and communities as a site for the promulgation and perpetuation of Islamophobia, and the clear disruptions to community harmony and cohesion which have resulted from the growth of Islamophobia in Australia, it is important to explore the potential offered by peace journalism for combating Islamophobia and wider societal conflict.”

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Je Suis Parisien: How Music Soothes Public Grief

“The defense we try to build with our intellect is torn apart. The mirror music holds in front of us gives license to feel how our bodies are, to let our vulnerability out, to dissolve.” –E. Rudd, 2011, “Music and grief—after 22 July”

Marie Strand Skånland and Gro Trondalen published “Music and Grief: Norway After 22 July, 2011″in the 14th volume of Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 2014.

Why the essay? On July 22, 2011 Norway was rocked by a bomb explosion in Oslow and a shooting on the island of Utøya. Ultimately, seventy-seven people were killed and at least two hundred people were injured. Like 9/11 ten years earlier (and the tragedy in Paris yesterday), music played and continues to play an important role in helping support a shocked and grieving public. This essay focuses on how, specifically, music is therapeutic in public mourning and group grief.

Continue reading “Je Suis Parisien: How Music Soothes Public Grief”

The Planned Parenthood Texas Case Study

“If this feels like a full-on assault on women’s health, that’s because it is.” —Hillary Clinton, August 8, 2015

Kari White, PhD, MPH, Kristine Hopkins, PhD, Abigail R. A. Aiken, MD, PhD, Amanda Stevenson, MA, Celia Hubert, MA, Daniel Grossman, MD, and Joseph E. Potter, PhD published “The Impact of Reproductive Health Legislation on Family Planning Clinic Services in Texas” in the 105th volume of the American Journal of Public Health, May 2015.

Why the study? In 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced significant funding cuts to women’s health care and family planning programsBefore Texas’ legislative cuts went into effect, Title X (Family Planning), Title V (Maternal and Child Health), and Title XX (Social Services) were funded by a federal block grant, which supported 72 qualified organizations in Texas (including Planned Parenthood and other non-profit affiliates). Funds also supported the WHP (Women’s Health Program), which provides Medicaid waivers to legal U.S. residents with poverty-level incomes.

In total, 336,967 women were served by these programs, 11,837 of them by PP specifically and 119,083 by the Medicaid waiver WHP program. This case study describes and analyzes the funding cut impacts and “provides valuable insight into the potential effects that legislation proposed in other states may have on low-income women’s access to family planning services.”

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How Presidential Debate Audiences are Like Fireflies

“Like ‘congregating fireflies,’ humans show massive sustained entrainment across hundreds of thousands of individuals, in matters of seconds and minutes.”

Riccardo Fusaroli, Marcus Perlman, Alan Mislove, Alexandra Paxton, Teenie Matlock, and Rick Dale published “Timescales of Massive Human Entrainment” in the 10th volume of PLoS ONE, April 2015.

Why the study? Profs Fusaroli, et al., point out that much research has been devoted to a multitude of presidential debate components, but no models have yet been developed to study the collective communication behaviors of human agents in a complex system during a presidential debate. This is the first study to do so. Like fireflies “are entrained in that they match their behavior to the temporal structure of events in the environment,”  the authors aim to understand how massively shared sociomedia events (like presidential debates) might entrain audiences.

They ask, “How does the unfolding action of debates and other broadcasted events impact real-time public attention and response in social media?

Continue reading “How Presidential Debate Audiences are Like Fireflies”

Gun Violence: Scapegoating Mental Illness

“This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America.” —President Barak Obama, October 1, 2015

Jonathan M. Metzl and Kenneth T. MacLeish published “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms” in the 105th volume of the American Journal of Public Health, February 2015.

Why the study? Political responses to mass shootings in the U.S. tend to focus on the causal relationship between mental health and gun violence. Some recent responses have gone as far as to require mental health professionals to report “dangerous patients” so that authorities can confiscate their firearms. Even though the authors agree that mental illness was a factor in many mass shootings and that addressing it is important, their research aims to challenge the oversimplification of claims about gun violence that frame the discussion so that the problem of everyday gun violence in the U.S. is obscured.

Continue reading “Gun Violence: Scapegoating Mental Illness”

Trigger Warning

“The backlash against trigger warnings is part of a larger iteration of backlash against political correctness, which tells us something important about where the public thinks the power lies. …The P.C. backlash and the trigger-warning backlash hold a common fallacy: They see pushback from the margins and mistake it for threats to the most institutionally powerful.” – Aaron R. Hanlon, New Republic, 14 August 2015

Kim D. Chanbonpin published “Crisis and Trigger Warnings: Reflections on Legal Education and the Social Value of the Law” in the 90th volume of the Chicago-Kent Law Review on 15 September 2015.

Why the study? Prof. Chanbonpin focused on the recent trigger warning debate in the context of the U.S. legal education crisis because the student-led movement represents one way marginalized law students’ voices are being heard. It also adds to the growing body of research that shows trigger warnings can actually be useful tools.

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Queering Gaming

“There’s a tendency for every character’s ‘default’ to be straight, white, and male in our industry – and nobody questions that default. No character ever has to justify why they’re straight, white, and male. The moment you make them anything else, you suddenly need reasons why that’s okay…or do you?” — David Gaider, Lead Writer for BioWare, 9 July 2015

Megan Condis published “No Homosexuals in Star Wars? BioWare, ‘Gamer’ Identity, and The Politics of Privilege” in the 22nd volume of Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, May 2015.

Why the study? Prof. Condis points out that earlier research on convergence culture and gamer identity tends to lump all gamers, fans, and game producers together without looking at the important gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity differences among them. More than this, no other study is player-centered in looking at how the players themselves argued for and against a virtual queer presence. BioWare’s 2009 censorship of “homosexual,” “gay,” and “lesbian” on their forums, its segregated “gay planet” in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and its introduction of the first gay male character, Dorian, and its first trans* character, Krem, provide context for the study.

Continue reading “Queering Gaming”

Changing Campus Rape Culture, One Bystander at a Time

“I think universities need to accept that this is a problem, rather than thinking it is something that comes up only every once in a blue moon. They need a culture that supports victims while they are on campus.” — Laura Dunn, JD (

Profs Kei Alegría-Flores, Kelli Raker, Robert K. Pleasants, Mark A. Weaver, and Morris Weinberger (Alegría-Flores, et al.) published “Preventing Interpersonal Violence on College Campuses: The Effect of One Act Training on Bystander Intervention” in Volume 30 of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, September 2015.

Why the study? In 2013, the Campus SaVE Act was passed by Congress as part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). To combat campus rape and other violent acts against women, the Campus SaVE Act requires colleges and universities to start bystander education for new students. The law does not offer program components or a way to measure effectiveness, so this study looks at two programs,Helping Advocates for Violence Ending Now (HAVEN) and One Act and discusses their outcomes. (The One Act program was created by student leaders working with full-time staff and faculty. The program’s goal is  to train students on prevention of sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, and intimate partner violence by interrupting the bystander effect and taking action.)

Continue reading “Changing Campus Rape Culture, One Bystander at a Time”

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