Communication, School of

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Living In/difference; or, How to Imagine Ambivalent Networks

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-06-30
Abstract: 

In a 1954 essay Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert K. Merton coined the term homophily to describe similarity-based friendship. They based their findings on friendship patterns among neighbors in a biracial housing project in the United States, using a combined quantitative and qualitative, empirical and speculative analysis of social processes. Since then homophily has become a guiding principle for network science: it is simply presumed that similarity breeds connection. But the unpublished study by Merton, Patricia S. West, and Marie Jahoda, which grounds Lazarsfeld and Merton’s analysis, and the Merton and Bureau of Applied Social Research’s archive reveal a more complex picture. This article engages with the data traces in the archive to reimagine what enabled the residents of the studied housing project to live in difference, as neighbors. The reanimation of this archive reveals the often counterintuitive characteristic of our imagined networks: they are about removal, not addition. It also opens up new imagined possibilities for a digital future beyond the hatred of the different and online echo chambers.

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Article
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Political Memes and Fake News Discourses on Instagram

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-03-03
Abstract: 

Political memes have been previously studied in different contexts, but this study fills a gap in literature by employing a mixed method to provide insight into the discourses of fake news on Instagram. The author collected more than 550,000 Instagram posts sent by over 198,000 unique users from 24 February 2012 to 21 December 2018, using the hashtag #fakenews as a search term. The study uses topic modelling to identify the most recurrent topics that are dominant on the platform, while the most active users are identified to understand the nature of the online communities that discuss fake news. In addition, the study offers an analysis of visual metadata that accompanies Instagram images. The findings indicate that Instagram has become a weaponized toxic platform, and the largest community of active users are supporters of the US President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, mostly trolling liberal mainstream media especially CNN, while often aligning themselves with the far-right. On the other hand, a much smaller online community attempts to troll Trump and the Republicans. Theoretically, the study relies on political memes literature and argues that Instagram has become weaponized through an ongoing ‘Meme War,’ for many members in the two main online communities troll and attack each other to exert power on the platform.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

Political Memes and Fake News Discourses on Instagram

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-03
Abstract: 

Political memes have been previously studied in different contexts, but this study fills a gap in literature by employing a mixed method to provide insight into the discourses of fake news on Instagram. The author collected more than 550,000 Instagram posts sent by over 198,000 unique users from 24 February 2012 to 21 December 2018, using the hashtag #fakenews as a search term. The study uses topic modelling to identify the most recurrent topics that are dominant on the platform, while the most active users are identified to understand the nature of the online communities that discuss fake news. In addition, the study offers an analysis of visual metadata that accompanies Instagram images. The findings indicate that Instagram has become a weaponized toxic platform, and the largest community of active users are supporters of the US President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, mostly trolling liberal mainstream media especially CNN, while often aligning themselves with the far-right. On the other hand, a much smaller online community attempts to troll Trump and the Republicans. Theoretically, the study relies on political memes literature and argues that Instagram has become weaponized through an ongoing ‘Meme War,’ for many members in the two main online communities troll and attack each other to exert power on the platform.

Document type: 
Article
File(s): 

The Cancer Multiple: Producing and Translating Genomic Big Data Into Oncology Care

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2021-02-09
Abstract: 

This article provides an ethnographic account of how Big Data biology is produced, interpreted, debated, and translated in a Big Data-driven cancer clinical trial, entitled “Personalized OncoGenomics,” in Vancouver, Canada. We delve into epistemological differences between clinical judgment, pathological assessment, and bioinformatic analysis of cancer. To unpack these epistemological differences, we analyze a set of gazes required to produce Big Data biology in cancer care: clinical gaze, molecular gaze, and informational gaze. We are concerned with the interactions of these bodily gazes and their interdependence on each other to produce Big Data biology and translate it into clinical knowledge. To that end, our central research questions ask: How do medical practitioners and data scientists interact, contest, and collaborate to produce and translate Big Data into clinical knowledge? What counts as actionable and reliable data in cancer decision-making? How does the explicability or translatability of genomic Big Data come to redefine or contradict medical practice? The article contributes to current debates on whether Big Data engenders new questions and approaches to biology, or Big Data biology is merely an extension of early modern natural history and biology. This ethnographic account will highlight how genomic Big Data, which underpins the mechanism of personalized medicine, allows oncologists to understand and diagnose cancer in a different light, but it does not revolutionize or disrupt medical oncology on an institutional level. Rather, personalized medicine is interdependent on different styles of (medical) thought, gaze, and practice to be produced and made intelligible.

Document type: 
Article
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Bots as Active News Promoters: A Digital Analysis of COVID-19 Tweets

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-09-27
Abstract: 

In this study, we examined the activities of automated social media accounts or bots that tweet or retweet referencing #COVID-19 and #COVID19. From a total sample of over 50 million tweets, we used a mixed method to extract more than 185,000 messages posted by 127 bots. Our findings show that the majority of these bots tweet, retweet and mention mainstream media outlets, promote health protection and telemedicine, and disseminate breaking news on the number of casualties and deaths caused by COVID-19. We argue that some of these bots are motivated by financial incentives, while other bots actively support the survivalist movement by emphasizing the need to prepare for the pandemic and learn survival skills. We only found a few bots that showed some suspicious activity probably due to the fact that our dataset was limited to two hashtags often used by official health bodies and academic communities.

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Article
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Public Service Broadcasting-Friends Groups as a Microcosm of Public Interest Media Advocacy

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-08-19
Abstract: 

This article is concerned with the interdependencies between public service broadcasters and the third sector, an area in which there is little research that has provided in-depth analysis of case studies. It investigates and compares three public service broadcasting (PSB)-Friends groups in the UK, Australia, and South Africa. By means of analyzing semi-structured interviews and archival data, we address development, institutionalization and policy impact of the Voice of the Listener & Viewer, ABC-Friends, and SOS Coalition. Drawing on resource-mobilization theory we argue that, in particular, material, human, and informational resources, contextualized with political opportunities, have analytic value in explaining similarities and differences between the groups, which are conceived as a microcosm of public interest media advocacy.

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Article
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“It’s an Ongoing Bromance”: Counterculture and Cyberculture in Silicon Valley—An Interview with Fred Turner

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-07-16
Abstract: 

Fred Turner is considered one of the most influential experts on, and critical observers of, cyberculture. He is Harry and Norman Chandler Professor of Communication at Stanford University in the Department of Communication. Through his work, he provided a thoughtful analysis of the politics and culture of Silicon Valley. In his books, he explored the connections between the collaborative and interdisciplinary research culture of the Second World War, the protest movements of the 1960s, and the managerial ethos permeating digital and new media industries. In this interview, we discuss about the consequences that the countercultural movements had on the organization of labor in modern tech giants, especially in relation to the substitution of hierarchies for flat and more entrepreneurial structures. We also talk about the consequences that a code of ethics might have in the democratization of technology and the responsibility that we have as citizens and academics.

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Article
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“Finding the Lines to My People”: Media History and Queer Bibliographic Encounter

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-01-01
Abstract: 

This article examines the materiality, construction, and circulation strategies of LGBTQ information interfaces within a longer genealogy of media practices that troubles the Internet’s predominance in understandings of queer self-formation. It focuses on a particular bibliographic project: The Gay Bibliography (1971–1980) produced by lifetime activist Barbara Gittings in her role as coordinator of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Task Force on Gay Liberation. The article examines the role of bibliographies in the gay liberation movement’s broader information activism, and develops a longer history of “queer bibliographic encounters” that connects these older practices with paper to theorizations of queer youth and online media in the present. Methodologically, the paper analyzes a collection of several hundred letters sent to Gittings to request the bibliography, in order to examine the affective economies of information interfaces in LGBTQ contexts. The article argues that the prevalence of bibliographic encounters across a range of “old” and “new” media provides a model for understanding how information interfaces construct the subjects and stakes of social movements across time, and for imagining new forms of knowledge mobilization that expand the terms of movement participation. 

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Article
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Bugs: Rethinking the History of Computing

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-11-18
Abstract: 

This paper argues that scholars of computing, networks, and infrastructures must reckon with the inseparability of “viral” discourses in the 1990s. This co-assembled history documents the reliance on viral analogies and explanations honed in the HIV/AIDS crisis and its massive loss of life, widespread institutional neglect, and comprehensive technological failures. As the 1990s marked a period of intense domestication of computing technologies in the global North, we document how public figures, computer experts, activists, academics, and artists used the intertwined discourses surrounding HIV and new computer technologies to explicate the risks of vulnerability in complex, networked systems. The efficacy of HIV as an analogy is visible in the circulation of viral concepts, fears surrounding interdependence, and emergent descriptions of precarity in the face of a widespread “infrastructure crisis.” Through an analysis of this decade, we show how HIV/AIDS discourses indelibly marked the domestication of computing, computer networks, and nested, digitized infrastructures.

Document type: 
Article

Printing the Network: AIDS Activism and Online Access in the 1980s

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2017-11-20
Abstract: 

HIV/AIDS activists in the 1980s made up a significant cohort of early computer network users, who used Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) to create and circulate health information amongst PWA (People living with AIDS) communities. This article explores how these early adopters extended access to new computer networks by printing online information in newsletters. Their work bridged the sharing of text files over BBS—a novel networked practice—with more traditional activist media tools familiar to readers trained in civil rights, homophile, and feminist organizing. The article focuses on the Philadelphia-based organization Critical Path, led by Kiyoshi Kuromiya, who applied systems theories drawn from Buckminster Fuller’s work to the problem of HIV/AIDS. Critical Path’s print newsletter drew on BBS to put information in the hands of a wide constituency of PWAs and their allies. They targeted, in particular, PWA communities excluded from access to medical research trials based on race, gender, drug use, or carceral status, and did so through a multimedia practice that recognized how access to emerging computer networks was similarly stratified. Through analyzing Critical Path’s digital-to-print practice, I argue that HIV/AIDS activists approached new online networks as a fundamental equity issue shaped by their broader understandings of the structural violence performed by exclusion from good, up-to-date information.

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Article
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