My research focuses on identifying emerging properties of communication and communication networks in the networked information age and understanding their implications for collective action, civic engagement, and social capital. In particular, I have focused on how social collaborative networks facilitated by digital communication technologies help individuals or organizations mobilize movements and address social problems at the local, national, or international level. My research methods include network analysis, social media content analysis, survey, and experiment.
Structure of Digital Communication Networks
My research on the structure of digital communication networks allows me to examine how changes in the architecture of connectedness at the global, national, or individual level have influenced the ways people perceive social problems and participate in addressing those problems. For example, my research recently published in the Journal of Communication examines how the evolution of Internet connectivity in the Middle East and North Africa is related to political movements in the regions. Studies such as this lay the groundwork for me to investigate the evolution of communication structures and the impact of that evolution on collective action.
Social Media and Collective Action
Increased availability and affordability of digital networks afford new ways of organizing social movements. My research in this area examines how people use different digital communication technologies to organize collective action or mobilize movements. For example, I conducted focus groups and surveys with Kanas City teenagers to examine their use of social media and collective action. Funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, this research yielded two peer-reviewed journal publications – one in the New Media & Society and the other in the Journal of Applied Communication Research.
Social Media and International Communication
While information is being distributed digitally, the content that information represents remains critical to understanding influences of digital media on international communication. I have studied how parties involved in international conflicts use social media sites to promote their positions and how people use those sites to communicate their ideas with people around the world. For example, I analyzed Twitter images used by Israel’s Defense Forces and Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades during their recent confrontations. Another study considered characteristics of videos submitted to a YouTube-based worldwide video competition aimed at encouraging global dialogue on democracy.
Social Media and Social Entrepreneurship
Social entrepreneurship, the application of commercial strategies to address important social problems, has captured the imagination of business people and citizens seeking to identify financially sustainable ways of dealing with issues such as poverty, disease and violence. The success of social enterprises, especially in the critical early period, requires an effective digital communication strategy. However, this is the precise time when needed human and financial resources to develop such strategies are lacking. I have been conducting interviews and focus groups with social entrepreneurs based in the greater Kansas City area to understand their communication practices and needs. This research will cover characteristics of social entrepreneurs and their companies, business models used, marketing strategies, communication channels utilized, and social media strategies.