I joined an interdisciplinary research group concerned with the effects of personalization algorithms in 2018. Last month, our research group was awarded a $1.1 million grant from the United States Dept. of Defense to pursue research exploring how and why some people adopt extreme political and cultural views online. I will be working on the grant as the research assistant for the 2020-2021 academic school year.
The research blends interview, survey, and computational methods to map how users understand personalization and radical content, how psychological attributes makes on vulnerable to radicalization, and how algorithmic personalization may result in radicalization. My primary role as a research assistantship will be preparing and conducting the social scientific research elements of the project.
The research group currently consists of Brian Ekdale (Iowa), Rishab Nithyanand (Iowa), Tim Havens (Iowa), Raven Maragh (Gonzaga), Andy High (Penn State), John Thiede (Iowa), and Ryan Stoldt (Iowa). The group published work on how Google News creates filter bubbles before I joined, and we have since focused on questions of algorithms and race, polarization, and radicalization.
Times are pretty wild right now, but it remains critically important to continue to support our communities. As an academic, that support needs to carry over to our students and peers. I’ll be hosting online office hours on Zoom every Tuesday at 3pm CST for the next weeks to try and support those communities. Follow my twitter to get the link to each week’s chatroom.
These open office hours are meant to provide a space for collaboration. I’m happy to offer feedback to students working on projects for school, other academics who are thinking through research ideas, and creatives who are working on all sorts of video projects. I can’t promise that I’ll always be able to help you entirely, but I’d love to at least try.
The Journal of Media Ethics published my new article, “Ethics of Authenticity: Social Media Influencers and the Production of Sponsored Content.” My co-authors and I argue that social media influencers do not approach the creation of sponsored content without ethical consideration, like many critics of influencers suggest. Instead, we argue that the framework they use to make ethical decisions is misunderstood. Influencers consider ethics through their relationship with their audience and their personal brand. If they believe the sponsored content is authentic to both their brand and their audience, they believe it’s an ethically sound production. Read the full article at the Journal of Media Ethics.
Here’s the full abstract: Media coverage of influencer marketing abounds with ethical questions about this emerging industry. Much of this coverage assumes influencers operate without an ethical framework and many social media personalities skirt around the edges of legal guidelines. Our study starts from the premise that influencer marketing is not inherently unethical but, rather, the ethical principles guiding production of sponsored content are not well understood. Through a case study of the travel and tourism media industry, our findings demonstrate that influencers use the concept of authenticity as an ethical framework when producing sponsored content. This ethics of authenticity is premised on two central tenets: being true to one’s self and brand and being true to one’s audience. This framework puts the influencers’ brand identity and relationship with their audience at the forefront while simultaneously allowing them to profit from content designed to benefit brands and destinations.
EDIT: This paper was originally accepted at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies 2020 National Conference. That conference was cancelled due to COVID-19. The paper was then resubmitted to AEJMC’s 2020 National Conference. EDIT 2:
I’m excited to be presenting a new paper on television “quality” at AEJMC 2020. “Quality” has many meanings that differ based on the person defining the term. In the television industry, quality has been defined by shows with large audiences, shows that appeal to distinct audiences advertisers hope to reach, and aesthetics and storytelling that go beyond viewers’ everyday expectations. The former two definitions have tended to be favored by the industry while the latter has been favored by critics. Both of the definitions used by the industry that are described here define quality by a show’s relationship to its audience and advertisers. So, how does the industry define quality when internet-distributed television services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video don’t have advertisers?
This talk will argue that shows that travel transnationally serve as markers of quality for internet-distributed television services. Through a discussion of Netflix’ globalizing rhetoric, research on the economic models behind the companies, and the types of shows that they promote globally, I hope to delineate the types of shows that serve as quality, and the differences between those shows.
I’m honored to announce that I was selected as one of four 2019-2020 Graduate Teaching Fellows at the Center for Teaching at the University of Iowa. Graduate Teaching Fellows engage in a year of research and praxis on teaching. I’ll be developing an online workshop about universal design for learning in online contexts for faculty and graduate students. Learn more about the program here.
As a master’s student, Dr. Jessica Freeman asked me to help her transcribe interviews on research she was working on around grandparents raising grandchildren, or grandfamilies. Transcribing was an entirely new experience since I was new to research, so it gave me a great opportunity to dive into the world of interview methodology. After transcribing hours of interviews, I began talking with Jessica about some themes I saw in the research. From there, we started talking about writing a paper together on the topic.
As usual, I’ve given myself a pretty strict reading schedule for this summer. I’ll be working through these, a chapter a day, while working on my dissertation proposal, working on journal articles, and managing the Journal of Communication Inquiry.Here’s what I’m planning to get through this summer:
Millennial Monsters by Anne Allison
Modernity at Large by Arjun Appadurai
Playing to the Crowd by Nancy Baym
Artificial Unintelligence by Meredith Broussard
The Rise of Network Society by Manuel Castells
Spotify Teardown by Maria Erickson
Automating Inequality by Virginia Eubanks
Weaving the Dark Web by Rob Gehl
The Constitution of Society by Anthony Giddens
The Conditions of Postmodernity by David Harvey
The Qualified Self by Lee Humphreys
How We Became Post-Human by N. Katherine Hayles
Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future by John MacCormick
Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neal
The Procrastination Economy by Ethan Tussey
Violence by Slavoj Zizek
For fun, I’ve been working my way through His Dark Materials (can’t wait for the HBO adaptation now), Tinkerings by Paul Harding, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, The Rap Yearbook by Shea Serrano, and City On Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg.
My article “Professionalizing and Profiting: The Rise of Intermediaries in the Social Media Influencer Industry” was published last month in Social Media and Society. This study examines the relationship between travel influencers (e.g., bloggers and social media personalities) and destination marketers within the changing travel and tourism industry. Through in-depth interviews, observations, and document analysis, we explore the tensions between travel influencers and destination marketers that shape the way travel is promoted, labor is compensated, and professional structures are negotiated. We examine a new breed of travel and tourism worker—intermediaries who seek to professionalize and formalize the relationship between influencers and destination marketers while simultaneously solidifying their own role within the industry. Intermediaries promote and facilitate relationships based on structured flexibility—formalized agreements designed to satisfy a brand’s campaign goals yet open enough for influencers to pursue their unique needs. By examining the relationships between digital content creators, destination marketers, and third-party intermediaries, this article provides insight into how digital media industries negotiate the tension between participation and control.
Book reviews have become a good friend during my PhD program. They help decide what books are worth spending the time to read fully, contextualize what conversations the book joins, and usefully summarize some of the key arguments of the books (and often where to find them within the book). The Media Industries Journal recently published my review of Courtney Brannon Donoghue’s Localising Hollywood, a book exploring the practices and strategies of Hollywood’s distribution of films globally. Read the review here.