PolCommTech | Research Projects

 

Mean Tweets: The impact of online harassment on political journalists in Canada

While social media has fostered an environment for journalists and the public to connect and interact in creative ways, it also makes journalists, particularly women journalists, vulnerable to online bullying and harassment. Dealing with mean tweets has become part of journalists' job description.

Key questions:

  • Are there differences based on gender in the quantity and types of negative messages journalists receive on Twitter?

  • How do journalists respond to online harassment and what is the impact on how they do their job?

Methods:

  • Manual content analysis of tweets inform a bespoke machine learning approach for automated analysis

  • In-depth interviews with journalists

Funding: SSHRC Insight Development Grant

Project leads:

Dr. Elizabeth Dubois, Dr. Chirs Tenove, Trevor Deley

Mean Tweets image - a blue map in the background with a hand holding a cell phone in the bottom left foreground. the cell phone shows a twitter logo.
Global Journalism Innovation image - image of a library with two long wooden tables with wooden chairs

Global Journalism Innovation:

Policy Impacts

This project investigates how explanatory journalism informs public dialogue and policy action, against a backdrop of declining commercial news media and concerns about disinformation. This is part of a larger project led by Dr. Alfred Hermida and Dr. Mary Lynn Young at the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with The Conversation Canada, and the network of affiliates in Australia, France, the UK, and the US.

Key questions:

  • Are there policy impacts of explanatory journalism by academics?

 

Methods:

  • Manual and automated content analysis of policy documents

  • In-depth interviews with policy makers

 

Funding: SSHRC Partnership Grant

 

Project leads:

Dr. Elizabeth Dubois, Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau

 

Digital Ecosystem Research Challenge

This large-scale collaboration included 18 research teams from across Canada and internationally who each worked with digital data collected during the 2019 federal elections in Canada. Running from April 2019 to March 2020, the goal of the project was to map the digital ecosystem in order to support increased civic and digital literacy. The project highlights the importance of collaboration and communication between researchers to address the challenges of navigating trace data and the difficulties of keeping up-to-date with rapid innovations in digital media. 

 

Key questions:

  • What were the political uses and impacts of digital media during the 2019 federal elections in Canada?

  • How can we collaborate to make data more accessible to a wide range of researchers?

Methods:

  • Manual content analysis of tweets inform a bespoke machine learning approach for automated analysis

  • In-depth interviews with journalists​

Outputs:

Funding: Canada History Fund Grant and the Digital Citizen Initiative, Government of Canada

Project leads:

Dr. Elizabeth Dubois, Dr. Taylor Owen, Guillermo Renna

 
Connected Canada

Connected Canada

Initiative

This project unpacks what it means to be a digital citizen in Canada today and presents a research agenda for developing a deeper understanding of the ways Canadians use the Internet and engage in a digital media environment. In a variety of formats, we bring together academics, policy makers, lawyers, journalists, and civil society members to foster interdisciplinary discussions. Through this Initiative we investigate digital civic participation and inclusion, the interaction of citizens and their political and democratic institutions, as well as the need to redesign legal frameworks to strengthen and build democratic institutions and to promote an inclusive society. So far the Initiative includes a conference, report, edited book, and book chapter.

Key questions:

  • What does it mean to be a citizen in Canada in a digital context?

  • What are the implications of this digital setting for citizens and policy making?

Outputs:

Funding: SSHRC Connections Grant

Project leads:

Dr. Elizabeth Dubois, Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau

 

Political Bots

Work on “political bots” (automated social media accounts which mimic human actors) has often focused on computational propaganda and the potential negative impacts of automation in politics. This project examines the types of political bots that exist and their complex relationships with other political actors. A series of papers highlights that political bots are neither necessarily good nor bad. This work contributes to important policy conversations. For example, the use of bots in Canada’s political landscape gives rise to concerns about political advertising and voter suppression and this work has been used to help develop policy responses.

Methods:

  • Case studies of the 2015 federal election in Canada and of the WikiEdits bot @gccaedits

  • Manual content analysis of tweets and newspaper articles

  • Review of government documents collected via ATIP requests

  • In-depth interviews with policy makers, bot creators, journalisms and other political actors

Outputs:

  • Dubois, E. and McKelvey, F. (2018). Building bot typologies. In Woolley, S. and Howard, P. Computational Propaganda. (pp. 64-85). Oxford University Press.

  • Dubois, E. & McKelvey, F. (2019). Political Bots: Disrupting Canada’s Democracy. Canadian Journal of Communication, 44(2), 27-33. 

Project leads and collaborators:

Dr. Elizabeth Dubois, Dr. Fenwick McKelvey, Dr. Heather Ford, Dr. Cornelius Puschmann, Dr. Amanda Clarke

Computers
 
iphone

Search, Social Media, and Political Opinion Formation

The Quello Search Project project investigates the roles of social media, search, and personal influence in people’s political opinion formation process. Housed at the Quello Center at Michigan State University, this was a collaboration between researchers at MSU, the University of Oxford and the University of Ottawa.

Methods:

  • Nationally representative web-based surveys in seven nations (N= 14000, 2000 per nation)

  • Google Trends data analysis

Outputs:

Funding: Google

Project leads:

Dr. Elizabeth Dubois, Dr. Grant Blank, Dr. W.H. Dutton, Dr. Bianca Reisdorf

Overhead photo of a woman working. There are many books and reference materials on her desk.

Other recent work

Deley, T., & Dubois, E. (2020). Assessing Trust Versus Reliance for Technology Platforms by Systematic Literature Review. Social Media + Society

Assembly: Positionality-Aware Machine Learning. The Kaleidoscope team presented a tutorial at ACM FAcct (2020) and Dubois summarized their work in a 2019 presentation in Boston. See the project website and white paper.