By formal training and expertise, I am a sociologist of political culture with a focus on media, protest, and politics. I leverage the theories and interdisciplinary scholarship within these areas to address questions about social conflict and change. For instance, when and why do cultural factors (identities, norms, or impulses) matter in contention relative to more familiar structural and strategic ones (economic shifts, political organizations, or rational self-interest)? How are certain logics, practices or accepted ways of doing things – doing journalism, activism, policy making, or storytelling – anchored in institutionalized hierarchies of practical authority and communicative credibility? And under which conditions do institutional logics become vulnerable to challenge ? To address questions like these, I employ both qualitative and quantitative measurement strategies and research designs. My research projects regularly span contentious political communication and mobilization.
SOME RECENT PROJECTS
On CLIMATE DEMONSTRATIONS IN EUROPE: (WITH Dr. Michael Neuber and other collaboration partners)
This research began as part of an international network of research teams examining contemporary contentious political events across the globe. Building on the “Caught in the act of protest: Contextualizing Contestation” project, participants at Fridays for Future (FFF) Global Climate Strike collective actions / protest events were surveyed over 2019 (in 13 cities at the first Global Climate Strike in March; and in 19 cities at those that occurred during the September 20-27 Global Week for Future). In addition to administering protest surveys for the September and November 2019 Global Climate Strikes in Berlin, this research involves working with other survey teams based in Germany and abroad. Research outputs include a 2020 Leviathan article, entitled “Climate Justice in a Populist Era: Grievance Politicization among Fridays for Future protestors in Germany” w/ Dr. Michael Neuber; two book chapters in German; the country report for Germany (comparing climate strike participants in March and September) and the introduction of the international report Surveys of participants in Fridays For Future climate protests on 20-28 September, 2019, in 19 cities around the world, comparing the cross-national results. Current project developments are taking the Covid-19 pandemic contexts into account by collecting data from the Digital Climate Strike that took place online on April 24th , 2020 and administering a survey at the September 25th Global Climate Strike in Berlin.
On THE DIGITAL COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN EUROPE (With Dr. ANDREAS SCHÄFER):
Analyzing original data from interviews conducted with an array of political party campaign communication managers in Europe, this research project examines the heuristics, schemas, scripts, or rules of thumb for conducting campaign communications within a changing media landscape. Topics of inquiry range from identifying common communication strategies to examining the sources of the norms for conveying and evaluating messages within campaigns as political institutions as well as across political parties and national contexts. In one preliminary study, we compare the interview data from Germany and the United Kingdom to examine variations in political party communication manager perceptions of strategic social media use. I am also working on extending this project to include social movement groups.
contending performances OF REPORTORIAL objectivity:
Contrary to the assumption that in order to perform their objectivity professional journalists in legacy media institutions always hew to one common institutionalized standard or one common “bias,” this research examines how reporters sometimes perform their objectivity not by being impartial but by being partial (to their understanding of shared public values). The textual work journalists do is placed at the center of investigation to explore how and when and why journalists perform the role of neutral observation as compared to that of the guardianship of consensus. The study conceptualizes forms of analytic and outrage rhetoric in the in the mainstream news discourse about abortion in the United States, identifies the speakers to whom such rhetoric is ascribed as well as when they are expressed by journalists themselves, and compares these uses across story characteristics and political contexts from 1972 to 1994. The results point to the language through which reporters rhetorically positioned themselves and others as within or beyond the pale of acceptable controversy in the abortion debate, and the key factors that shape these normative messages about political processes. Subsequent projects building on this research include an examination of the different communicative forms and the different actors through which the “will of the people” is represented in mass media.
On the Relationship between the nursing profession and MEDIA in the context of health policy and politics: (with dr. Diana J. Mason)
This research collects and synthesizes contemporary research on efforts to influence the media coverage of matters of public concern, especially the case of media representations of health care politics and policy. It includes contributing to a project on the relationship between the nursing profession and news media: “The Woodhull Study Revisited: Nurses’ Representation in Health News Media.” It also includes work for our chapter: “Using the Power of Media to Influence Health Policy and Politics,” in Policy & Politics in Nursing and Health Care (2016; 2021).
On the Consequences of Voluntary associations cross-nationally from 1970 to 2010: (with Dr. Evan Schofer)
This research investigates the effects voluntary associations using cross-national comparisons using new data collected (by me) from the Encyclopedia of Associations. One study examines their effects on protest and the other examines their effects on inequality (gini scores). Both consider the possibility that some types of associations are better than others at influencing these outcomes. For instance, we find that important subsets of private associations – namely those linked to leisure, religion, and trade – are negatively associated with protest. Earlier versions of these studies were presented on panels at American Sociological Association Annual Meetings: “Civic Associations and Protest: A cross-national comparison” Denver, CO, August 17-20, 2012; & “Voluntary Associations and Economic Inequality,” Las Vegas, NV, August 20-23, 2011. Currently, we are revising the papers based on our most recent data, new data sets on contentious action, and updating the literature in which we situate our findings.