Research Lab

I study civic engagement and the implications of digital media for the conduct of contemporary citizenship. My contribution has been to treat information and communication technologies as a means of structuring political culture, not simply as tools for distributing news content or entertainment. Political culture includes not just abstract values and ideologies. It is also defined by the material aspects of information infrastructure that provide concrete schema for patterning our values and ideologies and, in turn, our voting behavior and public policy opinions.  You can read about the teams of staff, faculty and students I have built and managed, the organizations that fund my research, and the institutional affiliations that support projects. These projects have advanced research in important ways, and some of the most high-impact findings have been picked up in the news.

In comparative communication research, my goal is to examine media systems, technology diffusion patterns, the political economy of news, journalism cultures, and technology and telecommunications policy (including relevant engineering standards and intellectual property law).

I argue that information infrastructure is politics, yet rarely are engineering standards and telecommunications policies treated as culturally significant. I demonstrate that through information infrastructure, some young democracies have become more entrenched and durable; some authoritarian regimes have made significant transitions towards democratic institutions and practices; and others have become less authoritarian, hybrid regimes where information technologies support the work of particular actors such as state, political parties, journalists, or civil society groups. My approach to the study of technology cultures involves a range of tools as appropriate for specific research questions: overseas fieldwork has allowed me learn about the micro processes of telecommunications policy formation and learning among civil society leaders in authoritarian regimes; comparative methods have allowed me to identify causal connections between technology diffusion and political outcomes across countries; large-N time series analysis have enabled me to explain variation in political outcomes around the world. Altogether, having a diverse suite of tools has allowed me to be a researcher whose questions drive methodological choices, rather than the reverse.

Currently I have three projects going:

I lead a network of researchers in cross-disciplinary social science to explain patterns of technology diffusion, public opinion, and political change.  We regularly use a range of cutting edge methods, including big data analysis, event data sets, and fuzzy logic models.  But we always ground our research with the powerful stories that come from interviews and participant observation that really bring in a punch line.  Our research both advances basic social science theory and helps explain the evolution of current events.