Research

My substantive research interests lie in the areas of political communication, political behaviour, civic engagement, and new media. Methodologically I have a developing interest in computational social science methods and social network analysis. My research has, so far, had a special focus on political activism, new forms of political participation, social capital and uncivil communication. These interests provide the overarching theme of my recently completed postdoctoral project ‘Bowling Online: Political and Cultural Consequences of Developing Social Capital through Social Networking Sites’ which sought to test whether social networking sites can affect social capital production and value change, and lead to greater participation and feelings of political efficacy.

The origins of this project lie in my PhD thesis (completed in 2010/awarded in 2011), a comparative study on the impact of postmaterialist values on young people’s offline and online political participation. In the past, I have also explored the use of new media in political participation during the 2010 Anti-cuts demonstrations in the UK. Research on this topic culminated in an article about the use of new media for mobilisation by young people in the UK, a qualitative study on the use of blogs and websites for mobilisation, and a study exploring online connecting patterns among protesters and the consequences for the organisation of collective action (see publications section).

I have also been involved in a project conducted by my wonderful collaborator, Ellen Quintelier of KU Leuven, Belgium, on the effect of personality traits on political participation, and another on the longitudinal study of how Facebook use affects young Belgian adolescents’ civic and political participation. Some output from these projects can be found in Social Science Computer Review and New Media & Society.

While in Mannheim, I had the fortune to work with Professor Jan W. van Deth whith whom I have explored issues of social capital and institutional trust in Greece. Professor van Deth and I, along with my good friend and renowned text analysis expert Will Lowe, have also been co-directors of Social Media Networks and the Relationships Between Citizens and Politics, an ambitious project exploring the role of social media for political communication and mobilisation.

I am broadly interested in the effects of new information and communication technologies — in particular social media — on democracy. My current work revolves around — but is definitely not limited to — two main areas. Using as its basis the theoretical, conceptual and empirical ideas expressed in my book Political Participation in a Changing World, the first area deals with the analysis of the effects of social media on political behaviour using meta-analytic, longitudinal and experimental methods. I am privileged to be working with a number of international experts on this topic, including Jan W. van Deth and Shelley Boulianne. The second area deals with the investigation of uncivil interactions between citizens and politicians, as well as with incivility more broadly. I am currently working on various papers on how to measure uncivil interactions between citizens and politicians (and their consequences) using computational methods, with the following fantastic indivdiauls (and scholars): Zoltán Fazekas, Pablo Barberá and Sebastian Popa. I am currently working with Spyros Kosmidis on a series of experiments attempting to shed new light on the reasons behind uncivil intereactions on social media, hoping to – one day – help save democracy. I am very priviledged and happy to be able to frequently discuss, rethink and expand all these ideas  with a group of excellent scholars from all over the world, in the context of the New York University‘s Social Media and Participation Lab group SMaPP Global, of which I am an active member.