Back to News

Brooke Foucault Welles Named a Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Social Data Research Fellow

Brooke Foucault Welles.

Professor Brooke Foucault Welles, Communication Studies, was recently named one of the Social Science Research Council’s (SSRC) Social Data Research Fellows. The program seeks to encourage multifaceted pathways for the collection and analysis of social data, with the larger aim of cultivating robust research on technology and society. The fellowship will support Brooke Foucault Welles’ project that, drawing on Twitter and other unique research data, will examine how marginalized groups experience political voice, attention, and participation in the United States, and how that may translate to political behavior in the 2020 election.

According to the SSRC, in this grant cycle, “fellows were asked to focus on the forthcoming 2020 election in the United States, while thinking creatively about possible approaches to gathering and analyzing relevant data.” The selected projects will offer important and timely perspectives to the election – and strengthen scholarly understanding of how polarization, toxicity, and inequality impact it. They will also bring unique comparative, cultural, and historical context to the study of social data drawn from a wide range of platforms, including common social media platforms, streaming video platforms, and recommendation systems from Amazon, among others.

Professor Foucault Welles’s project is entitled Reconsidering the Connections between New Media, (In)Equality, and Political Participation in the United States. It examines how Twitter has changed political voice and attention dynamics, and in turn, how these changes translate to offline political behavior, including voting and making campaign donations in the 2020 US presidential election. The research will demonstrate whether and how Twitter has changed how marginalized groups experience political voice, attention, and participation in the United States.

Her project responds to the reality that in the United States American democracy, there are many voices – those of marginalized groups, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), women and gender minorities, and those with low socioeconomic status – that have been systematically excluded from equal participation in politics. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that social media, especially Twitter, may be shifting the balance of who has voice and influence in the public sphere, allowing ordinary citizens greater access to influence mainstream politics Read more about her project here.

Professor Foucault Welles addresses similar themes in her co-authored (with Sarah J. Jackson and Moya Bailey) book entitled #HashtagActivism. This book explores how marginalized groups use Twitter to advance counter-narratives, preempt political spin, and build diverse networks of dissent.

Congratulations Professor Foucault Welles for being named a Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Social Data Research Fellow!