Pain Communication Research

It’s always nice to see good communication research getting picked up in the broader media, as in the case of Elena Gonzalez- Polledo‘s work on how social media users–in this case, Tumblr– communicate about chronic pain. The Social Media Cure: How People with Chronic Illness Use Memes, Selfies, and Emogis to Soothe Their Suffering by Amanda Hess appears in (March 4, 2016). You can read the original research, Chronic Media Worlds: Social Media and the Problem of Pain Communication on Tumblr, by Dr. Gonzalez-Polledo in Social Media and Society (January-March, 2016) here. Gonzalez-Polledo

Abstract for Chronic Media Worlds…:

This article explores dynamics of pain communication in the social media platform Tumblr. As a device of health communication, the Tumblr platform brings together a network of behaviors, technologies, and media forms through which pain experience is reimaged through and against mainstream biomedical frameworks. The article develops an interpretative approach to analyze how, as social media platforms reorganize affective, emotional, physical, and temporal frames of experience, communication about chronic pain and illness is reimagined in its capacity to create social worlds. Drawing on ethnographic theory to reimagine the relation between politics and poetics in pain communication, the article explores the issue- and world-making capacities of social media.

Dr. Gonzalez is also the author (with Jen Tarr) of The Thing About Pain: The Remaking of Illness Narratives in Chronic Pain Expressions on Social Media  which appeared in New Media & Society (November 20, 2014).


Black Lives Matter and Online Media

Beyond the hashtags: #Ferguson, #Blacklivesmatter, and the online struggle for offline justice,  Deen Freelon, Charlton D. McIlwain, and Meredith D. Clark‘s full 92-page report for The Center for Media & Social Impact at American University on the #Blacklivesmatter movement’s uses of online media in 2014-2015, has just been released. blm


IN 2014, a dedicated activist movement—Black Lives Matter (BLM)—ignited an urgent national conversation about police killings of unarmed Black citizens. Online tools have been anecdotally credited as critical in this effort, but researchers are only beginning to evaluate this claim. This research report examines the movement’s uses of online media in 2014 and 2015. To do so, we analyze three types of data: 40.8 million tweets, over 100,000 web links, and 40 interviews of BLM activists and allies.

Most of the report is devoted to detailing our findings, which include:
» Although the #Blacklivesmatter hashtag was created in July 2013, it was rarely used
through the summer of 2014 and did not come to signify a movement until the months
after the Ferguson protests.
» Social media posts by activists were essential in spreading Michael Brown’s story nationally.
» Protesters and their supporters were generally able to circulate their own narratives on
Twitter without relying on mainstream news outlets.
» There are six major communities that consistently discussed police brutality on Twitter
in 2014 and 2015: Black Lives Matter, Anonymous/Bipartisan Report, Black Entertainers,
Conservatives, Mainstream News, and Young Black Twitter.
» The vast majority of the communities we observed supported justice for the victims and
decisively denounced police brutality.
» Black youth discussed police brutality frequently on Twitter, but in ways that differed
substantially from how activists discussed it.
» Evidence that activists succeeded in educating casual observers on Twitter came in
two main forms: expressions of awe and disbelief at the violent police reactions to the
Ferguson protests, and conservative admissions of police brutality in the Eric Garner and
Walter Scott cases.
» The primary goals of social media use among our interviewees were education,
amplification of marginalized voices, and structural police reform.

In our concluding section, we reflect on the practical importance and implications of our findings. We hope this report contributes to the specific conversation about how Black Lives Matter and related movements have used online tools as well as to broader conversations about the general capacity of such tools to facilitate social and political change.

New Journal: Social Media+Society

The inaugural issue of Social Media+Society is out.  SM+S is a new open access, peer-reviewed journal from SAGE dedicated to the study of social media and its implications for home-coversociety. Look for the journal to  publish interdisciplinary work that draws from the social sciences, humanities and computational social sciences, reaches out to the arts and natural sciences,  and endorses mixed methods and methodologies.

Writes editor Zizi Papacharissi in January, “Our first issue, designed to be a manifesto for the journal, is scheduled to come out in Spring 2015. We also have two more special issues  coming out in 2015, one with Tarleton Gillespie, Hector Postigo and the Culture Digitally  group, and a second one with José van Dijk, Thomas Poell and their colleagues on Social  Media and the Transformation of Public Space. We are already working toward two more special issues to be published in 2016, one focused on Infancy Online and guest-edited by Tama Leaver and Bjorn Nansen, and another one guest-edited by Jean Burgess and Ben Light and focused on Gender, Sexuality, and Social Media.”

Of note, our own Guobin Yang and Rosemary Clark’s piece, Social Media and Time, is the first issue’s lead article.

Follow SM+S on Twitter @SocialMedia_Soc.

A New Era for Communication Booknotes Quarterly


Communication Booknotes Quarterly, the field’s annotative bibliographic nonpareil since 1969, has changed editorial hands for the first time.  Forty-five volumes later, founding editor Christopher Sterling (emeritus professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University) has passed the baton to Weiwu Zhang. Dr. Zhang, who describes himself as a ping pong fanatic and political news junkie, is Associate Professor of Public Relations at the College of Media & Communication at Texas Tech University. He has ambitious plans for CBQ that include continuing in the tradition of its scholarly predecessor by providing topical review bibliographic essays as well as brief annotated reviews of new books from all corners of the discipline, a proven formula for decades. But look for some changes, too, as laid out in the issue’s New Editor Note. There will be greater focus on social/emerging media, which Dr. Zhang believes has transformed not only the media landscape but communication research. There will also be increased emphasis on interpersonal communication and organizational communication,  as opposed to just media communication, which will obviously remain central. To draw new readers, CBQ will feature reviews “in the interface between communication and related disciplines in political science, marketing, sociology, and psychology.” Many reviews will be longer than the usual blurb-length we’re used to (his thinking is long form reviews count more toward tenure and promotion, thus attract junior faculty reviewers) and more electronic publications and books published in foreign languages will be selected for review.

Communication librarians have always looked forward to the navy blue arrival of CBQ (those of us who still glimpse the paper!) and I will continue to do so with the added anticipation that new editorship ushers in (no matter how top-flight the previous). Nor is it time yet to pine for Dr. Sterling’s deft reviews–he’s still reviewing. In fact, I counted 32 entries in the latest issue!

Do check out CBQ 46:1 for Dr. Zhang’s debut Topical Review Essay: Social Media in Communication. And cheers to that sturdy workhorse library staple of old, the annotated bibliography–still alive and kicking in the 21st Century.


2014 UAE Social Media Outlook

It can be difficult rounding up media usage data, especially international data, so I’m always  happy to throw such reports up on shore: 2014 UAE SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLOOK: INCREASING CONNECTIVITY BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND CITIZEN.  The 26-page report is focused on the United Arab Emirates but includes data from the wider Arab region.

From the Introduction:

The UAE also tops the regional rankings across several social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, consistently having one of the highest user penetration users in the region over the past four years. As such, this study will examine social media usage and trends in the UAE this past year, within the larger scope of social media usage in the region and its impact on Arab government, society and everyday life. It is a collaborative effort between the Dubai Press Club and the Governance and Innovation Program at the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government and builds on the foundation of research conducted by the Program on the potential of social media to drive socio-economic growth and development in the Arab region. The study will comprise three parts: the first presenting the latest social media usage statistics in the region, with a focus on the UAE’s continued and exponential growth in the past few years; the second analyzing the results of a UAE-wide survey on the potential of social media to engage citizens in the design and delivery of public services; and the third documenting the success story that is the UAE Twitter ‘brainstorming session’ on public healthcare and education issues.