Current Research: Beppe Grillo, the V-Day demonstrations and the Italian blogosphere

I am currently working on a research project investigating the role that Beppe Grillo’s blog and Italian bloggers had in promoting the September 2007 V-Day demonstrations, which brought thousands of Italians to the streets in twenty cities all over Italy protesting, amongst other things, against political corruption and corrupted politicians. The study compares the coverage of the events by bloggers and mainstream media and investigates the role of the Internet in promoting political activism.

My general interests: The Internet, Social Capital and Political Participation

My main research interest is to explore the role of new media, in particular the Internet, on social capital, civic engagement and political participation. The growing diffusion of internet adoption and use and the popularity of Internet applications from blogs to social networking sites which allow people to access, produce and exchange online content and information in an unprecedented way, has sparkled utopian visions of a new participatory culture. But whether the euphoria surrounding Web 2.0 is backed up by actual changes in social practices is a question which needs to be investigated empirically.

I am particularly interested in exploring whether the Internet is bringing about a new participatory culture and whether this is reshaping notions of citizenship and people’s participation in the democratic process. My main focus is to investigate the online social mechanisms which lead to political engagement, especially amongst younger people or ‘digital natives’, the generation which has most successfully integrated the Internet and new information and communication technologies into their everyday life.

Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS) Research

At the OII I worked on the design and the analysis of the 2005 Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS). OxIS surveys are national representative surveys of Internet adoption and use in Britain which investigate the influence of the Internet and other information and communication technologies on everyday life. I have explored in particular the influence of the Internet on political participation and on people’s online and offline networks of sociability.

The OxIS surveys make up the British module of the World Internet Project (WIP), an international collaborative study of Internet adoption and use across 25 countries which provides a unique insight on trends both across countries and over time. The WIP project is coordinated by the Centre for the Digital Future, at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

More information about the three waves of OxIS surveys (2003, 2005, 2007), including reports, topics studied, sampling, methodology and questionnaires can be found at the OII’s OxIS website.

Doctoral Research: Social Capital and Political Participation in Britain (Oxon, 2004)

In my DPhil thesis, I have taken Britain as a case study in order to test Putnam’s social capital theory’s claim that a thriving civic community is a prerequisite for a healthy democracy, thus presenting a critical analysis of the concept of social capital. In particular, I investigated the relationship between social capital (measured as association membership and social trust) and political participation both at the individual and the aggregate level of analysis. I also looked at political trust and its relationship with both social capital and electoral and non-electoral political participation. I did so by analysing secondary data from a series of national representative surveys which cover a forty year span (1959-2001), by tracing trends in political participation and social capital in Britain in the post-war years, and by investigating the distribution of social capital and political participation across the population.

Research outputs can be found in my publications section.