My work broadly covers the cultural, social, and policy implications of emerging technologies, primarily social media. I am interested in how social media makes large audiences available to individuals, and how these audiences affect identity, self-presentation, and interpersonal relationships. Currently, I am researching disinformation and far-right subcultures online and finishing my second monograph (on networked privacy and marginalized populations).
I am a qualitative social scientist in Communication and Media Studies, located primarily in the subfield of Internet Studies. My methods include ethnography, interviews, focus groups, discourse analysis, and cultural studies. I like multimethodological work and enjoy working with critical, interpretive, qualitative, and quantitative scholars.
If you’ve never read any of my work, my most-cited paper (by far) is “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience.” Danah boyd and I wrote this piece based on research I did as a PhD intern at Microsoft Research in 2009; it is the first scholarly piece on what danah calls “context collapse.” Here’s the PDF.
My current research areas are:
- Far-right subcultures, disinformation, and networked harassment
- Privacy and surveillance
For a complete listing of my work with links to PDFs of articles (including work on a bunch of other stuff) please see my Publications page.
Please note that full drafts of papers in review or being workshopped are not linked here as they may change substantively before publication. Please email me for a copy of the current draft.
FAR-RIGHT SUBCULTURES and DISINFORMATION
I am interested in far-right extremist subcultures, such as the alt-right and the Men’s Rights Movement, and how they use social media to spread propaganda, manipulate mainstream media, and conduct systemic harassment. Given that most social media technologies were based on idealistic visions of human interaction, they are easily exploited by bad actors. Institutions like journalism and academia have been slow to adapt, and their adherence to practices developed in the age of broadcast media has, for the most part, allowed them to be exploited very efficiently and ruthlessly by extremist groups. For instance, the emphasis on “free speech” on platforms like Reddit and Twitter has made them rife with hateful speech and harassment, while the mainstream media’s desire to show “both sides of the story” has allowed white supremacist and misogynist points of view to be positioned as equally valid as anti-racist and feminist perspectives.
From 2020-2022, I am an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, working on a project called “Redpills and Radicalization: Understanding Disinformation’s Impact.” Abstract:
The rise of far-right extremism in the United States and across the world has led to political fractioning, violence, and a mainstreaming of hateful content. Many different far-right groups use the internet to recruit others to their ways of thinking, a term colloquially referred to as “redpilling.” There is a strong popular belief that exposure to extremist content online leads to far-right radicalization and even violence. Understanding why individuals commit ideologically motivated mass violence is of the utmost importance, as is determining the role of social media platforms in hosting and amplifying harmful content. However, the conventional wisdom around online radicalization is deeply simplistic and unsupported by evidence. This project questions popular and scholarly narratives of redpilling and online radicalization, asking instead how and why people come to believe fringe, false, or extremist viewpoints that they encounter on social media platforms.
Other recent work examines why people share fake news. I maintain that people primarily share news stories online to express their identity. In a very polarizing time in America, partisan identity often reflects social class, family, and environment. In other words, the political is personal. As a result, solving the “fake news” problem is not simply a matter of media literacy or fact-checking; it requires delving into the conspiratorial thinking and hatred of opposition parties that is spreading across both the left and the right.
Fake news, disinformation, and media manipulation:
- Marwick, A. & Partin, W. “Constructing Alternative Facts: Populist Expertise and the QAnon Conspiracy.” Paper presented at Association of Internet Researchers (AOIR) 2020; in preparation for journal submission.
- Marwick, A. and Clancy, B. (working whitepaper). “Radicalization: A Literature Review.”
- Marwick, A., Kuo, R., Cameron, S. J.* & Weigel, M. (2021). Critical Disinformation Studies: A Syllabus. Center for Information, Technology, & Public Life (CITAP), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. https://citap.unc.edu/critical-disinfo.
- Freelon, D., Marwick, A. and Kreiss, D. (2020). “False Equivalencies: Online activism from left to right.” Science 369(6508): 1197-1201.
- Marwick, A. (2018). “Why Do People Share Fake News? A Sociotechnical Model of Media Effects.” Georgetown Law Technology Review 2: 474-512. [Open Access]
- “Taking the Red Pill: Ideological Motivations for Spreading Online Disinformation.” (with Becca Lewis). Understanding and Addressing the Disinformation Ecosystem, University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication, Philadelphia, PA, Lewis, December 15 – 16, 2017. [PDF]
- Marwick, A. and Lewis, B. (2017). Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online. New York: Data & Society Research Institute. [Open Access]
The Men’s Rights Movement and gendered harassment:
- Marwick, A. & Caplan, R. (2018). “Drinking Male Tears: Language, the Manosphere, and Networked Harassment.” Feminist Media Studies. Published online before print. [Link] [PDF]
- Marwick, A. (2017). “Scandal or Sex Crime? Gendered Privacy and the Celebrity Nude Photo Leaks.” Ethics and Information Technology, 19(3), 177-191. [Link] [PDF]
- Marwick, A. (2021). “Morally Motivated Networked Harassment as Normative Reinforcement.” Social Media & Society.
- Lewis, R., Marwick, A., and Partin, W. (2021). “We Dissect Stupidity and Respond to It: Response Videos and Networked Harassment on YouTube.” American Behavioral Scientist 65(5): 735-756.
- Marwick, A. (2020). “Media Studies and the Pitfalls of Publicity.” Television and New Media 21(6): 608-615.
- Marwick, A., Blackwell, L., & Lo, K. (2016). Best Practices for Conducting Risky Research and Protecting Yourself from Online Harassment (Data & Society Guide). New York: Data & Society Research Institute. [Open Access]
- Marwick, A. and Miller, R. (2014, June 10). “Online Harassment, Defamation, and Hateful Speech: A Primer of the Legal Landscape.” Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy Report No. 2, Fordham Law School, New York, NY. [Open Access]
- Marwick, A. (2013). “There’s No Justice Like Angry Mob Justice: Regulating Hate Speech through Internet Vigilantism.” Selected Papers of Internet Research 14.0. Denver, CO: October 24-27. [Open Access]
ONLINE PRIVACY AND SURVEILLANCE
My motivation in researching online privacy is to interrogate victim-blaming discourses that maintain that privacy violations are the fault of the victim, whether for putting “too much” information online or not protecting themselves appropriately. In contrast, I have been working out a theory of networked privacy that maintains that privacy violations are inevitable as a result of the social connections made possible by social media, the technical affordances of platforms, and large-scale data-mining and surveillance. These violations are inevitably most difficult for people marginalized in other areas of their lives, meaning that privacy should be seen as a social justice issue. My focus so far in this area has been socio-economic status, although my current research discusses gendered privacy which examines “revenge porn,” harassment, doxing, and nude photo leaks as privacy issues that are more likely to happen to women, nonbinary, trans, and queer folks.
Other recent work interrogates the privacy paradox, which basically asks why people claim to care about their privacy while posting personal data online. I find this line of questioning quite frustrating. Information provision online is not and should not be a proxy of privacy concern. This ignores the vast social benefits that participating online provides, and it ignores the fact that people delineate between information like health data, credit card numbers, nude photos etc. and social information (pictures, birthday, likes and dislikes). I am also interested in the privacy calculus literature, which maintains that people make a cost-benefit decision when providing information. My two papers with Eszter Hargittai suggests that people think privacy violations are inevitable, and instead do what they can to mitigate their impact.
Privacy and Marginalized Individuals
- Danah boyd and I edited a special issue of the International Journal of Communication called “Privacy at the Margins” which collects a number of papers examining privacy attitudes and practices among understudied groups.
- We also wrote a review essay which you can read here.
- Pitcan, M., Marwick, A. & boyd, d. (2018). “Performing the Vanilla Self: Respectability Politics, Social Class, and the Digital World.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. [Open Access Link]
- Marwick, A., Fontaine, C. & boyd, d. (2017). “‘Nobody sees it, nobody gets mad’: Social Media, Privacy, and Personal Responsibility among Low-SES Youth.” Social Media & Society, May 30. [Open Access Link]
- Marwick, A. (2017). “Scandal or Sex Crime? Gendered Privacy and the Celebrity Nude Photo Leaks.” Ethics and Information Technology, 19(3), 177-191. [LINK] [PDF]
- Gilman, M., Madden, M., Levy, K & Marwick, A. (2017). “Privacy, Poverty and Big Data: A Matrix of Vulnerabilities for Poor Americans.” Washington University Law Review 95(1): 53-125. [Open Access Link]
Networked Privacy, Privacy Practices, and the Privacy Paradox
- Marwick, A. & Hargittai, E. (2019). “Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Lose? Incentives and Disincentives for Sharing Personal Information with Institutional Actors Online.” Information, Communication and Society. [Link] [PDF]
- Hargittai, E. and Marwick, A. (2016). “‘What Can I Really Do?’ Explaining the Privacy Paradox with Online Apathy.” International Journal of Communication 16. [Open Access Link]
- Marwick, A and boyd, d. (2014). “Networked privacy: How teenagers negotiate context in social media.” New Media and Society 16(7): 1051-1067. [Link] [PDF]
- danah boyd and Alice Marwick. (2011). “Social Privacy in Networked Publics: Teens’ Attitudes, Practices, and Strategies.” Paper presented at the Oxford Internet Institute Decade in Internet Time Symposium, September 22. [Open Access Link]
- (2011). Youth, Privacy and Reputation Literature Review (with John Palfrey and Diego Murgia-Diaz)
- Marwick, A. (2016). “Online Consumers and Big Data.” Key Issues In Big Data Surveillance Research Workshop, 12-14 May 2016, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. [PDF]
- Marwick, A. (2014). “How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined.” New York Review of Books, January 9. [paywall, but sometimes open] [PDF]
- Marwick, A. (2012). “The Public Domain: Social Surveillance in Everyday Life.” Surveillance and Society 9(4). [Open access]
I no longer work very much on online celebrity, the practice of micro-celebrity, or consumer culture, but I am extremely flattered that my earlier work on the subject still has significant uptake . However, if you want to interview someone about TikTok influencers, or need an outside reader for your dissertation on [awesome related topic], I am no longer your gal– there are a plethora of talented junior academics working on these issues who keep up with the field more than I do.
My primary lens through which to examine online celebrity is as a practice that requires emotional labor and self-censorship. If you want to read my thoughts on this, the best source is Chapter 3 of Status Update (“the Fabulous Lives of Micro-celebrities”), where I talk extensively about micro-celebrity practice and provide multiple case studies from Silicon Valley during the Web 2.0 era.
- Marwick, A. (2019). “The Algorithmic Celebrity: The Future of Internet Fame and Microcelebrity Studies.” In Abidin, C. and Brown, M.L. (eds), Microcelebrity around the Globe: Approaches to Cultures of Internet Fame. Bingley UK: Emerald Group Publishing, pp.161-169. [Scanned Book Chapter PDF]
- Marwick, A. (2015). “Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy.” Public Culture 27(1): 137-160. [Link] [Pre-Print PDF]
- Marwick, A (2015). “You May Know Me from YouTube: (Micro)-Celebrity in Social Media.” In Marshall, D. & Redmond, S. (eds), A Companion to Celebrity. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 333-350. [Pre-Print PDF]
- Marwick, A. and boyd, d. (2011). “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter.” Convergence 17(2): 139 – 158. [Link] [PDF]
- Marwick, A. and boyd, d. (2011). “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience.” New Media and Society 13(1): 114-133. [Link] [PDF]