Dissertations I wish Someone Would Write

Nikki Usher
2 min readJun 28, 2018

An infrequently updated list with jottings for studies I’d love to see

  • The contours of internet radicalization → what it looks like, and how it differs from previous platforms (or cross-platform synchrony). Do old media effects theories make sense? See this: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/josephbernstein/lane-davis-ralph-retort-seattle4truth-alt-right
  • Right now, smart technology is being enabled in ways that give people unprecedented control over their homes. There is an extreme dark side of this, which is that domestic abusers can quite literally gaslight their spouses/partners using mobile telephony. Article here https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/News/tech-torment-smart-home-technologies-domestic-abusers/story?id=56163058
  • Apparently, people are bringing digital bibles to church more and more often, and using digital rather than physical books/guidance. What does this mean for the practice of religion in the age of digitalization of everything, from the perspective of digital bible users to faith leaders to maybe even bible publishers.
  • Law and lawyers have this remarkable consistency of being deeply skeptical about offering opinions without deep study — or hedging them. Legal pundits on TV don’t do that. Why, and what does that mean for our ideas of what lawyers do?
  • Untraditional press subsidies, legal opportunities for changing journalism’s future beyond regulation… what it meant for public notices to go by the wayside, how tax law might be modified to help news organizations, and whether the NJ Free Press stuff will work.
  • Creative laborers (journalism unions, writers guild’s), and the power of labor in negotiating the future of journalism and digital media
  • Health and fitness in the digital age: Fitness trackers, extreme endurance sports, social media and social pressure, virtual coaching, etc.
  • Verification and its affordances — looking at Verification from the perspective of truth and trust, and who has the power to verify, who doesn’t get verified, and how status in real life reflects status in online life, perpetuating a cycle of those with more influence. I see this from the news perspective, but it applies elsewhere.
  • The minions on The Hill — a close look at the behind the scenes players in communication strategies of active elected officials, how they got there, and the power that they wield.
  • Taking a look at nonprofit funding for journalism and journalism innovation, industry themes, and research that results-and more broadly, a close look at the role of interstitial centers like Data and Society, Tow Center, Democracy Fund type places in the relationship between the academy, public discourse, and journalism. (see Jeff Pooley here: http://culturedigitally.org/2018/03/the-post-program-era-the-rise-of-internet-society-centers-and-a-new-interdiscipline/)



Nikki Usher

Associate Prof at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Studies news, politics, technology, and power with a humanistic social science take.