Dr Chiara Bernardi

Project Title: Down Syndrome and Stereotype on Social Media platforms

User Generated Content (UGC) and the data that can be retrieved on social media are usually addressed as the new gold or silver of current economies. However, very seldom has the power of UGC and data been used to understand and map discourses of disability and associated stereotyping of people living with learning disabilities. This project has undertaken an analysis of the discourses associated with Down Syndrome on social media, specifically Twitter and Instagram, and following the hashtag #DownSyndrome.

There exists a very limited literature on the representation of Down Syndrome in media research. Such information could be used by organisations, institutions and charities that work with people with Down Syndrome, to build coherent social marketing campaigns. There is a wealth of content produced online with regards to Down Syndrome but, to date, little attention has been given to the rhetoric and the tone of these online conversations that are produced by users (and not organisations) on social media.

This project is beneficial to the medical and social care communities and will contribute to the growing research in disability studies and digital media studies, while also benefiting a broader discussion about communication and non-profit marketing for organisations tackling issues such as inclusion, diversity and disability, and are hoping to maximize the data and the insights that UGC and social media data can offer.

The analysis has covered the years 2017-2019 and it has employed computational mixed methods to understand the main gaps in media literature and understand how digital methodologies of analysis can help bridge such gaps. The results have been presented in academic and non-academic settings and a number of articles are awaiting publication.

Awarded: Research Incentive Grant

Field: Arts & Humanities

University: University of Stirling

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