Two men standing and talking to one another. The face of one of the men is in view, and we can see the back of the other mans head.
Center on Digital Culture and Society


CDCS researchers have organized into working groups that build knowledge on a variety of relevant topics. Read about them and their ongoing research projects below.

Working Groups

This CDCS Working Group is collectively engaging in research that critically and creatively explores themes including digital/culture, performance, embodiment, and affect. Fellows are drawing on a variety of methods from communication and related disciplines, such as critical technocultural discourse analysis, digital ethnography, and multimodal approaches.

Working Group Doctoral Fellows include:

The Critical Race and Communication working group (CR&C) focuses on studying race as an integral piece that shapes how we conduct communication research in academic institutions, engage in public scholarship outside those institutions, and interact with people of color both locally and globally. Fellows aim to add critical perspectives and interdisciplinary approaches to communication studies while amplifying scholars, media practitioners, activists, and topics that center people of color.

Working Group Doctoral Fellows include:

CR&C ongoing projects include:

  • An ongoing speaker series specifically focusing on Annenberg School for Communication alumni and scholars of color in Communication 
  • Independent study on "Critical Race and Communication: Theories, Practices and Issues in the Field" and curating of related reading lists
  • “What is the Black in Black Humor: Memes, Masks and Global Crises” (Florence Madenga)
  • “Lessons Learned: Advocacy, Strategy and Internet Shutdowns in Cameroon (Florence Madenga, in collaboration with Internews).  

This CDCS Working Group provides a venue for its members to share and analyze the socioeconomic and cultural aspects of global platform economies. Members meet monthly to explore the roles of different actors, motivations, and experiences in creating, maintaining, and resisting platform capitalism. Using methodological practices like ethnography and critical content analysis, and drawing from literature across sociology, communication, and surveillance studies, doctoral fellows in this working group aim to incorporate an extensive and inclusive approach to their work.

Working Group Doctoral Fellows include:

DPLS ongoing projects include:

Ongoing project on the platformization of video game services in China, which investigates the role of extra intermediaries in the service supply chain (Zoe Zhao)

A content analysis project on Nextdoor that examines shifts in colonizing and racialized language and rhetoric deployed by West Philadelphia users before and after the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests (Chloe Ahn & Jenny Lee)

Theory Lab is a collaborative space for critical engagement with cultural communication theory. It aims to reflexively interrogate what we are “doing” with theory as academics and to experiment with different ways of engaging theory in our teaching, writing, and multimodal projects, so it can feel useful and concrete. In biweekly meetings, members share works from the field(s) that expand on the role of theory in cultural communication, our (digital) society, and academia in general. Members also share their own work with each other to think through sticky theoretical questions and applications. Fellows aim to support each other in both understanding theory and deploying theory with discretion and care.
So far, Theory Lab has hosted sessions on topics including Baudrillard’s hyper-reality, digital memory, cultural translation and performance, and post-critique. Sessions have also attempted to map the universe of theories commonly used in cultural communication. Future projects may include a Theory Lab podcast, which would bring our workshop discussions to a larger audience, workshops on theory and multimodality, and collaborations with other research centers and working groups. This semester, sessions will be held Thursdays from 10:30am–11:30am.

Theory Lab Doctoral Fellows Include:

The Digital Activism and Data Justice (DADJ) working group engages in a collaborative research agenda that aims to bridge the gap between social movement theory and digital activism research. As a collective, fellows meet biweekly to advance ongoing DADJ research projects, discuss new and emerging research related to the field of digital activism, share and receive feedback on individual research endeavors, and construct symposiums, colloquiums, and workshops that create spaces to interrogate and further the field of research inquiry. Our group members include scholars and activists across various disciplines, including (but not limited to) communication, sociology, anthropology, and political science. If you are interested in participating, please reach out to Devo Probol for further information.

Working Group Doctoral Fellows include:

Devo Probol

Current Research Projects

Farrah Rahaman

The Claudia Jones Project is an experimental study circle, performance collective and grounding space for deep reflection and interpretation of the life and legacy of the Trinidadian Marxist cultural worker, Claudia Jones. The project is an attempt to make collaborative work from a place of shared curiosity, ancestral memory, radical world making and embodied knowledge and intuition. We will convene virtually on a weekly basis during July-September 2021. While much of our focus will be paid to her journalistic and social contributions, we will also critically examine where and how Jones is located across both the historical and cultural archives as well as the imperial and surveillant governmental records. Taking up Saidiya Hartman’s notion of critical fabulation, we seek to read against the archival silences and violences which seek to delimit the personhood of Claudia Jones and create rich archival remixes and embodied responses which attend to her agency and multitudes she contains. 

Rosemary Clark-Parsons

At the same time that emerging media platforms enable activists to quickly reach wide audiences at little or no expense, digitally networked movements face online harassment, commercial cooptation, and activist burnout. Drawing on interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, this book project demonstrates how activists are taking up networked media to pursue a do-it-ourselves-style feminism, building movements and communities from the ground up, all while juggling the affordances and limitations of their media tools.

Jasmine Erdener

Combining ethnographic field research, qualitative analysis, and in-depth interviews with humans and robots alike, this project examines the histories, ethics, and divergent possibilities for agential performing objects. From puppetry used in political theater, to AI robots as future-companions, to cyborgs as a means to better understand nature, this book interrogates various human-material relationships to reconceptualize a more equitable vision of technology.

Elisabetta Ferrari

This project aims to develop activist, social change-oriented tools to encourage people and community groups to collectively imagine better digital technologies, more in line with people’s needs and hopes. In my research on social justice activists, I have developed an interactive research method based on collaborative drawing, the visual focus group (VFG), which incorporates a collective drawing task within the structure of a focus group. While in my research diagnostic visual focus groups were used to analyze how activists think about the current state of digital technologies, in this activist version these speculative visual focus groups are designed to bring different stakeholders together to imagine a better internet.

Elisabetta Ferrari

Activists all over the world have long turned to corporate digital platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to organize, coordinate, and communicate with the public. Building on a vibrant literature that studies this development, this book project focuses on how activists make sense of the politics of these corporate platforms and the technoutopian promises that arise from Silicon Valley. Through a multi-method qualitative analysis of contemporary leftist movements in Italy, Hungary, and the United States, I develop the notion of “technological imaginary” to explain how activist appropriate, negotiate or challenge Silicon Valley’s technological discourses. Arguing that these imaginaries are shaped by the political orientations of the movements and their political contexts, the book points to the existence of multiple, situated, political internets and to the complexity of the relationship between technology and social change.

Devo Probol

This research project explores how performances of endurance lead to the forming of collective identity in digital activism, using the Meme Stock Movement’s emergence on the platform Reddit to examine this phenomenon.

Devo Probol

This research project aims to shift scholarly discussions around social movement outcomes away from the binary of success and failure and instead towards a lens of endurance.

Lucila Rozas

Using multimodal critical discourse analysis (MCDA) and engaging in other qualitative methods informed by a performative research paradigm, this project investigates how the feminist affects of the Ni Una Menos movement stick to certain "objects" that represent it, how they are digitally mediated, and what enables their circulation through different online/offline means.