About

I am a current PhD candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. I work with Yphtach Lelkes and am a member of the Democracy and Information Group and the Digital Media, Networks, and Political Communication Group. My current research occurs at the intersection of computational science, political science, and cultural studies. I am particularly interested in the feedback loop between cultural products and political identity. My proposed dissertation will assess the relationship between partisanship and cultural taste, employing both experiments and observational network analyses.

In 2016, I earned degrees in English Literature and Mathematics from SUNY Geneseo, a small state college in Upstate New York. My senior honors thesis provided a sociological perspective on the social functions of critics and criticism in the 21st Century. In 2014, I helped start The Canonicity Project, a student led research group, with my good friend Ben Wach and our research advisor Dr. Gillian Paku. My research ended up involving the study of literary spaces and their manipulation, and how they influence our perception of culture. In particular, I worked on developing a theoretical framework for critiquing cultural objects that matches the standards for rigor and ethics necessary of the field.

While I did not have much of it, I spent my time outside of academics contributing to Geneseo's cross country and track and field teams. In my undergraduate years, my personal bests were: 25:14 for the 8k, 15:34 for the 5k, and 31:20 for the 10k. In 2013, I ran at my first NCAA D3 Cross Country Championships. In 2014 and 2015, I had the honor of captaining the Geneseo Cross Country team. In 2015, I ran in my second NCAA D3 Cross Country Championships, helping Geneseo earn a 3rd place finish, the highest finish in the program's history. Today, while I do not run as much, I now devote some of my free time during the fall cross country season to collecting race results and using speed ratings to predict the team results at the D3 championships.

Research

Working Papers

Local news availability does not increase pro-social pandemic response

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has been notably partisan. However, recent evidence suggests that people have also been directing more attention to local newspapers during this period. Given that local newspapers promote pro-social civic behavior, such as turning out to vote, it is possible that this increase in attention is helping communities to adopt necessary social distancing behavior. To test this possibility, I combine data from Google on mobility in thousands of American counties with counts of the number of newspapers available in each county, as well as county-level pandemic and demographic fea- tures, to model changes in staying at home and traveling for retail and recreation purposes. I find that even though behavior change is corre- lated with local newspaper availability, the association disappears when controlling for additional pandemic and demographic features. The lack of an effect persists even when applying covariate balancing propensity score weighting. The lack of a causal effect of local news availability on social distancing uptake suggests that local news is limited in its ability to undo the politicization of national issues.

- Working Paper

- Supplement

Partisanship or Culture? The Effects of Information Variety and Volume on Trust

Co-Authored with Do Eon Lee

There is little doubt over the existence of affective polarization, but findings on the related causal effects of party cues on non-political behavior may be affected by design decisions related to the volume and types of information used in experiments, as well as the trust framework employed. Here, we consider how these effects vary across low and high information environments for a less impactful trust context replicating initial trust conditions. We find that in low trust conditions, the effects of party cues are stable between party groups and are strong relative to the effects of other pieces of information about race, gender, religion, religiosity, policy preferences, and cultural preferences. However, such effects are reduced and become highly moderated by party affiliation within the high information environment. These findings suggest that differences between the implications of earlier research on the behavioral consequences of affective polarization and daily life may be explained by assumptions made inthe design of earlier studies.

Presented at MPSA, 2019

Presentations

Michigan Symposium on Media and Politics, 2020 - Topical Biases in Local News Curation: An Audit of Google News

Co-Authored with Kokil Jaidka and Yphtach Lelkes

Local news plays an essential role in ensuring the healthy functioning of democracy. However, local news outlets have struggled to stay open in the more competitive market of digital media. The factors contributing to this struggle are not entirely clear. Demand-side preferences certainly play a role, but supply-side decisions may also divert readership in ways that are harmful to local news outlets. To gain a better understanding of how one major kind of gatekeeper -- an online news aggregator -- may be affecting the ability of media consumers to access local news outlets, we conduct an audit of Google News. While there is very little local news on the default portal, we find evidence that the amount of local news returned by Google News depends heavily on the actual query used and not geographic or market-specific features.

PACSS, 2019 - Locating the Local: An Audit of Google News

Co-Authored with Kokil Jaidka and Yphtach Lelkes

This study audits the role of search engines in disseminating local news in US communities. In recent years, there have been mounting concerns about the consolidation of the newspaper industry into the hands of a few large corporations, which have all but wiped out smaller newspapers that are stakeholders in local communities. A recent study conducted by the University of North Carolina reported that about 3.2 million people in about 200 counties in the United States live in a "news vaccuum": a place without any weekly or daily newspaper. Furthermore, about 1300 US communities are in danger of becoming news deserts -- places where residents are facing significantly diminished access to the sort of important news and information that feeds grassroots democracy. However, little is understood of the role of technology -- specifically, search engines -- which act as a gatekeeper to news access, by ranking and prioritizing certain news sources over the others. In this study, we collected location-specific news results for U.S. counties, for a diverse set of local- and national-news keywords. Our findings suggest that search engines can divert readership and online traffic away from local journalism and thus exacerbate America's growing news deserts. Even controlling for the number of news sources, we observe systematic biases in which communities get local news, and which do not.

MPSA, 2019 - Partisanship or Culture? The Effects of Information Variety and Volume on Trust

Co-Authored with Do Eon Lee

There is little doubt over the existence of affective polarization, but findings on the related causal effects of party cues on non-political behavior may be affected by design decisions related to the volume and types of information used in experiments, as well as the trust framework employed. Here, we consider how these effects vary across low and high information environments for a less impactful trust context replicating initial trust conditions. We find that in low trust conditions, the effects of party cues are stable between party groups and are strong relative to the effects of other pieces of information about race, gender, religion, religiosity, policy preferences, and cultural preferences. However, such effects are reduced and become highly moderated by party affiliation within the high information environment. These findings suggest that differences between the implications of earlier research on the behavioral consequences of affective polarization and daily life may be explained by assumptions made inthe design of earlier studies.

Presented at MPSA, 2019

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