Affect and Digital Media

Since 2016, Dr. Boler has charted new directions in the study of affect and digital media politics. She has worked closely with graduate research team members to explore how emotions related to narratives of racial and national belonging are communicated in the context of election-related social media.

These mixed-methods research projects address a glaring gap regarding the roles played by emotions in the polarized politics of our fractured news media landscape. Grounded in social movement theory, digital media studies, and affect theory, this cross-disciplinary study asks: (1) How are affects and emotions discursively produced and consumed, and how and when do they stick, circulate and travel through social media communications? and (2) How do political communications in social media engage emotions, particularly with respect to issues of racial and national identity?

The results of this research have included a three-day international symposium of invited scholars held at University of Toronto in June 2019, and publications including:

  • Affective Politics of Digital Media: Propaganda By Other Means, eds. M. Boler and E. Davis (Routledge, 2021)
  • “The affective politics of the ‘post-truth’ era: Feeling rules and networked subjects,” (Boler, M. & Davis, E., in Emotion, Space and Society, 2018)
  • The forthcoming special journal section in Cultural Studies, “Black Lives Matter, Biopolitics, and Affect: Conversations from the Crises of 2020,” eds. E. Davis and M. Boler (forthcoming May 2022)

This research has been funded by five different awards:

  • Digital Ecosystem Research Challenge, Exploring Affect and Digital Media in the 2019 Canadian Election, University of Ottawa (2019-20) ($43,000)
  • Social Science and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant, Affective Media, Social Movements, and Digital Dissent: Emotions and Democratic Participation in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era (2019-22) ($127,000)
  • McLuhan Centre for Technology and Culture Working Group: Affect and Algorithms, (2018-19) ($7500)
  • Social Science and Humanities Research Council Connections Grant, (2018-19) Affect, Propaganda, and Political Imagination: New Directions of Interdisciplinary Research Symposium, (June 2019) ($12,500)
  • Social Science and Humanities Research Council Knowledge Synthesis Grant, Interdisciplinary Synthesis of Digital Media Studies and the Politics of Emotion: Identity, Belonging and Trust in the “Post-Truth” Media Landscape ($25,000)
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