DR. BIANCA C. REISDORF

I am a scholar in the interdisciplinary field of media, communication, and information sciences with a strong background in the social sciences, and specifically media sociology. Borrowing from a variety of methodological traditions and theories, I investigate the interactions between technology and society. My strongest interest lies in digital inequality research with a focus on vulnerable groups and social justice. Across a number of projects, I investigate why certain people and societal groups are not using digital media, or are using it marginally, and how this affects their personal relationships, participation in society, educational or professional opportunities, and other realms of their everyday lives. My ultimate aim is to improve the status quo by formulating feasible and attainable policy recommendations and community solutions that can help to bridge and overcome digital divides and digital inequalities.

MY LATEST RESEARCH

In my most recent research projects, I focus on marginalized populations affected by digital divides and digital inequalities.

Together with colleagues in Criminology, I currently examine internet access (or the lack thereof) in prisons and how returning citizens cope with reentering a speed-of-light society that is highly dependent on digital technologies. Following a scoping study that I conducted with Professor Yvonne Jewkes in the United Kingdom, I am developing two studies that investigate how ICTs (could) feature in the prisoner reentry process and therefore affect reentry outcomes positively. Together with colleagues from the School of Social Justice and the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, we designed a qualitative pilot study that examines if and how returning citizens currently use ICTs in the reentry process. We conducted a pilot study running focus groups and interviews with 78 returning citizens in Michigan. In a second, mixed methods project, we partnered with a local jail and Digital Charlotte in Charlotte, NC. Digital Charlotte is currently running computer classes that teach current jail residents basic digital skills to help negotiate the reentry process in a technologically dependent society. We are collecting survey data as well as qualitative data pre- and post-release (for 12 months post release) to examine if and how these newly acquired skills help in the reentry process. In addition, we submitted a comprehensive intervention study proposal to the NSF in collaboration with UNC Charlotte and Michigan State University that is currently under review.

At the Quello Center, I examined digital divides in some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in Detroit and what keeps them offline. The project used a mixed methodology that applies surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. On this project, I was the lead investigator for the quantitative section and therefore responsible for questionnaire design and liaising the with survey unit that collected the data. In addition, I was involved in the qualitative data collection and analysis. Our resulting report and publications show that against common myths and assumptions, distressed urban communities highly value the Internet and make varied use of the Internet and digital media in many ways. 

In the Quello "Search" project, funded by Google UK, we investigated how search engines and other online and offline media affect political opinion formation. Using a large quantitative survey design, we collected online questionnaires from over 14,000 respondents across the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Spain. As the Co-Principal for this project, I was heavily involved in the questionnaire design, data cleaning and analysis, composing a detailed research report, as well as presenting our findings at a variety of venues. The comprehensive report shows that previous research tends to overestimate the extent to which media consumers are stuck in filter bubbles and echo chambers. We are currently analyzing the vast dataset in more detail to address questions such as how digital skills affect media consumption and trust in media platforms as well as how digital skills affect which media are most prominently used to find political information.

Bianca C. Reisdorf, D.Phil.

Department of Communication Studies

UNC Charlotte

© 2016 by Bianca Reisdorf.

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