The Internet Governance Lab is delighted to welcome Dr. Saif Shahin, Assistant Professor at American University’s School of Communication, as a Faculty Fellow. Dr. Shahin’s research focuses on critical data studies, social media studies, global media and politics, and media sociology. His recent work looks at “big data” as a sociopolitical phenomenon, the interplay of emotion and cognition in digital discourses, and online identity construction as a technosocial practice.
A key theme in Dr. Shahin’s research relates to how public narratives about technologies transcend national borders and reflect ideological power structures. For instance, in his comparative study of the evolution of media discourse around India’s Aadhaar system and China’s Social Credit System, he shows that news coverage in both countries largely ignored the public interest and focused instead of the benefits of these programs for businesses.
He is currently working on a research project examining the online discourse surrounding EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which came into effect in May 2018. “I gathered around two months of Twitter data around the time of implementation of GDPR. The idea is to understand how this complex and controversial set of regulations is being perceived within and outside EU and how governments, technology companies, NGOs, and the media are influencing its public perception,” said Dr. Shahin.
He is collaborating with two AU doctoral students on this study. Preliminary findings will be available this summer to coincide with the anniversary of GDPR’s implementation, he added. “We also plan to collect more data around that time to see how this discourse may have changed in a year.”
Another ongoing project that is closely related to the work of the Internet Governance Lab is Dr. Shahin’s study of mobile money transfer technologies in Kenya, Bangladesh, and India through the lens of news media. This project focuses on how neoliberal and nationalist ideologies shape understandings of mobile money and play into the hands of private companies that benefit from the technology. Dr. Shahin will present this study at the International Communication Association’s annual conference in May 2019 in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Shahin expressed his excitement about becoming an IGL Faculty Fellow. “One of my primary motivations for joining the faculty of the School of Communication in the fall was the Internet Governance Lab. Dr. Laura DeNardis and other colleagues at the lab are doing phenomenal work at the intersection of technology, governance, and power and I appreciate the opportunity to become a part of it.”
You can learn more about Dr. Shahin’s work on his personal website.