I seek to understand transformation in media industries by interrogating the tensions of change at the intersection of professional institutions, organizations, and digital technologies. Viewing institutions as taken-for-granted structures, I frame professional dynamics as driven by both external forces (e.g., societal, technological, regulatory, economic pressures) and individual action within organizations. Thus, I examine processes of media transformation from a multilevel perspective, focusing on the impact of emerging digital technologies on connections between individuals, organizations, and the industry at large. My research is grounded in key theories from communication, journalism and media studies, and management and uses an array of methods to interrogate the ways media industries respond and adapt to changes in the broader environment. I emphasize social network analysis and other methods of statistical analysis like topic modeling, and incorporate qualitative research such as in-depth interviews and textual analysis in order to provide a more nuanced understanding of the phenomena that I examine.
As a whole, my research on media transformation uses a multi-level perspective to interrogate change over time. Through three key focal areas including professional transformation, methodological advances, and audience analytics, I explore the factors that shape the overall functioning of media industries and the change mechanisms through which these factors are constituted as institutions. The aggregate body of work I produced advances the field of media management and communication in three key ways: First, my research extends existing theory examining transformation to better capture the complexity of rapid processes of institutional change in response to developments in digital technology. Second, my work imbues research on institutional change in media industries with a multi-level perspective that integrates macro-level processes of transformation with individual entrepreneurial agency. Third, my research develops new methods for studying professional transformation.
My primary area of scholarship focuses on professionalization; or, to put it simply, what it means to be a current and future media professional. My aggregate work on professional transformation provides insight into the mechanisms that drive institutional change in a profession—from environmental triggers, to the influence of managerial decision-making, to the actions of sole entrepreneurs. My most significant research project to date is my forthcoming (October 2022) book, News Nerds: Institutional Change in Journalism, with Oxford University Press. In this book, I further examine institutionalization patterns of new forms of professionals within the broader media environment and demonstrate that early and rapid change processes impact the long-term survival of a profession. The research in this book expounds upon institutional theory and finds “news nerds” (i.e., the new, techno-intensive media professionals) as an augmentation of the traditional media profession—the former neither displacing the latter, nor failing as a fleeting fad; but instead, co-existing as an augmentation of the professional field.
To facilitate research on macro-level professional transformation, I established a network histories approach. This novel method applies a social network perspective to digital trace data in an effort to interrogate individuals’ professional work histories, the emergence of new organizations and the ties between them through their staffers’ employment histories, and changes in media institutions over time. Funding from Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism helped support the early development of this novel method, which I continue to utilize in a variety of research extensions.
Building a multilevel understanding of transformation in media as a response to digital and technological change, my early scholarship focuses on the impact of social media—specifically in the television sector. In this work, I establish an institutional theory perspective for understanding macro-level transformation in audience analytics.
Future scholarship will cross sector and organization levels as I plan to look deeper into the future of work and the impact of the changing nature of media professionals and job roles. In addition to the future research projects outlined above in each pillar of my research agenda, I plan to more comprehensively examine the processes by which certain emerging job roles come to be taken for granted in a profession, while other job roles that emerge during disruptive periods falter as fads or quickly become obsolete. To bring these plans to fruition, I am in the process of preparing a grant proposal submission to the National Science Foundation with Dr. Matthew Weber (Rutgers University). Findings from this research will develop a new understanding of how critical job sectors and professions evolve in response to changing environmental conditions.