About Us

Improving the Health of Our Online Civic Culture

Established in February 2018 with an initial award from Loughborough University’s Adventure Research Programme, the Online Civic Culture Centre (O3C) seeks to understand the role of social media in shaping our civic culture.

Led by Professor Andrew Chadwick, it features academic staff and PhD researchers drawn from the disciplines of communication, information science, social psychology, and sociology.

O3C enables interdisciplinary teams of researchers and PhD researchers to work together on issues of misinformation, disinformation, and the rise of hate speech and online harms. It develops evidence-based knowledge to mitigate the democratically-dysfunctional aspects of social media. At the same time, it identifies the positive civic engagement benefits of social media.

Across the world, we face fundamental questions about how the routine use of social media is reshaping the civic cultures of democracies. Central to the debate is whether the features of social media that enable citizens to express themselves, exchange opinions, coordinate with others, and rapidly circulate and recirculate messages also encourage the diffusion of false information, intolerance, and hatred.

We ask:

  • What are the conditions for democratically-dysfunctional outcomes to occur on social media platforms?
  • What are the effects of specific social media platform affordances on the civic character of life online?
  • Are there recent developments that signal more positive citizenship outcomes from the growth of social media?

By answering these questions we aim to create research and findings that impact public debate and policy.

O3C Core Academic Staff

Current O3C Doctoral Researchers

Graduated

  • Dr Dayei Oh (O3C-funded). Now a postdoc at the Datafication Research Initiative at the University of Helsinki's Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities.

International Advisory Board

  • David Babbs, Clean Up the Internet.
  • Rob Berkeley MBE, BBC.
  • Dr Leticia Bode, Communication, Culture, and Technology program at Georgetown University, USA, an expert on online misinformation and its correction.
  • Duncan Brown, Shift Design
  • Dr Emily Dickinson, Opinium Research 
  • Julie Elliott MP, member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Digital Skills.
  • Professor Phil Howard at the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University and the leader of its Computational Propaganda project.
  • Carl Miller, Research Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) at the Demos think tank.
  • Professor Rebekah Tromble, George Washington University.
  • Professor Josh Tucker, Director of the Social Media and Political Participation (SMaPP) Lab at New York University.

Twitter

You can follow O3C on Twitter.

O3C Seminar Series Podcast

Subscribe via your favourite podcast service, including iTunes and Soundcloud.

 

Background and Funding

The Online Civic Culture Centre began as a Loughborough Doctoral College initiative, part of Loughborough University's Adventure Research Programme, and part of the CALIBRE research framework, the Communication and Culture Beacon, and the Decision Sciences Ambition. Its two postdoctoral researchers are funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Kaiser) and the Leverhulme Trust (Hall) as part of a grant to Andrew Chadwick. Three of its PhD students are funded by Loughborough. One of its PhD students (Ross) is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council's Midlands Graduate School DTP; the  UT Lawson is funded by the Leverhulme Trust as part of a grant to Andrew Chadwick.

Our Research Questions

  • What are the conditions for democratically-dysfunctional outcomes to occur on social media platforms?
  • What are the effects of specific social media platform affordances on the civic character of life online?
  • Are there recent developments that signal more positive citizenship outcomes from the growth of social media?