John read Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge University. He was a Senior Scholar at Gonville and Caius College and was the Graythorne Scholar and Beaumont Scholar at Jesus College. His PhD was about the Frankfurt School and John was a post-doc at the Graduate College for Communication Sciences at Siegen University in Germany. His work remains influenced by the rich and continuing tradition of the Frankfurt School that brings together social philosophy and cultural analysis.
John came to the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at Loughborough in 2000. He was a Visiting Professor of Sociology at Williams College, Massachusetts in 2007 and was a Visiting Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University from 2015 to 2017.
As well as receiving funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, the European Commission, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the British Academy for his research, he has engaged in research for the BBC Board of Governors, the BBC Trust, the Office of Communication, the Electoral Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality, and the Guardian newspaper. His current research interests are media and politics in India and digital inequality and its relationship to other forms of inequality.
He is a member of the ESRC Peer Review College and sits on the ESRC’s Grants Assessment Panel B and on a number of other ESRC funding panels. He also reviews for the European Commission, the Canadian, Austrian, French, German, Polish, Portuguese and Irish Research Councils and the Volkswagen Stiftung.
John was Director of the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture at Loughborough from 2016 to 2019. He was Site Director of the ESRC Midlands Graduate School Doctoral Training Partnership until 2020 and was Head of Department between 2019 and 2021. He serves on the Executive Board of the UK’s Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) and is President of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA). In 2020-21 he served as a sub-panel member for the D34 sub-panel of the UK’s Research Excellence Framework.
In 2022 John was elected to be a member of the Academia Europaea in recognition of the ‘sustained academic excellence’ of his research.
John’s research specialism is comparative media: the comparison of media institutions and content across time and space. In 2006 he led a project for the BBC’s Governors analysing the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2012 he worked on a project for the BBC Trust examining the BBC’s coverage of the Arab Spring. His work seeks to develop the field of comparative media theoretically, methodologically and empirically. With Thomas Koenig he introduced the use of computer-aided analysis to large n frame analysis. With James Stanyer he introduced the use of fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis to the study of media. He also writes more broadly on digital media, political communication, and the development of the field of communication and media.
John teaches primarily about new media at undergraduate and postgraduate level. He has supervised eight doctoral students to completion and is currently supervising four more. He is able to supervise students in the fields of digital media and comparative media.
Current postgraduate research students
- Chikaire Ezeru: "Representations of Africa in the UK Press 1992-2017"
- Dayei Oh: "Comparing Online Abortion Discourse in South Korea and Ireland"
- Thais Sarda: "Representations of the Deep Web in UK Press"
- Lou Tompkins: "Musicians and Social Media"
- Weili Wang: "Chinese Soft Power and Western Media Coverage"
Recent postgraduate research students
- Amie Weedon (2018) "The temporalities of tracking sitting time: an exploration of the influence of rhythms and biographies on behavioural change in chronically ill adults and office workers."
- Antoinette Burchill (2018) "Exploring agonism with mischief: participatory performance in the public realm."
- Mihelj, S., Leguina, A., & Downey, J. (2019). Culture is digital: Cultural participation, diversity and the digital divide. New Media & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444818822816
- Keightley, E., & Downey, J. (2018). The intermediate time of news consumption. Journalism, 19(1), 93–110. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884916689155
- Downey, J. (2017) For Public Communication: Promises and Perils of Public Engagement, Javnost - The Public, 24:2, 173-185, DOI: 10.1080/13183222.2017.1288779
- Downey, J., & Neyazi, T. A. (2014). Complementary and Competitive Logics of Mediatization: Political, Commercial, and Professional Logics in Indian Media. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 19(4), 476–495. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161214545809
- Downey, J., Titley, G., & Toynbee, J. (2014). Ideology critique: the challenge for media studies. Media, Culture & Society, 36(6), 878–887. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443714536113
- Downey, J., & Stanyer, J. (2010). Comparative media analysis: Why some fuzzy thinking might help. Applying fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis to the personalization of mediated political communication. European Journal of Communication, 25(4), 331–347. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323110384256
- Downey, J., & Koenig, T. (2006). Is There a European Public Sphere?: The Berlusconi–Schulz Case. European Journal of Communication, 21(2), 165–187. https://doi.org/10.1177/0267323105064044
- Downey, J., & Fenton, N. (2003). New Media, Counter Publicity and the Public Sphere. New Media & Society, 5(2), 185–202. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444803005002003