You are a member of a lab group of undergraduate researchers at UCSC studying interesting and relevant topics in contemporary digital discourse (see below for descriptions). Your lab group is looking for new projects to take on this academic year, but first it needs to know what research has already been done on the questions it is interested in. Your task is to create, for the members of your research lab group, a literature review, a document in a genre whose main purpose is to synthesizes current research on a topic or question. Literature reviews serve an important function in knowledge-building activities in academic discourse communities.
Your aim is to provide your chosen discourse community (your lab group members) with a clear sense of the state of existing research on a topic, the significance of this body of research, and the opportunities that exist to further the goals of this research. Each member of the lab group will create their own research question that is related to the themes of the lab group and will write their own document with the other members of the lab group as their audience.
Your job is not to make an argument about how you feel about the research. In fact, try not to think in terms of “sides,” or “opinion,” or “persuasion.” Do not write for a debate because most academic conversations aren’t really “debates.” Think in terms of offering something comprehensive and significant to the discourse community about the questions that matter to it and to you.
- 1250-1500 polished words in a style that is appropriate for the intended academic discourse community
- 5-7 sources with at least 3 academic/scholarly sources. News sources and gray literature sources are appropriate, but background sources are not.
- include data visualizations, diagrams, and images as needed and properly cited in APA style
- APA citation style and document formatting (Links to an external site.)
Research Lab Groups
Choose one that best fits your current interests or likely future academic discourse community. Think less about whether your interests exactly fit the questions and more about what group of people you’d like to share ideas and research with.
Lab 1. How should discourse be regulated?
This research lab group might appeal to those interested in field such as law, public policy, sociology, the humanities, the arts, as well as those interested in the business side of digital technology. You should each create your own specific research question, but here are some starter questions:
- What discourse needs to be regulated? Does any? Why?
- Who should regulate discourse on the internet? Do different approaches by different corporations, governments, platforms, or groups of users present examples of effective or ineffective approaches to content regulation?
- How should concerns over freedom of speech be balanced with regulation? Who should decide this balance?
Lab 2. What roles do algorithms play in social and cognitive biases?
This research group might appeal to people interested in psychology and the social sciences, as well as those interested in engineering. However, those interested in the humanities may also find interest in social-justice related questions or in questions about how cognitive biases shapes discourse and ideas. You should each create your own specific research question, but here are some starter questions:
- How do algorithms shape our belief systems? Our attitudes towards groups of people?
- How do algorithms in major social systems (e.g. criminal justice, education, politics, economy) reinforce inequalities in society? Can they be used to reduce inequalities?
- How should algorithms be written to be ethical?
Lab 3. How do machines create discourse?
This research group might appeal to people interested in engineering, cognitive science, art/design, philosophy, and rhetoric, as well as others interested in questions of artificial intelligence and machine learning. You should each create your own specific research question, but here are some starter questions:
- Can machines “write” in the same way humans can? Can they be creative? How?
- How do common apps like Grammarly, Google SmartCompose, EasyBib, Autocorrect, etc. work? Do they actually help writers?
- How does translation software work? How could it be improved?
Lab 4. How do people create discourse across borders and languages?
This research group might appeal to those interested in culture, art, the humanities and sociology, but it could also be of interest in anyone looking to see how communities are formed in the globalized, multilingual digital world. You should each create your own specific research question, but here are some starter questions:
- How do groups of people with similar interest or concerns make use of the digital ecosystem to connect with people across the globe? Across different languages?
- How best can global or transnational social, cultural, or political movements spread their ideas across different locations and languages?
- Are the discourse practices of multilingual writers different than monolingual writers? How so?
Lab 5. How does information spread?
This research group might appeal to those interested in physical sciences, engineering, and social sciences. You should each create your own specific research question, but here are some starter questions:
- How does misinformation about controversial scientific issues like climate change or vaccine safety spread? What should be done about this?
- Why do powerful actors use disinformation as a strategy? Is this the same as misinformation?
- What role to algorithms on social media platforms play in spreading misinformation?
- What makes an effective public health message?