Prof Rachel Gibson

Professor of Political Science

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My research focuses on the impact of new information and communication technologies on political parties, particularly with regard to their activities in the elections and campaigning sphere. While early accounts of the effects of the internet pointed to positive outcomes such as increased party competition, grassroots activism and more meaningful interactions with voters, twenty years on those expectations look increasingly naïve. The rise of cyber-hacking, automated attempts by foreign and domestic actors to spread misinformation on social media platforms and the mis-use of personal data by campaigns all appear to be increasingly regular features of contemporary elections. Although there are also clearly still democratising effects of the new media, whether these outweigh what appear to be its increasingly harmful and negative consequences is now a core question for researchers to address. To do so requires theoretical and methodological innovation and inter-disciplinary collaboration between social, data and computer scientists. My work is based on a recognition of the importance of this intersection and the new research agenda that it can foster



Rachel Gibson joined the University of Manchester as Professor of Politics in the Institute for Social Change December 2007. In 2016 she was appointed as Director of the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research. She had previously served as Professor of New Media Studies at the University of Leicester and a lecturer in politics at the University of Salford. She completed her PhD thesis on the rise of anti-immigrant parties in Western Europe in the late 20th century at Texas A&M University in the US. She has held visiting fellowships at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES), the Australian National University (ANU), and the Autonomous University in Barcelona (AUB). Rachel has led several projects examining the impact of the Internet on political parties, campaigns and voters funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC). She has been a PI/Co-I on the Australian Election Study since 2001 and the Australian Candidate Study. She developed and managed the internet component of the 2015 British Election Study (iBES) which merged survey responses with social media tracking data. She was co-editor of the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (2011-16) and is a member of editorial boards of Political Studies, the Journal of Information Technology and Politics, Information Polity and the Australian Journal of Political Science. She is a member of the Peer Review College of the ESRC and regularly reviews for the leading journals in the field and major national and international funding bodies. 

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