My research looks at the adoption and use of information and communication technologies in less-studied cultural, economic, and political contexts – mainly authoritarian post-Soviet states, and primarily Armenia and Azerbaijan. People in these states experience great inequalities both when compared with the rest of the world and within their own societies. Resources are unevenly distributed – the foremost being economic resources. However, political power is in the hands of few. In some of these countries women and ethnic minorities also lack opportunities. Some argue that information and communication technologies can alleviate these inequalities. Yet, not only is there scant evidence that technology has the ability to empower, but also my work demonstrates that often technology benefits those in power the most and makes the lives of those on the wrong side of the gap worse. Moreover, rarely do scholars or pundits discuss the mechanisms by which information and communication technologies are having an effect. My work, thus, seeks to understand the how and why of digitally-enabled change in these diverse environments.
For adoption, I look at barriers to use – often socioeconomic, but sometimes political or cultural (for example, honor culture or gender). On the outcome of ICT use side, inequality is a frequent dependent variable, but I also study implications such as cosmopolitanism, capital enhancement, civic engagement, demand for democracy, social activism, and political change.
Methodologically, I employ mixed methods (survey, social network analysis, interviews, and observation). This is in part due to the challenging research environments as well as my belief in triangulation and letting my research question determine my toolkit, rather than the reverse.
Although my work is aimed at an academic audience, because it also has policy relevance, I also receive attention from policymakers and constituents of the research itself. Because of this, I always create lay abstracts of my academic articles that become blog posts, agree to be interviewed by journalists, and give formal or informal presentations to non-academic audiences.
Methodologically, most of my work is quantitative modeling, although I do some qualitative work especially for the purpose of triangulating. I mostly using public opinion surveys.
Affordances perspective – Looking at the affordances of information and communication technologies allows for a non-deterministic way of understanding the role of technology in a variety of outcomes.
Digital Divide: I study inequality – both as an antecedent to and an outcome of technology ownership and use. This is both an individual and a national level issue in my research.
Technology as capital enhancing: An important research question for me is the impact of information and communication technologies on capital – economic, social, political, cultural.
Impression management: A lot of my current work uses this framework for understanding socially mediated behavior.
Diffusion of Innovation: This theory of how, why, and at what rate new ideas spread or are rejected through social systems centers on conditions that increase or decrease the likelihood that something new will be adopted.
Media and Device Convergence, Mobile Technologies: A primary concept underlying some of my research is convergence, the integration of multiple sources of digitized content across devices and into single devices with multiple functions.
ICT4D: Information and Communication Technology for Development is an area in which I have professional experience and is an academic interest of mine.
Democratization and civic engagement: The relationship between democratization and civic engagement with information and communication technologies is something that I am currently exploring.
Political Trust: Political and institutional trust in a post-Soviet context as well as how technology use influences trust is a secondary research track.
Cross-Cultural and Mixed Methods Research: While I am primarily a quantitative scholar, a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, i.e., mixed methods research, provides for a better understanding of research problems, especially in cross-cultural research, than either method alone.
Social network analysis: I use a lot of SNA with social media data in particular.
I frequently use the Caucasus Barometer as a quantitative data source.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are considered lower middle income states with national and household economies in transition, although the 3 neighbors have taken different trajectories. [Armenia still struggles with economic development for a variety of reasons AM economic overview; Azerbaijan has oil wealth AZ economic overview; Georgia democratized after a revolution in the early 2000s and has seen significant economic development since GE economic overview.
Despite their economic challenges, all 3 states have high levels of literacy and education. With nearly the entire populations being literate, I can control for the effect of literacy on technology adoption and use.
Culturally, people in this region are known for their love of life, strong ties to their family and friends, and a strong culture of hospitality. While there is variance within the countries and this manifests in different ways in the 3 different cultures, these old nations have long entangled histories.