PhD studentship Collective Action in the Digital Age: Social Identities and the Influence of Online and Offline Behaviour

The College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter is pleased to offer a PhD studentship funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (dstl) under their National UK PhD programme scheme. The student will be based at University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus in Psychology, and will be supervised by Professor Mark Levine. The studentship must commence no later than January 2014.

Project description: The protest movements in Egypt, the summer 2011 riots in English towns and cities and the events of the London student fee protests show the importance of understanding synchronised collective actions driven by online interactions. The question of how people from various walks of life, with a range of social networks, can emerge onto the street and engage in coordinated action is a complex but important one. Any understanding of this phenomenon requires analysis of both the psychological processes that allow people to embrace a common identity such that they become willing to face great risk or danger – and the emergent technologies that facilitate such connectedness and coordination

This PhD will explore the interactions of social identity processes and cyber technologies in understanding contemporary collective action. It will conduct empirical work on the role of multiple identities in online and offline behaviour; on whether and how collective behaviour online can be similar to that carried out by co-present collectivities; on group regulation of pro and anti-social behaviour. The empirical work in this thesis will combine quantitative and qualitative methods – and triangulate research findings as appropriate. Much of the research work will involve laboratory experiments that manipulate identities in online and offline environments and measure different dependent variables. However, it will also analyse interactions in online digital media for evidence of social identity processes in the promotion or inhibition of antisocial or anti-normative behaviour.

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The PhD project will benefit from – and add value to – the recent EPSRC award to the supervisor (Professor Mark Levine, Psychology, Exeter) entitled “Identi-Scope: Multiple identities as a resource for understanding and impacting behaviours in the digital world”. The EPSRC grant was a one-year scoping study that brought together expertise in computer science (Professor Awais Rashid, Lancaster University) and social psychology (Dr Ilka Gleibs, LSE).

The University of Exeter is part of the South West Doctoral Training Centre (SWDTC), accredited by the ESRC, combining social sciences research excellence from 3 institutions (Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Bath) to create a critical mass of postgraduate training in the region.

Due to funding restrictions, students must be EU nationals. For eligible students the award will cover UK/EU tuition fees and a stipend payment of £13,726 for three years of full-time study. Studentships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

Entry requirements: Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant subject.

The closing date for applications is midnight on Thursday 24 October 2013.

Interviews will be held in November.

For full project details, instructions on how to apply and a link to the application form, click on the ‘Apply’ button below.

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