Social Data Research Fellowship


Social media and video games are increasingly a part of everyday life, impacting our social norms and values across the world. Yet, the social phenomenon of connecting on mediated platforms, as it spans across borders, nationality, age groups, and gender, reinvigorates national ties, and solidifies political cleavages (Akhavan 2013). The proposed dissertation field research will elucidate how Iranian-American and Iranian women gamers use Twitter, Reddit, and Twitch.TV, and World of Warcraft (WoW), a massive multiplayer online game, as spaces of discourse regarding the US 2020 elections. These platforms are also consequently used for the algorithmic rise of the alt-right, through the circulation of memes, leading to a networked ideology of racism online (Daniels 2018). My project examines this political ecosystem among Iranian and Iranian-American women, who produce political discourses, and how the alt-right undermines democracy through the spread of disinformation. For groups such as these, gaming has emerged as a site of political expression, experimentation, aspiration, and a place of play (Motamedi 2019; Sisler 2018). As such, I argue that the affective dimensions, or rather the intensities of the election, will pose new findings on networked publics by articulating the sociopolitical discourses produced among the transnational community in the US. Through postcolonial and feminist frameworks, I will collect data from social media platforms and WoW to show the embodiment, meaning the lived thought, emotion, and feeling, among Iranian and Iranian-American women who are entangled within networked publics of racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia online (Berlant 2011; Stewart 2007).

Principal Investigator

Melinda Cohoon

PhD Candidate, University of Washington

Melinda Cohoon is a PhD candidate in the interdisciplinary Near and Middle Eastern Studies program at the University of Washington-Seattle. As a Roshan and Digital Humanities fellow, she is the principal investigator of a Twitch.TV project on affect and aesthetic analysis of video games entitled "Digital Iran: Anticolonial and Imperial Narratives in Video Games." The Digital Iran project particularly looks at Twitch.TV as a popular culture media form and circulation of information. Melinda's interest in live broadcasting media has led her to inquire more about Iranian and Iranian-American women gamers who stream online. Through untangling the affective dimensions of the Iranian and Iranian-American women gamer experience, her field research will provide an alternative perspective to the traditional public sphere by highlighting the transnational dynamics and gendered discourses of power within the gamer community. As such, her field research will concern Iranian, Iranian-American, and the alternative right-wing gamers during the US pre- and post-election cycle, on mediated platforms of Twitter, Twitch.TV, and Reddit. By focusing on the game World of Warcraft across these social media, she will trace discourses, hashtags, and memes to elucidate how networks and community engagement impacts democratic practices such as the spread of disinformation.