Megan Boler

Professor, Department of Social Justice Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education


Main Bio

Megan Boler is Full Professor in the Department of Social Justice Education, at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. She is Affiliate Faculty of Innis College, the Center for the Study of United States, Cinema Studies, and Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies also at UT. Her books include Feeling Power: Emotions and Education (Routledge 1999); Democratic Dialogue in Education: Troubling Speech, Disturbing Silences (M. Boler, ed., Peter Lang 2004); and Digital Media and Democracy: Tactics in Hard Times (MIT Press 2010). She is co-editor of two recent books, DIY Citizenship: Social Media and Critical Making (MIT Press 2013) and Discerning Critical Hope in Educational Practices (Routledge 2013) eds. Bozalek, Leibowitz, Carollissen and Boler.

Funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Dr. Boler has just launched a new 3-year funded mixed-methods research project titled “Affective Media, Social Movements, and Digital Dissent: Emotions and Democratic Participation in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era.” With a 9 person team of qualitative and quantitative research assistants, she is exploring the role of emotional expression in social media related to narratives of racial and national identity and belonging, in the context of the recent Canadian federal election and the upcoming U.S. election.  This project will compare four social media platforms–Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, and Facebook, and compares similarities and differences of left-, center-, and right-affiliated racial and national narratives, and seeks to understand the political function of emotions within social media communications. The project also aims to engender cross-disciplinary conversation between humanities-based scholarship on affect theory and emotion scholarship, with natural language processing and sentiment analysis, and to bring scholarship up-to-speed with corporate and private sector capacities for “micro-targeting” emotions in this new era of  “individualized” propaganda messaging.

Her current research focuses on affect, algorithms and the psychology of micro-targeting displayed by computational propaganda. This work focuses on the ways in which social media modulates public affects and emotions,  and questions regarding the changing modes of the socio-economic logic of psyops (and how this military combination of behavioral science with big data) mirrors corporate practices as revealed in the agendas of Facebook and YouTube.

Previous research projects include Her previous three-year mixed-methods study, “Social Media in the Hands of Young Citizens: Evolving Forms of Participatory Democracy” (2011-14), examined activists’ motivations for participating in the Occupy Wall Street Movement and experiences of collaborative and direct democracy, with particular focus on social media practices and the gendered and racialized dynamics of the movement.  Publications featuring these research findings include “Connective labor and social media: Women’s key roles in the ‘leaderless’ Occupy Movement,” in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies (2014). a three-year SSHRC funded research project, Rethinking Media, Democracy, and Citizenship: Digital Dissent after 9/11, a mixed-methods exploration of the motivations of producers of “digital dissent”–public, political expressions countering corporate-owned media. Her web-based productions include a study guide to accompany the documentary The Corporation (dirs. Achbar and Abbott 2003), and the multimedia website Critical Media Literacy in Times of War. Boler’s essays have been published in such journals as Educational TheoryCultural Studies, and Women’s Studies Quarterly.

Professor Boler teaches graduate courses in philosophy, cultural studies, feminist theory, and media studies at the University of Toronto.