Assistant Professor of Communication Studies
College of Arts, Media and Design
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Social implication of communication technologies
Youth and families
Dr. Meryl Alper is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Professor Alper studies and teaches about the social implications of communication technologies, with a focus on youth and families, disability, and mobile media. She is the author of Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality (MIT Press, 2017) and Digital Youth with Disabilities (MIT Press, 2014). Giving Voice received a 2018 PROSE Award Honorable Mention from the Association of American Publishers in the Media and Cultural Studies category. Her research has been published in New Media & Society, International Journal of Communication, and IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, among other journals. Prior to joining the faculty at Northeastern, she earned her doctoral and master’s degrees from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and History from Northwestern University. In her research and teaching, Professor Alper additionally draws on her professional experience in educational children’s media as a researcher, strategist, and consultant with Sesame Workshop, PBS, Nickelodeon, and Disney.
“Advancing Digital and Health Equity for Autistic Children Ages 9-13”
This project will provide insights into the challenges and opportunities that children on the autism spectrum—and across the socioeconomic spectrum—encounter while growing up with new media (i.e., YouTube, video games) and communication technologies (i.e., smartphones, tablet computers). Children born in New England are 50% more likely than children in other US regions to be diagnosed with autism (controlling for a family’s socioeconomic status), primarily due to higher awareness and better diagnosis practices in the region. Young people in Boston however also live with some of the most severe income inequality in our nation’s cities. If the families of rich and poor autistic children in Boston have an easier time overall accessing qualified doctors and societal resources, what else sets their experiences apart in the digital age, particularly as socioeconomic disparities intersect with race and ethnicity? My project centers on the following research question: How are emerging and digital technologies being adopted by autistic children across the socioeconomic spectrum in their everyday lives, and how are these practices shaping and being shaped by their interpersonal interactions with family and friends, as well as by institutional actors such as technology developers and municipal service providers? This project aims to advance health equity for children on the autism spectrum by identifying key factors contributing to, as well as mitigating, their digital and social exclusion.
Alper, M. (2015). Augmentative, alternative, and assistive: Reimagining the history of mobile computing and disability. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 37(1), 93-96.
Alper, M. (2014). “Can our kids hack it with computers?”: Constructing youth hackers in family computing magazines. International Journal of Communication, 8, 673-698.
Alper, M. (2014). Digital youth with disabilities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Alper, M. (2019). Future talk: Accounting for the technological and other future discourses in daily life. International Journal of Communication, 13, 715-735.
Alper, M. (2017). Giving voice: Mobile communication, disability, and inequality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Alper, M. (2018). Inclusive sensory ethnography: Studying new media and neurodiversity in everyday life. New Media & Society, 20(10), 3560-3579. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444818755394
Alper, M. (2017). Transmedia. In Peppler, K. (Ed.), SAGE encyclopedia of out-of-school learning (pp. 791-792). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Alper, M. (2014). War on Instagram: Framing conflict photojournalism with mobile photography apps. New Media & Society, 16(8), 1233-1248. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444813504265
Alper, M. (in press). When face-to-face is screen-to-screen: Reconsidering mobile media as communication augmentations and alternatives. In Ellis, K., Goggin, G., & Haller B. (Eds.) Routledge companion to disability and media. London: Routledge.
Alper, M. (2018). Portables, luggables, and transportables: Historicizing the imagined affordances of mobile computing. Mobile Media & Communication, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050157918813694
Alper, M., Ellcessor, E., Ellis, K., & Goggin, G. (2015). Reimagining the good life with disability: Communication, new technology, and humane connections. In Wang, H. (Ed.), Communication and “the good life” (International Communication Association Theme Book Series, Vol. 2) (pp. 197-212). New York: Peter Lang.
Alper, M., & Goggin, G. (2017). Digital technology and rights in the lives of children with disabilities. New Media & Society, 19(5), 726-740. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444816686323
Alper, M., & Haller, B. (2017). Social media use and mediated sociality among individuals with communication disabilities in the digital age. In Ellis, K., & Kent, M. (Eds.), Disability and social media: Global perspectives (pp. 133-145). London: Routledge.
Alper, M., & Irons, M. (in press). Digital socializing in children with an autism diagnosis. In Green, L., Holloway, D., Haddon, L., Stevenson, K., & Leaver T. (Eds.), Routledge companion of children and digital media. London: Routledge.
Alper, M., Katz, V., & Clark, L. S. (2016). Researching children, intersectionality, and diversity in the digital age. Journal of Children and Media, 10(1), 107-114. https://doi.org/10.1080/17482798.2015.1121886
Götz, M., Holler, A., & Alper, M. (2016). Children’s preferences for TV show hosts: An international perspective on learning from television. Journal of Children and Media, 10(4), 497-507. https://doi.org/10.1080/17482798.2016.1203804
Jennings, N., & Alper, M. (2016). Young children’s positive and negative parasocial relationships with media characters. Communication Research Reports, 33(2), 96-102. https://doi.org/10.1080/08824096.2016.1154833
Mello, S., Alper, M., & Allen, A. (2019). Physician mediation theory and pediatric media guidance in the digital age: A survey of autism medical and clinical professionals. Health Communication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2019.1598744