David Harding, Professor

Closed (1) Cultural Perspectives of Deservedness: A Twitter discourse analysis on the limitations of distributive justice during Covid-19

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

As of July 2021, more than 33 million individuals have contracted Covid-19, and more than 600,000 people have died in the United States as a result of the virus. While staggering, not all cases and deaths were created equal. The pandemic exploited and sought refuge in systems of inequality and oppression--killing minority and impoverished people at disproportionate rates as a consequence. During heightened moments of uncertainty, medical supplies, hospital capacity, and protective gear were limited. How were resource allocations articulated and justified? Which populations were classified as a priority, and which populations were condemned to death? Using natural language processing to make sense of public logic and discourse on topics of cultural categories of worth and deservedness, this project examines ethical conceptions of fairness and ideologies of distributive justice among Twitter users. Further, it compares tweets discussing incarcerated people's conditions and treatment to tweets about elderly people in nursing homes during the pandemic. Finally, the project aims to understand the inclination and rationale toward scientific eugenics, especially during heightened periods of scarcity.



As part of the analysis, natural language processing is used to sort and quantify differences in the data by topic. Students will assist with inspecting a proportion of the tweets that were randomly selected within topics of interest for validity. Students will hand-code the results for contextualization and interpretation, document findings in written memos, and construct tables and graphs. Students will also assist with the collection and documentation of supporting literature.

In doing so, students will learn about the justifications and implications of cultural classifications and the emphasis and role of data to shape ideals of deservedness. Students will ascertain familiarity with qualitative coding, google scholar, and natural language processing. Students will meet weekly to discuss progress and challenges. Students will also have an opportunity to discuss their interest in research, graduate school, and mentorship.



Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Maria Smith, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Students interested in assisting with this project should have an interest in social inequality and penality. Experience coding qualitative research and access to a qualitative coding software platform (e.g., MAXQDA, Atlas.ti, Dedoose, etc.) is a plus but not required. Qualifications: Students should have taken a college-level course related to the research topic (e.g., the criminal justice system, race/ethnicity, social inequality, medical inequality, culture, or ethics). Students should be attentive, responsive, and willing to work collaboratively on a team.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Off-Campus Research Site: We will likely meet over zoom.