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Kate Starbird

Winter 2024

Transgender Science Communication DRG

Organizers: Andrew Beers,, Izzi Grasso, 
Faculty Sponsors: Dr. Kate Starbird, HCDE, Dr. Emma Spiro, iSchool

The last five years have seen an escalating number of legal challenges towards transgender’s people, and particularly transgender children’s, right to access healthcare. Many of these challenges have been couched in scientific terms, suggesting in misleading fashion that gender-affirming care is neither safe nor effective. In this Directed Research Group (DRG), we conduct an extended case study of one of the first and most severe proposed laws to restrict access to children’s healthcare in the United States, and subsequent legal challenges to this law. Particularly, we focus on expert testimonies submitted by both the law’s defenders and its detractors, which contain extensive reviews of the supposed evidence for or against providing gender-affirming care for children. Our goal is, through an analysis of the citations offered in these expert testimonies, to understand how disparate scientific, journalistic, and activist information sources are collected and mobilized to define the legal terms of transgender’s people’s access to healthcare. More broadly, we seek to understand the long-term collaborative work that goes into producing evidence disinformation campaigns, and how that work is mobilized into the legal sphere.

The specific work of this DRG is three-fold. The bulk of our energy will be spent reading and systematically annotating citations of the expert testimonies submitted in this case, and continuing this process into the past to create a genealogy of information sources regarding transgender healthcare in the last decade. The second part of this work will be, over time, to create qualitative memos recording our developing insights as we annotate this literature. The third part will be to conduct a weekly journal club where we read and discuss prior published work relating to transphobic and scientific disinformation.

We’re interested in students with all sorts of backgrounds and experience levels, who are passionate about this topic and interested in studying issues of disinformation from a research-driven perspective. Interested students should fill out this application form. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. We expect this DRG to be two credits.

Winter 2024

Dehumanizing and Problematic Imagery about Latin American* Migration in the 2024 Presidential Election

Run by: Nina Lutz, PhD Student, HCDE
Supervisor: Professor Kate Starbird

This DRG is at capacity for Winter 2024 and no longer accepting applications.

This DRG aims to develop methods, research questions, literature reviews, and tools to analyze rumors in real-time during the 2024 U.S. Election Cycle. In particular, this DRG will focus on visual media (memes, short and long-form videos, photos, infographics, etc) during the 2024 Primary Elections. To limit our problem space, we will center questions on visual media that aims to dehumanize and spread rumors about and within intersectionally marginalized migration populations, particularly Latin American migrants and refugees. 

Students will first work together to create a literature review of related work. Then they will divide into two groups to design and embark upon either a primarily qualitative or primarily quantitative research study. Students will have an opportunity to continue this research in Spring and Fall of 2024 to complete the research study. Our goal is that each research study will be published at an academic conference as a paper or poster. 

Capacity: 8 students 

Student Requirements:

  • Strong interest in visual media
  • Strong interest in mis/disinformation
  • Strong interest in social media 
  • Basic understanding or willingness to learn about the American Presidential Election and American Legislative Government Structure
  • Power users of social media are encouraged to apply (TikTok, Instagram, X, etc)
  • Spanish, Hebrew, or Arabic language proficiency is a huge plus but not a requirement

Meeting Time: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Thursdays, Winter Quarter, room TBD

Questions? Email 

This DRG is at capacity for Winter 2024 and no longer accepting applications.

* We will for this DRG focus on migration and refugee populations, particularly from Latin America (including Haiti and the Caribbean Islands) but open to other migrations based on real-world events (ie, individuals from the Middle East). 

Dr. Starbird's Research Group archive