In her current position as Associate Professor at the LSE, Ellen Helsper focuses on developing approaches to quantitative and qualitative research in relation to media and everyday life with a special interest in digital exclusion, media literacy and interpersonal interactions online.
Her main research interest is in the role of digital media in everyday life of disadvantaged social groups. An important element is the development of a theoretical framework to understand the links between digital and social exclusion based on theories of socio-cultural capital and social identity. Her current interest is in further developing the corresponding fields model which has been published as a paper in Communication Theory. This model seeks to theorise the multiple barriers that lead to digital disengagement as well as those factors that stop digital engagement from having an impact on economic, social, cultural, and personal aspects of everyday life. Most recently her focus is on understanding what explains the differences in tangible benefits people get from engaging with digital content. This interest is backed up by analysis of international datasets which have comparable data in this area. Cross-cultural comparisons of the processes that lead to engagement and to mediation of our everyday life, pose interesting questions about the generalisability of research in different socio-cultural contexts. She is currently working on the EU Kids Online project where she looks at how these processes work for different groups of young people.
Furthermore, she has a special interest in the development of methodology in relation to media and policy research, especially in methodologies related to the measurement and understanding of social impact and audience engagement. Important to her in this context is an understanding of engagement with media as multifaceted (for example incl. entertainment, communication and learning) and contextualised in everyday realities. This contextual and gradated approach to media engagement brings up difficulties for generalised policy and mono-methodological approaches.
Regarding future research she is interested in working further on the issue of the role of digital media in people's everyday social and personal relationships especially amongst mobile populations. This includes the relationship of mediated communication to social and psychological well-being and the cross cultural similarities and differences in the processes that make people lead 'digital' or 'non-digital' lives. The theoretical and empirical complications in disentangling forced exclusion and choice in these matters is what fascinates her most.