Dr Ellen Helsper is Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor in the Media and Communications Department at the LSE. Her current research interests include new media audiences; digital inclusion; mediated interpersonal communication; and quantitative and qualitative methodological developments in media research.
The three main research projects she is involved in are the From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes Project; the Impact of marketing through social media, online games and mobile applications on children's behaviour and the EU Kids Online project. These inform the development of an index for digital inclusion for the UK’s Government Digital Services and Go On UK campaign. Other projects she is currently involved in are the longitudinal analysis of the World Internet Project and the evaluation of the Impact of BBC Media Action programming. Other studies she has been involved in include Wisekids Wales; Youth at risks and ICTs; Social Impacts of ICT; Net Addiction; Me, My Spouse and the Internet; and Online Gambling.
Ellen has held and currently holds Visiting Scholar positions at NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture and Communications, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and the University of Twente’s Media, Communication and Organisation Department. She has further held the roles of Specialist Advisor on Digital Inclusion for the Welsh Affairs Committee and External Examiner for the Institute of Arts, Design and Technology in Dublin. She has an MSc degree in Media Psychology from Utrecht University and has worked in Chile, Mexico and the US in commercial market and audience research.
Ellen Helsper obtained her MSc-degree in media psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands in 1998. During the following 5 years she worked in Chile as an associate researcher for the Social Psychology and Media and Communications Departments at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica (PUC). She was involved in designing and analysing the first public opinion poll about the military coup in Chile and the effect of media framing on opinions towards the events on the day of the coup. Other projects she was involved in looked at the relation between fear of crime and media exposure in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, the importance of news anchors in television viewers’ everyday lives and the introduction of cable television and broadband internet into Chilean society. Simultaneously she worked in the commercial sector for Adimark and OMD as a media research consultants working on projects in relation to image management of broadcast personalities and general media market research.
This was followed by a period of work in New York and Mexico for OMD USA as a Latin American Audience researcher, looking amongst other things at the distribution and popularity of sports viewing around the world. She joined the LSE as a doctoral researcher in 2003 and was involved in the UK Kids Online Project which examined at children’s and their parent’s internet use and attitudes. While she was working on her PhD she did consultancy work for OSSWatch (Oxford University), Ofcom, the BBC and Plan International. The outputs of this consultancy work ranged from reports on the impact of R18 rated and food advertising material on young people to the use of Open Source Software in higher education and the evaluation of journalist training programmes in post-conflict areas.
In 2007 she obtained a PhD in Media and Communications with a thesis bearing the title: ’Internet use amongst teenagers: Social inclusion, self-confidence and group identity’. This was followed by a position as Survey Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII, University of Oxford). There she managed and analysed the biennial Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS), the UK partner in the World Internet Project. She was responsible for designing and analysing the 2007 and 2009 surveys. She also worked on developing a research framework and project on the role of the Internet in intimate relationships through the ‘Me, My Spouse and the Internet’ project.
In her current position as an 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.