Researcher biography

Dr. Katie Brennan researches at the intersection of political theory, media studies, popular culture, and international relations, with a focus on the ways in which the interactions of online and offline worlds impact events and individuals. Her PhD dissertation (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa) examined this in a geopolitical sense, positioning online and offline worlds as horizontal spaces separated by porous borders. Her doctoral and postdoctoral work also focuses on a variety of digital nonhuman actors.

At the ISA 2021 conference, Brennan presented Fiction As Method, using Melville, Mieville, and medieval Welsh tales to reconceptualise the interactions of online and offline worlds. 

Brennan’s work grapples with the porosity of multiple, overlapping worlds, their broad-reaching consequences - including in finance and politics - and the influence of digital nonhuman actors like memes, hashtags, and algorithms. At the 2018 Cornell University Digital Life Initiative Speed Conference, Brennan explored the roles and risks of algorithms in financial markets in her paper High Speed Trading Algorithms and Human Manipulations—Agency and Accountability in Complex Financial Markets, juxtaposing them with examples of human-driven market manipulation, “to trouble the connections between between agency, accountability, and regulation”. “Although created by humans, HST algorithms work together in potentially emergent ways generating unintended changes in the market ... like the Flash Crash in May 2010,” she says. “In considering regulatory strategies for dealing with the emergent and unpredictable impacts of HST algorithms, I argue that we need to take seriously the agency of these algorithms ...Thus in considering whether or not a policy like “speed bumps” will be effective in regulating financial markets, we must also ask ourselves how such policies would function in these self-organizing ecologies at faster than human timescales.”

As a result of analysis such as this, Brennan can theorize the ways in which issues not only become viral online, but are also affective offline, the impacts felt broadly. In her other research, she also utilises a wide variety of texts as points of juxtaposition and inspiration, including  science fiction novels, short stories, Medieval Welsh tales (in the original Welsh and in translation), blogs, web forums, and traditional philosophical and theoretical pieces. Here, the overlap within the digital world that Brennan seeks to investigate is clear, accounting for the porous nature of influence within the modern media and political economy.