Natalia Umansky

Natalia Umansky

PhD candidate in Politics and International Relations

University College Dublin

About me

I am a PhD candidate and Iseult Honohan Scholar in the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIRe) at University College Dublin. Additionally, I am Lab Manager to The Connected_Politics Lab and research assistant for the EU funded EU Data Laboratory Project.

My PhD thesis “Repost and Like: Securitization Theory in the Digital Age” examines the construction of (in)security frames on Twitter and offers a processual refinement of securitization to understand how security problems emerge online. More broadly, my research focuses on applications of computational social science, including quantitative text analysis, network analysis, and digital trace data to questions in international relations and critical security studies.

Curriculum Vitae

Interests

  • International Relations
  • Critical Security Studies
  • Computational Social Science
  • Social Media Communication

Research

Under Review


  • Is there anybody out there? Exploring the links between European Union legislative negotiations, transparency in decision making, and democratic oversight (with James P. Cross).

Transparent political systems are thought to facilitate accountability as they provide information to outside observers about how political representatives act when making policy. In the European Union (EU), transparency is complicated by the fact that the EU is a multi-level and multi-lingual polity with a disjointed set of national audiences involved in holding decision makers to account. This study examines cross-country variation in the supply and demand of information about decision-making in the Council of Ministers. We show that the supply of records in different languages is influenced by available resources and other institutional constraints, but not by reputational concerns associated with faring badly in negotiations. We then explore the cross-country demand for transparency by examining document requests, showing that strong cross-country differences in transparency demand exists, and that resource constraints and proposal characteristics explain some of this variation. We also consider the conditions under which transparency demands lead to publicity of EU politics in national media outlets.


Working Papers


  • Repost and Like: Securitization Theory in the Digital Age.

Securitization theory has long aimed to explain how security problems come into existence. Yet, limited by the notion that security is only articulated in an institutional voice by the elites (Wæver 1995:57), the modern processes of securitization encouraged by the proliferation of social media have been understudied. Contending that securitization develops in non-institutional online spheres like Twitter, this article develops a processual refinement that reconceptualizes the production of (in)security as an activity of connecting (Mützel 2009) and depicts securitization as the process of constructing networked structures of meaning. The study explores this puzzle using a text-as-data approach to analyse over 10 million Twitter messages shared by five actor groups in the months leading up to the 45th G7 summit: politicians and governmental institutions, the media, advocates, politicians' Twitter friends, and citizens on Twitter. After developing a securitization-desecuritization dictionary, the study employs a semi-supervised semantic scaling model to position each tweet on a unidimensional scale and identify the securitizing moves and agents. The study then traces the chain of associations between securitizing actors and performs social network analyses to discover the evolutional steps of the formation process of (in)security. The results demonstrate that securitization develops on Twitter as networks of repeated, mundane, routinized, and banal securitizing acts produced by elite *and* non-elite actors. Moreover, the study reveals that quantitative text analysis and social network analysis tools are instrumental in producing reliable indicators of securitization.


  • Talk the Talk: Exploring conflict in European Central Bank Governing Council speeches using speaker-topic networks (with James P. Cross and Derek Greene).

The Governing Council of the European Central Bank sets ECB policy and communicates policy decisions to other EU institutions, the markets, and the general public. Despite its central role at the heart of European economic governance, we know relatively little about the degree to which its policy decisions are contested. In this paper we shed new light on conflict in the ECB Governing Council by studying the speeches made by Governing Council members. We first unveil the latent topical content of the speeches using a dynamic topic-modeling approach, and then employ a discourse- network approach to capture evolving discourse coalitions over time. Our results demonstrate that the policy focus of the ECB Governing Council and the discourse coalitions driving this focus have evolved significantly over time. This variation can be explained by both individual-level speaker characteristics, and the political, economic, and institutional context in which decision-makers interact at the national level.



Punctuated equilibrium theory, or more specifically the general punctuation hypothesis, emphasises the information-processing role of policy-making institutions (Jones & Baumgartner 2012). In information-rich policy environments, boundedly rational policy makers can only focus on so much information and this leads to a great deal of policy stability punctuated with disjoint and episodic policy change. The degree to which policy-making institutions can mitigate these effects is under-studied. To address this gap in the literature, this study examines the communications policy of the three institutions that led the response to the recent economic crisis in Europe: The European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Focusing on press releases in particular, we apply innovative text analysis methods to capture the evolving policy agenda of each institution in a comparative manner, and examine how factors such as institutional research capacity, reputational concerns, and political oversight affect their ability to react to policy challenges in a proportional manner. Our findings draw attention to some of the scope conditions under which the general punctuation hypothesis holds.


Work in Progress


  • Alternative Sites of Securitization: Women and the #NiUnaMenos Movement (with Emma Murphy).

The field of securitization has its origins in a process-oriented view of security in which security threats are not limited to material threats alone, but rather are socially constructed. Traditional theories of securitization rely on a narrow view of possible actors and sites through which securitization can take place. These sites are typically confined to the historically male-dominated sphere of public authority, and the securitizing actors are often not representative of traditionally marginalized groups. This paper explores the ways in which women have responded to the trend of marginalization by creating alternative spaces in which to securitize and attach collective significance to threats affecting them. By examining the case of the #NiUnaMenos movement originating in Argentina, we demonstrate the ways in which women are challenging traditional conceptions of where and how securitization can take place. Rather than being confined to a male-dominated sphere of public authority, we argue, securitization can take place in alternative spaces such as the realm of social media. These alternative spaces, furthermore, offer the opportunity for previously marginalized groups to take center stage in the securitizing process.


  • Skill-Biased Technological Change and its Drivers (with Nils H. Lehr).

Skill-Biased Technology Change (SBTC) and its close cousin Routine Biased Technological Change have been credited for the increasing college-premium and wage polarization in the US and Europe. In this paper, we apply text analysis tools to directly measure SBTC using text from granted US patents and occupational classifications from O*Net and the DOT. Using our measure we document the extend to which SBTC is rooted in Skill-Biased Innovation SBI. Furthermore, we leverage variation across geography and time to understand the determinants of SBI by exploring local wage structure, unionization rates, and local inequality as potential drivers.


Ongoing Projects


Repost and Like: Securitization Theory in the Digital Age.

Non-peer reviewed publications



If you would like to get access to the latest version of a paper, feel free to send me an e-mail.

Teaching

Teaching Assistant at University College Dublin


  • Spring 2020, Autumn 2020: EU Politics
  • Autumn 2019, Autumn 2020: Foundations of Political Theory and International Relations
  • Spring 2019: Foundations of Contemporary Politics
  • Autumn 2018: Research Methods in Political Science

Workshop Instructor


Curriculum Vitae

Education

September 2018 - To Date PhD in Politics and International Relations
University College Dublin
2015 - 2016 MSc International Security
Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals
2010 - 2014 B.A. International Studies
Universidad Torcuato Di Tella

Professional Experience

September 2019 - To Date Lab Manager
The Connected_Politics Lab
September 2018 - To Date Research Assistant
University College Dublin
September 2018 - To Date Teaching Assistant
University College Dublin
2016-2017 Editorial Intern for Latin American Affairs
Open Democracy

Awards and Scholarships

2020 - 2023 Iseult Honohan Scholarship
University College Dublin
2018 - 2020 SPIRe Graduate Scholarship
University College Dublin
2016 Final research project awarded with diploma and qualification of Honor and Distinction
Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals
2010 - 2014 Undergraduate Merit Scholarship
Universidad Torcuato Di Tella

Visiting Positions

06.2019 - 10.2019 Visiting Researcher
Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals

Continuing Professional Development

August 2020 Longitudinal Network Analysis Workshop
University of Exeter
August 2020 Quantitative Text Analysis
ECPR Summer School
July - August 2018 Advanced R Programming
Barcelona Summer School of Demography

Other Professional Activities

2019 Co-organizer
Quantitative Text Analysis Dublin (QTA-DUB) Workshop

Skills

Contact

  • natalia.umansky@ucdconnect.ie
  • Newman Building, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland