Meet Social Science Scholar Tiffany Leung

This past summer, I conducted research for my Honors in the Major Thesis, which focuses on the media portrayal of recent leaderless protests in Hong Kong and the United States. The 2019 Hong Kong protests were an unprecedented event for the city of 7.5 million, which was dragged into months of turmoil and dissipated with the threat of COVID-19 as well as a tightened grip from the Mainland Chinese government. As a Hong Konger, I was met with the responsibility to represent and advocate for my city from afar. Similarly, the 2020 protests against systemic racism and police brutality were a turning point in the United States, which saw swaths of communities across the nation take to the streets in the midst of a pandemic, culminating in continuous policy reforms and a palpable cultural shift. In both these events, I noticed public discourse commenting and complaining about how the protests were portrayed in media across the political spectrum, especially since most of these protests were leaderless. As the news aims to summarize, and “the leaderless” are a broad group to try and encapsulate, I set out to examine the trends and languages of the endless news cycle.

The process of the research has been relatively straightforward. Frankly, there is little glamour surrounding language and data compilation, although the purpose is meaningful. I reached out to smaller news outlets to access obscure archives, and it pains me to say that one of the Hong Kong news outlets I had intended on examining was forced to shut down by the government over the summer. Nonetheless, the bulk of my summer research has been reading through articles from news outlets across the spectrum to examine the language used to describe the protests, in order to analyze the biases of each news outlet and the effects they bear. Language is always intentional, and the selective portrayal of these events and actors could have profound effects on public opinion, and consequentially, public policy. Although no conclusions have been drawn yet, my research will continue into the fall semester as I enter my first and last year on campus.

Throughout all this, the Social Science Scholars program has kept me tethered to FSU during the pandemic, and I’ve had the amazing opportunity to connect with a group of peers who are as kind and hardworking as they are inspiring. The interaction with the other scholars was a welcome shift from the rhythmic routine of pure academia, as many of us were slowly fatigued by the months of online classes. The seminar held by Dr. Mayo and Dr. Taylor in the spring opened my eyes to the many forms of leadership, and I am grateful to carry these lessons and newfound support system as we delve into the fall.

Tiffany is a junior majoring in international affairs with a minor in philosophy and Arabic. She grew up in Hong Kong and moved to Fort Myers two years ago. Prior to college, Tiffany studied German language and culture at the Goethe Institute of Berlin, where her passions grew for language learning and diplomacy. Tiffany was the vice president of student government, co-founder of the Global Citizen’s Club, and a devoted employee of the Office of Adaptive Services while studying at Florida SouthWestern State College. Since high school, she has coordinated and competed in Model UN conferences, both domestically and internationally. She is currently on the World Affairs Program’s Model UN team at FSU. Tiffany’s research interests focus on leaderless movements worldwide and derive from her experiences with the 2014 and 2019 Hong Kong Protests. After graduation, she plans to enter the Peace Corps before pursuing graduate education in international relations.

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