Dr Hugo Leal is a Research Associate at the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy (MCTD) based at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge. Hugo first came to CRASSH to work as a postdoctoral fellow in the internet branch of the project Conspiracy and Democracy and then moved to Cambridge Digital Humanities (CDH) where he was a methods fellow and coordinator of the Cambridge Data Schools.
Before joining CRASSH, Hugo was at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, where he completed his PhD. He also holds a Masters in International Relations from the University of Lisbon with a dissertation on complexity theory and new social movements.
Hugo is a CDH Associate and a member of the Steering Committee of the Cambridge Infectious Diseases Research Centre, the Association of Internet Researchers and the Centre of Social Movement Studies (COSMOS).
Hugo combines research and teaching activities at the intersection of collective action and digital technologies. He has been looking at the networked diffusion of social movements and ideas. His investigation on misinformation and conspiracy theories intends to trace the lifecycle of viral narratives, their strategic use and societal impacts in a variety of areas, from the emergence of nativism to science denial. At the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy, Hugo will be focusing on the technological threats and opportunities to democracy and public health. He will also continue his outreach efforts to equip NGOs, journalists and the general public with tools to better handle and interrogate technology.
Hugo’s work cuts across disciplines, from sociology to political science, and combines qualitative and quantitative methods, with an emphasis on social network analysis and digital methods. In his PhD thesis, tiled “The Emergence of Collective Action Networks in the Middle East and North Africa”, he used the Egyptian uprising as a case-study to explore the causes of the “Arab Spring”. The research is fed by an original dataset of protest events and a longitudinal social network analysis of contentious actors in the country. His master’s dissertation was a study on complexity theory and new social movements.
Hugo has been delivering courses and running workshops on digital methods, research methods, Middle East politics, social movements, social network analysis and protest event analysis. He has also been raising awareness to the weaponisation of misinformation by political and economic actors through public talks and media appearances.