Prof. Atkinson’s primary area of research focuses on the intersection of politics and consumer behavior, particularly among young people. For example, she explores whether and to what degree socially conscious consumption, such as buying fair-trade coffee or hybrid cars, either helps or hinders conventional civic and political engagement, such as voting and volunteering. A second stream of research explores the roles of consumption and media use in fostering identity. Her recent work in this vein has studied brand communities in online social networking sites and how individuals think of themselves and their profiles as online brands.
She has received research funding from the Mass Communication & Society division of AEJMC, the Association for Consumer Research and the University of Michigan New Media & Society, Advances in Consumer Research and the ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science; she has presented at numerous conferences, including AEJMC, ICA, ACR, CCT, APSA and AAPOR.
She has taught classes in advertising history, public relations, journalism, research methods, media effects and consumer behavior. While at the University of Wisconsin, she was honored as a Teaching Fellow by the College of Letters and Science, was named a Graduate Fellow of the Academy of Political and Social Science and was selected for the National Communication Association’s National Doctoral Honors Seminar. Before pursuing her doctorate, Prof. Atkinson worked for several years as a newspaper reporter in New York and as a public relations consultant in Madison, WI.