In the final Departmental Seminar of the academic year, we look ahead and discuss the 2015 General Elections. Nicholas Allen, Kaat Smets and Cristian Vaccari from the Department of Politics and International Relations, will participate in a round table discussion which starts with a short presentation by all three of them. Kaat Smets will talk about trends in voter turnout generally and youth voter turnout in particular, Cristian Vaccari will discuss the latest trends in media coverage of the election and the campaign, and Nicholas Allen will shed light on political leaders and the coalition. The last part of the round table discussion, which is chaired by Amy Smith (PhD Candidate at the NPCU), consists of a Q&A session.
The Tuesday Seminar starts at 5.15pm in FW101. If FW101 turns out to be too small to accommodate all guests we will move to the Founders Lecture Theatre.
NPCU PhD researcher James Dennis has published a new article in the Civic Media Project published by MIT Press. The collection, edited by Eric Gordon and Paul Mihailidis, brings together over 100 case studies from practitioners and scholars all over the world. Dennis' contribution is based on his ongoing PhD research on the hybrid mobilization movement, 38 Degrees. You can read the article here.
Dennis also took part in a discussion on online political advertising with Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland. You can listen to the discussion here.
On Friday 20 March 2015 Ben O'Loughlin will take part in a closed workshop in London, The Paris Attacks and Eyewitness Media: Legal and Ethical Issues for International News Providers. The workshop features participatants from wire agencies AFP, Reuters and AP, and broadcasters France 24 and the BBC World Service. The event is organised by Marie Gillespie and Claire Wardle.
This event examines the tensions that arise around the uses of eyewitness media during the coverage of breaking news events. Gillespie and Wardle have invited 30 journalists to join academics and the team at Eyewitness Media Hub to explore the ethical and legal dilemmas that newsrooms face when sourcing, verifying and publishing footage captured by eyewitnesses.
With a central focus on the Paris attacks in January, the event will be run as a closed forum, conducted strictly under the Chatham House rules. The aim is to create an open, honest and candid debate about issues and decisions that are of central and growing importance to citizens and to news cultures.
We invite applications for two Leverhulme Trust-funded PhD studentships that will be jointly managed by the Departments of Politics and International Relations, History, and Computer Science.
Royal Holloway, University of London has been awarded over £1 million from the Trust to support a total of 15 PhD research projects on the theme of Freedom and the Rights of the Individual in the Digital Age. In 2015, Royal Holloway will also launch a Magna Carta Doctoral Centre for Individual Freedom.
Studentship 1: Surveilling the Surveillants: Organizational Practices, Democratic Debate, and the Ethical Challenges of the Political Monitoring of Citizens
Lead Supervisors: Dr Cristian Vaccari and Professor Andrew Chadwick, New Political Communication Unit, Department of Politics and International Relations
This project will provide an in-depth account of how and why different types of political and policy organizations in contemporary Britain acquire large quantities of digital data to monitor and analyse citizens' behaviour. It will explore how these organizations feed the results of data analyses back into their everyday operational goals, such as influencing citizens' political information, attitudes, and behaviours. The student will engage in extensive and immersive ethnographic field research in a minimum of two and a maximum of four different organizations. Suitable organizations include political parties, interest groups, activist movements, media organizations, political consulting companies, polling organizations, global digital companies, and government departments. The project will explore organizational leaders' sense-making about "big data," and the ethical, political, and legal challenges involved in the deployment of computational techniques. The project will be able to draw conclusions about how these new practices may limit or promote individual freedom, democratic debate, and the public interest.
Studentship 2: Magna Carta for the Digital Generation: The Intersection of Youth Protest and Technology
Lead Supervisors: Dr Akil Awan (Department of History, and New Political Political Communication Unit, Department of Politics and International Relations) and Dr James Sloam (Youth Politics Unit and New Political Communication Unit, Department of Politics and International Relations)
Many young people today feel alienated from formal politics, disadvantaged by public policy, and even victimized by the state. The political disillusionment and disenfranchisement of young people should be of serious concern to us all. The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta offers a useful and timely opportunity to explore and address some of these concerns. This project will seek to answer three related questions: How might young people reclaim the legacy of Magna Carta today, particularly the right to protest? How can we understand the relationship between youth, protest, and technology in historical context, for example by comparing today's youth protest movements with those of the 1960s? And can digital media technologies play useful roles in mobilising publics and engendering change?
The studentships will begin in September 2015 and cover Royal Holloway Home/EU level fees and include a living allowance grant at Research Councils UK rates of £15,726 per year. Additional funding will be made available to support each student's research training and conference participation.
To apply for Studentship 1, please send the following by email to Dr Cristian Vaccari (email@example.com) no later than April 10, 2015: a 1,000-word research statement outlining the qualities and ideas you would bring to this project, a writing sample such as a Masters essay or dissertation, and your CV.
To apply for Studentship 2, please send the following by email to Dr Akil Awan (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than April 10, 2015: a 1,000-word research statement outlining the qualities and ideas you would bring to this project, a writing sample such as a Masters essay or dissertation, and your CV.
Interviews are expected to take place via Skype or in person in late-April 2015.
The College is committed to equality and diversity, and encourages applications from all sections of the community.
ISA ICOMM 2016 Leadership
Section Chair: Babak Bahador, University of Canterbury
Section Program Chair: Craig Hayden, American University (Section Chair for ISA 2017)
- Amelia Arsenault, Georgia State University (2013 – 2016), Program Chair for ISA 2017 and Section Chair for ISA 2018
- Steven Livingston, George Washington University (2014 – 2016)
- Ben O’Loughlin, Royal Holloway, University of London (2015 – 2017)
- James Pamment, University of Texas at Austin (2014 – 2016)
- Shayna Plaut, University of British Columbia (2014 – 2016)
- Shawn Powers, Georgia State University (2015 – 2017)
- Jenifer Whitten-Woodring, University of Massachusetts Lowell (2015 – 2016) (Past Section Chair)
Weaponising information: Putin, the West and Competing Narratives of Ukraine @OtagoPolitics 24 Feb 2015
The University of Canterbury in New Zealand this week plays host to a major international symposium based upon the Strategic Narratives approach to international relations advanced by Alister Miskimmon, Ben O'Loughlin and Laura Roselle. The approach helps to explain how states and other actors in international affairs project and contest narratives about the past, present and future of international relations in order to shape the behaviour of others and steer global order - and history itself - in a certain direction. Strategic narrative research involves researching the formation, projection and reception of narratives in local and global media ecologies. Speakers at this symposium will address that most difficult of questions: how do audiences receive, interpret and respond to narratives of global order and identity?
Miskimmon and O'Loughlin will provide two keynote addresses, and the event features important speakers from China and Ukraine.
A full programme for the event can be downloaded here.
If you are in the area and wish to join, please RSVP to Gabriel Weibl email@example.com for catering purposes.
- Date: Friday 27 February 2015, 9:00AM to 5:00PM
- Location: Undercroft Seminar Room 101, Puaka-James Hight building, Ilam Campus
Ben O'Loughlin will take part in a series of talks this week about strategic narratives at the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention in New Orleans. At ISA there will be over 5,000 delegates including a vibrant Communications research section. Ben will take part on a roundtable on 'rapid-response public diplomacy', chair a panel of emerging research on strategic narratives, and present two co-authored papers exploring political leaders' narratives of conflict and how audiences interpret them. Details are below. We hope to see some of you in New Orleans!
- Chair: Ben O'Loughlin (Royal Holloway, University of London)
- Discussant: Laura Roselle (Elon University)
- Author: R. S. Zaharna (American University)
- Author: Valentina Bartolucci (University of Pisa)
- Author: Steven Corman (Arizona State University)
- Author: Mark J. Rolfe (University of New South Wales)
- Author: Amelia H. Arsenault (Georgia State University)
- Chair: Fabrizio Coticchia (Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies - Pisa (Italy))
- Discussant: Amy Skonieczny (San Francisco State University)
Public Narratives about Syria: A Q-Sort Analysis of UK and US Students - Laura Roselle, Alister Miskimmon and Ben O'Loughlin
Scholars of international communication recognize that narratives are important to the construction of policy agendas and implementation. This paper addresses the broader communication context for understanding foreign policy in the United Kingdom and the United States in regard to Syria. This study first analyzes and categorizes UK Parliamentary statements and US Congressional statements on Syria found in the UK Hansard Parliamentary record and the U.S. Congressional Record, and then applies a Q-sort methodology to assess how individuals construct their own narratives about foreign policy towards Syria. It shows that individual citizens’ perspectives are far more nuanced than dominant elite narratives suggest, underlining the need for further research in to how audiences receive and interpret political communication. This study demonstrates how individuals select policy narratives on Syria emerging from debates in the United Kingdom and the United States. The paper highlights 6 British and 4 American narratives which respondents generate from their engagement with policy debates in 2013-14 on whether to militarily intervene in Syria. This demonstrates how strategic narratives of policy makers are reconfigured by individuals in how they understand the Syrian crisis.
Red Lines: Syria, Metaphor and Narrative - Federica Ferrari and Ben O'Loughlin
Did Obama’s ‘red lines’ metaphor nearly trigger a military intervention in Syria in the summer of 2013? What work does that metaphor do in shaping understandings and conduct in international affairs? The term is used by political leaders to express likely behavioural consequences to international rivals and allies and to domestic publics. What difference in diplomatic practice does it make to speak of a line, and a red one? How do such metaphors trigger or sustain narratives, and how do narratives interact with metaphors? In the context of conflict in Syria we examine the trajectory and remediation of the red lines metaphor, taking as an empirical nexus a series of officials’ speeches in September 2013 by Kerry, Power, Lavrov, Moon and others. We find that the red line initially trapped Obama, leading to rhetorical shifts before a trajectory shift from the red line to the path forward in mid-September as the US and Russia reach a deal to eliminate the Assad regime’s chemical weapons. The paper opens up theoretical reflection on the function of metaphor and narrative in steering sense-making in diplomatic practice. The political significance is to question what alternative metaphors Obama could have used in the first place.
- Chair: Philip Seib (University of Southern California)
- Participant: Katherine A. Brown (U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy)
- Participant: R. S. Zaharna (American University)
- Participant: Sean Aday (George Washington University)
- Participant: Kathy R. Fitzpatrick (Florida International University)
- Participant: Ben O'Loughlin (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Public diplomacy is best implemented as part of a long-term commitment to soft power. But when crises arise such as that in Ukraine in 2014, policymakers must respond promptly. Competing narratives and innovative outreach methods must be employed as part of a real-time strategy. This panel, which includes scholars and one of the top U.S. public diplomacy officials, will explore the study and practice of public diplomacy as a rapid-response foreign policy tool.
The 1st Winter School on Elections and Voting Behaviour, a joint endeavour between KU Leuven and the Université de Montréal, took place in Leuven, Belgium between 15th and 22nd January 2015. The school was organised by Ruth Dassonneville from KU Leuven, and brought together PhD students from universities across Europe and North America. The Winter School focused on specific sub-topics within the field of elections research, including: economic voting; strategic voting; psychological behaviour; issue voting; participation; and – pertinently for me – media effects. It aimed to give attendees an overview of methods and studies currently used to analyse the behaviour of voters during elections, as well the opportunity to present a paper and gain valuable feedback on our ideas, approaches, and research designs.
A number of high profile researchers were invited to deliver a class on each sub-topic and to act as discussants during the presentation of student papers. Key speakers were André Blais, Michael S. Lewis-Beck, Patrick Fournier, Claes de Vreese, Romain Lachat, and Marc Hooghe. For ‘media effects’, I was fortunate to listen to a lecture and receive feedback from Claes de Vreese, editor of Political Communication and Professor and Chair of Political Communication at The Amsterdam School of Communication Research, University of Amsterdam.
The paper I presented at the school described the methodological approach I take in my research on this year’s UK general election. Specifically, it highlighted the problems facing internet researchers in our attempts to collect valid and reliable data sets, suggestions for how we might overcome these, and an overview of how I intend to apply this within my own research. The feedback received from both de Vreese and my fellow PhD students was constructive and helpful. The Winter School fostered a sense of community amongst the students, as illustrated by the many who offered to put me in touch with, or send me the work of, scholars conducting research in my field. For those students in the early stages, or perhaps even their first few months, of research, feedback was extremely forthcoming from fellow students – perhaps because of our innate desires to project our own methodological preferences and conceptual predispositions on the research design presented. Nevertheless, personal preferences notwithstanding, the constructive suggestions and criticisms offered to all presenters was one of the most worthwhile features of the Winter School.
As one of the few researchers in attendance using predominantly qualitative methods, I found the Winter School to be particularly illuminating in terms of my understanding of the benefits of quantitative research, both to assess voting behaviour and the use of methods to establish relationships between different variables. Of particular interest to me were the papers presented relating to media effects which utilised quantitative or experimental designs. Jӧrg Hebenstreit, from Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, presented a paper on the influence of money on the outcome of US elections; a topical area of study which has obvious ramifications for the ways in which advertising is used by parties, candidates and super PACS. Marijn Nagtzaam, from Leiden University, presented his initial research design on ‘second-order’ electoral personalization, proposing an exploration of the impact of preference voting for candidates based on a prior choice of party. Choosing a favourite paper from the day, though, leads me to Rim Sabrina Sassi’s submission, from Université Laval, on microtargeting in electoral campaigns. Microtargeting is a fascinating subject, not least because of its meteoric rise as an asset for campaign teams, but also because of its ethical and societal implications – there are many angles from which this subject could be approached. Sassi’s suggestion exploration through experiments using Facebook provoked much discussion and it is clear that this research design provides the basis for an interesting and highly original thesis.
Whilst the Winter School provided an important overview of research into elections and voting behaviour, the real benefit of the week spent in Leuven was the ability to connect with like-minded researchers and share knowledge and insights from an international perspective. The time I spent at the school gave me space to think about my own research and assess where it fits with studies being conducted by the next generation of elections scholars. Crucially, the Winter School introduced me to some fascinating new approaches and paths which I can investigate for application to my own research. Due to its success, the 2nd Winter School on Elections and Voting Behaviour looks set to be held in Montréal in 2016. Attendance is highly recommend for those political communication and elections scholars who would like to better understand how we fit into the research landscape, network with colleagues working internationally, and acquire lessons that can be applied to your own thesis.
After being launched in 2008, the journal Media, War & Conflict has reached the top quartile of journals in Political Science and International Relations. This is based on its SJR impact factor from Scopus, based on articles' citations over three years from publication date. The journal is ranked 86th of 380 journals. It is also 68/235 among Communication journals. Submissions to the journal more than doubled in 2014. Thank you to all those who carry out reviews or submit your research to the journal. The upward curve is steep and we look forward to publishing more excellent research through 2015 and beyond.