NPCU PhD student James Dennis will presented at this year's Political Studies Association (PSA) Annual Conference in Manchester on 14-16 April 2014. Please find details below of his paper and the panel time and place.
Tuesday 15th April, 09:00-10:30
Panel Title: Media and Politics 1: New Media and Political Participation
All Hail the Keyboard Radical? A New Research Agenda for Political Participation and Social Media
Slacktivism has become synonymous with a negative perception of the political value of social media. However, the critique is flawed by an overtly narrow focus. In order to critically analyse the relationship between social media and political participation we must first develop a comprehensive understanding of the environment in which these new forms of social and political self-expression take place. This paper will illustrate the conceptual weaknesses of slacktivism and propose an alternate research agenda based on a number of conceptual recommendations.
Firstly, the emphasis on actions ignores the role that social-networking sites play in relation to information exchange, discursive engagement, and political mobilisation. Furthermore the focus on social media in isolation ignores the multifaceted engagement strategies that political actors employ, and the expansive, hybrid media system that such tools operate within. Thirdly, slacktivism is often deemed to be lazy activism. However, given the time- pressure that citizens experience day-to-day, the granular nature of web 2.0 technologies may lower the threshold for involvement in spheres that were traditionally controlled by political professionals. Finally, slacktivism is often labelled as inauthentic or narcissistic. However, as users navigate the fluid terrain of public, semi-public, and private spaces online, our personal identity must remain reflexive.
The House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence has published its Report, Persuasion and Power in the Modern World. The NPCU's Prof. Ben O'Loughlin was specialist advisor to the committee. Read the report: html or pdf.
The Committee found that British influence and effectiveness in a changed world now requires different methods of exercising power, in order to safeguard national security and maintain prosperity. The nature and distribution of power is altering because of the transformation of global communication, and government must adapt or lose influence. Put simply, the question of communication is at the heart of international affairs in the 21st century, and this will have major consequences.
While strong Armed Forces remain the bedrock in safeguarding national interests, the Report argues that new kinds of power projection are now required, both to make the use of force (‘hard power’) more effective and in some instances to replace it with the deployment of what has been labelled ‘soft power’.
Soft power involves getting what a country wants by influencing other countries to want the same thing, through attraction, persuasion and co-option.
The Committee says that the information and digital revolution has transformed foreign relations, meaning that the UK must win over new and wider audiences to its point of view. The Report points out that countries worldwide have re-directed resources towards soft power methods of influence.
To ensure that the exercise of soft power takes its place at the core of government policy-making, the Report calls for the creation of a new strategic unit at the heart of Government. Its purpose would be to assist the Prime Minister in ensuring all Departments understand the importance of soft power and of upholding the UK’s reputation, and in swiftly counteracting any potentially damaging policies or messages.
While investing in soft power takes time to produce results, the Report urges the Government to make a number of important changes:
- The Committee welcomes the growing number of British embassies and consulates, but urges that embassies be fully resourced as they become more central to the UK’s aims.
- The Committee endorses the widespread view that international students be removed from net migration targets.
- The Report calls for stronger recognition of the potential of the Commonwealth network, which opens the door to new fast-growth world markets. It urges stronger Government support for British English. It also welcomes the re-opening of the FCO Language Centre.
- The Committee calls for a review of how well the MOD, the FCO and DFID have cooperated in Afghanistan.
- The Committee also calls on UKTI to encourage more follow-up work after trade missions.
- The Report suggests that the UK should act with greater confidence on the international stage, while building its relationships with both old allies and new partners.
Over the past year Ben and the team received an astonishing volume of written evidence and heard oral evidence from leading figures across all sectors of UK industry, culture and politics, as well as diplomats, ambassadors and experts from other countries who put the UK's soft power in comparative perspective. For further information about the report please contact Ben.OLoughlin@rhul.ac.uk.
Billur Aslan, PhD candidate at the NPCU, offers her diagnosis of efforts by the Turkish government to control media and, in effect, 'structure' the Internet for users in Turkey:
Various analyses have quickly developed since Turkey’s recent social media bans, viewing it as an attack on free-flow information but there were actually deeper reasons behind the online acts of the government. Considering these, I argue that it is an indication of efforts made by the Turkish government to structure the non-hierarchical order of the Internet by incorporating its own rules and standards.
The censorship attempts of the Turkish government started with Twitter. Overnight on the 20th of March, all social media accounts that I signed into, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, were all swarmed with the single message “#twitterisbannedinTurkey and the storm of outrage raised by the Turkish Twitter users immediately got the attention of international society. This was the first time since the Gezi Parkı protests that Turkey has extensively occupied the international agenda. In reality, Turkey has been plagued by many political events over the past months. The audio recordings that asserted to implicate Turkey's prime minister in corruption have proliferated in social media since February. Moreover, the recent death of young Gezi victim Belkin Elvan enraged thousands of people in Turkey giving rise to new protests. Yet, none of these developments could manage to ruin the international reputation of the Prime Minister in the way the Twitter ban has. Read on...
A new visitor to the NPCU is Anna Longhini, a PhD student in Political Science - specialization in Public Policy - at Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence office. The long-term focus of Anna's research is on foreign policy think tanks and experts' role and influence within European national contexts. Anna came across think tanks some years ago as an intern at a private think tank in Milan. Afterwards, she become more and more interested in understanding the connections between usable knowledge and policy-making. Previously, Anna worked as a business intelligence consultant and studied Public Administration at Bocconi University in Milan.
Anna is now involved in the campaign for the administrative election to be held in May 2014 with a 'municipal list' in her town in Italy.
Anna published a brief article related to her research yesterday, available here.
Ben O'Loughlin is an invited speaker at the conference Image Operations in Berlin organised by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin on 10-12 April 2014. Other speakers include W.T.J. Mitchell, Timothy Lenoir and Nicholas Mirzoeff.
Below are details of Ben's paper.
Images of the World, Images of Conflict
In the short story Pascale's Sphere Borges wrote, “universal history is the history of a few metaphors.” The history of world politics certainly seems marked by a few recurring concepts and metaphors: the universal and the particular, the inside and the outside, the balance of power, and the ideal of symmetry and actuality of chaos. Across eras, these concepts have shaped the image of world politics held by leaders, citizens and scholars. Such concepts are abstract but become visualized through diplomacy, war and cartography and through the lived experience of world affairs. For critical scholars of International Relations, these concepts and the images they translate into are responsible for conflict, for they become concrete in the states, borders and security dilemmas that propel us from conflict to conflict. It follows that there is a relationship between “the image of world politics” and actual visual images of world politics; between abstract, conceptual understandings of the ontology and mechanics of International Relations and the horrific news and events we witness every day. Borges concludes his story, ‘Perhaps universal history is the history of the various intonations of a few metaphors.’ If so, we are doomed to variations on the same bleak events and the practice of international relations is ultimately tragic, as many of its founders believed.
If you're at ISA we hope you can join us for the debate.
James Dennis in openDemocracy: The myth of the keyboard warrior: public participation and 38 Degrees
NPCU PhD candidate James Dennis has published a new article in openDemocracy entitled 'The myth of the keyboard warrior: public participation and 38 Degrees'. Based on extensive ethnographic research with 38 Degrees over the past year, Dennis makes the case that they are a new kind of political organisation who use ICT to generate more agile and participatory forms of engagement that more traditional forms are currently achieving. 38 Degrees seem able to act as a conduit and vehicle: their 'soft leadership', digital and face-to-face platforms offer ongoing opportunities for ordinary people to step in and do something about an issue they care strongly about.
Dennis can be contacted at @dennisdcfc
2014-03-18 Thierry Giasson seminar: Open, Hybrid or Managed? Online political mobilization and electoral strategy in Québec
Department of Politics and IR Seminar
Tuesday 18 March 2014
5.15 pm in FW101
Open, Hybrid or Managed? Online political mobilization and electoral strategy in Québec
Thierry Giasson is Associate Professor in the Information and Communication Department at Université Laval, in Québec City, Canada. He is the director of the Research lab on Political Communication at the same Institution and the Canadian Principal Investigator of the webinpolitics.com project, a comparative study of online electoral campaigns in France and Quebec. Thierry’s work on web campaigning, digital citizenship, the mediatisation of politics and political marketing has been published in a number of leading journals such as the Canadian Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Public Affairs, the International Journal of Interactive Communication Systems and Technologies, and the Canadian Journal of Communication. Thierry is also co-editor of the new UBC Press series Communication, Strategy and Politics, where his upcoming edited volume entitled Meet the Press and Tweet the Rest will be published in the fall of 2014.
Thierry Giasson, from Université Laval in Québec City, is visiting the New Political Communication Unit (NPCU) from February-April 2014. Dr. Giasson is currently working on two research projects investigating online political campaigns and digital citizenship.
The first project looks at how political parties in Québec and France campaigned online during their last legislative and presidential elections (respectively) in 2012. During his stay at the NPCU, Dr. Giasson will be working on an article addressing strategic objectives of online campaigns. He will give a lecture on this research in the Department of Politics and International Relations Seminar series on March 18th. This comparative project will end next year with the production of a book dedicated to these two campaigns.
Dr. Giasson’s second project investigates online citizenship in Canada. In the vein of other national large scale studies such as those carried by the Pew’s Center Internet and American Life Project, this SSRHC funded research will address how Canadians use online technologies to engage politically and experience their citizenship. The study will be carried over the next 4 years (2013-2017). Initial results from the first wave survey currently in the field will be analyzed in April. A paper highlighting the data (the first of its kind produced in Canada) will be also be presented at next year’s IPSA conference in Montréal.
Over the course of his stay at Royal Holloway College, Dr. Giasson will also be giving guest lectures at Bournemouth University, the Oxford Internet Institute, Lund University and the Université de Paris-Est.
Thierry Giasson is Principal Investigator for the Groupe de recherche en communication politique and Member of the Center for the Study of Democratic Citizenship
Department of Politics and IR Seminar
Tuesday 11 February 2014
5.15 pm in FW101
‘Witnessing political upheaval: media, protest and the Arab spring’
(Birkbeck, University of London)
Tim Markham is Reader in Journalism and Media as well as Head of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. He is a political sociologist whose work has focused on war reporting and issues of authority, authenticity and morality in journalism. His most recent book ‘The Politics of War Reporting: Authority, Authenticity and Morality’ (Manchester University Press, 2011) draws on interviews with war correspondents and the political phenomenology of Pierre Bourdieu to explore journalistic identity, experience and instinct. Other work of his appears in Celebrity Studies, Journalism Practice, Review of Contemporary Philosophy, and The British Journal of Sociology. Tim’s ongoing research questions the democratising potential of new media practices, asks what audiences are doing when they participate in media, and assesses emerging discourses of journalism in the Middle East.