The working paper 'Forging the World: Strategic Narratives and International Relations' is available to download here. It is authored by Alister Miskimmon, Ben O'Loughlin and Laura Roselle, and is based on the International Studies Association (ISA) South keynote delivered by Miskimmon and O'Loughlin at Elon University, US, in October 2011.
This is a paper aimed at both scholars and policymakers. Comments to the authors are very welcome. They plan to publish the first book on Strategic Narratives in late 2012.
My 2009 journal article, “Web 2.0: New Challenges for the Study of E-Democracy in an Era of Informational Exuberance,” which originally appeared in I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society 5 (1), pp. 9-41, has now been reprinted in Stephen Coleman’s and Peter Shane’s excellent new edited volume, Connecting Democracy: Online Consultation and the Flow of Political Communication (MIT Press). My chapter has been revised very slightly, but it is essentially the same as the 2009 version.
Connecting Democracy is the culmination of a three-year project in which I participated: the International Working Group on Online Consultation and Public Policymaking. This was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and it was steered superbly by Peter and Stephen through our several meetings—in March 2007 at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, in November 2007 at the University of Leeds, in March 2008 at The Ohio State University, in November 2008 at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., and in April 2009 at Sciences Po in Paris, France.
The full citation for the reprinted article is: Andrew Chadwick (2012) “Web 2.0: New Challenges for the Study of E-Democracy in an Era of Informational Exuberance” in Coleman, S. and Shane, P (eds) Connecting Democracy: Online Consultation and the Flow of Political Communication (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA), pp. 45–75.
Date: February 21, 2012.
Time: 5.15–6.30 p.m.
Location: Founders West FW101.
Ground Wars: Personalized Political Communication in American Campaigns
American elections today are won or lost in the so-called ground war—the strategic deployment of teams of staffers, volunteers, and paid part-timers who work the phones and canvass block by block, house by house, voter by voter to sway the undecided and turn out the base. Faced with a changing communication environment, characterized by audience fragmentation, an increasingly strained attention economy, and a certain desensitization to traditional mass-mediated appeals, campaigns have increasingly turned to “personalized political communication”—the use of people as media for political communication.
Today, both candidate campaigns, the two major parties, and interest groups spend millions of dollars on new technologies for targeting voters and combine them with increasingly intense old-fashioned efforts to mobilize and organize volunteers and paid part-timers, all to be able to contact millions of people at home—43% percent of all voters reported being contacted in person in 2008, and we will see equally intense ground war operations in the 2012 electoral cycle.
Drawing on extensive ethnographic research in two congressional districts in 2008, I will show how American campaigns employ personalized political communication to engage with the electorate. I will argue that the resurgence of labor-intensive and seemingly old-fashioned campaign techniques like canvassing gives campaigns a renewed incentive to try to mobilize people to take part in campaigns. This stimulates increased levels of political participation even as the orientation of personalized political communication towards marginal voters reinforces existing tendencies to cater primarily to the most polarized and/or lethargic elements of the electorate.
Dr Rasmus Kleis Nielsen is research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and assistant professor at Roskilde University in Denmark.
Two doctoral students at the New Political Communication Unit have successfully defended their theses and been awarded PhDs in the last few weeks.
On 15 December Christopher Boerl was awarded his PhD for a thesis entitled, "A Kingdom Divided: New Media, the Fragmentation of Evangelical Cultural Values, and U.S. Politics". This is a wonderful success for Christopher, who first joined us from the United States in 2006 as a Masters student, before going on to register for his PhD in September 2007. His PhD was supervised by Professor Andrew Chadwick.
On 20 December Lawrence Ampofo was awarded his PhD for a thesis entitled, "Terrorism 3.0: Understanding Perceptions of Technology, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Spain". This is again a tremendous achievement by Lawrence, who enrolled as a part-time PhD in September 2007 and has been running his own social media research company. His PhD was supervised by Professor Ben O'Loughlin.
Congratulations to both!
Here are the abstracts to the two theses:
Boerl: A Kingdom Divided: New Media, the Fragmentation of Evangelical Cultural Values, and U.S. Politics
Religious movements are a powerful force in politics, but there is no research that analyzes the relationship between new communication technologies and Christian political mobilization in the United States. In addressing this deficit, this thesis has three interrelated aims. First, beginning from an analysis of social capital, civic engagement and mobilization, it provides a historical overview of the U.S. evangelical community and its rise as a dominant cultural and political force. It argues that changing social norms provided the conditions for a strong reactionary religious movement to take root, while the social effects of broadcast media helped to concentrate evangelical energies on issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and school prayer. Second, this thesis develops an understanding of the impact of the Internet upon evangelical organizations based on original research and fieldwork. It demonstrates that in contrast to the effects of broadcast media, which served largely to unify evangelical cultural attitudes, the Internet is instead a source of significant theological fragmentation and political pluralization. By serving as a conduit through which dissident religious elements are better able to connect, organize, and mobilize, the Internet is revealed to be a powerful tool for movements such as “creation care” and the “emerging church,” which in years past have been unable to gather significant cultural strength due to the limitations of prevailing communication infrastructures. Collectively, these movements have emerged as a source of considerable unrest and internal religious division. Finally, this thesis discusses the political and electoral implications of a fragmented evangelical community and the ways in which the U.S. Democratic Party may capitalize on these developments.
Ampofo: Terrorism 3.0: Understanding Perceptions of Technology, Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Spain
This thesis tests the hypothesis that the availability of new technologies increases the capacities of terrorist and counter-terrorist agencies to achieve their communication objectives. The research question examined within this thesis focuses on the nature and extent to which terrorist or counter-terrorist organisations’ narratives affected the attitudes and behaviours of various Spanish-language audiences. This is analysed through an exploration of policy documents, event analyses, elite interviews, and internet research methods adapted by the author. The data illuminate the shifting understandings of communities of policymakers, journalists, activists and publics during the 2004 to 2011 period, and is the first such study undertaken in Spain. Five themes within the empirical data are examined closely: the relation of terrorism in Spain to immigration, the formation of narratives in relation to understandings of terrorism, terrorism and cybercrime within Spain, the nature of communities in relation to understandings of terrorism and terrorism in Spain in relation to public reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden. The hypothesis is derived from: the theses of Bobbitt (2008) and Barnett (2005) concerning technology’s role in the changing character of the state and terrorist organisations; research from terrorism studies literature concerning the role of technology in terrorist radicalisation, recruitment and communication; and public diplomacy studies that suggest political organisations should be able to communicate effectively to domestic and overseas publics through digital campaigns and initiatives. The main findings are: (i) the availability of technologies has not brought concomitant success for government or terrorist communication strategies; (ii) government narratives were not considered persuasive by general online users, refuting top-down communication models and raising questions about trust and credibility; (iii) online communities wish to engage and may contain key influencers who could be conduits or gatekeepers for government or terrorist narratives; (iv) terrorist organisations now have greater capacity to operationalise visibility and / or invisibility within their strategies; and (v) partly independent phenomena such as immigration and terrorism have been conflated or ‘commensurated’ into one ‘nexus’ of concern by Spanish policymakers and publics. The thesis considers how Web 3.0 is likely to bear upon these relationships, and recommends that counter-terrorist practitioners conduct further multilingual internet research into the attitudes and behaviours of online users and communities, especially the Spanish diaspora, in relation to terrorism to explore ways that communities can be co-opted into future counter-terrorism strategies in light of the development of Web 3.0 technologies. Such research could provide greater understanding of the nature of terrorism online, as well as new techniques of conducting strategic communications.
Congratulations to NPCU visiting student Mª Luisa Azpíroz Manero, who received her PhD just before Christmas for a thesis entitled, 'American Public Diplomacy in the “War on Terror”: Analysis and Evaluation of its Influence on the Spanish Press'. Mª Luisa was based at Facultad de Comunicación, University of Navarra, Spain. Her supervisor was Professor María Teresa La Porte Fernández-Alfaro. She spent time at the New Political Communication Unit, Royal Holloway, in 2008 and presented an early iteration of her thesis. Her abstract is below. She can be contacted on email@example.com. Well done Mª Luisa.
Mª Luisa Azpíroz Manero: American Public Diplomacy in the “War on Terror”: Analysis and Evaluation of its Influence on the Spanish Press
Public diplomacy is an international political communication activity that experienced renewed importance in the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The “War on Terror” promoted by the Bush Administration was accompanied by the implementation of public diplomacy strategies designed to reinforce the fight against terrorism and to diminish the levels of anti-Americanism, especially in the Muslim world, through the exercise of soft power. The object of this thesis is, in the first place, to study public diplomacy as an international political communication activity. In the second place, to carry out empirical research that, resorting to framing theory as a methodological tool, analyzes and evaluates the influence of Bush’s declarations and speeches, as a part of American mediatic diplomacy, in the Spanish press, in two case studies on the “War on Terror” (the first case study spans the period from 9/11 to November 2001, and the second, the months prior to the Iraq War). To do so, the content of this thesis is set out in six chapters. The first chapter presents a theoretical framework of public diplomacy, the second chapter explains the methodology that is used in the empirical study and the third chapter offers a context for the case studies where that methodology is applied. Chapters four, five and six constitute the empirical part of the work: in the first two the results of the analysis of mediatic diplomacy in two specific periods of the “War on Terror” are exposed, and, in the last, an evaluation of its influence based on the results of the analysis and on the consideration of other relevant factors is performed.
Parliamentary Affairs have published a new article by Ben O'Loughlin and Marie Gillespie entitled, ‘Dissenting Citizenship? Young People and Political Participation in the Media-security Nexus’. It is part of a special issue on Youth, Citizenship and Politics.
During the last decade, a media-security nexus has emerged that has exacerbated pervasive feelings of the precariousness of citizenship among British Muslims. Legally, citizenship became reversible while political and media discourses and religious discrimination compounded by racism created deep unease about belonging, identity and the very possibility of multicultural citizenship. With diminishing prospects for effective participation in formal political processes, except through the domineering framework of counter-terrorism, young British Muslims sought alternative arenas and modes of political debate and engagement. They expressed their dissent from the suffocating politics of security in informal ways that were deemed efficacious in their own terms. While a sense of loss of status and respect, and deep disappointment at how fellow Muslims were being vilified, was present among older generations, young British Muslims responded in politically creative ways that can be described as ‘dissenting citizenship’. This article reflects on findings from an ESRC-funded collaborative ethnography, Shifting Securities, conducted across 12 cities in Britain between 2004 and 2007 that investigated how a very diverse, multi-ethnic group of some 239 British people experienced citizenship and security in a time of relentless news of terrorism, conflict and natural disaster catastrophes and ‘creeping securitisation’ in day-to-day life in Britain. Our research suggests that dissenting rather than disaffected citizenship is a growing trend particularly among multi-ethnic youth who aspire to work critically within and revitalise mainstream politics to safeguard their citizenship status via local and translocal personalised forms of political action rather than engage in conventional forms of national party politics.
We analyse Twenty20 cricket tournaments as media events, a particular social process with its own logic, function and effects. In Dayan and Katz's original formulation, media events enable a society to assemble, reflect on and legitimate its establishment institutions. Through a global mediatized event in space/time, Twenty20 creates a focal point for an international cricket community to watch, discuss and endorse or criticize the institutions and order of world cricket. Conceptions of the community and its order were present in statements made by different national teams as they approached the 2010 Twenty20 World Cup. We find that discussion engendered by the emergence of Twenty20 media events are structured around binaries of Test cricket, its techniques, sanctity and sporting values, against Twenty20, its ‘hit and giggle’ techniques, its innovations and its association with sporting values. Nevertheless, as all formats adapt and the institutional order evolves, we already find evidence of these binaries beginning to dissolve.
Ben O’Loughlin and Nick Anstead will be speaking at Google@Scholars: Data Opportunities and Challenges (co-sponsored by the Google Forum, Google and the Economic and Social Research Council) on 21 November 2011 in London. The day includes presentations from Fiona Armstrong of the ESRC and Theo Bertram of Google. Sessions will involve finding and consolidating digital ‘traces’ and using Google Tools for social science research.
Thanks to Sarah Oates for organising the event.
Ben O'Loughlin is among the speakers on 10 November 2011 at a workshop Digital Methods: Tools for Analysis held at the University of Manchester. This workshop brings together leading international scholars developing and applying innovative new methods to analyse web 2.0 applications. The focus of the workshop is on new methodologies for capturing and analysing social media data from applications such as blogs, social networking, micro-blogging or video sharing sites and hyperlinks. Ben will present the latest version of his research with Nick Anstead, "Semantic Polling: the 2010 UK General Election and Real-Time Opinion Monitoring". Based on recent interviews with pollsters, party strategies, data mining companies and electoral regulators, the research shows how different actors made use of real-time public opinion polling through social media - semantic polling - in the 2010 UK General Election.
Participation is free but registration is required as the number of places is limited.
If you are interested in participating please contact the organisers at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday 8th November PIRSoc, our student-led Politics Society, will host the term's first careers event with BBC One's David Thompson.
Mr Thompson is a journalist on The Politics Show, shown weekly on BBC 1, and has previously been a Westminster Lobby correspondent for Scotland's best selling daily paper, the Daily Record.
David will be speaking about his experiences working in journalism as well as giving advice on how you can become a political journalist.
PIRSoc hope to see you there, the event will be taking place at 6:30pm - 7:30pm in ABLT1.
Further details are available here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=171329789617388. Follow PIRSoc on Twitter: @RHUL_PIRSoc