Image Operations: Berlin, April 10-12

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. 

Posted on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 05:50PM by Registered CommenterAdministrator | Comments Off | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

NPCU at #ISA2014: Roundtable on International Relations & Communication


The International Studies Association (ISA) 2014 Annual Convention takes place in Toronto on 26-29 March. Ben O'Loughlin from the New Political Communication Unit has been invited to participate in a roundtable, 'International Relations & Communication: Connecting Spaces and Places'.
Time: Friday March 28th, 10.30 - 12.15
A focus on “geopolitics in an era of globalization” underscores the importance of integrating political communication concepts into international relations. Each panelist on this roundtable will address how an analysis of communication and/or information technology contributes to a broader understanding of space and place in international relations. Below are the participants and the general topic area on which they will focus. All will share insights on broader theoretical themes.
Alister Miskimmon – EU integration: Connecting spaces and places
Laura Roselle – Territory, conflict, and mediatization
Steven Livingston – Seeing geopolitical spaces with new technologies: the consequences of GIS mapping of urban slums and the monitoring of geo-space from outer space
Ben O’Loughlin – Times make space: International relations after connectivity

If you're at ISA we hope you can join us for the debate. 


Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 09:27PM by Registered CommenterAdministrator | Comments Off | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

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

Posted on Monday, March 17, 2014 at 05:42PM by Registered CommenterAdministrator | Comments Off | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

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 (Laval University)

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.

Posted on Monday, March 17, 2014 at 04:22PM by Registered CommenterAdministrator | Comments Off | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Welcome to Thierry Giasson - visiting scholar at the NPCU

Dr. Giasson is Associate Professor in the Information and Communication Department at Université Laval in Québec CityThierry 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

Posted on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 04:41PM by Registered CommenterAdministrator | Comments Off | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Seminar tomorrow: ‘Witnessing political upheaval: media, protest and the Arab spring’ - Tim Markham

Department of Politics and IR Seminar

Tuesday 11 February 2014

5.15 pm in FW101

‘Witnessing political upheaval: media, protest and the Arab spring’

Tim Markham

(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.

Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 09:46AM by Registered CommenterAdministrator | Comments Off | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

New article by Pope: Public diplomacy, international news media and London 2012: cosmopolitanismTM

Courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsMark Pope, a PhD student at the New Political Communication Unit, has published a peer-reviewed journal article entitled Public diplomacy, international news media and London 2012: cosmopolitanismTM in Sport & Society. To download a copy click here.


This article investigates the nature of cosmopolitanism in the production and reception of public diplomacy discourse surrounding London 2012. It focuses on three actors: the UK Government, the International Olympic Committee and the international news media. It finds that UK public diplomacy actors and their partners were focused more on the promotion of a competitive identity, albeit a cosmopolitan one, than engagement. It argues that the cosmopolitanism evident in the discourse was a form of branded cosmopolitanism, and, ultimately, this limited the success of UK public diplomacy in achieving its aims. This style of communication – that was evident across the discourse surrounding London 2012 – was exclusionary of key actors to UK public diplomacy objectives. Applying a form of critical discourse analysis, the ideology surrounding the Olympic ideal is revealed as significant to maintaining uncritical acceptance of exclusions and conspicuous contradictions.

Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 02:13PM by Registered CommenterAdministrator | Comments Off | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

What happens on Twitter ... does not stay on Twitter - Cristian Vaccari talk: Tue 21 January

Department of Politics and IR Seminar

Tuesday 21 January 2014

5.15 pm in FW101

‘What happens on Twitter… does not stay on Twitter: the role of social media in online and offline political engagement’

Cristian Vaccari

(Royal Holloway, University of London)

Cristian Vaccari joined Royal Holloway’s Department of Politics and International Relations in 2013 as a Lecturer in Politics. Cristian’s research explores political communication in comparative perspective, with a particular focus on digital media. He has taught at the University of Bologna and at New York University Florence, and is presently Principal Investigator of a three-year project investigating the role of social media by citizens and politicians in Germany, Italy and Britain. His most recent book is Digital Politics in Western Democracies: A Comparative Study (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), and his work has also been published in journals such as Political Communication, Party Politics, New Media and Society, French Politics and the Journal of Information Technology and Politics.

All welcome!

Posted on Monday, January 20, 2014 at 01:53PM by Registered CommenterAdministrator | Comments Off | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

New masters programme: MSc in Media, Power & Public Affairs

Entry: September 2014

Duration: 12 months full-time, 24 months part-time

For information on the course structure, assessments, and to apply click here

For further information contact Dr. Michael Bacon: Michael.Bacon@rhul.ac.uk

We are living through an era of tumultuous change in how politics is conducted and communicated. The great digital disruption of the early 21st century continues to work its way through media systems around the world, forcing change, adaptation, and renewal across a whole range of areas: political parties and campaigns, interest groups, social movements, activist organisations, news and journalism, the communication industries, governments, and international relations.

In the New Political Communication Unit at Royal Holloway, University of London, we believe the key to making sense of these chaotic developments is the idea of power—how it is generated, how it is used, and how it shapes the diverse information and communication flows that affect all our lives.

This unique new Masters degree, which replaces the MSc in New Political Communication, is for critically-minded, free-thinking individuals who want to engage with the exciting intellectual ferment that is being generated by these unprecedented times. The curriculum integrates rigorous study of the very best academic research with an emphasis on making sense of political communication as it is practiced in the real world, in both "old" and "new" media settings.

While not a practice-based course, the MSc Media, Power, and Public Affairs is perfect for those who wish to build a career in the growing range of professions that require deep and critical insight into the relationship between media and politics and public communication more generally. These include advocacy, campaign management, political communication consultancy, journalism, government communication, policy analysis, public opinion and semantic polling, and public diplomacy, to name but a few. Plus, due to its strong emphasis on scholarly rigour, the MSc in Media, Power, and Public Affairs is also the perfect foundation for a PhD in political communication.

You will study a mixture of core and elective units, including a generous choice of free options, and write a supervised dissertation over the summer. Teaching is conducted primarily in small group seminars that meet weekly for two hours, supplemented by individual tuition for the dissertation.

This course is also offered at Postgraduate Diploma level for those who do not have the academic background necessary to begin an advanced Masters degree. The structure of the Diploma is identical except that you will not write a dissertation. If you are successful on the Diploma you may transfer to the MSc, subject to academic approval. 

Posted on Monday, December 23, 2013 at 09:01AM by Registered CommenterAdministrator | Comments Off | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Connectivity and Power Workshop, December 12

Connectivity and Power: A Workshop

12 December 2013

Royal Holloway, University of London

We need to get a grip on what connectivity means and how we research it. In this workshop staff and PhD researchers from the New Political Communication Unit and the University of Glasgow will present very short pieces reflecting on what "connectivity and power" mean to them and how they are present in their research. Those participating share a number of overlapping research foci, methods and empirical cases. The day promises a series of fruitful exchanges that will help clarify these most difficult—and important—of terms. 

Venue: International Building IN031 10am-1pm, IN032 1pm-3pm (we move halfway)


9am-10am Coffee/tea on arrival in IN031

10am-11am Andrew Hoskins (Glasgow) on Connectivity, Ben O'Loughlin (Royal Holloway) responds; discussion.

11am-1pm Glasgow presentations: Stevie Docherty, Dounia Mahlouly, Matthew Wheavil

1pm-2pm Royal Holloway presentations: Billur Aslan, James Dennis, over a working lunch

2pm-3pm Andrew Chadwick (Royal Holloway): provocative thoughts, open discussion, next steps.

3pm Close



Stevie Docherty Power, Control and Connectivity in the 2011 English Riots

This paper explores aspects of connectivity and power in relation to the 2011 riots in English cities. Drawing on work around new communications media in crisis communications and disaster response (Palen 2008, Bruns et al. 2012), I ask how knowledge (as in information about unfolding events or emergencies) might be seen as a form of control. How might the constant potential or actual connection implied by connectivity affect this? Secondly, I consider the machine-computational meanings of power that have been largely ignored in studies of the riots so far. Many new communications media are computational media. Bringing the computational dimension back in may offer different and valuable perspectives on power and media.

Dounia Mahlouly No identity, no responsibility: redefining power in the connective age.

The relationship between power and connectivity is highly antithetic. Whereas a Foucauldian conception of power involves institutional structure, hierarchy, regulations and social cohesion; connective action is meant to be diffuse, unpredictable, unconstrained and driven by a hidden leadership. At this stage of the digital revolution, political action goes along with many forms of paradoxical behaviours. Activist organisations prove to have a significant political impact, while denying any form of political affiliation, and prosumers (Merrin:2008) sink into connective addiction, while protesting against the rise of the digital industry.

In this context, rethinking power from the perspective of connectivity involves determining whether the contradictions of connective societies are temporarily induced by the paradigmatic transition from traditional to connective socio-cultural patterns. Alternatively, this implies evaluating to what extent such inconsistencies are permanent and inherent to the new connective age.

Matthew Wheavil Connectivity and Power: The many faces of war memory

In this paper, I explore the relationship between cyber-commemoration and power in an age of connectivity, where multiple users communicate via multiple devices anywhere, any time. This increasing enmeshment of consumer and producer has arguably decreased the relevance of Jan and Aleida Assmann’s (2006, p.138) cultural memory. Once a coherent tool of the powerful elite, the use and re-use of war memory now appears more disorganised, diffuse and diverse in an environment subsumed by social media which is “messy and filled with flaws, bottom-up… in a state of becoming and ‘dissensual by definition.’” (Knudsen and Stage 2012, p.14) In light of this, I pinpoint a dichotomy between a harmonised old media ecology where communication of war memory is linear and predictable and a dissonant new media ecology where an “ongoing revolution” continually remakes and remoulds the dominant discourse of war. (Merrin 2008, [online]) I consider whether this dichotomy is overly rigid and simplistic and suggest that the context of any war commemoration is instrumental to its narrative, whether or not the media it is presented on is old or new.

Billur Aslan The Frontiers of the Internet: Can connective power bring a political change to authoritarian regimes?

The rise of networked movements in our era triggers debates about “power” that appear via the interactive communication on the Internet. According to Castells, these “Networked movements” or as Bennett and Segelberg refer “personalised action on the Internet” gave way to an emotional mobilisation among people triggered by outrage against blatant injustice and hope of a possible change. This hope that was raised by the connection of people helped them to involve in decision-making process of their own destiny. Hence, with the use of communication technologies such as texts, tweets, social network sharing, a connective power emerged and it enabled them to be part of the decision-making process. My research examines to what extent the connective power of the Internet users assists a political change. The interviews with Syrian and Egyptian activists denote that, while the connective power can entrench the solidarity in the movements and give way to a political change, the absence of political culture and experienced activists obstruct the connective power of the users and limit the capacities of digital technologies.

James Dennis The Power of Connectedness: Slacktivism, Social Media and Networked Participation

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; low-threshold interactions conducted online are not ineffective and narcissistic acts of slacktivism, but integral components within a scaled continuum of participation. 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, what Jose van Djick describes as the “ecosystem of connective media”. By drawing upon in-depth ethnographic data, collected through a participant-observation of the UK-based hybrid mobilization movement 38 Degrees and diary research, this paper will argue that connectivity underpins these new forms of individualized political participation. 

Note: participation in this workshop is by invitation only.

Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 06:57PM by Registered CommenterAdministrator | CommentsPost a Comment | EmailEmail | PrintPrint