On 5 July 2013 NPCU Co-Director Ben O'Loughlin was appointed Specialist Advisor to the new House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence. The committee is investigating how the UK uses soft power in furthering its global influence. A country's soft power refers to its ability to get what it wants through attraction rather than coercion or payments, according to Jo Nye. Since attraction and influence are often intangible and hard to measure, foreign policymakers are recognising that the use of soft power presents a conceptual as well as practical challenge. However, there is concern that rising powers are putting increased resources into promoting their soft power, and that a fast-changing media ecology makes it more difficult to control how a country is perceived by others. The committee has an opportunity therefore to get at some of the big questions about how states approach international affairs in the 21st century.
Ben is advising on the selection of witnesses from politics, business and culture to be invited to give evidence, the questions they will be asked, and how evidence should be interpreted. He will help write a report due 14 March 2014, to which the government will respond. On Monday 15 July the committee will question Peter Horrocks, Director of the BBC World Service and Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council, while the following weeks will focus on trade and aid.
The remit of the committee covers ground explored in Ben’s forthcoming book with Alister Miskimmon and Laura Roselle, Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order.
NPCU PhD student Billur Aslan attended the Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute between June 24th and July 5th at Oxford University. The Institute brought together young academicians, lawyers and regulators from all over the world. This year, the seminars focused on two main media policy topics. The first week’s seminars were concentrated on media transitions in conflict environments like Myanmar, South Africa and Arab Spring countries. In the second week, speakers discussed the Internet policies and regulations around the world. Participants were also informed about strategic communication in conflict, post-conflict and transitional environments. Billur delivered a presentation about the role of the Internet on political transition in Egypt. The paper was titled: The Diffusion of Revolutionary Movements via the Internet: Egyptian Protests.
The key speakers at the institute were: Yaman Akdeniz, Collin Anderson, Gregory Asmolov, Joan Barata, Susan Benesch, David Campbell, Ge Chen, Rogier Creemers, Richard Danbury, James Deane, Iginio Gagliardone, Esben Q. Harboe, Jose Alberto de Azeredo Lopes, Robin Mansell, Tarlach McGonagle, Ben O'Loughlin, Oreste Pollicino, Monroe Price, Rob Procter, Nawfel Raghay, Krisztina Rozgonyi, Christian Sandvig , Daniela Stockmann, Nicole Stremlau, Chris Watson, George Weiss, Hu Yong, Sudharma Yoonaidharma.
Participants also spent a day at Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator. The Ofcom staff spoke to the group about traditional media regulations in the UK and new developments they are facing.
Former NPCU PhD student Dr. Lawrence Ampofo is convening the Insight 2.0 conference in London on 24 October 2013. This is the second in his Insight 2.0 series, and will no doubt attract exciting talks from those working on social media analysis in business, government, and academia. The conference website is here.
If you have any enquiries about the conference, please contact Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The International Communication Association (ICA) is in London this week. The NPCU's James Sloam took part in a pre-conference workshop on The Political Communication of Young People through Social Media. The workshop was organised by Brian D. Loader (University of York, UK), Ariadne Vromen (University of Sydney, Australia) and Michael Xenos (University of Wisconsin at Madison, USA). Participants included W. Lance Bennett & Alexandra Segerberg talking about connective action, Liesbet van Zoonen on Islam and virtual battlegrounds, and Stephen Coleman on the Youth Amplified project.
Here is a summary of James's paper. For the full paper email him on James.Sloam@rhul.ac.uk.
‘“The Outraged Young”: Young Europeans, Civic Engagement and the Social Media in a Time of Crisis’
James Sloam (Royal Holloway University of London)
In almost all established democracies engagement in traditional political institutions has declined in recent decades, leading to what some have seen as a crisis in citizenship. This trend is most striking amongst young people, who have become increasingly alienated from mainstream electoral politics in Europe. At the same time, young Europeans have become increasingly marginalised by and from public policy since the onset of the global financial crisis: from worsening levels of child poverty, to spiralling youth unemployment, to cuts in youth services and education budgets, to increased university tuition fees. Nevertheless, there is overwhelming evidence to show that young people are not apathetic about ‘politics’ – they have their own views and engage in democracy in a wide variety of ways relevant to their everyday lives. In this context, the rise and proliferation of protest politics amongst young Europeans is hardly surprising. Indeed, youth activism has become a major feature of the European political landscape: from the Occupy movement against the excesses of global capitalism, to mass demonstrations of the ‘outraged young’ (the ‘indignados’) against political corruption and youth unemployment, to growth in support for ‘pirate parties’ in defence of individual freedom. This paper will examine the role that the social media has played in the development of these protest movements across the continent.
NPCU PhD student Billur Aslan's thoughts on the role of social media in Turkey's protest movement have been published by the Annenberg School's Center for Global Communication Studies. Billur will take part this July in the Annenberg-Oxford summer school, along with emerging young activists, journalists and scholars. We re-post Billur's argument below, thanks to CGCS.
The Gezi Park protests of May and June 2013 appeared as an unexpected and extraordinary face of Turkish youth, a generation largely raised during a period absent of widespread protests. While the older generation witnessed a bloody era of Turkey through the 1970s, a 1980 military coup ensured prolonged de-politicization of Turkish society by banning political activists from engaging in political activities for 15 years. Moreover, 30,000 political activists were forced to leave the country and about 500 death sentences were pronounced (Pfannkuch, 2013). Therefore, the generation born after 1980 were educated to be reticent when it came to politics. Even the young Turks themselves were surprised by the active presence and commitment of their peers in the protests, which began as a small group of 50 people claiming their public park and grew into wider anti-government protests.
Undeniably, increased authoritarian rule of the government and repression of alternative political voices contributed to the rise of the recent protests. Yet, what particularly differentiated the Gezi Park uprisings and mobilized the young dissidents was the silence of the conventional media, which led to the utilization of social media in a variety of roles.
While the conventional media in Turkey lost its critical and objective standing, social media became a crucial source for young Turks to learn breaking and unreported news. This informative role of social media was particularly noticeable when the Gezi Park protests began to grow on Friday, March 31st. While the TV channels opted to remain silent on the growing protests and showed cooking or competitive reality shows instead, social media was full of shared images and posts from the Gezi Park protests (The Occupy Gezi page on Facebook and #direngezi on Twitter were the main information channels of the protests). As people could not watch the protests on television, they became active on these social platforms and tweeted, posted images on Facebook or shared their videos on Youtube in order to inform others and ask for help.
Social media, once more, reminded us how many journalists are among us. As everyone turned their attention to social media, users competed with each other to post their comments and to determine the narrative of the protests, becoming journalists themselves and expressing their grievances in these new platforms.
Given that 70 % of the Turkish population is under 35, Turkey ranked the 4th largest in global usage of Facebookand 8th in use of Twitter (Voice of America, 2011). The large presence of young Turks on social media platforms, which are forums for “personalized communication” and can bring a “connective power to movements” (Bennett et al., 2011), allowed young people to influence and motivate each other.
A second motivating factor was the distribution of photos on social media that demonstrated a disproportional use of force by police. A blog opened for protesters enabled them to report any excessive use of force by police. Photos of their peers resisting water cannons and tear gas on Workers Day (May 1st 2013) and during Gezi Park protests, led young people to take to the streets.
Most individuals who joined the demonstrations were not members of any political or social organization. However, social media allowed these previously non-activist youth to easily connect with each other and learn to organise an uprising. The Occupy Gezi Protest in London, organized by a small group of Turkish youth, was a great example of the speed of social media in creating connections among individuals. In one day, the group’sFacebook page reached 3,653 members encouraging individuals in London to protest in support of those in Turkey.
Within Turkey, dissidents used social media to access information about the current situation in specific areas of the city where protests were planned. Additionally, individuals spread phone numbers of lawyers and doctors available to aid protesters over Facebook, leveraging the power of social media to ensure the safety of the protesters.
Social media spread news of the protests internationally and was used by Turkish individuals abroad to organize events in their own country in support of protesters. International interest in the events in Turkey is also demonstrated by the international media reports of the protests, notable in light of the silence within conventional Turkish media. For example, one of the most popular videos of the protests came from the BBC.
Although it would be a mistake to claim that social media have completely replaced the role of conventional media, the Gezi Park protests once again demonstrated the growing importance of social media in politics and its potential for awakening and unifying a young population. In a speech on the Gezi Parkı protests, Erdogan said: “Social media is the worst menace to society’. As networked movements spread all around the world and topple governments, one might question whether it is a menace to society or to authorities.
Amani, A, 2012, “Turkey’s Democratic Short Fall: Is Prime Minister Erdoğan the Main Problem?”, OpenDemocracy, viewed in: 02.06.2013, Available at: http://www.opendemocracy.net/aslan-amani/turkeys-democratic-shortfall-is-prime-minister-erdogan-main-problem
Bennet, L, Segerberg, A, 2013, The Logic of Connective Action, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Jones, D, 2012, Turkey Embraces Social Media, Voice of America, 26 April, viewed in: 02.03.2012, Available at:http://www.voanews.com/content/turkey-embraces-social-media-149236475/370184.html
Pfannkuch, K, 2013, “Turkey’s Apolitical Generation”, Your Middle East, 29 April, viewed in:02.06.2013, Available at: http://www.yourmiddleeast.com/features/turkeys-apolitical-generation_13834
Papacharissi, Z, Oliveira, M, 2011, The Rythme of News Storytelling on Twitter, World Association for Public Opinion Research Conference, September, Amsterdam
Political Studies Review has published two book reviews by James Dennis, PhD student at the NCPU. James takes on two important recent books in our field. Click here to read his review of Zizi Papacharissi's A Private Sphere: Democracy in a Digital Age (Cambridge: Polity, 2010). And click here to read his review of Nico Carpentier's Media and Participation: A Site of Ideological-Democratic Struggle (Bristol: Intellect, 2011).
The UK's media regulator, OFCOM, will today hold a launch event for their new Adults Media Use and Attitudes Report (summary and pdf here). The event will highlight key findings from the report, including:
- Older users are driving continued use of social networking
- Smartphone growth continues alongside increasing mobile phone affinity
- Password security remains a challenge for many
- There is an increased belief that internet content is regulated
- Measuring critical understanding and digital literacy
Ben O'Loughlin and Nick Anstead will present Towards Two-Screen Literacy, their latest thoughts on the manner in which people watch television while commenting in real-time on what they're watching through their laptop or mobile device. Ben and Nick have published several papers explaining the repertoires of engagement audiences-cum-users put into practice during political events, one focused on BBC Question Time and another on the 2010 UK General Election.
Milton Wolf Seminar 2013 Diplomatic Maneuvers and Journalistic Coverage in a Time of Reset, Pivot and Rebalance
Milton Wolf Seminar 2013
Diplomatic Maneuvers and Journalistic Coverage in a Time of Reset, Pivot and Rebalance
Ben O'Loughlin will lead off discussion of strategic narratives at the 2013 Milton Wolf Seminar hosted by the Diplomatic Academy, Vienna and co-organised with the Annenberg School for Communication and the American Austrian Foundation. This closed event features discussion between diplomats, journalists and scholars over three intense days. The first Milton Wolf Seminar was held in 2001.
The 2013 Milton Wolf seminar addresses the critical role of diplomats and journalists in shaping the outcomes of what we call global geopolitical pivots. Pivots in this case refer to emergent geopolitical shifts around which multiple stakeholders – from major powers, to multilateral organizations, to bloggers working in isolation – seek to provide input on the most appropriate outcomes. As Zbigniew Brzezinski defined them, "Geopolitical pivots are the states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location and from the consequences of their potentially vulnerable condition for the behavior of geo-strategic players.”
Examples of contemporary global pivots that will be considered in this year’s Seminar include: the ultimate resolution of the Arab Spring countries, the shifts in geopolitical approaches to Syria, calls for regime change in Iran, and the intense Western attention to reform movements and government change in Burma (Myanmar).
In each of these cases, different state and non-state actors have put forward competing narratives advocating particular outcomes. These narratives are circulated, among other mechanisms, through political speeches, in the press, and via the internet. This year’s Seminar will explore the critical role of this narrative construction in shaping diplomatic outcomes. How do diplomats, journalists, and other stakeholders seek to advocate for particular outcomes, and to what effect? Conversely, how do these geopolitical pivots or shifts affect on-going narratives of democratization, shifts from authoritarian regimes, and the role of media and communications in diplomacy?
Media, War & Conflict Fifth Anniversary Conference
11-12 April 2013
Royal Holloway, University of London
*** PROGRAMME AVAILABLE - CLICK HERE****
Media, War & Conflict’s fifth anniversary conference will be held on 11-12 April 2013 at Royal Holloway, University of London. The conference is open to scholars, journalists, military practitioners and activists from around the world, and features 88 papers from 25 countries.
- Jamie Shea, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges
- Barbie Zelizer, Raymond Williams Professor of Communication, University of Pennsylvania
- Cees Hamelink, Emeritus Professor of International Communication at the University of Amsterdam and Emeritus Professor for Media, Religion and Culture at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.
The journal was first published in April 2008, bringing together international scholars and journalists from the fields of political science, history, and communication, and military, NGO and journalist practitioners. The aim was to map the shifting arena of war, conflict and terrorism in an increasingly mediated age, and to explore cultural, political and technological transformations in media-military relations, journalistic practices and digital media, and their impact on policy, publics, and outcomes of warfare. The fifth anniversary conference offers the chance to showcase the best research in this field while also taking stock of how the field has developed and identifying the emerging challenges we face.
Papers cover a range of topics, including:
- Contemporary and historical war reporting
- Changing forms of credibility, legitimacy and authority
- Media ethics in the coverage of conflict
- The role of citizen-users and social media in conflict
- Terrorism, media and publics
- Intelligence operations and media
- Digital and cyber warfare
- Media and conflict prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict scenarios
- Photo and video journalism in wartime
- War and conflict in popular culture
- The power of the visual and other modalities
- Commemoration and memorialisation of war and conflict
If you wish to attend the conference, please register here.
If you have any questions regarding registration, travel, visas, accommodation or other practical matters please contact Caroline Shedden at Caroline.Shedden@rhul.ac.uk. If you have any questions about presentations or the conference programme please contact Ben O’Loughlin atBen.OLoughlin@rhul.ac.uk.
We are delighted to announce that former NPCU PhD student Chris Perkins is part of the editorial team for the new journal, Asiascapa: Digital Asia. This is a growing research area and we wish Chris and the team all the best.