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.
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.
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.
Religion, Conflict, and Digital Communication in the Greater Muslim World:
Dialogue Among Policy Makers and Researchers
To register for the daytime workshop please email Billur Aslan on Billur.Aslan.firstname.lastname@example.org
The evening debate in Parliament is SOLD OUT.
Monday 16th December 2013, London
While an excess amount of media attention and government resources are regularly expended on acts of violence and terrorism emanating from Muslim populations, less focus is given to the critical role Muslims institutions play in facilitating conflict resolution, peace-building, and social reconciliation. In Bosnia, Rwanda, Egypt, and Pakistan, it is often the case that Muslim religious authorities take lead roles in mitigating violence. Because they regularly confront perpetuators of violence on theological and moral grounds, they often put themselves, their families, and associates at high-risk. What are the experiences of policy makers working with Muslim religious authorities in these vulnerable and dangerous contexts?
These historically important yet paradoxical roles of religious networks have been amplified by the near universal spread of digital communications technology in the twenty-first century. As so much of the day-to-day work of governance and social change move online, so do religious organizations, using the World Wide Web to build coalitions or “manufacture constituencies” to pursue social change. Growing concerns over online radicalization by radical Muslim groups, as well growing use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for development and security in unstable and transitioning communities demonstrate the potential significance these trends will have for the future of international conflict.
Our key questions are:
- Can Muslim religious authorities, institutions and local networks provide solutions to the shared global challenges of social conflict and political violence?
- What, if any, role do digital communications technologies play in this process?
Senate House, University of London
Seminar Room 264
10:30-11:00 Arrivals, tea/coffee
11:00-11:15 Introductions, Akil Awan and Shawn Powers
11.15-13:00 Panel 1: The British context
Chair: Lord Nazir Ahmed
Speaker: Daud Abdullah, Muslim Council of Britain
Speaker: Robert Lambert, University of St. Andrews
Speaker: Jonathan Githens-Mazer, University of Exeter
13:45-15:30 Panel 2: The international context
Chair: Ben O’Loughlin
Speaker: Abbas Barzegar, Georgia State University
Speaker: Sara Silvestri, City University London
Speaker: David Herbert, University of Agder, Norway
Respondent: Faisal Devji, University of Oxford
15:40-16:30 Open roundtable, Chair: Akil Awan
Can religious media bring peace?
Houses of Parliament, Committee Room 4
Keynote: Khaled Hroub
Followed by open discussion.
Dr. Khaled Al-Hroub is professor in residence of the faculty of liberal arts at Northwestern University in Qatar. He is Director of the Cambridge Arab Media Project (CAMP), University of Cambridge. He authored Hamas: A Beginners Guide (2006/2010), Hamas: Political Thought and Practice (2000), and edited Political Islam: Context versus Ideology (2011) and Religious Broadcasting in the Middle East (2012). In Arabic he published Fragility of Ideology and Might of Politics (2010), In Praise of Revolution (2012), Tattoo of Cities (literary collection, 2008) and Enchantress of Poetry (poems, 2008). He is currently writing a book on a Critique of the Arab Renaissance Project.
This is the first of two workshop-based dialogues between policymakers and academics on the nuanced role of Muslim institutions in international affairs in the age of ubiquitous digital media. The workshops are funded by the British Council USA. The conveners are Shawn Powers and Abbas Barzegar (Georgia State University), Ben O’Loughlin and Akil N. Awan (Royal Holloway, University of London).
The UK Parliament's select committee on Soft Power and UK Influence has published the written evidence submitted by experts and organisations who are part of the UK's presence in the world, including the BBC, British Council, BP and all of the arms of the British state. These submssions are available in a pdf here.
For those interested in political communication there is a lot of material concerning how states communicate with each other, with home and overseas audiences, and the role of media in boosting or diminishing a country's image and reputation. Political communication scholars like Philip Seib, Robin Brown, and Laura Roselle have contributed their thoughts.
The committee is still taking verbal evidence. It will publish a report in March 2014. The NPCU's Ben O'Loughlin is advising the committee. The soft power committee's work has been picked up by the press including, rather unexpectedly, in Marie Claire magazine.
This afternoon the House of Lords Committee on Soft Power and UK Influence will interview Prof. Joseph Nye. Ben O'Loughlin, serving as Specialist Advisor to the committee, has recommended that the discussion probe whether, 23 years since his original 1990 article on soft power, Nye thinks we are any closer to understanding how power and influence work in international affairs. Special attention will be paid to how states, companies and NGOs are harnessing digital media to exercise influence, and how powerful actors seek to shape the ecologies within which power operates in the first place. All welcome.
Professor Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University, via video conference
Ben O'Loughlin has a chapter in the exciting new volume, Traumatic Affect, edited by Meera Atkinson and Michael Richardson, both at University of Western Sydney. Ben's chapter, 'The Mediatization of Trauma and the Trauma of Mediatization: Benjamin, Tulloch, and the Struggle to Speak,' can be downloaded here. The volume contains a selection of essays exploring the nexus of trauma and affect through different cultural, historical and political cases. It includes the republication of Shoshana Felman's classic essay, 'Benjamin's Silence'.
On October 9, Andrew Chadwick will be speaking about his new book, The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power, at a seminar jointly hosted by the School of Media, Film and Music, the Science Policy Research Unit, and the Centre for Material Digital Culture and Digital Humanities at the University of Sussex. More details here.
Has the Image Killed the Imagination?
Professor Ben O’Loughlin
Department of Politics and International Relations
Try to imagine the future. You can’t. You’re reading this. The screen has you trapped. Another image is catching your eye now too. The image is crowding out the future, a continuous drain on attention. Politics is dreams, goals, plans. It needs the future. Without time to imagine, what is left of politics?
All welcome, admission free. The lecture will be followed by a reception in the Windsor Building Foyer.
To register for this event please click here.
- Location: Windsor Building Auditorium
- Date: 21/11/2013 (18:15)
- For further information please contact: Sue Heath, Events Officer, email@example.com
The August issue of Media, War & Conflict is out here. The issue opens with an article 'Surprise Homecomings and Vicarious Sacrifices', presented by Lisa Silvestri at the MWC 5th anniversary conference at Royal Holloway in April. Below is the editors' summary of Lisa's piece and the rest of the articles. We hope you will enjoy reading this issue.
Much academic labour has been invested in studies of how the media behave when a nation prepares for war and wages it. Relatively little has gone into studies of media behaviour in the ebbing of wars, and in their aftermath, although the part media play in post-conflict rebuilding and reconciliation has been examined (see for example Best et al. in Media, War and Conflict 4, 3).
Two articles in this issue of Media, War and Conflict turn our attention to this relatively neglected area. Lisa Silvestri discusses YouTube homecoming videos showing American servicemen being reunited with their families, especially their children. She suggests that through these video presentations of the emotional sacrifices made by the families of soldiers, audiences are able to experience a 'vicarious sacrifice'. Such means of vicarious involvement in war are important in an age when for most citizens in North America and much of Europe there is no direct experience of wars which the soldiers of their nations are fighting, not any perceptible effect on their lives. They are important in raising awareness of war and its costs, and of specific conflicts which otherwise some people would be entirely oblivious to. They are also important in shaping public opinion, and, as Silvestri points out, in inviting membership of a national community. Some readers might take issue with the general characterisation of these videos as 'sentimental', and also see more opportunities for audience identification in them other than those with the children which Silvestri focusses on. They must however offer some opportunity for idealisation, and for occluding what it is the soldier has returned from, in a way that news bulletins reporting the latest casualties in Helmand, with their names and photographs, do not. Audience identifications with the families of those dead men will not be pleasurable. Individual homecomings, while not in reality necessarily marking the end of war, will evoke the sense of its coming end, without confronting the audience with its full costs. Yet they will leave it open for audiences to choose from the full range of views of what the war was about, its damage and results.
Read on here [pdf].
From 23-29 November 2013 the Council of Europe will hold the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg. The week long series of events is focused on the theme Re-Wiring Democracy: Connecting Institutions and Citizens in a Digital Age. There are events for the public as well as expert groups and high profile testimonies.
The Council have generously agreed to hold a lab on Semantic Polling, a concept developed at the New Political Communication Unit that refers to the gathering and analysis of social media data to understand public opinion. The NCPU's Ben O'Loughlin will act as discussant and provide a critical response to experiments runs by a set of innovators working in this area:
Ms Tanja AITAMURTO, Finland, Visiting Researcher at the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University
Tanja Aitamurto is a visiting researcher at the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford. She examines how collective intelligence, whether harnessed by crowdsourcing, co-creation or open innovation, impacts processes in journalism, public policy making and design. Related to her studies, she advises the Government and the Parliament of Finland about Open Government practices. Based on her previous research findings, she runs a pioneering experiment to crowdsource a law in Finland with the Ministry of Environment and the Committee for the Future.
Mr Mikael JUNGNER, Finland, Member of Parliament
Mikael Jungner is a member of the Finnish Parliament and former Secretary General of the Finnish Socialdemocratic Party. He is the former CEO of a Finnish Broadcasting Company and former Political Secretary to the Finnish Prime Minister. Mikael Jungner is a lawyer by training. His main interests are in social media and start up's.
Mr Joonas PEKKANEN, Finland, Founder of Open Ministry
Joonas Pekkanen is the founder of Open Ministry, an NGO that aims to crowdsource legislation. Pekkanen has studied Finance and Law. He worked for 10 years as a co-founder in several internet and mobile startups prior to his pro-democratic endeavours. Pekkanen is a member of the Open Government Partnership committee in Finland and on the board of Open Knowledge Finland.
Ben has conducted a range of research in this field with Nick Anstead investigating how companies (including Semiocast), pollsters and journalists make sense of online polling. They found this was a largely unregulated area in which claims about "public opinion" based on social media monitoring research hit the news with very little scrutiny of the methods or meaning of the data or claims made about it. However, these techniques do allow fine grained analysis of shifts in public sentiment that can be used as incredibly large, real-time focus groups.
We are grateful to Roberto Fasino at the Council of Europe for his help with the event.