On 12 October 2017 Ben O'Loughlin will speak at the launch event for a new project Reframing Russia examining RT and Sputnik's role in the global 'information war'. The event takes place at The Frontline Club in London, an organisation dedicated to journalism's role around the world. See details in the image above to register - all welcome.
Ben O'Loughlin will present a seminar this week at KU Leuven, Belgium, entitled Russia and the Disinformation Distraction. The paper is written with Prof. Alister Miskimmon and will be published later in 2017. Details:
Thursday 31 August 2017, 2-4 pm
Researcher’s Zone, SBIB, Faculty of Social Science
Attendance is open to all, please register by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Russia and the Disinformation Distraction
Western leaders appear to be falling prey to a ‘propaganda panic’ that they are losing an information battle to Russia, as journalism, democracy and the liberal world order fall into crisis. Instead of seeking to explain how audiences in Ukraine, the EU and elsewhere are being persuaded or not by Russia and its bots, it is more helpful to understand how the communications of all actors emerge from identities, memories and expectations that are themselves rooted in longstanding narratives. Certainly new synthetic, hybrid tactics must be countered. But systematic analysis of Russian and Western narratives shows a more profound set of disagreements at play about the nature of world order.
NewPolCom are advertising a new position, Lecturer in Political Communication. The application deadline is 30 September 2017 and we are looking for the person to begin the role from January 2018. This is a permanent post based in the Department of Politics and International Relations. Details on the post and how to apply are here.
Elinor Carmi has been appointed Teaching Fellow in Political Communication for 12 months from 1 September 2017. Elinor completes her PhD this month at Goldsmiths and is Visiting Lecturer at Winchester School of Art. Her primary interest is in sound and politics. She has published on themes of digital rights, activism, gender, and internet governance as well as a book TranceMission: The Psytrance Culture in Israel 1989-99. She is also a regular organiser of events and workshops. More details at her blog and Twitter.
Sage publishers have announced that the journal Media, War & Conflict will expand from three to four issues per year from 2018. The journal was launched in 2008 and this expansion indicates the journal has achieved a solid readership. The submission rate of research articles continues to increase and the journal is now listed in the Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) within the Web of Science. With some excellent forthcoming special issues, the next decade for the journal looks extremely healthy.
Media, War & Conflict's current lead editor is Ben O'Loughlin; co-editors are Sarah Maltby, Katy Parry and Laura Roselle, and reviews editor is Debra Ramsey.
James Dennis has won the best PhD thesis award 2016-17 by the American Political Science Association's (APSA) Information Technology and Politics section. Dr. Dennis is now Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth's School of Journalism. His thesis was supervised by Professors Andrew Chadwick and Ben O'Loughlin. Award panel member Ben Epstein added it was 'A theoretically, methodologically, & substantively rich dissertation'.
Ben O'Loughlin, Cristian Vaccari, Billur Aslan and James Dennis have published a new article in Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, Twitter and Global Political Crises: Cycles of Insecurity in #PrayforParis and #PrayforSyria. In the days and weeks after the Paris attacks in November 2015, the authors expected to find Twitter debates containing these hashtags to see users conflating migration, terrorism and social media in apportioning blame either for the attacks or for how users responded to the attacks. Instead of antagonism, however, we found high degrees of civility and agonistic exchanges of substantive claims and counter-claims.
We hope you will enjoy the article. If you cannot access it directly, email Ben.OLoughlin@rhul.ac.uk for a copy.
This study examines social media responses to the 13 November 2015 Paris attacks by the Islamic State. First impressions of over 2,000,000 tweets containing hashtags #PrayforParis and #PrayforSyria suggested a conflation of three issues: (1) Migration: were the attackers homegrown or carrying overseas passports? (2) Violence: why was Paris attacked and why is France bombing the Islamic State? (3) Media: what role should mainstream and social media play during events that are local and global, unique and yet part of a series? However, instead of conflating media, migration and terrorism, we found users of both hashtags discussing Syria, foreign policy, and justice and fairness. Building on previous research exploring how social media affordances encourage certain communication behaviors, we test whether Twitter’s reply function is more conducive to antagonistic comments than retweets, which we hypothesise allow for an expression of solidarity and universalism. Conversations about Syria contain greater antagonism, explained by aspects of the tweet, user and network effects. The #PrayforParis and #PrayforSyria conversations exhibit neither the contestation of global attention nor a media-driven cycle of insecurity. The high frequency of agonistic and non-visual tweets, particularly about Syria, suggests a robust exchange of claims, refuting pessimistic depictions of Twitter as a space for superficiality and hate.
Thank you to Dina Matar of SOAS for convening the journal's special issue on Communication and Conflict. We would like to thank Marie Gillespie for her help theorising cycles of insecurity, and Deen Freelon for the use of ReCal.
The August 2017 issue of Media, War & Conflict has been published, with a great collection of research articles on historical and contemporary themes as well as some insightful book reviews.
Kathrin Maurer - Visual power: The scopic regime of military drone operations
Delphine Letort - Conspiracy culture in Homeland (2011–2015)
Øyvind Kalnes, Eva Bakøy - Diffused peace facilitation and the cosmopolitan filmmaker’s dilemma
Marc Jungblut, Abit Hoxha - Conceptualizing journalistic self-censorship in post-conflict societies: A qualitative perspective on the journalistic perception of news production in Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia
Nathaniel Brunt - Book review: Libyan Sugar
The editorial team (Ben O'Loughlin, Sarah Maltby, Laura Roselle, Katy Parry) send thanks as ever to editorial assistant Nic Barsdorf-Liebchen and all the team at Sage.
On Tuesday 6 June 2017 Matt Hall successfully defended his PhD thesis, coming away with typographical corrections only. His examiners were Martin Coward (Reader, University of Manchester) and Lee Jarvis (Professor, University of East Anglia). Matt was supervised by Jonathan Seglow and Ben O'Loughlin. He was the winner of an ESRC DTC scholarship. Please find details below of his excellent thesis.
Liberal Democratic Surveillance: Rules, Legitimacy and the Institutionalisation of Domination
The proliferation of public debate around surveillance over the past couple of decades has been marked by defeat for those objecting to it. This thesis sets out to understand not what harms surveillance brings to values held dear to liberal democracy - like privacy, liberty and political rights to protest - but instead, why it is that surveillance is so widespread in societies that values these things.
Most public and liberal objections to surveillance commonly seek to use liberal values like privacy and liberty on the one hand, and democratic values such as equality on the other, to shield against the harms that surveillance can bring. Surveillance is seen broadly as an external harm to liberal and democratic values, and commonly the task of study is to identify instances where surveillance is perceived to be going wrong, being excessively harmful, being used disproportionately, or is mistaken. These kinds of common objections, confident in the role liberal values can play, implicitly hold that surveillance, when properly limited and justified, is nothing to be fearful of. I argue instead that liberal democratic values are implicated in surveillance, not independent protections against it. If rules govern how liberal democratic values are protected and/or violated then surveillance, as a ‘technique for securing full compliance with a given set of institutional rules’ (as I will define it), is inextricably part of the institutionalisation of liberal and democratic values. Drawing on ‘realist’ insights into institutional rule making, I seek to explain how value-laden rules, which guide surveillance into practice, are politically contested. If we want to understand the expansion of surveillance, and over whom it is most harmfully applied, we need to understand the politics behind the rules that surveillance enforces.
On 14 June 2017 the University of Glasgow is convening a symposium, Trump and the Media. The organisers Catherine Happer and Andrew Hoskins write: This symposium brings together speakers from journalism and from academia to explore the social, economic, technological and political implications of President Donald Trump’s media use and relations, his self-proclaimed ‘war’ on mainstream news organizations and the role of digital technologies in his campaign and Presidency. To register to attend, click here.
NewPolCom's Ben O'Loughlin will present an analysis of the handshakes of the current US president. Details below:
Trump's Handshakes: Diplomatic Stand-offs in the Global Media
Ben O'Loughlin, Royal Holloway, University of London
After an Obama administration committed to "unclenching fists" in diplomatic affairs, global media have in 2017 reported President Trump using his hands to greet leaders with renewed American vigour. I argue these diplomatic encounters can be conceptualised as stand-offs: moments of uncertainty when nobody quite knows what will happen, including the people shaking hands. These moments are instructive. Following Wagner-Pacifici (2000: 3, emphasis in original) I treat stand-offs as 'action in the subjunctive mood': witnesses hypothesise about likely outcomes and their speculation is tinged with emotion - doubt, hope, fear. As Trump grabs the hands of Trudeau, Xi, and Theresa May walking down some steps, several dimensions of mediatization kick in. First, news values -- personalisation, calibration to powerful actors, and drama -- lead reporting to amplify these stand-offs into geostrategic moments signalling power relations in an uncertain global order; the subjunctive mood premediates World War III or an harmonious Russia-US alliance. Second, the digitally-enabled return to multisensorial mediums allows communication to return its focus to gesture. For Joyce, all communication was ultimately gesture. Decades of written political communication limited gestural opportunities, while risk-averse leaders carefully managed any television appearance. Trump bypasses that, firmly anchoring us in tactile communication; his bodily gesture is felt, at a distance, without control. Third, television and diplomatic handshakes have an entwined history; each new handshake can be framed through the lens of prior handshake stand-offs. Hence, while Trump's vigorous grabbing shook coverage for some months, news media are now containing his stand-offs and normalising his encounters. Overall, Trump's handshakes exemplify the potential to use stand-offs to gesture globally, digitally, but also how news media soon learn to contain and ritualise -- to the extent Trump's opponents have learned to turn these stand-offs to their advantage.