On May 9-10, 2011 King's College London will host a conference, 'Strategic Communications: The Cutting Edge' organised by David Betz and colleagues in partnership with CIWAG, US Naval War College. Ben O'Loughlin has been invited to speak about 'Harnessing the Media Ecology: Power and Decision-making in Diffused War'.
Conference background: After an era of apparent stability during the Cold War, strategic communications faces a dilemma; some venture to call it a crisis. Gone are the certainties of a government’s ability to rely on a stable audience, clear-cut enemy, and reliable home support. A new media ecology has seen traditional outlets of press, radio and television interact with new, digital technologies of internet, mobile telephony and computers. These communications networks connect diverse and fragmented populations enabling vast amounts of data and images to cross the globe instantly whereby a local event can become an international news-story within minutes. As traditional barriers between home and foreign audiences disappear, the effect has been to undermine states’ attempts to project consistent and coherent strategic narratives into geopolitics. In recent months the release of hundreds of thousands of raw data files by the online whistleblower WikiLeaks has highlighted the degree to which states are vulnerable to fast-moving, high-volume communications. Wrong-footed by the latest potentially damaging revelation, state communicators appear defensive and their policy statements increasingly disjointed. More recently the events across the Middle East have served to underline the problems even authoritarian governments face when challenged by populations exploring a dynamic and porous media environment. This conference asks: is there a constructive way forward or is strategic communications dead?