Beyond Borders and Boundaries in Political Communication Research

As part of a series of regional events funded by the Media, Communication, and Cultural Studies Association’s (MeCCSA) Postgraduate Network, PhD candidates in the New Political Communication Unit will be hosting a half-day workshop discussing and debating the methodological challenges faced by researchers in the field of political communication.

Following on from previous regional events funded by the MeCCSA PGN on the theme of ‘Boundaries and Borders’, this event explores existing boundaries and borders within the growing field of political communication and poses the following questions:

·         What problems do we face as researchers?

·         What is being done currently to overcome these problems?

·         What can be done in the future to ensure our research remains relevant and robust?

The first half of the workshop comprises a masterclass with presentations from Gordon Cameron, Press Officer and Senior Researcher at the Greater London Authority, and Dr Jinghan Zeng, Lecturer in International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London. Mr Cameron and Dr Zeng will discuss their approaches to research in this field from both a professional and an academic perspective. The second half of the workshop will be led by presentations from current PhD candidates in the New Political Communication Unit: Declan McDowell-Naylor; Ellen Watts; and Amber Macintyre. A Q&A  session and discussion with this panel will take place, chaired by one of the event’s organisers.

The event runs from 14:00-18:00 on Wednesday 12th October. Tea and coffee will be provided and a wine reception will be held after the event in the Political and International Relations Department.

All members of staff and postgraduate students are welcome, please email to indicate your interest as numbers are limited.

Speaker Biographies

Gordon Cameron has been working in politics for the past 7 years.  After completing his Politics BA from Carleton University, he started working in politics by providing volunteer online communications support for different local candidates and charities in Ottawa, Canada. Following several years of working in the Canadian government he joined the New Political Communications MSc programme at Royal Holloway in 2010.

Since 2011 he has been working for the Greater London Authority and is now a Senior Researcher / Press Officer for the Conservative Group. Over that time he has led several City Hall projects such as improving mobile connectivity on the Tube, holding a Met Crime museum exhibition, improving flexible ticketing on London Transport, reducing the cost of drunkenness to London’s health services, and promoting tourism with technology.

Currently Gordon is working in the opposition group to the Mayor of London scrutinising the new administration’s delivery of campaign pledges.

Dr Jinghan Zeng is Lecturer in International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is also an Associate Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at the University of Warwick and a Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. He holds degrees from the University of Warwick (PhD, May 2012- April 2014) and the University of Pittsburgh (MA, 2009-2011).

His research and teaching interests lie in the field of Chinese politics and research methodology, with more specific interests in the study of China's authoritarian system, elite politics of contemporary China, and Chinese foreign policy. Jinghan is the author of The Chinese Communist Party's Capacity to Rule: Ideology, Legitimacy and Party Cohesion (Palgrave, 2015). His academic papers have appeared in International AffairsContemporary PoliticsJournal of Contemporary China, and Journal of Chinese Political Science. Before his academic career, he worked for the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York City.

Declan McDowell-Naylor is a doctoral researcher based in the Department of Politics and International Relations, at Royal Holloway, University of London. His PhD project explores how issues of democracy and citizenship arise in the design and development of the ‘Internet of Things’. In particular, he focus on the processes of public engagement with the aim to challenge conventional understandings about democracy and the way in which citizens can engage with digital technology.

Ellen Watts is a PhD candidate in the New Political Communication Unit, co-supervised by Andrew Chadwick and Ben O'Loughlin. Ellen's research explores the interventions of celebrities in the political field, and citizen engagement with celebrity-led campaigns. At this workshop, she will discuss the challenges of studying online communities in an ethical way, in relation to a developing case study of 'Our Shared Shelf', a feminist book club and discussion forum founded by actor and UN Women Ambassador Emma Watson.

Amber Macintyre is currently undertaking research for a PhD on the culture of data within membership organisations. The research will focus on the unspoken contract the organisation forms with their members and how this impacts their use of data. This includes questions on how individuals in the organisation view the agency of their audience, perceive their role as experts and if they rely on the authority of big data. The research was inspired by her previous work on digital activism at Amnesty International and the tension between the risks and capabilities of digital technologies.