For those at the ISA annual convention in Toronto on 27-31 March, there will be a number of panels exploring the role of strategic narrative in international affairs, including a debate about whether framing and narrative research can be unified in a productive way. Please find details below. There are also a range of other political communication-themed panels and talks, many of them convened by the International Communications (ICOMM) Section of ISA - find them on the official programme here.
TC13: Strategic Narratives, News Coverage, and Russia-U.S. Relations
Thursday, March 28, 1:45 PM - 3:30 PM Willow Centre, Sheraton Centre Toronto
Strategic Narratives, News Coverage, and Russia-U.S. Relations
Participant: Alister Miskimmon (Queen's University, Belfast)
Participant: Laura Roselle (Elon University)
In their seminal work on strategic narratives, Miskimmon, O’Loughlin, and Roselle write, “Narratives are central to the identity and behavior of actors in the international system, the structures of the system itself, and how ideas, issues, and policies are contested.” Major powers, including Russia and the United States, rely heavily on strategic narratives to establish and maintain their influence within the arena of international relations. News media provide important venues for the communication of these narratives to global and domestic publics, and studying news coverage can provide insights about the construction and effectiveness of narratives. This roundtable will examine Russian and American strategic narratives as they are reflected in the two countries’ news media and will analyze ways that these narratives are affected by the evolution in media technologies and audience news consumption patterns.
FA24: Strategic Narratives and Frame Contestation: Unifying a Fractured Paradigm
Friday, March 29, 8:15 AM - 10:00 AM Provincial South, Sheraton Centre Toronto
Author: Laura Roselle (Elon University)
Recent years have witnessed an explosion in the number of non-peer reviewed investigations of digital network “disinformation” campaigns and “fake news.” The political exigencies of the times have prioritized often richly empirical though atheoretical demonstrations of probable links between particular narratives and their sources (often Russian trolls and bots) and amplifiers (often state-sponsored media and extremist websites and social media users). In many instances, this work has been remarkably insightful and highly relevant to the urgent need to understand emergent threats to the integrity of Western Liberal institutions and norms. Missing from this work is the development of a political communication theory of “disinformation.” Such is the purpose of this panel. The papers presented here focus on the development of theoretical constructs that help us explain politically intentional global information flows. The papers are anchored by Entman’s cascade activation model of frame contestation (2005) and Miskimmon, Roselle, O’Loughlin (2013) strategic narratives framework. In this way, the panel coheres around a discrete intellectual challenge (theory building) and similar empirical research questions.
SA18: Stickiness and Silence: Explaining the Failures and Successes of Strategic Narrative
Saturday, March 30, 8:15 AM - 10:00 AM Chestnut East, Sheraton Centre Toronto
This panel seeks to describe and explain cases of strategic narrative success and failure. Why do some narrations of events stick for audiences while others fall silent? The panelists use a series of conflict-based case studies and theoretical approaches to discuss different measures and conceptualisation of success and failure, the conditions and temporalities of success and failure, and the ways in which success and failure exist independently of their narration of their own efficacy. This discussion builds directly on the Re-narrating Conflict: Media, Military and Public Translations of Strategic Narratives panel of ISA 2018. These panelists found surprising instances of narrative stickiness and silence: that UK audiences have forgotten 9/11 was related to the Afghanistan War; that elites in Kazakhstan tactically engage with the China’s Belt and Road strategic narratives to develop their own national identity narrative; that a hostile domestic press ignore Trump’s narrations yet with one curious exception; and that even when states achieve narrative congruence with multilateral allies there can be risk to clarity of mission. The new panel addresses a mix of old and new cases, making a distinct contribution to development forms of explanation and interpretation in the growing field of strategic narrative study.