Congratulations to Dr. Simon Collister!

Congratulations to Dr. Simon Collister, whose PhD revisions have been approved following his viva last year. Details of his PhD are below. His examiners were Lee Edwards (LSE) and David Berry (Sussex). Simon was supervised by Prof. Andrew Chadwick. 

Towards a Theory of Media Power in a Networked Communication Environment: Case Studies of #Demo2012, Adidas, and #AskSnowden

This thesis contributes to the debate about media power by advancing a new theoretical perspective. I critique existing theories of media power and argue that media power as it operates in today’s complex media environment can be understood as being based on interactions between the culturally and communicatively symbolic components of media communication and the material features and processes of media through which such symbolic communication occurs. I develop and apply an analytical model capable of spanning these two domains and their complex qualities. To develop the model I adopt a neo-materialist ontology based on Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of rhizomatic assemblages, Hertog and McLeod’s multi-perspectival frame analysis and DeLanda’s theory of the assemblage. I argue that this approach can capture both the symbolic and the material dimensions of media that function through networked, complex and emergent interactions. My analytical model is based on four pillars: hybridity, materiality, choreography and coding. I used the model to guide my empirical fieldwork investigation of three case studies: a public demonstration, an animal rights protest aimed at undermining a well-known brand and the high-profile leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. Ethnography, content analysis and interview data were used to assess my model’s suitability for making sense of these three cases. Finally, in the conclusion I propose four future themes that this thesis reveals are significant for research on media power: the importance of institutional adaptation, the role of emotion and affect, the significance of computation and the materiality of technology.

Reconsidering rights and ethics in the era of digital security - Pete Fussey, Tuesday 12 March at 5pm

We are delighted to be hosting this week a seminar led by Prof. Pete Fussey from Essex University, entitled ‘Reconsidering rights and ethics in the era of digital security’. This is the latest in the seminar series The Politics of Freedom in Data Times organised by NewPolCom postdoctoral fellow Dr. Matthew Hall.

All welcome!

Reconsidering rights and ethics in the era of digital security

Tuesday 12th Mar 5pm – Room: Founders West 101

Professor Pete Fussey, Department of Sociology, University of Essex, UK

 Recent years have seen a growing digitalisation of human societies. Digital technology has become increasingly ubiquitous and progressively integral to virtually all aspects of our lives. Companioning these developments has been the increased importance of digital data, now generated in unparalleled quantities and analysed with unprecedented speed and depth. These changes hold particular implications for the commission of, and responses to crime. Regarding the latter, the law enforcement uses of AI, predictive technologies, merged data hubs, algorithmic decision-making and advanced video analytics have generated significant attention and commentary. The speed and character such change brings many new ethical challenges. This includes a tension between state’s duty to uphold the security of its citizens – demanded by Article 3 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights – and obligations to uphold other rights such as privacy, expression and freedom from harassment. Yet it is arguable that whilst such debates have generated significant heat, they have produced little light. Based on initial findings from a five-year ESRC funded project analysing the human rights implications of big data and ICT this paper explores a range of ethical issues generated by the use of such technologies. Extending beyond the standard, and limited, ‘privacy versus security’ frame, the paper considers a range of additional concerns, including issues of efficacy, proportionality, utility and harm, collateral intrusion, consent, accountability, oversight and regulation.

Congratulations to Ellen Simpson - from MPPA to PhD programme

Congratulations are due to 2017-18 Media, Power & Public Affairs student Ellen Simpson, who has accepted a fully funded graduate assistantship at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. There she will build upon her MSc work with the NewPolCom Unit on online community formation and branch out into a study of how marginalized groups utilize platform design to create resilient online communities. She will be working with Bryan Semaan.

New issue of Media, War and Conflict published!

Talk 6 Feb: William Merrin on The Continuation of Politics by Other Memes: The Global Rise of Troll Warfare

Democracy in 2019 (Wikimedia Commons)

Democracy in 2019 (Wikimedia Commons)

On Wednesday 6 February 2019 we host William Merrin, who will deliver the following talk.

When, where? 4.30pm FW101

The Continuation of Politics by Other Memes: The Global Rise of Troll Warfare

Russia’s ‘information war’ against the west has attracted a lot of attention, but the reality is more complex than this term suggests. The aim of intervention here isn’t simply to influence internal politics by promoting favoured messages as in the past. Instead something else is happening. Today, traditional government covert activities and psyops have merged with internet culture to produce a new form of ‘troll warfare’. This is a mode of war carried out by states, by their organised ‘troll armies’ and ‘troll farms’, by military units themselves, by organised non-state actors (such as hacking groups or extremist groups) as well as by individuals. Today, a huge variety of groups and people employ the troll’s toolkits and weapons for political purposes. This paper explores how baiting, playing, doxing, memes, sock puppets, the lulz and the burn have become central to political debate and to global conflicts. 

William Merrin is an Associate Professor of in Media Studies at Swansea University, and the author of Digital War (Polity, 2018), Media Studies 2.0 (Routledge, 2014), and Baudrillard and the Media (Polity, 2005), and co-editor of Trump’s War on the Media (2018) and Jean Baudrillard: Fatal Theories (Routledge, 2009).