Ben O’Loughlin has been appointed Thinker in Residence for 2019 by the Flemish Royal Academy of Sciences and the Arts. Alongside Anja Bechmann, Ben will spend time in Brussels, Leuven and other venues in the coming months discussing disinformation with a range of business, government, civil society and technology groups as well as university scholars and students.
This Wednesday 20th of March at PIR Research Seminar we are very happy to have Dr James Sloam giving his talk “Youthquake 2017: the Rise of Young Cosmopolitans in Britain since the Financial Crisis'?” Please join us for a discussion of this fascinating topic. The event will take place in FW101 and starts at 4.30 pm.
You can find and abstract and bio below.
James will discuss the reasons behind the 2017 youthquake – which a significant increase in youth engagement, and an unprecedented gap in youth support for Labour over the Conservative Party. The talk explores changes in youth political participation in the UK since the onset of the 2008 global financial crisis – from austerity, to the 2016 EU referendum, to the rise of Corbyn – up until the June 2017 General Election. He identifies the rise of cosmopolitan values and left-leaning attitudes amongst Young Millennials, particularly students and young women. The situation in the UK is also contrasted with developments in youth participation in other established democracies, including the youthquakes inspired by Obama in the US (2008) and Trudeau in Canada (2015). The book, Youthquake 2017: The Rise of Young Cosmopolitans in Britain, from which the research is taken can be accessed free here:https://www.palgrave.com/it/book/9783319974682#aboutBook
James Sloam is reader in politics at Royal Holloway University, and founding convenor of the UK Political Studies Association (PSA) specialist group on young people’s politics. James has published widely in the area of youth, citizenship and politics in Europe and the United States, including articles inWest European Politics, Comparative Political Studies and New Media and Society. James is currently leading a project for the Greater London Assembly and the London Mayor’s Office (with the NGO, Bite the Ballot) investigating the key policy issues for young Londoners and ‘youth voice’ (with reference to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals). He is a fellow of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democratic Participation, and authored the chapter on ‘electoral participation’ for the 2016 United Nations World Youth Report.
We are delighted to be welcoming back Dr. Elinor Carmi on Monday 25th March 2019 who will give a talk, ‘I want to break free: Freedom of movement in datafied spaces’. Please find details below. Elinor was a Teaching Fellow at NewPolCom in 2017-18 and we look forward to hearing about her latest research. This is the latest seminar organised by Dr. Matthew Hall as part of his ESRC Postdoc project Citizens 3.0.
I want to break free: Freedom of movement in datafied spaces
Monday 25th March 5pm – Room: Windsor 0-04
Dr. Elinor Carmi, Postdoc Research Associate - Digital Media & Society, Liverpool University, UK
As people's everyday lives are mediated by algorithmic and datafied spaces, it is difficult to know how much agency people can perform. Do people have the 'freedom' to make decisions and behave as they want? This talk will explore multi-layered datafied environments and how they manipulate the way people engage with them. The talk focuses on the way platforms and advertisers try to influence the way people behave by modifying the algorithmic architecture they use. This is conducted with a practice I call rhythmedia, which draws on the concepts of Henri Lefebvre rhythmanalysis and Raymond Williams' planned flow.
13 April 2019, Birkbeck University, room 540 Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London, 10.30am-5pm
Convened by Yoav Galai and Ben O’Loughlin, Royal Holloway New Political Communication Unit
Tickets just £35 for whole day of training, available here.
The job of the investigative journalist is to uncover facts the public should know about - but aren't allowed to. This workshop will explore the context for investigative reporting in the digital age and new models to allow its practice today. The workshop will show you where to find hidden information, how to access documents and data, and how to use investigative skills in your practice.
During this intensive one-day seminar curated by Dean Starkman, senior editor at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and Peter Geoghegan, investigations editor at openDemocracy will present cutting edge investigations and show you how to cut through the spin to get to the story.
The workshop will show you how to use investigative skills with useful tools for academics, bloggers, campaigners, activists, charities and anyone with an interest in holding the powerful to account. As well as getting the inside track on key stories like the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers, the seminar will include hands-on instruction in how to use investigative approaches and resources in your work and an opportunity to discuss your work with the trainers.
The workshop will have the following format:
Session 1 (morning): Global challenges to public interest journalism - 10.30-12.15pm
Pulitzer prize winner Dean Starkman talks through some of the key stories in his career, including the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism’s recent investigation into how health authorities failed to protect millions from poorly tested implants. Dean will show how the ICIJ’s unique collaborative model works and also talk in-depth about how to identify investigative targets and how to structure and run an investigation.
12.15-1pm Lunch (provided)
Session 2 (after lunch): Investigative skills – accessing and processing information - 1pm-3pm
In this hands-on session, Peter Geoghegan will teach you how to access and process information. Participants will be shown how to file Freedom of Information requests and how to access public registers of information. In the second half of the session, Peter will show participants how to use Excel to process data and how to use data journalism in investigative story-telling.
3-3.30pm Refreshments (provided)
Session 3 (wrap up): Pitch the trainers - 3.30-5pm
In the final session of the day, participants will have the chance to discuss their own work with the trainers. Ideas for investigations will be debated and discussed, both in theory and in practice. Participants will also have the change to ask follow-up questions based on their experience at the workshop and their interests.
Dean Starkman is also a fellow at Center for Media, Data and Society and a visiting lecturer at the School of Public Policy at Central European University, Budapest (See: https://people.ceu.edu/dean_starkman).
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.
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.
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 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.
The latest issue of Media, War and Conflict journal has been published. Please find below the table of contents and click on the titles to be taken to the article (subscription required).
The journal’s co-editors are NewPolCom’s Ben O’Loughlin along with Sarah Maltby (Sussex), Katy Parry (Leeds) and Laura Roselle (Elon).
Written by Sophie Mcclarron, current MSc student taking our Media, War & Conflict course.
Will Merrin: ‘The continuation of politics by other memes: The rise of global troll warfare’
6 February 2019, Royal Holloway
Trolling is an age-old culture which is used to create chaos and disorder through satire, Merrin announced. The troll must not care about what they are posting but is simply aiming to get a reaction. Trolling has existed for centuries, found in examples such as Henry VIII’s jesters and Marinetti’s futurist soirees. The term ‘troller’ itself developed from the definition to wander and is now defined as being anti-authoritarianism, anti-political and anti-order. The development of trolling from Henry VIII‘s jesters to modern day internet trolls is now the key component of anonymity needed to be an online troll. This would not have been possible as a jester or in group festivals in the past. Being anonymous online is a huge factor of being an internet troll. As Merrin argued, the mask was used to identify a character but now a mask is used to hide an identity.
Another key factor of being a troll is that victory in troll warfare must be public, visible and appreciated by others. If a troll gets no reaction or it is private, then it is someone simply attempting to troll without being successful. In modern society a problem which we can encounter in this troll culture is ‘doxing’. Merrin defined this as an individual or group being exposed through trolling or for being a troll. An example of this would be Hillary Clinton’s emails being exposed by Wikileaks during the latest US presidential election. ‘Doxing’ can be dangerous as it can shift the power relationship from the vulnerable (the individuals in the public) who are trolling the powerful (the well-known/ media/ celebrities) to the opposite. Once the media can ‘dox’ an individual troll with their name and personal details, this becomes very dangerous for that person as the media corporation takes the role of the troll. Merrin presented examples of instances in which tabloid newspapers took on this troll role.
Merrin argued how trolling has fundamentally changed diplomacy in the 21stcentury. One example saw Canada’s diplomat on twitter trolling Russia with a meme highlighting Ukraine’s borders when Russia was invading. Governments have also embraced troll culture and it can even be seen to be used by radical groups online accounts such as Islamic State members using #catsofjihad. However, the radical groups are also themselves trolled through Twitter and other social media platforms, and this can be argued to have a positive effect. The group Anonymous trolled ISIS twitter accounts by changing all of their links to terror videos to Rick Astley’s ‘Never going to give you up’. This is a positive use of troll culture as it replaces links of hatred and terror to jovial and light-hearted music. It must be noted that although this form of trolling is positive, trolling does also have negative effects too as it can make ISIS seem more relatable and modern in their use of trolling themselves.
Another dangerous use of trolling is governments’ control or attempted control of social media free speech. Countries such as China and Russia have both employed troll farms where citizens post pro-government trolling messages and to troll other countries and groups. Merrin argued these troll farms are not in fact trolling as trolling requires the person to not care about their post or response which the troll farms do value. Merrin’s closing statement was the most powerful as he admitted he is ‘terrified’ of governments cracking down on free speech online when it comes to trolling as it can be conceived as a hate crime. Trolling can be a dangerous tool to convey horrible messages targeting others but is this really trolling? Not when considering Merrin’s earlier definition so I agree the government being able to control or access all online data is a terrifying possibility.
The lecture was a very insightful analysis of trolling and its modern use in politics and diplomacy. I agree with Merrin that trolling should be included and taught in politics courses as it is vital students are up-to-date with modern political tools when they graduate. Trolling should be taught and its dangers acknowledged through education but should not be restricted by the government.
By Sophie Mcclarron, 12 February 2019
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).