Nominated to the Committee of Experts on Freedom of Expression and Digital Technologies of the Council of Europe

Council_of_Europe_logo_(2013_revised_version)I am honored to have been nominated to be a member of the Committee of Experts on Freedom of Expression and Digital Technologies of the Council of Europe.

The Committee includes 13 representatives nominated by the Council and the 47 member states, and will serve for two years. As described in the Committee’s Terms of reference, its tasks are:

  1. To prepare a draft recommendation by the Committee of Ministers to member States on the impacts of digital technologies on freedom of expression;
  2. To prepare a guidance note on best practices by and with intermediaries for effective content moderation and restriction policies.

I am deeply honored to be included in this group of outstanding international experts and to serve an important international institution such as the Council of Europe. Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of liberty and good governance but it is far from secure in the troubled times we live in. Digital media have enhanced some aspects of freedom of expression but they have also contributed to new and unexpected threats to it. To protect and expand freedom of expression in the digital age, we need to rethink existing approaches but our thinking needs to be grounded in the best scientific evidence. Academics have a unique role to play in this process, not only in sharing the knowledge we already have but also in pointing out what we do not know yet and what we need to find it out. I look forward to helping the Committee achieve these ambitious goals.

Loughborough University also published a news story about my appointment on its website. You can read it here.

ICA 2020 Preconference Call for Papers: “Visual Politics: Image Production, Perception, and Influence” (deadline 14 February 2020)

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Date: 21 May 2020, 9am-4pm
Location: Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, Broadbeach, Australia
Sponsoring ICA Divisions: Visual Communication, Political Communication
Organizers: Prof. Erik Bucy (Texas Tech University), Prof. Cristian Vaccari (Loughborough University)

Images are ubiquitous in contemporary politics. From television coverage of campaigns and elections to visual memes and images of leaders circulated on social media, visual portrayals shape perceptions of the political world. As efficient carriers of social and symbolic information, they are quickly assessed, rapidly judged, and readily remembered—even when manipulated or released as deepfakes. When used strategically, visual portrayals hold the capacity to frame issues, candidates, and causes in a particular light and affect the acceptance or rejection of social policies. Images and audiovisual content are also ubiquitous on social media and digital platforms, and they tend to spread more easily and quickly than text-only content. Despite growing potential for and evidence of influence, visuals remain understudied within media politics. This preconference brings together visual scholars from different research traditions and international perspectives to present state of the art studies of image production, perception, and influence in the contemporary political landscape.

Political visuals are potent in part because they do not require conventional literacy to apprehend and operate at both an individual and cultural level. From an information processing perspective, political images are highly efficient carriers of social and symbolic information that is quickly assessed, rapidly judged, and readily remembered. In news coverage, candidate portrayals and event depictions may crystallize sentiment among the viewing public and alternately inspire increased involvement or disenchantment with politics. Culturally, images can act as icons of social solidarity or political isolation, serving to mainstream or marginalize individuals, groups, and causes. On social media, images are one of the key ingredients of political memes that convey complex messages often laden with irony and emotions. The polysemic quality of images opens them to diverse interpretation, depending on the viewer’s orientation.

The aim of this preconference is twofold: to map and coalesce the growing, but as-yet disorganized, area of research on visuals and politics; and, to foster conversations across methodological and disciplinary divides. This represents a big task because the field is so diverse in terms of methods, emphasis, and approach. We therefore welcome the broadest range of submissions, both quantitative and qualitative, to highlight new possibilities for theory development, methodological innovation, and cross-national approaches to advance the study of visual political communication. We also welcome international and comparative contributions that can broaden our understanding of these topics outside of Western liberal democracies.

POSSIBLE SUBMISSION TOPICS

  • The influence of political images in digital campaigns, including comparisons between online messaging, social media strategies, and more traditional forms of political advertising
  • The role of visual messaging in disinformation efforts, whether used to confuse, mislead, incite resentment, or demotivate potential voter or citizen involvement
  • Computational analysis of large-scale visual datasets to detect patterns of coverage or behavior not evident in smaller, hand-coded projects
  • Integrated or comparative analysis of multimodal cues in political messages and their synergistic or differential impacts on viewer perceptions
  • Visual analysis of protest and collection action, including visual framing of activism or demonstrations as well as visual memes circulated on social media
  • Cross-national comparisons of visual news framing of politics or protest and its reception by audiences
  • Viewer reception of newer visual technologies such as 360-degree video cameras to depict campaign events, demonstrations, marches, or other forms of collective action
  • Visual depictions of populist and fringe political actors, including signature gestures and nonverbal displays, expressive range, or performative repertoires, and their role in conveying relevant policy and identity signals
  • Effects of nonverbal aggression, norm violations, and other transgressive candidate behavior on viewers of audiovisual political content
  • Visual measures of negative advertising, incivility, “in your face”-style of candidate interaction, or other normatively fraught political communication styles
  • Visual analysis of hate speech and white nationalism, including identifiable signs and symbols as identified by the Anti-Defamation League and other watchdogs
  • The role of viewer orientations (e.g., ideology, partisanship, political interest, age cohort, moral outlook, geographical situatedness, issue attitudes) in shaping political image interpretations and message efficacy
  • The role of visual content in explaining patterns of news sharing and engagement on social media
  • The use of visuals in emerging genres of political campaign communication, whether mini-documentaries, mash-up advertising, candidate-generated videos, memes, or political selfies.

SUBMISSION INFORMATION

Please submit your abstracts for 15-minute paper presentations through this Google Form (http://bit.ly/VisualPoliticsICA2020) no later than 14 February 2020. Abstracts are limited to a maximum of 4,000 characters including spaces (approximately 500 words).

Contributors to the preconference will be selected by a panel review process and will be notified of decisions by 21 February 2020. Authors of accepted abstracts are expected to write full papers based on their abstracts (submission deadline 11 May 2020) and attend the preconference and present in person. All participants, whether presenting or not, must register for the preconference and pay the associated fee. Registration costs for the preconference will be approximately $50 USD and will include coffee breaks and lunch. To register, participants should visit www.icahdq.org and register as part of their main ICA conference registration, or as a stand-alone registration. As space is limited, priority will be given to those accepted for presentation.

KEY DATES

  • 14 February 2020: Deadline for abstract submission
  • 21 February 2020: Corresponding authors notified of decisions
  • 1 May 2020: Conference registration closes
  • 11 May 2020: Submission of completed papers
  • 21 May 2020: Visual Politics Preconference held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, Broadbeach, Australia

CONTACTS

Erik Bucy: erik.bucy@ttu.edu
Cristian Vaccari: c.vaccari@lboro.ac.uk

Call for papers for the sixth conference of the International Journal of Press/Politics (Loughborough University, 29-30 June 2020)

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On June 29-30, 2020, the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture at Loughborough University (United Kingdom) will host the sixth conference of the International Journal of Press/Politics, focused on academic research on the relation between media and political processes around the world. Professor Young Mie Kim from the University of Wisconsin will deliver a keynote lecture.

A selection of the best full papers presented at the conference will be published in the journal after peer review. The deadline for submission of abstracts is March 13, 2020. Attendees will be notified of acceptance by March 20, 2020. Full papers based on accepted abstracts will be due June 12, 2020.

The conference brings together scholars conducting internationally-oriented or comparative research on the intersection between news media and politics around the world. It aims to provide a forum for academics from a wide range of disciplines, countries, and methodological approaches to advance research in this area.

Examples of relevant topics include the political implications of current changes in media systems, including the increasing role of digital platforms; the importance of digital media for engaging with news and politics; analysis of the factors affecting the quality of political information and public discourse; studies of the role of entertainment and popular culture in how people engage with current affairs; studies of relations between political actors and journalists; analyses of the role of visuals and emotion in the production and processing of public information; and research on political communication during and beyond elections by government, political parties, interest groups, and social movements. The journal and the conference have a particular interest in studies that adopt comparative approaches, represent substantial theoretical or methodological advances, or focus on parts of the world that are under-researched in the international English language academic literature.

Titles and abstracts for papers (maximum 300 words) are invited by March 13, 2020. The abstract should clearly describe the key question, the theoretical and methodological approach, the evidence the argument is based on, as well as its wider implications and the extent to which they are of international relevance.

Please send submissions via the online form available at http://bit.ly/IJPP2020.

The registration fee for the conference will be GBP 250, to be paid by April 30, 2020. A limited amount of registration fee waivers will be available for early career scholars and scholars from countries that appear in Tiers B and C of the classification adopted by the International Communication Association. Applications must be made by March 13, 2020 via the abstract online submission form available at http://bit.ly/IJPP2020.

The conference is organized by Cristian Vaccari (Loughborough University, Editor-in-Chief of IJPP). Please contact Professor Vaccari with questions at c.vaccari@lboro.ac.uk.

More about the journal, the keynote speaker, the University, and the Centre:

The International Journal of Press/Politics

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The International Journal of Press/Politics is an interdisciplinary journal for the analysis and discussion of the role of the media and politics in a globalized world. The journal publishes theoretical and empirical research which analyzes the linkages between the news media and political processes and actors around the world, emphasizes international and comparative work, and links research in the fields of political communication and journalism studies, and the disciplines of political science and media and communication. The journal is published by Sage Publications and is ranked 11th by Scopus (SJR) and 12th by Journal Citation Reports in Communication.

Professor Young Mie Wim, University of Wisconsin

Young-Mie-Kim-1024x683Young Mie Kim is a Professor of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and a Faculty Affiliate of the Department of Political Science. Kim is a 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. Kim’s research concerns data-driven, algorithm-based, digitally mediated political communication. Kim’s recent research project, Project DATA (Digital Ad Tracking & Analysis), empirically investigates the sponsors, content, and targets of digital political campaigns across multiple platforms with a user-based, real-time, ad tracking tool that reverse engineers the algorithms of political campaigns. Kim and her team’s research, “The Stealth Media? Groups and Targets behind Divisive Issue Campaigns on Facebook,” identified “suspicious groups,” including Russian groups on Facebook. The work received the Kaid-Sanders Best Article of the Year in Political Communication (2018), awarded by the International Communication Association. Kim testified at the Federal Election Commission‘s hearings on the rulemaking of internet communication disclaimers and presented her research at the Congressional briefings on foreign interference in elections. Kim also spoke at the European Parliament on her research on data-driven political advertising and inequality in political involvement.

Loughborough University

1oDFxNO8_400x400Based on a 440-acre, single-site campus at the heart of the UK, Loughborough University is ranked top 10 in every British university league table. Voted University of the Year (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019) and awarded Gold in the National Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), Loughborough provides a unique student experience that is ranked first in the UK by the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2018. Loughborough University has excellent transport links to the rest of the UK. It is a short distance away from Loughborough Train station, a 15-minute drive from East Midlands Airport (near Nottingham), an hour drive from Birmingham Airport, and an hour and 15 minutes from London via train.

The Centre for Research in Communication and Culture

LU_CentreForResearch_in_Communication&Culture_COLSince our establishment in 1991, we have developed into the largest research centre of our kind in the UK, and the 2019 QS World University Ranking placed us in the top 50 for communications and media research. We are a proudly interdisciplinary centre, creatively combining social science and humanities approaches for the rigorous exploration of the production and consumption of different forms of communication and creative texts. Our research draws on and contributes to theories and methods in cultural and media studies, sociology, politics, psychology, history and memory studies, textual, visual and computational analysis, and geography. We are interested in exploring how media and cultural texts are produced, how they construct meanings, how they shape the societies we live in, and how they fit within an ever-growing creative economy.

My Testimony on Digital Media and Democracy at the House of Lords

IMG_7059On 29 October, I had the pleasure to testify for the Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee of the UK House of Lords. Together with Helen Margetts and Martin Moore, we discussed the ways in which digital media are changing the way our democracies function and what governments around the world are doing, and should be doing, to reap the greatest benefits and prevent the most troubling harms resulting from the process.

The transcript of the session is now available on the Committee’s website. During the session, I drew on research on misinformation conducted as part of Loughborough University’s Online Civic Culture Centre, on work on the role of UK tabloids in spreading misinformation coauthored with Andrew Chadwick and Ben O’Loughlin, on research on social media and political participation I have been doing with Augusto Valeriani for the past five years, on a wide-ranging literature review on social media, polarization and disinformation commissioned by the Hewlett Foundation to which I contributed, and on work I have done on the prevalence, or lack thereof, of echo chambers online. I also relied on many colleagues’ work and insight, and I hope I have done justice to at least some of them in my answers.

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Many thanks to Kate Dommett, who serves as Special Advisor to the Committee, and to the Committee for inviting me. It was a thorough and interesting conversation.

 

New Article Out on Parties’ Strategies in the 2017 UK General Election

Image result for west european politicsIn a new article just published in West European Politics, my former colleagues at Royal Holloway Kaat Smets, Oliver Heath and I combine survey data and content analysis of tweets by the main parties and their leaders to investigate whether the strategies of the main British parties matched their voters’ issue positions during the 2017 UK General Election.

Leveraging the fertile framework of issue yield, proposed by Lorenzo De Sio and Till Weber, we ask whether and how parties tried to square the circle between satisfying the preferences of their loyal supporters, attracting voters from the other parties, and addressing issues that the general population cares about.

To learn what we found, you can read our blog post on the British Politics and Policy Blog of the London School of Economics and Politics Science, where we write:

The results from our analysis indicate that the Conservative campaign did not fully exploit the opportunities for expanding support that were open to them had they presented a broader agenda than the one they ultimately ran on. Our analysis indicates the Tories went overboard in their rhetoric on ‘getting on with the job’ of Brexit (which risked alienating their more moderate supporters who were uneasy about it) and ‘strong and stable leadership’ (which, repeated relentlessly during the campaign, ended up opening the door for mockery of May’s rigid communication style).

By contrast, Labour played a better hand and tapped into most of its electoral strengths. There is a clear left-wing anti-austerity constituency in Britain, and rather than being out of touch with the public mood, as many New Labour grandees feared, our analysis shows that Labour’s message under Corbyn resonated both with party supporters and the wider public. By offering its supporters policies they strongly agreed with, Labour also thwarted the electoral threat potentially inherent in its vague position on Brexit.

The article is part of a special issue on the study of party strategy and voting behavior in Western democracies through the lens of issue yield theory, titled “Conflict Mobilization or Problem-solving? Issue Competition in Western Europe”, guest edited by Lorenzo De Sio and Till Weber. You can find the other contributions in the “Latest Articles” section of West European Politics‘s website.

Attending APSA as program chair of the Information Technology & Politics section

logoI first attended the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, the largest gathering of political scientists worldwide, in Chicago in 2004. Since then, attending this conference has become an integral part of my academic work and the occasion to strike and renew many amazing friendships and collaborations.

Every APSA meeting has been special and exciting, but this year’s is unique because for this first time I will not only participate by discussing my research and that of my colleagues. I have also played a small part in organizing the conference by serving as program chair of the Information Technology and Politics section. I reviewed proposals, accepted some and rejected many, drafted panels (no manels!), and worked with our older sister, the Political Communication section, to co-sponsor panels.

Here is the agenda for this year’s conference. If you are interested in digital media and politics and if you want to meet friendly, smart, and truly global colleagues, you will find all of that and more in these panels. And if you have never engaged with the section, please come say hi at the business meeting and join us at our joint reception with Political Communication.

Thursday, August 29
8:00 to 9:30am: “Commenting and Discussing Politics Online”
10:00 to 11:30am: “New Directions on Internet Government and Governance”
12:00 to 1:30pm: “New Perspectives on the Study of Information Technology and Politics”
2:00 to 3:30pm: “Political Effects of Digital Media” (co-sponsored with Political Communication)
4:00 to 5:30pm: “Incivility and Being Mad Online” (co-sponsored with Political Communication)

Friday, August 30
8:00 to 9:30am: “Communicating Politics Online” (co-sponsored with Political Communication)
10:00 to 11:30am: “Comparative Perspectives on Information Technology and Politics”
10:30 to 11:00am: “Poster Session: Information Technology and Politics”
12:00 to 1:30pm: “Online Disinformation: Actors, Platforms, and Users” (co-sponsored with Political Communication)
2:00 to 3:30pm: “Digital Authoritarianism and the Public Sphere”
4:00 to 5:30pm: “News in the Digital Age”
7:30 to 9:00pm: Joint reception of the Political Communication and Information Technology & Politics sections

Saturday, August 31
8:00 to 9:30am: “Diverse India 2019: Populism, Campaigning & Influence”
12:00 to 1:30pm: “Social Media and American Politics”
4:00 to 5:30pm: “Social Media and Influence: Comparing Elections, Policy and Trump” (co-sponsored with Political Communication)
4:00 to 5:30pm: “Visual Frontiers in Digital Politics” (co-sponsored with Political Communication, featuring among others a papery by yours truly and Andrew Chadwick on political deepfakes)
6:30 to 7:30pm: Business meeting of the Information Technology & Politics section

Sunday, September 1
8:00 to 9:30am: “Digital Media, Contestation and Repression”

See you all in DC!

 

New Masters in Social Media and Political Communication at Loughborough University

We are now recruiting for a new Masters program in Social Media and Political Communication at Loughborough University, which will begin in October 2019.

As the official description says, “On this exciting and unique master’s programme you will gain advanced knowledge of how social media shape how political power is exercised in today’s turbulent world. The curriculum blends world-leading scholarly research with case study analyses of how political communication works in the real world.”

Let me add a personal note. I have started teaching full time in Loughborough a few weeks ago and I have been impressed by the quality of our learning environment. There is something about the sense of peace and community, as well as the quality of the teaching and the research by colleagues, that makes for a rather unique and enjoyable experience as a teacher. Students are engaged, motivated, and supportive of one another. I have taught in many places around the world, but Loughborough is definitely special.

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The full description of the program and information on how to apply are available here. If you have any queries, please email me.