New Special Issue for the 20th anniversary of ComPol: “Political Communication in Changing Media Environments: Interdisciplinary Viewpoints”

Copertina-Compol-1-20-2For twenty years ComPol, shorthand for Comunicazione Politica (“Political Communication”), has been the key scholarly forum for Italian scholars interested in the relationship between media, politics, and citizenship. This is the journal where, as an undergraduate and PhD student, I read about all the advances that our discipline was making as it grappled with issues such as the rise of Silvio Berlusconi as a political-media tycoon, the increasing personalization and spectacularization of politics, and the emergence of the internet as a technology for political information and mobilization. It is also the journal where I started to “cut my teeth” in publishing peer-reviewed articles at the beginning of my career.

This is why I was hugely honored when Gianpietro Mazzoleni, the founder of ComPol and one of the many great mentors I was fortunate to have in my career (a true “passeur“, a term I borrow from Daniel Pennac), asked me to work with him as the guest editor of the special issue of the journal celebrating its twentieth anniversary. You can now read the full special issue, titled “Political Communication in Changing Media Environments: Interdisciplinary Viewpoints” on the website of the Italian Association of Political Communication. It includes contributions from nine Italian and international scholars, to whom I am very grateful for participating in this initiative, and an Introduction by Gianpietro and myself, where we reflect on the development of the discipline of political communication in Italy, present the contributions collected in the special issue, and highlight some challenges for political communication research in the future. Here is an excerpt that presents the articles:

To mark the fundamentally international and inter-disciplinary nature of the journal, we have invited contributions from nine of the leading national and international scholars in the areas of political science (Hanspeter Kriesi), media and communication (Silvio Waisbord), journalism studies (C. W. Anderson), computational social science (Fabio Giglietto), political psychology (Patrizia Catellani), linguistics (Stefano Ondelli), semiotics (Giovanna Cosenza), cultural studies and discourse analysis (Lidia De Michelis), and popular culture (John Street). We have asked this diverse group of scholars, some of whom are members of the scientific board of the journal, to answer a simple question: What does it mean, from their respective disciplinary viewpoint, to study political communication today?

And here is how we conclude our reflections:

The first twenty years of Comunicazione Politica have accompanied and helped the consolidation of the discipline in Italy, as well as facilitating a fruitful dialogue with the international scholarly community. In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, it is crucial that Italian scholars continue contributing to the global debates highlighted in this Introduction and in the contributions that follow. We trust that Comunicazione Politica will continue to play a useful role in this enterprise by offering a relevant, open, pluralistic, and innovative forum where scholars from different disciplines and approaches can come together as equals and share their contributions to knowledge around some of the most pressing questions of our time.

Sixth conference of the International Journal of Press/Politics POSTPONED to 21-22 September 2020

ijppIn light of the ongoing concerns for the global spread of COVID-19 and the increasing restrictions that are necessary to combat it, we have decided to postpone the sixth conference of The International Journal of Press/Politics to 21-22 September 2020.

Colleagues who have submitted a proposal in the previous call for papers do not need to submit their proposal again if they are interested in attending the conference on 21-22 September 2020. We will contact all these colleagues shortly before the 12 June deadline to ask them to confirm whether they still want their proposals to be considered for the new conference dates. If you already know, feel free to reach out now, but there is no immediate need to do this.

The call for papers for the conference will now be re-opened until 12 June 2020. Attendees will be notified of acceptance by 19 June 2020.

We hope that, in three months’ time, we will be able to assess the situation and decide that we can safely meet our colleagues again and renew the unique spirit of the community that gathers around The International Journal of Press/Politics and its conference. However, if by that time the situation in the UK and around the world has not shown enough signs of improvement that make us confident that we can run the conference without any risks for individual and public health, and that colleagues can safely travel to Loughborough without any concerns for their health, safety, and finances, we will cancel the 2020 edition of the conference altogether.

The call for papers for the sixth conference of IJPP closed on 13 March 2020 and we received a large number of promising submissions. However, it has become clear that the need to combat the spread of COVID-19 requires restrictions to travel and gatherings that would severely hamper our ability to organize the conference, and of colleagues to attend it, on the original dates of 29-30 June 2020. The UK government’s estimation that the COVID-19 epidemic should reach its peak in three months’ time, roughly coinciding with the conference dates, further suggested that the risks to colleagues’ health, as well as to public health, would be too severe, as would be the likelihood that the event be later canceled due to further government restrictions.

While we could have provisionally confirmed the original conference dates and waited to see how the situation develops, we are very concerned that any activities we conduct may have negative implications for public health, in the UK and elsewhere. We are also not comfortable asking colleagues to pay registration fees for an event that may not take place and book travel and accommodation that had a high likelihood of being canceled.

We take this opportunity to reassure colleagues that we are processing manuscripts as usual during this period. As our Editorial Team and reviewers are coping with the adjustments required by this unique situation, some manuscripts may experience some delays, which we will try to manage and reduce as much as possible. We trust that authors waiting for a decision will understand this. We are also committed to supporting authors who are revising their manuscripts and reviewers who have generously agreed to assess them. If you need more time to complete your work in a way that meets your aspirations and the standards of the journal, please get in touch with us. More importantly, we hope colleagues will not feel that any of their generous contributions to the journal take an excessive toll on them during these difficult times, but if that were the case, we wholeheartedly encourage you to prioritize your and your loved ones’ health and wellbeing.

Our conference is a relatively young event but the community our journal brings together is strong, inclusive, and supportive. We are committed to serving this community in the best way we can, and we hope we can count on your continuing support as we navigate these difficult times.

The Editorial Team of The International Journal of Press/Politics

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of IJPP: “Media, Accountability and Dissent in the Middle East and North Africa” (deadline 31 July 2020)

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of The International Journal of Press/Politics

“Media, Accountability and Dissent in the Middle East and North Africa”

Guest editors: Jonathan Hill (jonathan.n.hill@kcl.ac.uk), The Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, King’s College London; Fatima el Issawi (feliss@essex.ac.uk), University of Essex

Updated manuscript submission deadline: 31 July 2020ijpp

This special issue aims to provide new research perspectives on the momentous upheavals that took place in the Middle East and North Africa in the past ten years by shedding light on the interactions between citizens, social movements, and different types of media actors. So far, the extensive scholarly focus on institutional politics and transitions’ paradigms has overshadowed the importance of micro-dynamics in understanding tumultuous political change in the Middle East and North Africa during and after the 2010 uprisings. The recent developments in 2019, with large street protests in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Iraq, Sudan and Algeria demonstrate that change is mainly taking place outside mainstream politics and is not following traditional paradigms of democratization and resilient authoritarianism. We aim to shift scholarship on these subjects away from the meta-debate between paradigms to shed light on relevant actors involved in the trajectories of these transformation movements.

The media plays a crucial role in framing and communicating transitional politics. The ways in which these movements are framed and communicated have a considerable influence on their development and sometimes their outcomes. In transitional politics, political actors rely heavily on media, new and old, to gain influence. However, scholarly and policy research on the Arab uprisings in North Africa has neglected the institutional media’s role in framing these movements and their impact on shaping the dynamics and sometimes the outcomes of transition processes. This takes place as over-optimism regarding the impact of activism on powering change is being challenged by authoritarian regimes’ attempts to reclaim the digital space.

Beyond dichotomies of old and new, online and offline, liberal and authoritarian, diversity, interdependency and uncertainty define the emergent hybrid media and political systems across the region in this tumultuous phase of their history. While media hybridity is fuelling political hybridity, it is also increasing uncertainty. The relationship between various societal agents is governed by interdependence rather than dependence or independence, as demonstrated by the trajectories of these movements so far. This interconnectedness is an opportunity for creativity, including for dissenting agency, mainly through its ability to expand pluralism and to challenge restrictive mainstream media and political structures. These dynamics are empowering dissenting agency, not only in digital media but also in traditional newsrooms where a continuous struggle between journalistic roles and identities is taking place.

The ambivalent role of the media in both supporting and hindering democratic change is a key feature of uncertain and volatile transitions and tends to consolidate structures of violence rather than challenge them. Media antagonism reflects and reinforces political antagonism. The media agency in shaping transitional trajectories remains under-researched. This special issue aims to contribute to filling this gap by, among other things, giving more attention to the agentic power of journalists working in transitional contexts.

Communicating transitional conflicts takes place in a multi-layered complex media ecology where the binaries of old and new media are no longer relevant. In addition to the important processes of framing and agenda setting, the direct and indirect alliances between media and the institutions of power are crucial, as alliances contribute to shaping both media narratives and political processes in complex inter-dependent dynamics. This special issue will shed light on the role of institutional media in its independence with agents and dynamics in the wider political and societal system under uncertainty.

We aim to bring together scholarly expertise from different disciplines and parts of the world to reflect on the main dynamics and limitations of democratic transitions in the region with specific focus on the role of the media in shaping these processes. By so doing, we hope we will give voice to scholars from the region and we are particularly interested in submissions from them.

RESEARCH TOPICS

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The inner dynamics of transitional movements in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) and their interplay with structures and agents’ choices;
  • The role of street protests and new forms of political mobilization from below: past, present and future;
  • The influence of media practices on power relations in transitional contexts;
  • Antagonistic pluralism and its implications for fragile processes of political change;
  • Political representation in media: balance, bias and subjectivity;
  • Journalistic agency in supporting forces of change or structures of conformity;
  • Dilemmas and challenges that impact journalists’ practices and the definition of professionalism in uncertain times;
  • The complex and hybrid new media ecology and its impact on framing and communicating transitional conflicts;
  • Disruptive political performance in the context of democratic transitions in the region and their media representation;
  • Media policy and its impact on shaping journalistic practices and identities;
  • The challenges of conducting research on these topics in MENA, including access to data and ethical obligations towards research participants and environments.

We welcome a broad range of contributions asking different questions and employing different methods. We particularly welcome contributions from scholars and researchers from the MENA region.

SUBMISSION INFORMATION

Manuscript submissions for this special issue are due on 31 July 2020. Manuscripts should follow the IJPP submission guidelines. Submissions will be subject to a double-blind peer review process and must not have been published, accepted for publication, or under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Please note that, to ensure consistency, submissions will only be considered for peer review after the 31 July 2020 deadline has passed.

Authors interested in submitting their work are encouraged to contact the guest editors, Jonathan Hill (jonathan.n.hill@kcl.ac.uk) and Fatima el Issawi (feliss@essex.ac.uk) with questions.

EXPECTED TIMELINE

  • Manuscript submission: 31 July 2020
  • First decision: 30 September  2020
  • Manuscript revisions: 30 November  2020
  • Final decision: 31 January  2021
  • Online publication: 28 February 2021
  • Print publication: July 2021

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.

Call for Nominations for The International Journal of Press/Politics Best Book Award 2020. Deadline: 1 March 2020

ijpp

Nominations are invited for the annual International Journal of Press/Politics Best Book Award, to be sent to IJPP Editor-in-Chief Cristian Vaccari by email no later than March 1.

Rationale

The International Journal of Press/Politics Best Book Award honors internationally-oriented books that advance our theoretical and empirical understanding of the linkages between news media and politics in a globalized world in a significant way. It is given annually by the International Journal of Press/Politics and sponsored by Sage Publications.

The award committee will judge each nominated book on several criteria, including the extent to which the book goes beyond analyzing a single case country to present a broader and internationally-oriented argument, the significance of the problems addressed, the strength of the evidence the book relies on, conceptual innovation, the clarity of writing, and the book’s ability to link journalism studies, political communication research, and other relevant intellectual fields.

Eligibility

Books published within the last ten years will be considered. Monographs as well as edited volumes of exceptional quality and coherence will be considered for the award. Books by current members of the award committee are ineligible and committee members will recuse themselves from discussion of books by members of their own department, works published in series that they edit, and similar circumstances.

Award committee

The award committee consists of Cristian Vaccari (the editor of the International Journal of Press/Politics), Kimberly Gross (chair of the Political Communication Division of ICA), and Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt (chair of the Journalism Studies Division of ICA).

Nominations

Nominations including a rationale of no more than 350 words should be emailed by March 1 to Cristian Vaccari at c.vaccari@lboro.ac.uk. Self-nominations are accepted.

The nomination must specify why the book should receive the award by outlining the importance of the book to the study of media and politics and by identifying its international contribution and relevance. Please include links to or copies of relevant reviews in scholarly journals.

Arrangements should be made with the publishers of nominated books for one hard copy to be sent by March 1 to each of the three committee members at the following addresses:

  • Cristian Vaccari, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Brockington Building U.3.19, Loughborough University, Epinal Way, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 3TU, United Kingdom.
  • Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt, Department of Communication and Journalism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
  • Kimberly Gross, School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University, 805 21st Street NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20052, USA

Presentation

The award will be presented at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association and will be announced on the IJPP website. The awarded book will also receive recognition in issue 4/2020 of the journal.

Past winners of the award

2019: Maria Repnikova, Media Politics in China: Improvising Power Under Authoritarianism (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

2018: Erik Albæk, Arjen van Dalen, Nael Jebril, and Claes H. de Vreese, Political Journalism in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

2017: Katrin Voltmer, The Media in Transitional Democracies (Polity Press, 2013).

2016: Andrew Chadwick, The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power (Oxford University Press, 1st edition 2013).

2015: Rodney Benson, Shaping Immigration News (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

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

ica_full_wordmark

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

Updated Call for papers for the sixth conference of the International Journal of Press/Politics (Loughborough University, 21-22 September 2020)

ijpp

On 21-22 September 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 12 June 2020. Attendees will be notified of acceptance by 19 June 2020. Registrations fees will be due 10 August 2020 and full papers based on accepted abstracts will be due 11 September 2020.

This call for papers replaces the previous one, which closed on 13 March 2020, as the conference has been postponed from the original dates of 29-30 June 2020. Colleagues who have submitted a proposal in the previous call for papers do not need to submit their proposal again if they are interested in attending the conference on 21-22 September 2020. We will contact all these colleagues shortly before the 12 June deadline to ask them to confirm whether they still want their proposals to be considered for the new conference dates.

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 12 June 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 https://bit.ly/IJPPSept2020.

The registration fee for the conference will be GBP 250, to be paid by 10 August 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 12 June 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

cover.jpg

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_7059Update: the Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee published its report, titled “Digital Technology and the Resurrection of Trust“, on 29 June 2020. The report provides a compelling and wide-ranging analysis of key problems and potential solutions and I encourage you to read it carefully. It was a pleasure to contribute to it with my testimony.

On 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.

lords.png

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.

Promoted to Professor of Political Communication

I am delighted to announce that I have been promoted to Professor of Political Communication at Loughborough University.

The forward-looking and time-pressured nature of academic life often means that we do not reflect much on our achievements—be they publications, grants, students making us proud, media coverage, contributions to societal change, or any other component of our mission as scholars. We just move on to the next goal and the next deadline, or at least that is how it has always worked for me. This time, however, feels different, and I want to share some reflections on how and why I think I got here.

When I was a kid, I wore thick glasses and I loved to read. I was lucky I could read pretty much all I wanted because my parents owned a newspaper shop. It was a small, dusty kiosk, too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. I spent a lot of time there because both my parents worked round the clock to keep the shop open and fully stocked fourteen hours a day, six days a week, two Sundays a month. For most of my long summer holidays I played in the muddy patch behind the store, going back inside the kiosk to get a drink of water, ask my parents money for an ice cream, and snatch a comic book. As I grew older, I started helping my parents in the shop, and as kids do, I began dreaming of becoming a journalist to write in those newspapers people cared enough about to buy them every day. Inevitably, I shared my aspiration with anyone who would listen, and a regular customer started mocking me: “You are going to fill the papers with lies, and your parents are going to sell them!” (The post-truth crisis has deep historical roots in Italy.)

That small newspaper kiosk is where my fascination for media began. As time went by, our family business moved to a spacious store in a futuristic shopping mall and I moved from comics and sports magazines to newspapers and books. I also became more interested in television news than cartoons. There was a lot going on at the time, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Christian Democratic party-State in Italy, and I began to talk about it all with my parents. This is when my passion for politics was born, compounding my interest in media and communication.

If I have decided to dedicate my professional life to understanding political communication, it is because of those years I spent surrounded by all sorts of (print) media, and because of those long discussions about politics on my family home sofa. I owe all of this to my parents, and I am grateful to them for that. I am also grateful to them for showing, not just telling me, that working hard, persevering in the face of difficulties, and treating others with care and respect are keys to a happy, fulfilling life. Cara mamma, caro papà, grazie di cuore. Vi voglio bene.

A lot happened in the following two decades. I dropped my thick glasses for contact lenses that were as expensive as they were uncomfortable. I kept loving books, and I was fortunate enough to have as many as I wanted. I even published some of my own. I switched back to glasses. I spent time as a visiting student in the United States. I became a tenured academic in Italy. As the first person in my extended family to even go to University, I felt proud of the hard work I had done to get there and fortunate for the support of my parents, but I knew there was something else to it. One day, one of my favorite writers helped me realize what it was.

In the spring of 2013, I was sitting in the stands of the Academic Senate of the University of Bologna, of which I was then a member, attending the ceremony for the award of an honorary degree to the French novelist Daniel Pennac. In his lectio magistralis, Pennac argued that professors can act either as gardiens du temple, policing particular disciplinary, methodological, and stylistic boundaries, or as passeurs, striving to awaken consciousness and instill a sense of wonder for what is beautiful, novel, and important—regardless of where it comes from and irrespective of what canons it espouses or violates. Here is a video excerpt of Pennac’s speech, titled “A Lesson of Ignorance”, which he delivered in Italian. Here is the text of his speech in French. And here is a short essay Pennac wrote on the subject in French.

Pennac’s words resonated with me in a very special way, and they have stayed with me ever since. I realized that I was sitting on those stands because someone, one day, had listened to my ideas rather than telling me what to do, and then had helped me achieve what I envisioned rather than shrugging me off. And then someone else had done the same. And then another. And then many more. Finally, I knew, and I still know.

If I have been able to do the job of my dreams, and to do it well enough to be called a Professor, I owe it to the many generous passeur colleagues whom I had the good fortune to meet in my life—as an undergraduate and doctoral student in Italy, as an exchange student and a visiting scholar in the United States, as an early-career researcher in Italy, as a migrant academic in the United Kingdom, and as a member of various scholarly communities around the world. Thank you for your inspiration, your support and, in many cases, your friendship. You know who you are.