Research Projects: Media and Persuasive Communication
Project: Torture, Intelligence and Media in the War on Terror
Who is involved: Dr.Vian Bakir
Summary: This project systematically exposes US and UK government spin on intelligence-led torture, and provides insights on agenda-building in the converged, and rapidly changing, global media environment.
Detail: Intelligence-led torture has been the focus of intense agenda-building battles since 9/11. I analyse (a) the strategic political communication used by US and UK political administrations to deflect public attention from the use of torture to extract intelligence in the War on Terror (2001-2011); and (b) the role of political, media and lay-public mechanisms in derailing their efforts.
There has been little research on agenda-building on the issue of intelligence-led torture to date, not least because intelligence agencies and their media impacts are hard to research, due to their deliberate obfuscation and inherently secretive activity. Rising to this challenge, a comparative case study methodology is used to analyse these agenda-building battles, drawing on six areas of data: declassified and leaked official documents; public inquiries and investigations; autobiographies and memoirs of key administration protagonists and those who carried out, or were on the receiving end of, their policies; histories, most written by journalists who have covered the War on Terror; news articles from qualitatively sampled media outlets; and the acts of sousveillance themselves. Unusually, this project takes a comparative and longitudinal qualitative approach to understanding agenda-building in a global, converged media system (most agenda-building research is quantitative and restricted to one or two media outlets).
The empirical material is organized to enable an understanding of the operation and relative strength of the various mechanisms of resistance to strategic political communication, but also to particularly scrutinise the newest mechanism – sousveillance (watching from below) – more details of which can be found in my book. Sousveillance, Media and Strategic Political Communication
The final output will be a monograph, which should be published by 2012-13:
Bakir, V. Torture, Intelligence and Media in the War on Terror: Evaluating Sousveillance in Political Communication Struggles. Ashgate.
Who is involved: Dr. Vian Bakir
Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council - Research Leave Scheme
Summary:This inter-disciplinary project offers original insights into impacts on strategic political communication of the emergence of web-based participatory media (‘Web 2.0’) across the first decade of the 21st century, expounding the concept of sousveillance – or watching from below.
Detail: Focusing on the first decade of the 21st century enables analysis of how this new media environment, poorly understood by strategic political communicators, allowed sousveillant challenges to strategic political communication from lay-people going about their everyday lives.
Focusing on the first decade of the 21st century enables analysis of how this new media environment, poorly understood by strategic political communicators, allowed sousveillant challenges to strategic political communication from lay-people going about their everyday lives.
Using a comparative case study methodology set against detailed analysis of the political and media environment, I focus on the interplay of participatory and mainstream media about, and from, Iraq, as received in Britain and America, along with impacts of this interplay on strategic political communication across 2002-2009.
Three empirical chapters each present two case studies that differentially illuminate strategic political communication on specific aspects of the invasion of Iraq and ongoing nation-building in the midst of an insurgency, and how sousveillance subverted the official line from US, UK and Iraqi governments and military. Two case studies focus on the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and four focus on post-war Iraq as the insurgency grew to its peak in 2008. This balance of attention is deliberate. Whilst we have detailed understanding of strategic political communication under conditions of mass-mediated war and different media environments, turbulent post-war periods of nation-building are comparatively unexamined.
Building on these case studies, I theorise political communication and control in Web 2.0, focusing on the hitherto neglected concept of sousveillance - originally espoused by Steve Mann, but never before applied to the field of strategic political communication or Web 2.0. In contrast to the much-researched concept of surveillance, which entails watching from above by a higher authority, sousveillance entails watchful vigilance from underneath. I coin the term ‘sousveillance cultures’ and outline broader implications of sousveillant web-based participatory media for strategic political communication.
This project culminated in the following monograph:
Bakir, V. Sousveillance, Media and Strategic Political Communication: Iraq, USA, UK. Continuum: New York (2010).
Chapter One is available here.
Project: The Mood of Information
Who is involved: Dr. Andrew McStay
Summary: This monograph seeks to understand advertising from the perspective of information flows rather than the more familiar approach of symbolic representation.
The Mood of Information explores advertising from the perspective of information flows rather than the more familiar approach of symbolic representation. At the heart of this book is an aspiration to better understand contemporary and nascent forms of commercial solicitation predicated on the commodification of experience and subjectivity. In assessing novel forms of advertising that involve tracking users’ web browsing activity over a period of time, this book seeks to grasp and explicate key trends within the media and advertising industries along with the technocultural, legal, regulatory and political environment online behavioural advertising operates within. Situated within contemporary scholarly debate and interest in recursive media that involves intensification of discourses of feedback, personalization, recommendation, co-production, constructivism and the pre-empting of intent, this book represents a departure from textual criticism of advertising to one based on exposition of networked means of inferring preferences, desires and orientations that reflect ways of being, or moods of information.
The Mood of Information: A Critique of Online Behavioural Advertising by Andrew McStay, Continuum, June 2011.
Project: Jews, Jewishness and Judaism in Popular Culture, 1990-present.
Who is involved: Dr. Nathan Abrams
Funding:HEFCW Welsh Medium Scholarship providing PhD exploring Jews, Jewishness and Judaism in Contemporary Culture.
Summary: This project explores recent and changing representations of Jewishness as ethnicity and religion in contemporary cinema and other forms of popular culture (e.g. video games).
Project: Public Intellectuals and American Culture
Who is involved: Dr. Nathan Abrams
Summary: Ongoing research exploring, theorising and widening the notion of the function of the intellectual in post-war America, with specific focus on Norman Podhoretz, neoconservatives, Commentary magazine, the New York Intellectuals, Arthur Miller and Stanley Kubrick.
Project: European Jewish Diasporas
Who is involved: Dr. Nathan Abrams
- 2010 AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with Cardiff Reform Synagogue
- 2009 Beacon Public Engagement Award (collaborating with Dr. Sally Baker from Social Sciences)
- 2008 The Marc Fitch Fund
Summary: Research into the Jewish Diasporic communities in Europe with a particular emphasis on Scotland and Wales.