How Does Technology Transform Media and Public Opinion? A Conference with the Swedish Embassy in Den Haag at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht

HU Poster Digital Platforms conference

Last week I had the great privilege to host an event in collaboration with the Swedish embassy in Den Haag, Netherlands, on the highly urgent and somewhat controversial topic of ‘How Does Technology Transform Media & Public Opinion?” at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht.

Seven prolific speakers discussed current developments and challenges that come with the digitalisation of public communication and the rise of online platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

The program was based on ‘fireside talks’ between the invited experts from academia, governments, and media; emphasis was placed on three aspects:

 

  1. Technological Foundations and the Revolution of Communication – How Big Tech Changes the Public Sphere

The first section deals with how the rise of Internet technology first provided seemingly endless potentials to new modes of communication and access to the public for individuals and marginalised groups. News Media is no longer the sole source of mass-distributed information.

The mass distribution of Internet access enabled the rise of big tech companiessuch as Google and Facebook, that responded with constantly evolving services to the needs of a highly interconnected digital society. Leading Internet companies have turned into complex multi-purpose platforms that aim for binding users to their brands with a diversity of functions. They create spheres of increasing economic, cultural and political influence.

The implications for freedom of expression become apparent in transformations in media consumption and production. Traditional news media find themselves in a tough spotbetween ethical considerations, political missions, business goals, and an increasingly sceptical audience with access to countless alternative sources for information. Finally, there is the emerging trend to rely more increasingly on artificial intelligence in many web services which comes with an additional baggage of ethical and political questions.

 

  1. Potentials vs. Threats – Assessing the Pro’s and Con’s for Free Speech

On one hand, there are progressive social movements such as #metoo and Black Lives Matter, that make use of the open accessibility of the Web and highlight how marginalised groups apply freedom of expression in the digital public sphere. On the other, the Web is often a highly toxic place where racism, misogynism, trolling, hate speech, misinformation, and cyberbullying thrive; the so-called ‘Alt-Right’ and current forms of right-wing populism partly originated from or made intensive use of online platforms. Groups apply the technologies in order to organize their members, spread the message, contest mainstream politics and media, and thus framing issues from their world views.

Fake news and filter bubbles are often-cited downsides of the rise of social media and personalised web experiences. But is the situation that black and white? It’s a fact that trust in mainstream politics and media is undermined and questioned and the fact that political factions engage in trench warfare and hate speech in various forms is a widespread problem.

Today, when determining freedom of expression one has to consider that no one really lives a completely private life in the age social media and search engines.

The question is also what the role of businesses, journalists/media and governments is in all of this? There are different levels of ‘public’ communication that are affected by current tech trends and obviously all three play central roles the digital public sphere but the relationships between them are changing.

 

  1. Responsibilities and Remedies

The question of responsibility where different social, economic and political factors need to be considered. Tech is not going away; the Internet is not some separate place we got to but has become an integral part of our daily lives in various ways. What is the role of journalism in a data-driven age? How can companies be creative and innovative without losing sight of mid- to long-term consequences? How can they balance ‘what they can do’ with ‘what they should do’? What is the role of regulators and governments? Finally, what are the responsibilities of the user?

You can watch a recording of the session here!

 

 

 

 

Europe, the Crisis, and the Internet – Now available!

 

 

22256528_1658407790845974_7153997000714402534_o.jpgFinally, the printed version of my first monograph about Europe, the Crisis, and the Internet is available via Palgrave MacMillan! It is based on my PhD research, which I conducted at the University of Hull between 2011-2015.

From the publisher’s website:

This book provides a detailed analysis of the transnational web sphere that emerged at the height of the Eurozone crisis between 2011 and 2013. During these turbulent years, a diverse spectrum of professional communicators from the media and political sectors as well as from opinionated individuals on blogs and social media discussed, and thus framed, the crisis in the digital public sphere. The analysis focuses on the various fields of contestation of the crisis that became detectable in the transnational online discourse and shows how conflict and fragmentation shaped political communication in this context. Nguyen concludes that there was not a single crisis but a chain of intersecting and profound political and cultural conflicts triggered by the economic upheavals, which led to the emergence of an extremely dynamic and unstable transnational digital public sphere, where different political and cultural viewpoints collided.

Soon, I will create a section where readers can download all graphs in higher resolution.

Thanks again to all people who supported this project!

New Book: The Digital Transformation of the Public Sphere

The past four months have been incredibly busy, especially since I started a new job as a lecturer in Utrecht. Now that I have finally settled in I hope I will find the time to post here more frequently. I will try to place focus on my research, teaching experiences, as well as interesting developments in (transnational) media politics.

Another reason that kept me from writing for this blog was a publication project that drew a lot of energy/attention in its final stages – but now it’s “done”! In a few months our new volume on the digital transformation of the public sphere and its relation to crisis, conflict and migration will be available (published by Palgrave). Co-edited with my former PhD supervisor Dr Athina Karatzogianni and colleague Dr Elisa Serafinelli I am proud to present a brief sneak preview below.

My chapter proposes an integrative methodology for the analysis of transnational web spheres based on my own research on the EU/Eurozone crisis. Also, I contributed to the chapter on the MIG@NET research project. The next major project is now turning my PhD thesis into a book (in talks with Palgrave as a potential publisher).

 

The Digital Transformation of the Public Sphere: Conflict, Migration, Crisis, and Culture in Digital Networks

  • Introduction: The Digital Transformation of the Public Sphere
    Athina Karatzogianni, Dennis Nguyen and Elisa Serafinelli

 

Part I Theorising Migration, Crisis, Culture and Conflict in the Digital Public Sphere

  • The Migration of Normative Principles and the Digital Construction of Transnational Ethics (Martin Gak)
  • The Digital Golden Dawn: Emergence of A Nationalist-Racist Digital Mainstream (Eugenia Siapera and Mariangela Veikou)
  • From Bulletins to Bullets to Blogs and Beyond: The Karen’s Ongoing Communication War (Geff Green)
  • Online Content Control, Memory, and Community Isolation (Artur Matos Alves)
  • The Critique of Videology: Games and the Digital Transformation of the Public Sphere (Luke O’ Sullivan)

 

Part II Cyberconflict and the Digital Diaspora: Nigeria, India, China, Mexico

  • Veterans of Diaspora Activism: An Overview of ICTs Use Among Nigerian Migrant Networks (Shola Olabode)
  • Online Gender Activism in India and the Participation of the Indian Diaspora 2012-2015 (Adrija Dey)
  • Beyond the Great Wall: Locating Expatriate Media Environments in China (Fan Mai)
  • Social Networks and Communicative Meaning in Mexican Migration Networks in the US (Joel Pedraza Mandujano)

 

Part III Migration and Crisis Discourses in the EU Public Sphere

  • Analysing Transnational Web Spheres: The European Example During the Eurozone Crisis (Dennis Nguyen)
  • Intercultural Conflict and Dialogue in the Transnational Digital Public Sphere: Findings from the MIG@NET Research Project (2010-2013)(Athina Karatzogianni, Oxana Morgunova, Nelli Kambouri, Olga Lafazani, NicosTrimikliniotis, Grigoris Ioannou, and Dennis Nguyen)
  • Understanding the Greek Crisis And Digital Media: A Cyberconflict Approach (Ioanna Ferra)
  • Digital Ethnicities and the (Re-)Construction of Ethnic Identities on Social Media (Slavka Karakusheva)
  • Frontex: Its Human Rights Obligations and the Role of the European Ombudsman (Nikos Vogiatzis)

 

Part IV Digital Culture and Communication Shifts in the Public Sphere

  • Political Selfies: Image Events in the New Media Field
    (Achilleas Karadimitriou and Anastasia Veneti)
  • Italian Migrants and Photosharing in the UK (Elisa Serafinelli)
  • The Politics of Transformation: Selfie Production of the Visually Marginalised (Patricia Routh)
  • YouTube, Migrant Rappers and the Early Cinema Aesthetics: Is there a Digital Public Sphere? (Giacomo Nencioni)
  • Banoptikon: Walking Through a Dystopia – European Project MIG@NET’s Digital Game (Ilias Marmaras)

 

BTW: Follow me on Twitter!

 

Image courtesy of Unsplash.com

The Eurozone Crisis – the (Media) Drama continues

This is just a quick post since I am currently very busy with writing applications, articles, and getting books published (the usual “post doc” stuff). This is also the reason why I didn’t find the time to update this blog lately, despite so much going on right now in transnational Europe.

So why this update now? Well, it looks like the Eurozone crisis and the Greek dilemma are back on the top of the news agenda across the European media landscape. In recent weeks the transnational discourse, or more precisely, the blame-game between EU member-states, focused on the still unresolved migration crisis and relatively limited attention was given to the continuously swelling financial- and debt crisis (though it was always there). However, the political row between Greece’s creditors and the current Syriza government has yet again gained in momentum with the threat of a “Grexit” allegedly closer than ever (which has been repeatedly claimed over the past five years and thus has lost some of its actual shock potential).

A closer look at the different comment pieces, analyses, and reports reveals that actually no new arguments, visions, or plans have entered the discourse. The only real difference to the years 2010 to 2014 is that Tsipras, Varoufakis & co. are much less compliant than their predecessors – which is also a factor to consider in the intensifying ideological-cultural conflicts that are currently unfolding in the shadow of the economic-fiscal dispute. Just to give you a few examples for how the crisis made it back into the top news, here’s a selection of stories that were published on different international and national news media websites this week:

The Guardian Online provides yet another “live blog” on the latest developments and cites the Bank of Greece in its headline, which warns about an “uncontrollable crisis without bailout deal” (the thriller continues!).

The Wall Street Journal picks up the same apocalyptic quote for its headline.

This morning on German Zeit Online economist Hans-Werner Sinn repeats his argument that Greece was better off out the Eurozone and explains why Europe was on the wrong track for the past five years. However, he also says that Greece should have the opportunity to return to the Eurozone after it has stabilised its economy and introduced necessary reforms.

Meanwhile, reports on EKathimerini show that the Greek media closely observe political developments and -statements in Germany, where “Merkel’s Bavarian allies” allegedly said that “Greeks act like clowns in debt talks”.

Foreign Policy’s Daniel Altman argues that the Greek bailout are “incredibly stupid” due to their focus on short-term solutions for longterm problems – an approach that was doomed to fail.

The British Independent focuses on Tsipras’ claims that the IMF had a “criminal responsibility” for the rather intricate affair the Greek government and its creditors find themselves in.

Peter Eavis of the New York Times has a slightly more optimistic view than most on current events  when he argues that a “Greek exit would shake, but most likely not shatter, the Eurozone”.

Whether this week is actually more decisive for the Eurozone’s future than any other remains to be seen but the increased activity in the transnational web sphere at least indicates that the dispute between Athens and its creditors will probably return to the centre stage of the European public sphere.

Brilliant Documentary on the History of Capitalism

Last autumn German-French public TV station Arte broadcasted a six-part documentary on the history of capitalism by reviewing and critically discussing the “grand theories” of modern economics. I watched it over Christmas and can only recommend it, especially for those who want a concise yet detailed overview of what seems to determine most of global economics, politics, and culture (though you need to be able to understand either German and French). Regarding the current state of Eurozone politics and the ongoing conflict between neo-liberal and leftwing perspectives (see Greece), I think it remains of elevated topicality and may help viewers to read current events against their broader historical context.

The series starts with Adam Smith (who else?) and the basic idea of the ‘free market’. Th authors outline how a limited understanding of his enormously complex work and misinterpretation of key bits led to a fateful dogmatism that focused on the alleged rationality of free individuals and markets regulated by an “invisible hand”. The second part stays with Smith and discusses his magnum opus The Wealth of Nations. It continues to show how his ideas, thoughts, and observations wer soften taken out of context and re-interpreted for specific goals and aims.

The following episodes then take a critical view on the works of David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, Marx, the heated debate between Hayek and Keynes, and finally Karl Polanyi – who developed the compelling thought that economics should be seen as part of cultural activity.

Read more about the show here. You can also watch the complete series on Youtube:

Image courtesy of https://unsplash.com