9:00 AM to 10:30 AM
1. Civic Media Across World Contexts
Moderator: Evan Lieberman, MIT
Daniel Josephy-Hernández, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, Jorge Rivera-Marin with Ai Tomita “New Japanese Nationalism in Anime”
2. Digital Technologies, Value, and Labor
Moderator: Göran Bolin, Södertörn University
Göran Bolin, Södertörn University, “The reconfiguration of value in data capitalism”
3. Media Power, Ethics, and Truthmaking
June Deery, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “Political Simulation: Media Portrayals of Media in Politics”
This paper will briefly re-cap the history of the media’s role in politics since Teddy Roosevelt and categorize recent political narratives found in British and US media. I will indicate how fiction contributes to our understanding of media-politics and examine how gender, class, and race/ ethnicity are presented in both political and journalistic cultures.
Primary TV texts: Yes Minister/ Prime Minister, West Wing, House of Cards (UK and US), The Thick of it, Veep, Alpha House and A Very British Coup. Primary film texts: All The President’s Men, Tanner ’88, The Candidate, Wag the Dog, Bulworth, Primary Colors, Good Night and Good Luck, In the Loop, and The Post.
The presentation will offer two contemporary cases. First, self-tracking technologies emblematise the ongoing enthusiasm for data-driven knowledge as more objective and empirical – the promise of ‘machines that know you better than you know yourself’. Second, I turn to Alex Jones and the Youtuber ‘The Golden One’ as examples of political disinformers. Here conspiracy is served as a dose of reason and reality, draped in a personal and thoroughly anti-institutional style. Their audience is subsequently monetised through dubious health products: fake news for fake pills.
Across both cases, personal truthmaking romanticises a transgressive, charismatic and individualistic kind of authenticity as the path to reason and truth. Yet the exhortation to know for yourself, whether through the latest smart gadget or by ‘redpilling’ against the lies of the deep state, becomes leveraged to establish a new generation of mediators both human and nonhuman. What is at stake is not only the spread of ‘alternative facts’, but changing social and technological thresholds of what counts as truth and trust online.
Eric Opu, University of East Anglia United Kingdom, “Online Political Activism, Media Literacy and Public Manipulation: The Challenges of Balancing Public Order and Free Speech in the Age of Fake News. Insights from Cameroon”
I examine these questions and the implications these have for internet governance and political participation in Cameroon.
4. Journalism, News, and Civic Participation
Eleni Staiou, University of Athens, “Civic responsibility trends through digital solidarity: the case of Greece during the economic and social crisis”
This paper presents the self-organized social solidarity initiatives (SoSS) that emerged in Greece of the crisis as a response to the problems that arose and could not be covered by the state. The main objective is to discuss how these initiatives have taken advantage of the online tools (website, email, facebook, twitter, youtube) in their quest, what difficulties they encountered when using online media, and if these tools ultimately helped them to achieve more quickly and easily their goals. Finally, using this experience and these data, ten basic principles are suggested regarding the use of digital tools from civic initiatives that lack resources (money or human) in order to organize a professional communication policy.
Michael Epstein, Walking Cinema & Laura Herman, Adobe, Inc, “Location-Based Journalism and Civic Participation”
Aman Abhishek, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Locating Open Source Culture at the Heart of Public Journalism: the case of Wikinews, WikiLeaks & Indymedia”
Chris Wells, Boston University, Kjerstin Thorson, Michigan State University, & Emily Vraga, George Mason University, “Who gets the news now? Contingent information exposure, digital citizens and democracy”
5. Media Infrastructures across Contexts
Michele Ferris-Dobles, University of Costa Rica & University of Illinois at Chicago, “Central American migration and the ‘borderless’ mobile phone”
James Schwoch, Northwestern University, “From the Telegraph to 5G:Wooden Utitility Poles, Woodpeckers, and Media Transition”
Rory Solomon, New York University, “Meshing Well: A Model for Network Politics”
6. Digital Technologies, Welfare, and Human Rights
Mats Björkin, University of Gothenburg, “Computation and the Welfare State: The Development of Digital Public Service in Sweden 1950-1980”
Marc Aidinoff, MIT, “Digitizing Welfare”
Rana Arafat, University of Lugano, “Re-thinking Democratic Divide and Digital Media Usage in Forced Migration Contexts: A Study on Arab Refugees in Switzerland”
The particularity of the case of refugees, who are not allowed to participate formally in the host country’s politics until naturalization while having high restrictions on their out-of-country voting in the homelands they fled, leads to a state of political marginalization that may last for decades. Therefore, a wider understanding of the democratic divide and the internet political usage by refugees still requires further research. Aiming to bridge the gap, the study employs a qualitative data analysis method to come up with deeper illustrations and explanations. 60 semi-structured interviews with Arab refugees in the three main language regions in Switzerland are conducted (20 in Lugano and Chiasso, 20 in Geneva and Neuchâtel and 20 in Zurich and Bern) to dig deeper in their internet and social media usage for political purposes.
The preliminary findings showed strong evidence for the existence of a democratic divide in political internet usage among long-settled Arab refugees in Switzerland. While the majority of the participants showed high digital literacy skills and a big interest in following political news about both their homelands and host countries, three key barriers contributed to creating a new form of democratic divide in the forced migration context including fear of state surveillance, political discouragement/despair and the Swiss citizenship and current residence status. In most of the cases, such factors prevented those interested in politics from expressing their political opinions online or engaging in any online political discussions. This widens the democratic divide between those who use digital media for politics and those who do not causing many refugees to be ‘twice marginalized’, once for not having political rights to participate in the formal state politics in their host countries offline and once for not being able to engage in digital politics online. This double marginalization adds a new aspect for understanding the democratic divide in a more critical situation, opening the door for raising questions about the future of these non-electronic voices that are marginalized from political participation in the age of rising e-governments.
J. Mauricio Gaona, McGill University, “Socio-technological redistribution of digital media: From AI-news and e-policy forums to human rights protection”
In my paper, I argue that Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will correct public trust problems currently associated with social, public, and commercial media. Moreover, since evolutionary algorithms will gradually remove human bias from their source code, AGI will not merely provide greater objectivity but further eliminate natural (psychological) and unnatural (political) distorters of reality—particularly since machines can fact-check better the news they report. Eventually, society will benefit from sharing the same facts from which more intelligent discussions will finally emerge.
Neither commercial nor social media will disappear as this redistribution will push them to become e-policy and reaction forums mainly focused on discussing rather than reporting the news. Still, social media role will regenerate through specialized-emerging functions—this is another critical finding of my research. In fact, my paper shows traditionally neglected social groups using social media across the world to protect their human rights and fight against dissimilar forms of discrimination, oppression, and authoritarianism. This includes political opponents in Venezuela using YouTube to expose crimes against humanity, victims of conflict in Colombia using Facebook and Twitter as transitional justice e-forums, Central American, Syrians, and Rohingya refugees using social media as migration tool, and women in Honduras using Facebook as sociopolitical-accountability tool to stop gender violence and discrimination.
7. Fake News: Past and Present
Ryan Scheiding, Concordia University, Alternative Facts & Atomic Bomb Collective Memory: The Case of John Hersey’s Hiroshima”
When John Hersey’s Hiroshima (1946) was first published as a special issue of The New Yorker it shocked American audiences with its unbridled and haunting description of the effects of the first atomic bomb dropped on civilians.