How often has the hashtag #paybackthemoney been used on Twitter around Jacob Zuma’s 2015 State of the Nation Address to the South African parliament? Who were the most influential tweeters in the trolling attacks on Serbia’s ombudsman?
These are just two of the questions MeCoDEM researchers tackled in their analyses of social media’s contribution to the dynamics of democratisation conflicts in Egypt, Serbia, South Africa and Kenya. They used “Mecodify” – a tool developed as part of MeCoDEM’s work package “ICTs and democratisation conflicts” – which helps to extract, analyse and visualise tweets in relation to particular events. Mecodify is now available for public use.
As part of the regional dynamics evolving since 2011 Egypt witnessed a temporal opening that was followed by a relapse into autocratic settings. In this context, the media are important spaces for participation and negotiation of civil society and can provide the ground for reconciliation.
The conference offers the opportunity and space for actors from academia, media, civil society, and politics to discuss relevant issues to the media in times of transformation and conflict. Among them are MeCoDEM scholars Gamal Soltan and Yosra Gendi who will give an introduction to media in Egypt, Judith Lohner who will talk about roles, challenges and constraints in conflict journalism as well as Barbara Thomass who will give an overview of public media in a European perspective.
For further information and an overview of the program click here
MeCoDEM had an interesting exchange with media assistance practitioners at the symposium “Media and Media Assistance in Fragile Contexts” in Berlin from 3-4th November. It’s the annual symposium of “FoME” (Forum Media and Development), a network of 16 German organisations active in international media development.
MeCoDEM’s Principal Investigator Katrin Voltmer (picture above) gave the keynote speech in which she discussed the virtues and perils of pluralism, voice, and civil society. Please see below for a slideshow of her presentation.
Gamal Soltan (picture left, 2nd from right) and Ines Drefs (left) spoke about their research findings from interview studies with journalists (see working paper) and media development experts (see policy brief) in a panel themed “Facing ethical dilemmas: Journalists and media development actors in conflict societies”. They were joined by Altaf Kahn (2nd from left), Co-founder of the Competence and Trauma Center for Journalists (CTCJ) in Peshawar. The panel was facilitated by Jan Lublinski (right), Head of Research and Evaluation at DW Akademie.
How do social media, fuelled by the rise of Internet-enabled technologies, play a role in assisting democratic change during times of conflict in today’s digitally connected world?
Conversely, how are social media used to escalate conflicts and aid the formation of extremist networks?
Have the utopian visions — so often presented in the media during the so-called “Arab Spring” — of how social media can trigger political change now transformed into dystopian visions of social media used for surveillance, anti-democratic propaganda and repression?
These are among the central questions to be addressed in a workshop entitled “Social Media, Conflict & Democracy: Utopian Visions, Dystopian Futures and Pragmatic Policies” to be held at the Press Club Brussels on Friday, November 18 (09:00h – 12:00h). The workshop will be of interest to, for example, journalists, scholars, activists, policy-makers, NGOs and think tanks.
Among the keynote speakers at the event is world-renowned Egyptian blogger and journalist Wael Abbas, famous for his outspoken Tweets tackling key issues in Egypt. In addition, a set of other speakers representing three large-scale, transnational EU-funded projects — MeCoDEM, INFOCORE and VOX-Pol — will be showcasing research done in areas related to ICTs, (violent) conflict, democracy and security.
Following the talks and presentation of research, the floor will be open for discussion and debate on one of the most important topics in contemporary political communication.
The MeCoDEM project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 613370. Project Term: 1.2.2014 – 31.1.2017.
Friday 18 November 2016 (9:00h-12:00h)
Registration Conference Hall, The Press Club
09:00h – 09:25h
Welcome and introductions
Prof. Katrin Voltmer, MeCoDEM
University of Leeds
Dr. Dimitra Dimitrakopoulou, INFOCORE
The Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy
Dr. Matti Pohjonen, VOX-Pol
University of Amsterdam
09:25h – 09:40h
Wael Abbas, Egyptian journalist and blogger
09:40h – 09:55h
Lucinda Armstrong, European Commission DG Home
09:55h – 10:10h
10:10h – 10:45h
Findings from the MeCoDEM project:
Introduction Prof. Christian Christensen, MeCoDEM
University of Stockholm
MeCodify: An open source project for extracting and analysing tweets Dr. Walid Al-Saqaf, MeCoDEM
University of Stockholm
Twitter and governance in South Africa Dr. Heather Ford, MeCoDEM
University of Leeds
10:45h – 11:00h
11:00h – 11:35h
Findings from the INFOCORE project
Suggesting an interdisciplinary approach to the study of social media in conflict-ridden societies Asst. Prof. Dimitra Dimitrakopoulou, Principal Investigator WP5 “Social Media”, INFOCORE
Dr. Salome Boukala, Postdoctoral researcher WP5 “Social Media”, INFOCORE The Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy
Challenges in analysing big data in conflict contexts Sergios Lenis, Researcher WP5 “Social Media”, INFOCORE
11:35h – 12:00h
Findings from the VOX-pol project
Comparative mapping of online networks of the EU’s extreme far right and ISIS: Lessons learned for research and policy Matti Pohjonen, VOX-Pol
University of Amsterdam
This paper explores how Egyptian, Kenyan, Serbian and South African civil society organisations (CSOs) use communication and relationships with media to engage in democratic contestation. Individual interviews were conducted with 91 CSO members who participated in the various democratisation conflicts listed in MeCoDEM’s research design. Qualitative analysis was then used to look at how the activists perceived the importance of the media, their efforts to get media coverage, their perceptions of the quality of media coverage of the conflict, and the importance of social media in their activism around these conflicts. Finally, this paper covers the interviewees’ perceptions of democracy and how the conflicts relate to their country’s democratic dispensations.
The study found that key sources of conflict identified by the interviewees included group identity (e.g. religious and ethnic identity) and contestations around notions of citizenship.
Interviewees also identified the distribution and control of power was another key source of conflict – Egyptian, Serbian and South African activists all placed significant importance on networked civil society. Thus, communications among members and with the outside world was key to redistributing power.
However, Kenya’s CSOs saw their power as stemming from the ability to build healthy relationships between different groups of people, and so the primary communication activities centred on citizen education.
Egyptian, Kenyan and Serbian activists viewed regular elections as a key marker of democracy, and the media was correct to focus on such issues. But South African activists suggested that the media focussed too much attention on elections, and not enough given to local participatory mechanisms of listening to citizens.
Across all four countries regular elections, the existence of civil society, and its representation in the media, were not necessarily seen as enough to guarantee stable democracies. While the media provided some space and coverage of civil society activities, CSOs in all countries felt that the media often played a detrimental role in democracy, either by superficial coverage, or by flagrantly highlighting conflict in a way that increased polarisation. Therefore, CSO activities – including their communication activities – could be seen as contesting identity and citizenship, contesting the state, and contesting the media.
The paper applies the concept of ‘mediatisation’ as a theoretical framework to transitional democracies. In doing so it addresses the question of how recent changes in the media environment impact on the dynamics and outcomes of struggles for democratic transition. The argument is based on two propositions: First, mediatisation is best understood as a transformative process that defies clear cause-effect attributions. Second, besides journalistic media as institutions of public communication, communication technologies have also to be considered as a crucial factor that drives the mediatisation of politics, and indeed transitional politics. We conclude by pointing out that mediatisation in emerging democracies is a multi-faceted and often ambiguous process that is shaped by the political, social and cultural context in which it takes place. It thus results in different configurations of the media-politics nexus than in established western democracies, at times serving to strengthen democratic transition, at others to undermine it.
Presents an outline of the concept of ‘mediatisation’, which provides a conceptual framework for understanding how an ever expanding media sphere interacts with and shapes public communication and ultimately the institutional processes of democratic politics. The focus is on aspects of political communication but also brings in technological perspectives of media and communication to broaden the largely institutional understanding of mediatisation in the political communication field.
Discusses the communicative dimension of democratisation – the way in which the communication environment creates opportunities as well as constraints for democratic transformations and how in turn the transition process re-configures public communication.
Addresses questions around the quality of emerging ‘fourth wave’ democracies: to what extent they provide spaces for effective participation and allow for a comprehensive mechanism of accountability. We focus on two aspects of this: the transformation of citizenship and how citizens incorporate media and communication technologies in their activism and how this affects grassroots mobilisation; and the transformation of power and how political leaders and governments adjust to ‘media logic’, thereby giving way to new institutional forms of representation.
MeCoDEM and INFOCORE offered a joint workshop for early career researchers on Tuesday September 6 (all day) at the School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds.
The programme revolved around the topics of media, communication, ICTs in conflict societies and emerging democracies. Participants included PhD students and early career researchers working on this theme. They tweeted from the event using #mediaconflict.
The workshop focused on the link between media and civil and violent conflicts in developing and democratising countries. The workshop was jointly supported by two EU-funded projects, MeCoDEM and INFOCORE. Some of the papers presented at the workshop have emerged from these projects, while others are independent studies with related thematic concerns.
The workshop was hosted by the University of Leeds and jointly organised by Charlotte Elliott and Lone Sorensen. Both are PhD Candidates at the School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds. Charlotte and Lone are also both Research Assistants on WP2 for the MeCoDEM project, and co-coordinators of the MeCoDEM Early Career Researcher Network.
Tanja Bosch, Herman Wasserman and Wallace Chuma presented a paper on “Digital media, democracy and conflict: South African activist perspectives” at the 2016 conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research in July.
Please see below for a slideshow of their presentation:
Barbara Thomass and Ines Drefs gave a presentation on their paper “From parachute training to media ecologies – Conceptual changes in media development cooperation”.
The presentation slides can be found below:
Hendrik Kraetzschmar, Katrin Voltmer and Nebojša Vladisavljević presented a paper on “Democracy as Discourse – Interpretations of democracy in Egypt, Serbia and South Africa” at the 24th World Congress of Political Science in July 2016. Please see below for a slideshow of their presentation:
Ines Drefs and Barbara Thomass gave a presentation on their paper “Development Cooperation in Conflict Societies: The Role of Media Assistance Organisations”. Below are there presentation slides:
The paper explores the concept of hate speech, both theoretically and within the context of the MeCoDEM project’s four country case studies: Egypt, Kenya, Serbia and South Africa. Instead of seeking to provide an objective definition of hate speech, the paper’s empirical approach highlights that context matters. More specifically, analysis of the political and socio-economic context in which the speech act occurs and consideration of the nature of the speaker and audience – including their impact and transmission – allows for a nuanced and informed approach to evaluate hate speech, and how this impacts democratisation processes.
The paper presents:
A general discussion of freedom of speech and its relationship with hate speech;
A brief discussion on the definitions of hate speech and international legislation;
A short discussion of hate speech in the four country contexts of the MeCoDEM project: Egypt, Kenya, Serbia and South Africa.