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Article

Gatekeeping, Technology, and Polarization  

Stuart N. Soroka and Mia Carbone

Research on media gatekeeping is focused on the factors leading to a distribution of information in media content that is systematically different from the “real world.” Early gatekeeping work examined editorial decisions, and emphasized the effect that a single editor’s preferences and beliefs could have on the content new consumers receive. The literature has gradually shifted to focus on more generalizable factors, however. These include organization-level assessments of newsworthiness and commercial/economic considerations; broader system-level factors including the impact of dominant ideologies and political and social norms; and common individual-level factors, including a range of cognitive and psychological biases. This article summarizes research on each of these factors, alongside recent work that uses a “distributional” approach to illustrate the gatekeeping process. The tendency for humans to prioritize negative over positive information is one cognitive bias that can be understood as a gatekeeping effect, and so this bias is discussed briefly here as one example of a set of organization-, system-, and individual-level “gates” that have a systematic impact on news content. Negativity is just one example, however. The impact that various cognitive and institutional biases have on news provision and consumption has shifted over time alongside technological change. Sensationalism, violence, and politically divisive content—all of these elements of media coverage can be considered effectively using the gatekeeping metaphor. This is the focus of the penultimate section of this article.

Article

Information and Communication Technology in Crisis and Disaster Management  

Deedee Bennett

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) cover a wide range of telecommunication devices and applications, which facilitate the flow of information. Within crisis and disaster management, these devices and applications may be used explicitly for hazards or crisis detection, information management, communication, situational awareness, search and rescue efforts, and decision support systems. Everything from cell phones and social media to unmanned aerial vehicles and weather stations are used to collect, disseminate, and monitor various types of information and data to provide a common operating picture. ICTs are continually evolving, with new features developed and deployed at a rapid pace. This development has had a unique impact on crisis and disaster management, allowing for real-time communication and situational awareness, as well as novel approaches to simulations and training. With the near-ubiquitous use of some devices, information is also no longer held solely by government or private sector officials; ordinary citizens are also able to contribute to and disseminate information during and after crises. For some segments of the population, this ability to meaningfully contribute is not only empowering but necessary to highlight unmet needs. Throughout the evolution of ICTs, new research and practical concerns have highlighted persistent unmet needs of more vulnerable populations due to growing interdependence and integration across jurisdictional boundaries worldwide. The continued expansion of ICTs will most likely have a profound impact on this field in the future.

Article

Communication Technology and African Politics  

Sharath Srinivasan and Stephanie Diepeveen

From global amplifications of local protests on social media to disinformation campaigns and transformative state surveillance capabilities, digital communications are changing the ways in which politics works in Africa and how and with whom power accrues. Yet while digital information technology and media are relatively new, the role of communication in state power and resistance on the continent is not. The “digital revolution” provokes us to better account for this past to understand a rapidly changing present. From language and script, to print and broadcast, to mobile applications and digital databases, how information is circulated, processed, and stored is central to political power on the African continent. The story of political change in Africa cannot be told without attention to how power manifests with and through changes in the technologies that enable these communication practices. A communication technology perspective on the study of politics in Africa provides a more sober analysis of how power relations circumscribe the possibilities of political change than more normative approaches would. Even so, a communication approach allows for social and ideational factors to mix with material ones in explaining the possibilities of such change. Communication technologies have been central to what political actors in Africa from the precolonial past to the early 21st century can and cannot do, and to how political change comes about. Explorations across time, political era, and technological development in Africa allow us to unpack this relationship. In the precolonial period, across forms of centralized and decentralized political organization, oral communication modalities reflected and enabled fluid and radial logics of authority and power relations. Changes in moral and practical ideas for political organization occurred amid early encounters with traders and Islamic scholars and texts and the movement of people to, from, and within the continent. Colonialism, which heavily focused on narrow extractive aims, required alien central authorities to overcome the vulnerability of their rule through knowledge production and information control. Equally, the same communication technologies valued by colonial authority—intermediaries, print, radio—became means through which resistance ideas circulated and movements were mobilized. In independent Africa, political aims may have changed, but communication infrastructures and their vulnerabilities were inherited. The predicament facing postcolonial governments had a communications dimension. Later, their ability to forge rule through control and allegiance had to contend with a globalizing information economy and demands for media pluralism. A communications perspective on the history of power on the African continent therefore guides a fuller understanding of change and continuity in politics in a digital age by drawing attention to the means and meanings by which legitimacy, authority, and belonging have continued to be produced and negotiated. Transnational configurations of information flows, global political economy logics of accumulation and security, and communicative terrains for contesting authority and mobilizing alternatives have been shown to possess both distinctly new characteristics and enduring logics.

Article

Cyber-Interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election: A Crisis Analysis Case Study  

Brian Nussbaum and Brooke Turcotte

The cyber-interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is part of a growing set of case studies in both the world of election crisis management and cybercrisis management. The 2016 electoral cybercrisis, no matter whether it is possible to determine its effect on the election’s outcome, will likely go down as one of the most effective intelligence operations in modern history. As such, the crisis response to the event—its failures, successes, limitations, and shaping factors—will be studied widely moving forward, as it takes its place among the most important cases of both electoral crisis and cybercrisis management.

Article

Military Learning and Evolutions in Warfare in the Modern Era  

Nathan W. Toronto

The way militaries learn has evolved over time, and the first two decades of the 21st century once again see military learning on the cusp of change. Since the start of the modern era in the early 18th century, military learning has evolved from a focus on technical, tactical skills relevant to specific combat branches to a generalized study of war and warfare that blends theory and practice. These changes have come about in response to developments in human capital, battlefield technology, and warfare, or how military forces fight. The early 21st century has witnessed a new shift in warfare, from networked warfare—in which information is synchronized across location, targeting, and precision guidance systems to find, fix, and destroy the enemy with deadly efficiency—to unconventional information warfare—in which non-state actors have access to many of the same information resources and, combined with cyber capabilities that rely on anonymity and occasional state support, negate many of the advantages of networked warfare. This portends a change in how militaries learn, to patterns of learning that can cope with a battlespace that is potentially omnipresent, where states must incorporate all elements of national power coherently in order to achieve success in war. These changes are evident not only on the battlefield, but also in military schools. The theories of Napoleonic warfare born at the dawn of the modern era seem increasingly inadequate for the realities of modern combat. This calls for the generation of new bodies of knowledge by military officers and other specialists in the field. The notion that war itself is politics conducted by other means is increasingly under threat. Likewise, curricula at military schools bear an increasing resemblance to curricula at academic civilian programs in security studies, leadership, and international relations, and more and more civilians are sitting side by side with military officers in the classroom. Since the end of World War II, the bounds of the battlefield have bled into the traditionally civilian space of information, so the study of war and warfare is no longer the unique province of the military officer. This process has accelerated in the 21st century, and a range of defense analysts, scholars, and policymakers have commented on how military forces prepare to fight.

Article

Power, Conflict, and Technology: Delineating Empirical Theories in a Changing World  

Anthony J. S. Craig and Brandon Valeriano

Technology has been given relatively scant attention in empirical international relations scholarship, despite its obvious importance to issues of military power and global security. Much progress is yet to be made into developing a fuller and more precise understanding of the interaction between technology and international relations. Synthesizing existing research will provide a clearer picture of the state of the field with regards to conceptualizing technology, the proliferation of technology, the technological component of national power, the impact of technology on international relations, the information and communication technology revolution and cyber security, and technology in international digital politics. This synthesis highlights key questions regarding what empirical research has to engage with and provides the first step toward addressing these issues.

Article

E-Participation  

Marta Cantijoch and Rachel Gibson

The study of e-participation is a young and growing discipline in which controversies are vibrant. One of these is the lack of a widely accepted definition of “e-participation.” Online political activities that involve little effort from the participant, such as liking or sharing political content on social media, are particularly divisive. Some scholars are reluctant to label expressive forms of online behavior as political participation. Others argue in favor of an adaptation of previous definitions to accommodate recent technological changes. Levels of engagement in different types of e-participation are increasing steadily over time. While differences between democracies are often stark, the upward trend has been consistent, especially since the emergence and expansion of social media. Whether this means that previously unengaged individuals are now taking part is one of the central questions of the literature on e-participation. To date, research has shown positive but modest results in support for a mobilizing effect. Particularly promising are findings suggesting that online tools are attracting younger participants to the political arena. Online forms of political engagement are often placed in a more general process leading to online and offline political participation. “Lean-forward” models that provide a contextualized understanding of the drivers and effects of e-participation are particularly insightful. In order to provide robustness to some of the questions that remain unresolved, scholars exploring e-participation should consider expanding their methodological repertoires. The trend is toward mixed designs that combine surveys and other forms of data (big data collected from social media or qualitative data).

Article

Systemic Leadership, Energy Considerations, and the Leadership Long-Cycle Perspective  

William R. Thompson and Leila Zakhirova

System leaders, sometimes referred to as hegemons or world powers, emerge based on a foundation of technological innovation and global military reach. To this foundation energy is now added as a third leg of the power stool. It is not a coincidence that observers posit 17th-century Netherlands, 19th-century Britain, and 20th-century United States as the leading states in political-economy terms of their respective eras. The Dutch used peat and windmills, the British married coal to the steam engine, and the United States added petroleum and electricity to coal to fuel a host of new machines. The greater a country’s lead in technology and energy, the more impactful its tenure as the world economy’s lead economy. These leads, nonetheless, do not make their principal beneficiaries into dominant dictators of world politics. Instead, they focus on policing long-distance commercial routes and the global commons, as well as organizing coalitions to suppress perceived threats to the continued functioning of the world economy. Whether this process, which emerged slowly only in the second millennium ce, will continue into the future remains to be seen. It hinges on the prospects for abandoning carbon-based fuels, adapting renewable energy sources, and retaining the ability of one state to maintain a political-economic lead over its rivals for decades as in the past.

Article

Information and Communication Technology, Transparency, and Accountability  

Catie Snow Bailard

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are rapidly, profoundly, and simultaneously changing three structural properties that define contemporary communication systems. How we encode information, the means for transmitting this encoded information, and the networks that determine who can send and receive that information have changed dramatically with the advent of the Internet and mobile technology. Although the political events, outcomes, and behaviors precipitated by the political opportunities created by these ICTs are neither uniform nor automatic, this dramatic reshaping of contemporary information landscapes does have clear consequences for the quantity and range of information available to citizens across the globe. There are also evident effects on the communication costs that are integral to political organization. Additionally, there are indisputable implications for the informational relationship shared by governments and their citizens. Each of these sets of effects creates new opportunities for accountability and transparency in the electoral process and for the processes of governance more generally, in the context of developed democracies but also in developing and non-democratic countries.

Article

Media, War, and Foreign Policy  

Sean Aday

Mass media play an important but often misunderstood role in wartime. Political elites try to marshal support for military intervention (or justify avoiding such involvement) through the press. Media sometimes serve as watchdogs, holding leaders accountable for their claims and actions in times of conflict, but more often appear to act as uncritical megaphones for bellicose rhetoric. The public, meanwhile, has little choice but to see war through the prism of media coverage, placing a great burden on the press to cover conflicts truthfully and thoroughly, a responsibility they sometimes live up to, but in important ways do not. Scholarship about these issues goes back decades, yet many questions remain unanswered or up for debate. There seems to be strong consensus that media coverage of conflict is even more elite driven than is domestic coverage, for instance, yet how much that matters in shaping public attitudes and support for war remains contested. Similarly, research consistently shows that the press shies away from showing casualties, yet the effects of exposure to casualty information and images are still not well understood. Finally, digital media seem to be important factors in contemporary crises and conflicts, but scholars are still trying to understand whether these platforms more serve the interests of protest or repression, peace or violence, community or polarization.

Article

Crisis Governance, Emergency Management, and the Digital Revolution  

Patrick S. Roberts, Shalini Misra, and Joanne Tang

Digital technologies have fundamentally altered emergency and crisis management work through increased potential for role ambiguity, role conflict, distraction, and overload. Multilevel approaches to improve congruence between crisis managers and their environments have the potential to reduce cognitive and organizational barriers and improve decision making. The future of crisis management lies in reducing the misalignment between personal, proximal, and distal environmental conditions.

Article

Research and Development in European Union Politics  

Alberto Quadrio Curzio and Alberto Silvani

The European Union (EU) research policy was founded on the idea of cooperation among countries after the end of World War II, and consequently it has been influenced in increments. But it also has advantages because of its specificity. So the EU becomes not just the simple sum of all the member states’ contributions but something different, based on a variety of scales and actors, including a vision (and sometimes a mission). This is the reason why the research policy should be examined both in its evolution as such and in light of the relevant steps considered crucial for the development. At least three possible approaches are feasible: (a) a sort of vertical reading in historical development; (b) the attention paid to the terminologies used or to the glossary; (c) the focus on keywords and their role in accompanying the choices, in particular the origin and the development of the European Research Area (ERA). The transition from the current Framework Programme Horizon 2020 (H2020) to the new one planned starting from 2021 (Horizon Europe) is a way to integrate the three approaches by analysing the contents in terms of novelties and continuity. The focus on the evolution of the relevance of ERA can be also considered as a way to illuminate the challenges facing European research policy. In fact, the demand for greater collaboration in European research is determined by the increased international competition and the growing role, as a driver, of innovation in society and the economy. This must be reflected in the choices the new Framework Programme must make.