Ben O'Loughlin

Ben O'Loughlin
Royal Holloway, University of London | RHUL · Department of Politics and International Relations

About

105
Publications
34,355
Reads
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Introduction
I conduct research on power and influence in international relations. My focus is on the role of communication and technology as the conditions through which power and influence operate in the 21st century. I advise policymakers, media organisations, NGOs and academic bodies on how to act strategically in this environment.
Additional affiliations
April 2019 - March 2020
Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences
Position
  • Thinker of 2019 Disinformation & Democracy
February 2017 - March 2017
Canterbury Christ Church University
Position
  • Professor
September 2016 - December 2016
University of Bologna
Position
  • Fellow

Publications

Publications (105)
Book
Forging the World brings together leading scholars in International Relations (IR) and Communication Studies to investigate how, when, and why strategic narratives shape the structure, politics, and policies of the global system. Put simply, strategic narratives are tools that political actors employ to promote their interests, values, and aspirati...
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This study examines social media responses to the 13 November 2015 Paris attacks by the Islamic State. First impressions of over 2,000,000 tweets containing hashtags #PrayforParis and #PrayforSyria suggested a conflation of three issues: (1) Migration: were the attackers homegrown or carrying overseas passports? (2) Violence: why was Paris attacked...
Article
The use of social media for sharing political information and the status of news as an essential raw material for good citizenship are both generating increasing public concern. We add to the debates about misinformation, disinformation, and “fake news” using a new theoretical framework and a unique research design integrating survey data and analy...
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This article is based on multilingual research that analyses the British Council Shakespeare Lives programme. Based on a study of the global Twitter campaign to promote the programme, and a manual coding and analysis of 4,722 tweets in five languages, we investigate the key Twitter actors, topics and types of engagement generated by the campaign. W...
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This article examines public debates about disruption to the media regime of Western democracies precipitated by the Trump and Brexit elections. Delli Carpini and Williams introduce the media regime concept to explain how media and politics in a given era hold together structurally and are superseded. This article highlights what conditions for pub...
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The concept of everyday insecurity was developed to explain people's lived experiences in the wake of 9/11 and 7/7 and the perceived threat of terrorism. This article develops the concept to investigate the everyday insecurities experienced by young Londoners in the wake of the financial crisis and climate crisis. We employ innovative youth-centred...
Chapter
Can an international organisation construct and deploy an effective strategic narrative? The European Union has relied on a strategic narrative from its inception to the present day. This narrative has aimed at building support within Europe for deeper integration and sought to forge influence internationally. Over the years this narrative has shif...
Chapter
This final chapter reflects on the arguments made in this volume and considers how strategic narrative analysis can offer analytical traction to study the future evolution of EU–China relations. We outline how the chapters in this volume have explored how Chinese narratives are presented in European news media—and how European narratives about Chin...
Book
This book explores the emerging EU-China relationship with a focus on the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative. It takes a narrative approach to understanding the EU-China relationship as a means to highlight how scholars in the EU and China interpret the narrativization of EU-China bilateral relations and to how this bilateral relationship is re...
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To see war as post-digital is to see how digital innovations have already been integrated into how militaries, media and societies wage, resist and understand war. Digital war is already historical. The logics of digital technologies have been integrated into the logics of pre-existing, traditional media and into long-standing geopolitical and mili...
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This article explores the role of visuality and narrative in the forging of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the United Nations Security Council P5 + 1. We advance strategic narrative theory by explaining how narrative alignment between longstanding antagonists can occur through protagonists’ coordination of communication – a methodology of o...
Book
Spaces of War, War of Spaces provides a rich, international and multi-disciplinary engagement with the convergence of war and media through the conceptual lens of 'space'. 'Space' offers a profound, challenging and original framework through which notions of communication, embodiment, enactment, memory and power are interrogated not only in terms o...
Article
This article analyses the proliferation of imaginaries of ‘revolution’ present in global media around the October Revolution’s 100th anniversary in 2017. The October Revolution stands alongside the French Revolution as a model that has guided sense-making about revolutionary moments since. Yet this anniversary fell against a backdrop marked by a se...
Article
This Special Issue seeks to better understand the role of communication and perception in EU crisis diplomacy. In a recent Special Issue in this journal, Catarina Kinnvall, Ian Manners and Jennifer Mitzen argue that, “ … the greatest security challenge facing people across Europe is not physical, despite the threats of Putin and ISIS, but is a sens...
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Analysis of narrative can help identify the expectations actors hold about each other in international relations. This article triangulates a mix of elite interviews, media content analysis and an original Q-sort public opinion methodology to map the presence of narratives about EU relations among young Israelis and Palestinians. Our aim is not to...
Article
Terrorism coverage has traditionally referred to mainstream media coverage of terrorism, but the ability of citizen‐users to upload, share, and report on terrorism themselves expands the phenomenon. This entry maps this change and the way it affects how terrorism coverage is understood and researched. Terrorism is a communicative act, thus terroris...
Chapter
After an Obama administration committed to ‘unclenching fists’ in diplomatic affairs, global media have reported President Trump using his hands to greet leaders with vigour and aggression. These diplomatic encounters are conceptualised as standoffs: moments of uncertainty when nobody knows what will happen, including the people shaking hands. As s...
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In 1947, the United States of America launched the European Recovery Programme to support the post-war reconstruction of Europe. The Marshall Plan, as it became known after U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, was one of the major success stories of US foreign policy in the twentieth century. The notion of an EU Recovery Programme for Ukrain...
Chapter
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CVE is hot; digital CVE is hotter still. As the US replaces the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications with another new CVE hub, the Global Engagement Center, other Western governments follow suit in building teams charged with countering the narratives thought to radicalise individuals and groups into violence. Officials seek to “con...
Article
This article explores the tension between religious and political motivations in the strategy of Islamic State. It develops the Arendtian model of politics as a space of appearance through the work of Silverstone, Devji and Cavarero to consider how Islamic State exhibits itself in this space using religious modalities. This space is conceptualized...
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This article takes a strategic narrative approach to explaining the current and likely future contestation between Russia and the West. We argue that Russia projects a strategic narrative that seeks to reinforce Russia’s global prestige and authority, whilst promoting multilateral legal and institutional constraints on the other more powerful actor...
Research
Full-text available
Written submission by the New Political Communication Unit to the UK Parliament Culture, Media and Sport Committee's 'Fake News' enquiry in 2017.
Article
Dual screening during televised election debates is a new domain in which political elites and journalists seek to influence audience attitudes and behavior. But to what extent do non-elite dual screeners seek to influence others, particularly their social media followers, social media users in general, and even politicians and journalists? And how...
Article
The EU has consistently struggled to forge a foreign policy narrative which promotes internal cohesion and supports the EU's efforts to exert international influence. The 2016 EU Global Strategy is the latest iteration of collective efforts to tie strategy and purpose to the EU's coherent identity in the world. This study compares the EU's strategi...
Chapter
In the short story Pascale’s Sphere Borges wrote, ‘universal history is the history of a few metaphors’. The history of world politics certainly seems marked by a few recurring concepts and metaphors: the universal and the particular, the inside and the outside, the balance of power, and the ideal of symmetry and actuality of chaos. Across eras, th...
Research
Full-text available
Journal of Information Technology and Politics, 2015
Article
Dual screening—the complex bundle of practices that involve integrating, and switching across and between, live broadcast media and social media—is now routine for many citizens during important political media events. But do these practices shape political engagement, and if so, why? We devised a unique research design combining a large-scale Twit...
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After Broadcast War and Diffused War comes Arrested War, the latest paradigm of war and media. Each paradigm coincides with a discrete phase of mediatization. This article explains how war and media operated during each phase, describing the key characteristics of war, the form and nature of the prevailing media ecology, and how power was exercised...
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In London, Washington DC and Brussels, 'information warfare' has returned to policy-makers' lips of late. The concept is used in the framing of Western efforts to counter and overcome the persuasion campaigns of Russia in Ukraine and ISIS's targeting of potential Western recruits. It is not simply that Russia's 'hybrid war' model might be destabili...
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Sarah Sharma's new volume demolishes the vanity and conceit of those who argue that a properly political response to an accelerating culture is to slow down. Life is already slow for most people. It is slow for the mass of cleaners, taxi drivers and security guards whose repetitive labour is the very condition upon which a sped-up life can be lived...
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The 'Tweeting the Olympics' project (the subject of this special section of Participations) must be understood in the context of efforts by host states, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other actors involved in the Games to cultivate and communicate a set of meanings to audiences about both the Olympics events and the nations taking pa...
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Victory by Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen in the 400 metre individual medley at the London Olympic Games provoked instant and controversial reactions. BBC presenter Clare Balding immediately linked Shiwen to doping. If 'trolling' online is the deliberate upsetting of audiences to trigger debate and reflection, was Balding trolling? Her comments triggere...
Chapter
Two-screen viewing is becoming a regular activity as citizens watching television share their thoughts online in real time about the programme they are watching, particularly during political and media events. This chapter surveys research to date to identify what difference this makes to the quality of political debate, to political behaviour and...
Article
Social media monitoring in politics can be understood by situating it in theories of public opinion. The multimethod study we present here indicates how social media monitoring allow for analysis of social dynamics through which opinions form and shift. Analysis of media coverage from the 2010 UK General Election demonstrates that social media are...
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Soft power in its current, widely understood form has become a straitjacket for those trying to understand power and communication in international affairs. Analyses of soft power overwhelmingly focus on soft power ‘assets’ or capabilities and how to wield them, not how influence does or does not take place. It has become a catch-all term that has...
Chapter
An alternative and possibly more apt title for this chapter might well be ‘1936 and all that’, a veiled reference to Sellars and Yeatman’s humorous history of England which contained a list more fanciful and cliche-bending answers that students had given in examinations. For our purposes, perhaps the most instructive example to be found in that vol...
Book
Communication is central to how we understand international affairs. Political leaders, diplomats, and citizens recognize that communication shapes global politics. This has only been amplified in a new media environment characterized by Internet access to information, social media, and the transformation of who can communicate and how. Soft power,...
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This article examines two cases in which political groups sought to harness the new media ecology to mobilise and justify acts of violence to public audiences and to supporters. In each case, a woman's suffering is presented and instrumentalised. However, the new media ecology offers an increasingly irregular economy of media modulation: digital fo...
Book
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This book examines the circulation and effects of radical discourse by analysing the role of mass media coverage in promoting or hindering radicalisation and acts of political violence. There is a new environment of conflict in the post-9/11 age, in which there appears to be emerging threats to security and stability in the shape of individuals an...
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During the last decade, a media-security nexus has emerged that has exacerbated pervasive feelings of the precariousness of citizenship among British Muslims. Legally, citizenship became reversible while political and media discourses and religious discrimination compounded by racism created deep unease about belonging, identity and the very possib...
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We analyse Twenty20 cricket tournaments as media events, a particular social process with its own logic, function and effects. In Dayan and Katz's original formulation, media events enable a society to assemble, reflect on and legitimate its establishment institutions. Through a global mediatized event in space/time, Twenty20 creates a focal point...
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This paper advances the study of microblogging and political events by investigating how one high-profile broadcast acted as a stimulus to real-time commentary from viewers using Twitter. Our case study is a controversial, high-ratings episode of BBC Question Time, the weekly British political debate show, in October 2009, in which Nick Griffin, le...
Article
This paper explores how citizen-users think and communicate about public opinion polling through an analysis of tweets published during and just after the 2010 UK General Election leaders' debate broadcast on Sky News on 22 April 2010, the second of three debates. For those who comment on events in real time through social media such as Twitter, a...
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The term radicalization proliferated in official and media discourses in the UK in 2005 and has become an anchoring concept in debates about jihadist-inspired political violence. This article presents original research from an investigation conducted in the UK and France in 2008–09 to elicit how audiences understand the term and concept of radicali...
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While terrorism informatics research has examined the technical composition of extremist media, there is less work examining the content and intent behind such media. We propose that the arguments and issues presented in extremist media provide insights into authors’ intent, which in turn may provide an evidence-base for detecting and assessing ris...
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Digitization creates an ontological challenge to broadcast-era metaphors (gate, channel, flow), not least to understandings of who news gatekeepers are, where gates lie, the presumed audience, community or culture gatekeeping is done for, and what it means to gatekeep. Analysing how jihadist speeches by bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri and others are transla...
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Belief that images have become the critical ‘weapon’ in contemporary warfare has enjoyed great currency in the past decade. This belief rests upon certain understandings about the impact visual footage of terrorist attacks or still images of the abuse of prisoners have had on public opinion in different parts of the world. These understandings, in...
Article
This paper explores how citizens-users think and communicate about public opinion polling through an analysis of tweets published during and just after the 2010 UK General Election leaders’ debate broadcast on Sky News on 22nd April 2010, the second of three debates. For those who comments on events in real time through social media such as Twitter...
Book
The trinity of government, military and publics has been drawn together into immediate and unpredictable relationships in a "new media ecology" that has ushered in new asymmetries in the waging of war and terror. To help us understand these new relationships, Andrew Hoskins and Ben O′Loughlin here provide a timely, comprehensive and highly readable...
Article
News reporting of terrorism, in the form of security journalism, faces a set of challenges to the functions it serves as a result of both its own practices and the changing practices of news consumers. Security journalism performs some predictable functions, namely the regular delivery of representations of terrorist threats to a presumed national...
Chapter
Full-text available
Great powers use strategic narratives to establish and maintain influence in the international system and to shape the system itself. This is particularly the case in periods of transition in the international system when challengers to hegemonic powers emerge. Strategic narratives are an important tool which must be considered alongside material r...
Article
This article presents research from a three-year study of shifting understandings of threat and security in Britain following the 2003 Iraq War. We develop the case for a more integrated and nuanced approach to studying the relationship between policymakers, media practitioners and media publics given the increasing importance of these relationship...
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This article offers an account to terrorism and security studies of radicalisation as a discursive phenomenon delivered and constructed by news media. In our mediatised lives the ubiquitous recording of our activities and opinions means we may be inadvertently pre-mediating a later category of criminality which can be imposed retrospectively on wha...
Book
Television is a medium of terror. Stories and images of mostly distant violence and bloodshed are streamed continuously into our homes, penetrating our senses of personal and collective safety. And yet the journalism of terror is also the journalism of security. Television, as it delivers daily the spectre of endless terror and violence, also rescu...
Article
This article is about political representation and representative claim making, taking as its backdrop the ongoing public controversy and disaffection concerning the British government's policy and conduct in the ‘war on terror’. We investigate ethnographic-style data that chart the responses of citizens to foreign and domestic policy in the war on...
Chapter
The purpose of this chapter is to offer an alternative understanding of media—policy relations or the ‘CNN effect’ to that which has dominated existing political science approaches. In doing so, we show how our alternative ethnomethodological approach can shed more light on the original matter of concern. Hence, before we analyse media events, we m...
Chapter
Television relies upon history and the past in reporting the present. Thanks to growing archives of footage, television can mix together images and stories from the past to instantly frame the present and indeed the future. In fact, stories from the past are increasingly stories from television’s past. The history of the medium itself can be mapped...
Chapter
A key contention in recent writing on the subject of media and war is that an unprecedented ‘chaos’ has arrived now that technology enables the production and dissemination of images anywhere, instantly, by journalists and non-journalists alike (McNair, 2006; Tumber and Webster, 2006). Images such as those from Abu Ghraib, or of the Iraqi twelve-ye...
Chapter
In examining the television interaction order and the relationship between on-screen interactions and the off-screen perceptions of security of audiences and policymakers, the role of drama and documentary is particularly interesting. Woven into the schedules alongside news, these formats present renderings of many of the security salient events co...
Chapter
At stake in many public debates surrounding security before and particularly after 11 September 2001 has been the veracity of definitions of terror threats. Why are there always such differing viewpoints about the ‘reality’ of threats? Why, in August 2006, did British Home Secretary John Reid (2006) feel the need to bluntly say that critics of anti...
Chapter
Discussions of security issues have featured notable conceptual innovation since 11 September 2001. Concepts such as ‘War on Terror’ and ‘long war’ have been created, while concepts such as ‘WMD’ and ‘rogue states’ have moved from policy discourses into the public vernacular. For nation-states, a ‘new’ security dilemma has replaced an old one,1 and...
Chapter
Television news discourse is in crisis. The technological and textual transformations in twenty-first century television are inseparable from the post-9/11 environment of insecurity. Television’s economy of liveness and visually intensive interaction order is at the centre of new media and security ecologies that have marked the new century. The re...
Chapter
Time is at the centre of our understanding of the relationship between television news, television per se, and the culture within which television content is produced. In the weather commercial above, CNN appeals to viewers with reference to different temporalities. It offers ‘real-time’ weather reports, ‘historical perspective’, and ‘forecasts’ of...
Article
Since its election in 1997 the New Labour government in the UK has initiated an ambitious and wide-ranging public policy programme for information and communication technology. The authors of this article consider how an analysis of political ideology can help to understand and explain these policy developments. The case is made that New Labour's d...
Article
This paper addresses three issues: the potential trade-offs of democracy and liberty that the Internet may produce, the connection between real life and cyberspace, and the consequences for the conceptual apparatus of political science. It is argued that the Internet and real worlds are entwined, and thus classic political trade-offs remain pertine...

Projects

Projects (2)
Project
To conduct a comparative trans-national study to identify the range of perceptions among youth in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine about the state of Ukraine-Baltic relations. The project is led by the National Centre for Research on Europe (NCRE) of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and its partners are Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Vilnius Institute for policy analysis, Taras Shevchenko National University in Kiev, Queen’s University in Belfast, Royal Holloway, University of London, Tallinn University of Technology and Latvian Institute of International Affairs.
Project
The Stratnarra project is collecting survey, diary and interview data on news consumption and the reception of conflicting 'strategic narratives' among Ukrainian audiences. It aims to shed light on how governments manage (or fail) to exert influence via mass communication in contemporary international relations. Stratnarra runs from September 2015 until August 2018; it is funded by a fellowship from the European Commission's Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship programme.