Sousveillance, Media and Strategic Political Communication: Iraq, USA, UK aims to understand the limits of control over Strategic Political Communication (SPC) in the newly emerged era of web-‐based participatory media (‘Web 2.0’) across the first decade of the twenty-‐first century. In the era of top-‐down media (pre-‐Web 1.0), challenging elite control over SPC through the media was difficult practically, due to the technical expertise needed; the high costs of producing and distributing media content nationally and globally; and the fact that organised resistance attracts state attention and retaliation. Correspondingly, resistance tended to be limited to groups who relied on (and therefore understood) the mass media to propagate their demands and stances to the wider public, thereby exerting pressure on decision-‐makers. Such groups ranged from media-‐aware Non-‐Governmental Organisations (NGOs), like Greenpeace, to terrorists. However, as the media environment rapidly changes in the era of Web 2.0, the ability of governments to control information is being strongly and continuously challenged through the ‘digitally active masses’ rather than momentarily subverted at the margins by the few. As the democratisation of media production has become more actualised in Web 2.0, and as convergence causes more ‘linking up’ between web-‐based participatory media and mainstream media, we enter a media environment of complexity, chaos and populism, taxing the control exercised by strategic political communicators.
Drawing on six empirical case studies, I theorise challenges to governments’ control over their SPC in Web 2.0, focusing on the neglected concept of sousveillance. This concept was originally developed by Canadian inventor and academic, Steve Mann, to explore the philosophical and techno-‐social issues arising from technologies he invented for human-‐centered capture, processing and transmission of sensory information – such as wearable computing and wearable cameras. In contrast to the much-‐researched concept of surveillance, which entails watching from above by a higher authority, sousveillance entails watchful vigilance from underneath – coming from the French words for ‘sous’ (below) and ‘veiller’ to watch (Mann et al., 2003 p.332). In Mann’s formulation, sousveillance may consist of hierarchical sousveillance (with politically disruptive intent, taking a stance against the surveillance state) or personal sousveillance (human-‐ centred capture, akin to life-‐sharing). I posit that sousveillance helps explain why people participate in the social practices that constitute Web 2.0, focusing on their pleasure and personal empowerment derived from sharing their lives with others, and in taking a stance against the surveillance state.
Uniquely, this book explores the interplay between SPC and souveillance across three countries with different traditions of media manipulation and surveillance, and that have had their interests publicly intertwined across the first decade of the twenty-‐first century -‐ namely Iraq, the US and the UK.