Advancing New Media Research

Published: 
September 14, 2010
By: 
Sean Aday, Henry Farrell, Marc Lynch, and John Sides

Part of the Blogs and Bullets series of publications from the Center of Innovation for Science, Technology, and Peacebuilding, this special report follows an earlier study by
the authors—“Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics” (Peaceworks No. 65)—and is informed by the proceedings from a conference on the same topic held at USIP on July 8, 2010.

Summary

  • New media are powerful but have mixed effects on political organizations. To identify these consequences, we need to continue devising new frameworks of analysis.
  • Knowing more about how new media relate to each other and to traditional media is critical.
  • Being sensitive to the differences between, and relationships among, the various kinds of new media is also important. Blogs are different from text messages, and both are different from social networking sites. Categorizing these media in terms of their form and likely consequences would help advance research and policy.
  • The consequences of new media for political polarization are especially important. Understanding when new media can have the one or the other consequence is key to future research and policy.
  • Better research tools are urgently needed. Although some highly promising tools exist, they need to be developed so that they can parse languages other than English. New tools that can identify the tone of communication would help greatly but would also require major technological advances.
  • The disparity between publicly available data on new media and those held by private companies (or, in some cases, publicly owned companies in other countries) is considerable. Public-private partnerships, or initiatives sponsored by well-respected nongovernmental bodies, are needed to create frameworks that would allow research on the consequences of new media.
  • Studying new media raises a host of complex questions about privacy and accountability. Policy measures, such as encouraging actors to use new media in nondemocratic regimes, raise even more serious questions. Ethical guidelines for new media research and policy are badly needed.

About the Report

Part of the Blogs and Bullets series of publications from the Center of Innovation for Science, Technology, and Peacebuilding, this special report follows an earlier study by the authors—“Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics” (Peaceworks No. 65)—and is informed by the proceedings from a conference on the same topic held at USIP on July 8, 2010. The authors are particularly indebted to Sheldon Himelfarb of the Centers of Innovation for his support and contributions. Sean Aday is an associate professor of media and public affairs and international affairs at the George Washington University (GWU), and director of the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication. Henry Farrell is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at GWU. Marc Lynch is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at GWU and director of the Institute for Middle East Studies. John Sides is an assistant professor of political science at GWU. The authors thank Morgan Dibble, program assistant for GWU’s Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, for his assistance in putting on the July 8, 2010, Blogs and Bullets conference.

 

September 14, 2010