Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN18_04b: Roundtable: Social Sciences, and Digital environment. From theory to practice
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Thomas Allmer, University of Stirling
Location: UP.4.210
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Fourth Floor Oxford Road

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How Is the Collaboration of Interdisciplinary Studies of Digital Social Science Possible? A Posthumanist Perspective

Chia Rong Tsao

Shih Hsin University, Taiwan

The digital technologies are not only prevalent in everyday life, but also involved in the production of knowledge today. Thus, in addition to the introduction of new tools, researchers in digital social sciences currently experience a fundamental transformation. This study attempts to discuss the transformation from the theoretical perspective of the posthumanism. The author argues that, from the posthumanist perspective, we can elucidate, on the one hand, how the practices and collaboration of the interdisciplinary studies are possible, and on the other hand, how researchers and their digital tools collaborate to produce knowledge. This study takes a social media research team as a case. The team was built with funding from the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan since 2013. The author argues that the researchers are not independent actors anymore. Most of the time, they not only need to cooperate with data scientist, but also rely on the mediating of digital tools. In other words, the author argues that the social media research team, as interdisciplinary cooperation of digital social sciences, is a hybrid network composed of multiple relationships. First, the researchers from different disciplines need to be made interested and be enrolled in the network. Second, from the perspective of the posthumanism, the researchers using digital tools are becoming the "hybrid subjects". It means that the human and the digital tools are not separated ontologically, but becoming intra-related to each other. Besides, third, the digital tools also can "act" to mediate and affect the production of knowledge.

Second Generations And Identity: Between Research And Communication

Laura Di Pasquale, Alessio Ceccherelli, Angelica Spampinato

Tor Vergata, Italy

The study presented in this paper develops in the context of the EU funded project OLTRE (ISFP- 812584) coordinated by the University Tor Vergata, with the aim of reducing the risk of radicalization of young second generation Muslim living in Italy by offering alternative narratives to radicalizing messages. During the project, issues of belonging and identity of second generation Muslim will be explored through in-depth semi structured interviews and communication workshops- using photography, video and digital methods.

This paper will question and blur the line between qualitative research, action research and communication problematizing issues such as representation, knowledge, participation and change in the social sciences. Supported by critical reflections on communication and participation (A. Volterrani 2018) and on visual methods (Pink 2013. and A. Frisina 2016) the paper will compare interviews and communication workshops to show how the self-representation of second generation migrants changes in relation to context and research approach. It will also discuss how research and communication can empower target groups and involve communities/groups in new ways of making futures. The study will show how collaborative methods can provide researchers with opportunities for new knowledge on identity and belonging because of a) the focus on group rather than individuals; b)the capacity of collaborative creative methods to displace historical power relationships. On the other hand, the implications and processes activated during the communication workshops will be considered in relation to the elements that Volterrani (2018) identifies as crucial : sharing, protagonism of the actors, relationality, change, future.

Key words:participatory visual methods, identity, second generations, belonging, communication, participation

Online-Mobilisation Of Right-Wing Actors In Germany

Laura Jaekel, Anja Siegel, Anja Schmidt-Kleinert

Philipps Universität Marburg, Germany

The majority of immigrants from Syria and North Africa is seeking asylum in Europe, and with it in Germany. Since 2014 this influx of migrants has been (made) an issue of concern on the political agendas of democratic and anti-democratic parties Europe-wide, each trying to mobilise the public for their political goals.

In this regard, Germany is not an exemption. The political discourse on migration has shifted from granting asylum towards (national) security and “Islamisation”. Interrelated to that shift in discourse, we have also witnessed reactions of the broader public. All over the country, local, seemingly spontaneous demonstrations against short-term shelters for asylum seekers in their places of residence have appeared. Several demonstrations went violent and ended in physical attacks against refugees, arson on their shelters or attacks against local politicians and supporters. Some events like the knife attack on the mayor of the small city of Altena and obviously the outbursts in the city of Chemnitz last August were even covered by the New York Times. Very often, these protests are organised via social media, like Facebook or Twitter.

Those developments have raised questions with regard to mobilisation strategies of right-wing actors in social media:

Are those event acts organised by established right-wing structures, or spontaneous outbursts of so-called “concerned citizens”, or both? And how do these group-structures influence possible violent dynamics?

What kind of patterns can be observed by looking at their mobilisation strategies and furthermore do they have the potential of becoming consisting political actors?

On what grounds and through which strategies can right-wing collective actors mobilise online milieus and do they have the potential of building new (virtual) social movements?

Communication Studies in Turkey: An Inquiry on Critical Knowledge Production

Safak Etike

Yozgat Bozok University, Turkey

The main problematique of this study is to specify the potentialities and limitations of the recent communication studies in Turkey with respect to the production of critical knowledge of social reality. The object of study consists of the academic communication research in Turkey. The study conducts a methodological analysis of a total of 474 academic studies, which includes 130 Ph.D. theses and 344 academic papers. The findings of the study indicate the basic methodological tendencies of communication studies in Turkey. The study interprets the data collected via content analysis within their historical and social context and discusses the results of the methodological tendencies and the limitations they present to critical knowledge production. The findings reveal that the academic knowledge produced in communication field has crucial limitations for a critical scientific approach.

Hate speech against Muslims on social media in Italy and the United Kingdom. Evidence from European project Hatemeter

Elisa Martini, Gabriele Baratto

University of Trento, Italy

In the last decade, Islamophobia has gained momentum through the use of the Internet. Thanks to new media technologies - including social media platforms and global digital networks - anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim discourses reached a worldwide audience. Internet thus fostered the online or cyber-Islamophobia allowing for a platform to spread a rhetoric where xenophobic viewpoints and racist attitudes towards Muslims are being easily disseminated in the civil sphere. According to Oboler (2016), anti-Muslim hatred is unlikely to remain purely virtual. On the contrary, online Islamophobia is likely to incite religious hatred and xenophobia leading to real world crimes. Moreover, a rise in political extremism seems likely to rise. On the one side a far right, anti-Muslim and, on the other, the radicalisation of Muslim youth responding to social exclusion. Thus, as Larsson (2007) points out, it is important to question to what extent the Internet is being used to spread and foster anti-Muslim opinions in contemporary society. Nowadays, hate speech is on the rise and, with it, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitic and racist messages. These seem to be the result of both the migrant crisis and the terrorist attacks. Using a combination of natural language processing, machine learning and big data analytics, this paper aims to: a) underline the topics and the social network structure of the users involved in online anti-Muslim hatred in Italy and in the United Kingdom; b) make comparisons on online anti-Muslim hatred beyond language borders, thus connecting content in Italian and English.

No Lunch Today?! An Analysis Of The Digitalization Assemblage In Higher Education During A Power Outage.

Cristina Ghita

Uppsala University, Sweden

Digitalization processes are often seen as one of the hallmarks of modernity in Europe, as the EU continuously support the nationwide implementation of digital technologies through policies that allow citizens faster, safer, and increasingly easy access to the Internet. In Sweden, the government supports the use of digital technologies in the personal and professional every-day life, with increasingly available online-based services in such diverse contexts as healthcare, travel, and education. The way communication is conducted in higher education institutions bears the mark of these changes as well as challenges, as digital artifacts are used every day.

As digitally-based means of communicating and working in universities in Sweden are becoming normative, this paper aims at uncovering the ramifications of such practices by studying the sudden inability to use digital technologies for a limited time.

Drawing on new materialism, specifically assemblage theory, this paper looks at the entanglement of material and immaterial components of technology use during a power outage at one of Sweden’s largest universities. Using ethnographic methods such as observations and informal interviews, results show that within the assemblage of higher education digitalization, clear expectations are created in regards to what it means to work, study, communicate, etc. When these common cultural expectations are not met, this assemblage collapses, leading not only to the impossibility to continue work, but also to symptoms of stress and anxiety, as well as creative workarounds.

The “Macerata Case” in the Italian Electoral Debate: Crime, Immigration and Media Logics

Sofia Verza1, Giuseppina Bonerba1, Matteo Gerli2, Rolando Marini2

1Università degli Studi di Perugia; 2Università per Stranieri di Perugia

It has already been explored how electoral campaigns can be shaped by particular events, which enter the electoral debate through the media, focusing the public attention on a particular issue or actor rather than others. The media - always very responsive to such “key” or “trigger events” (Dearing e Rogers 1996; Boydstun 2013)- can impose in the electoral debate some event-related issues. That is what happened with the “Macerata case”, namely a sequence of events that took place five weeks before the 2018 Italian national elections, composed of a murder allegedly committed by Africans and a shooting against migrants.

This study investigates the role played by the press in the electoral debate, considering that some news events can be subject to politicization and emotional transformation, as underlined by studies on the relationships between entertainment and politics (van Zoonen 2005; Baum e Groeling 2008) and the so called “politics of fear” (Altheide 2006 and 2009).

Through the Iramuteq software, we analysed a corpus of 3196 articles, published by 14 newspapers in the last 6 weeks of electoral campaign. The aim of this research is investigating:

a) The evolution of the journalistic attention on the “Macerata case”, compared to the attention for the immigration issue;

b) The evolution of the sub-issues connected to the case, in particular its politicization and the emergence of the “fascism theme”;

c) The association between the issues and the political actors;

d) The segmentation of different newspapers up to their distribution (local or national) and their ideological leaning.

Upside down populism. The Case of European Parliament elections in Romania

Ivan Bogdan Gruia

University of Bucharest, Romania

Recent media reports (e.g. The Guardian, 2018, Nov.20) have shown that populist parties have tripled their electoral support in Europe over the past 20 years, and this fact should be put under serious reflection, as it does not represent an exception, but a mainstream political evolution.

According to academics such as Paul Taggart (Populism, 2003) or Cas Mudde (Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, 2007), the alternation of contradictory messages that cause emotion and anger, highlighting the problems faced by ordinary citizens, outline the profile of populist politicians as "ordinary people" fighting along the people against the "corrupt elites". In Romania, things seem to be similar as in Europe, with several exceptions, which might prove important in understanding this phenomenon. To reveal this differences, but also the similarities, I will empirically analyze how populist and anti-system tendencies have evolved through the social media, and I will test the hypothesis according to which, on the European Parliamentary elections in Romania (May, 2019) both: the traditional and the alternative parties that have recently formed will use populist messages and will approach similar topics.

In testing the hypothesis, I will use a quantitative analysis of a rating scale, through which we will test the frequency of specific “populist” terms used by the candidates of the traditional parties represented in the EP vs the candidates of the new parties or independent candidates.

The survey will be conducted in Romania, between April 1 and May 26, and will include the analysis of official webpages of the parties, and of their social media accounts (Facebook, Tweeter, Instagram, and LinkedIn).

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