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Philip N. Howard – The New Cold War: Information Policy and Political Rift

Thursday, October 4, 2012
12:30 pm


Sherrerd Hall, 3rd floor open space
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States + Google Map

Food and discussion begins at 12:30 pm. Everyone invited.

There is a new Cold War starting. It does not involve opposing military forces, but it does involve competing ideas about how political life should be organized. The battles are between broadcast media outlets and social media upstarts, organizations have very different approaches to news production, ownership, and censorship. In several countries, this war pits the ruling elites who dominate broadcast media against the civil society groups who flourish through social media. These are not simply information wars between political elites and persecuted democracy activists. There is a deep structural rift between the organization and values of broadcast media and those of social media, and this rift has become a defining feature of political culture in many authoritarian regimes. Digital activism is on the rise globally, and the impact of activist projects grows more impressive year by year. Political tension between the institutions of broadcast media and the new organizational upstarts of social media is significant, yet plays out in similar ways in Russia, Venezuela, and China. Political elites tend to defend the media organizations that already exist, but almost all of the exciting and innovative civic innovation happens online.


Philip N. Howard is professor of communication, information and international studies at the University of Washington. His books include New Media Campaigns and the Managed Citizen (Cambridge, 2005), The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Oxford, 2010), and Democracy’s Fourth Wave? (Oxford 2013). Howard has been a Fellow at the Pew Internet & American Life Project in Washington D.C., the Stanhope Centre for Communications Policy Research in London, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto. Philip holds a BA from Toronto, a MSc from the London School of Economics, and a PhD from Northwestern.