Ralph Schroeder, Professor, Internet Institute, University of Oxford.
Digital media, once seen as a worldwide force for democratization, have recently come to be regarded as promoting populism instead. What role have digital media, including social media, played in the rise and entrenchment of populist politics? This talk will examine populism in a range of countries, arguing that there are similarities in how digital media are used, hence there are global trends. It will also show that different media systems shape the distinctive openings for populist online politics. The talk will focus on Sweden, the US, India and China. It will examine the role of alternative or partisan ‘news’ websites, Twitter, WhatsApp and WeChat, which have played a role in elections and populist agendas and mobilizations. The talk will make comparisons and highlight that there are similarities across these cases whereby digital media are used to challenge traditional media. I will argue that populism cannot be counteracted by means of changes to media, traditional or digital, alone. Instead, the sources underlying the strength of populist politics must also be addressed.
Ralph Schroeder is Professor in Social Science of the Internet at the Oxford Internet Institute and director of its MSc programme. He has authored or co-authored more than 150 papers and his books include ‘Social Theory after the Internet: Media, Technology and Globalization’ (UCL Press, 2018) ‘Knowledge Machines: Digital Transformations of the Sciences and Humanities (MIT Press, 2015, co-authored with Eric T. Meyer), ‘An Age of Limits: Social Theory for the Twenty-First Century’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), ‘Being There Together: Social Interaction in Virtual Environments’ (Oxford University Press, 2010) and ‘Rethinking Science, Technology and Social Change’ (Stanford University Press, 2007). His current research interests include digital media and right-wing populism, and the social Implications of big data.
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