New Media and the Internet – Digital Democracy or Complex Chaos? At Brunel University

New Media and the Internet – Digital Democracy or Complex Chaos?

Starts: Friday 24 May 2013 10:00 am
Ends: Friday 24 May 2013 4:30 pm
Event type Seminar
Location Darwin, Hamilton Centre, Brunel University
Booking Required? Yes
Will Networks solve the world’s problems? Answers from the social sciences and beyond

Workshop 1: New Media and the Internet – Digital Democracy or Complex Chaos?

One of the most salient illustrations of networks is of course the Internet. Indeed, the open architecture of the internet has created unprecedented possibilities for informational flows, social connections, user participation and collaboration. Nevertheless, the internet as a decentralised, self-organising system has been questioned. Can a loose connection of individuals come together to solve common problems via a ‘wisdom of the crowd’ or ‘collective intelligence’? Is the Internet illustrative of networks as ‘swarms’ whereby different ‘particles’ of information suddenly gather around a node and assemble themselves in a particular configuration for a task at hand but then quickly disperse? The internet is involved in producing networked subjectivities which require new modes of grasping collective identities and social connnectivity. For instance, being connected does not necessarily lead to a deepening of social relations or a genuine ‘public sphere’ of communication. This workshop critically explores the informational technologies and emergent structures of the internet in relation to the proliferation of ‘participatory’ new media (Web 2.0, Social Media, interactive online platforms).

Organisers: Barrie Axford (Oxford Brookes University); John Roberts (Brunel University); Sanjay Sharma (Brunel University)

Location: Brunel University – Directions & Campus map:

Room: Darwin, Hamilton Centre

Free event, registration is essential due to limited number of places: Email


10.00am Refreshments: Tea & Coffee

10.30 Welcome ― Sanjay Sharma (Brunel University, Chair)

10.45 Too Much Connectivity ― Tony Sampson (University of East London)

11.45 Microphysics of Network Power and the Brickwall of Reality: WikiLeaks, Chinese dissidents, anti-austerity protests and the Arab Spring ― Athina Karatzogianni (University of Hull)

12.45pm Lunch & Refreshments

1.45 ‘Third Space’ and Networks: a critical evaluation of everyday blogs ― Scott Wright (Leicester University)

2.45 Social dialogue, crowd-sourcing and user participation in the new media: Benefits and challenges from a researcher’s perspective ― Lampros Stergioulas (Brunel University)

3.45 Refreshments: Tea & Coffee

4.00 Closing Round-table Discussion


Speaker Abstracts

Tony Sampson (University of East London)

Too Much Connectivity

A growing number of present-day authors, writing from social science,humanities, network science, economic, and business perspectives, have evoked a past interest in contagion theory by pondering its relevance to the current age. The age of networks, as Hardt and Negri remind us, is synonymous with an age of contagion. Anxieties concerning too much connectivity have indeed become as much a part of internet and web discourse as the many claims made concerning the democratizing power of the network. This is in sharp contrast to the optimism of the early 1990s when cultural theory was quick (too quick perhaps) to point to the emancipating powers of the rhizomatic network. Looking to the social theory of Gabriel Tarde, this talk addresses network contagion by asking three questions: First, what is it that actually spreads on a network? Second, what diagram can be used to grasp the virality of the network age? Third, what, if anything, lies beyond the metaphor of contagion?


Tony D. Sampson is a London-based theorist, writer and Reader in Digital Media and Communications at the University of East London.His ongoing interest in contagion theory is reflected in his recent publications,including The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies from the Dark Side of Digital Culture (2009), which he coedited with Jussi Parikka. His latest book, Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2012. Virality Blog:


Athina Karatzogianni (University of Hull)

Microphysics of Network Power and the Brickwall of Reality: WikiLeaks, Chinese dissidents, anti-austerity protests and the Arab Spring

This approach to explaining, analysing and theorising network activism in relation to these examples relies on the cyberconflict framework (Karatzogianni, 2004; 2006; 2009). Relying on a Deleuzo-Guattarian philosophical standpoint, it draws on media, conflict and social movement theories, network analysis and world-systems perspectives to explain how these symptomatic examples of the crisis of the present politico-economic order have become part of the reason for its survival. WikiLeaks’ internal organizational problems, as well as impact on academic debates for several fields such as International Relations is examined (Karatzogianni 2012; Robinson and Karatzogianni, 2012). The impact of social media on the Arab Spring is considered (forthcoming), while the discourse of Chinese dissidents is looked at as a demand on liberalization rather than democratization (forthcoming), which is not helpful for sociopolitical change in China. Finally, technosocial transformations on agency are theorised as playing a critical role at the level at which dissent is expressed against state and capitalism(s) as a social codes (Karatzogianni & Schandorf, 2012). Overall, these examples are used to engage in a critical discussion, as to which are the reasons network resistances and digital activism have failed in forging social and political change and materializing the Revolutionary Virtual to the extent necessary for a postnational global society relying on ethics, civil association, participatory/direct democracy, ecological and digital commons, and not just neo-liberal aesthetics, which promote profit making and unapologetically small-minded individualism propagated by multinational corporations and defended by disguised cultural protectionisms and patriotic statisms.


Karatzogianni, A. (forthcoming) “A Cyberconflict Analysis of the Arab Uprisings” The Selected Works of Athina

Karatzogianni Available at: [Prepared for Youngs, G. (ed.) Digital World: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights, London and New York Routledge, forthcoming 2013].

Karatzogianni, A. (forthcoming) “Dear Premier I Finally Escaped on YouTube”: A Cyberconflict Perspective on Chinese Dissidents’

The Selected Works of Athina Karatzogianni Available at: Prepared for: Rawnsley, G.D. and Rawnsley, M.Y.T. (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media, London and New York: Routledge

Karatzogianni, A. (2012) ‘WikiLeaks Affects: Ideology, Conflict and the Revolutionary Virtual’, in Karatzogianni, A. and Kunstman, A. (eds) Digital Cultures and the Politics of Emotion: Feelings, Affect and Technological Change. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.


Dr Athina Karatzogianni is a Senior Lecturer in New Media and Political Communication, Director of Media Programmes at the Department of Social Sciences, University of Hull. Athina has authored The Politics of Cyberconflict (2006); Power, Conflict and Resistance: Social Movements, Networks and Hierarchies co-author Andrew Robinson (2010); edited Violence and War in Culture and the Media: Five Disciplinary Perspectives (2012); Cyber Conflict and Global Politics (2009) [all with Routledge]; and Digital Cultures and the Politics of Emotion: Feelings, Affect and Technological Change, co-edited with Adi Kuntsman (2012, Palgrave). Athina has also contributed extensively on theorising cyberconflict, and exploring the potential of ICTs and network forms of organization for social movements, resistance and open knowledge production. Current research focuses on agency and resistance in transnational migrant and digital diaspora networks (for the MIG@NET EU FP7 and towards the research monograph The Real, The Virtual, and the Imaginary State, forthcoming 2014 with Palgrave. Her work can be downloaded in pre-publication form:


Scott Wright (Leicester University)

“Third Space” and Networks: a critical evaluation of everyday blogs

This paper takes forward a new agenda for online deliberation: how political talk emerges in non-political, online “third spaces”. First, the paper will outline the concept of third space (Wright 2012a, b) and engage critically with the concepts of space and networks. Second, it will present a detailed investigation of how people talk about politics on personal, non-political blogs using deliberative criteria to assess whether they constitute a third space. The analysis focuses on 100 randomly selected UK-based bloggers, with quantitative and qualitative content analysis of over 20,000 blog posts and comments, supported by interviews with the bloggers.


Scott Wright is Senior Lecturer in Political Communication at the University of Leicester. In 2012, he was Mid-Career Fellow of the British Academy, and this grant funded his empirical work on blogging. Scott’s research focuses on the nature of political debate online, covering both government-led forums and everyday conversations. He has previously looked at how website design and moderation affects the nature of online debate. He is currently working on the concepts of third space and of super-participation. His work has been published in a range of leading politics and media journals including: Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, New Media and Society, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, and the Journal of European Public Policy.

Background Reading: Wright, S. (2012) Politics as usual? Revolution, normalization and a new agenda for online deliberation, New Media & Society, 14 (2): 244-261


Lampros K. Stergioulas (Brunel University)

Social dialogue, crowd-sourcing and user participation in the new media: Benefits and challenges from a researcher’s perspective

We will explore the potential benefits and the challenges in the use of Web 2.0 social media and interactive social platforms for applications in social dialogue, crowd-sourcing and user participation. Drawing from our experience in current and past research projects, we will discuss conventional as well as more innovative uses of social media, including social/discussion forums, interactive collaborative spaces, blogging and micro-blogging, and we will examine the technical challenges, practical implications and barriers, and the limitations of technology.


Dr Lampros K. Stergioulas is Reader in the Department of Information Systems and Computing at Brunel University, UK. He is a qualified Chartered Engineer. He has held many national and EU Grants in technology enhanced learning, educational information systems, e-learning, human-centred communications and computing, digital literacy, technology Roadmapping, medical and health informatics, information processing, and intelligent systems. He has been principal investigator, and sometimes overall coordinator, in numerous EU projects, including UNIVERSAL, TIME2LEARN, PROLEARN, BASE2, e-Start, OpenScout, iCOPER, TEL-Map, DYRECT, Open Discovery Space, and HOTEL European research projects. Dr Stergioulas is currently serving as Chair–elect of the SIG3.9 Special Interest Group of IFIP on Digital Literacy and e-Inclusion, and is currently coordinating the EU project TEL-Map on the Future of Technology Enhanced Learning and on impact assessment and Roadmapping of digital technologies.

Background Reading:

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