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Communicating with Power


Edited By Cherian George

Communication is ubiquitous and information is abundant. Political and economic markets are more open than they have ever been. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that communication continues to flow across fields where power is distributed unevenly. This collection of articles analyzes and responds to asymmetries of power in a diversity of contexts. They are drawn from presentations at the 2016 Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, held in Fukuoka, Japan. The conference theme presented an opening for scholars from various disciplines and academic traditions to engage with the questions of power at different levels of analysis—from micro sites of power like a doctor’s consultation room, to the geopolitical arenas where nations wage war, make peace, and spy on one another. The resulting collection straddles different methodologies and styles, from survey research to essays. Leading scholars and junior researchers have combined to create a volume that reflects the breadth of communication scholarship and its contemporary concerns.

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Chapter One: The Medium as Power: Information and Its Flows as Acts of War (Sandra Braman)


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The Medium AS Power

Information and Its Flows as Acts of War


There are two common ways in which the phrase “communicating with power” is understood, different in referent. As a characteristic of the communicator, the phrase refers to speaking powerfully (meaning 1). As a characteristic of the directionality of speech, it is about communicating with those who have power, as in “speaking truth to power” (meaning 2). In the digital environment, we have become aware of another possibility: as a characteristic of the medium, communication can be an exercise of power in its own right (meaning 3). With the growing importance of informational power relative to power in its instrumental, structural, and symbolic forms (Braman 2006), this third meaning has come to dominate national security concerns.

Comparative study of the uses of information and communication as national security policy tools in the 20th and 21st centuries makes the rise of communication as power vivid. This chapter offers such a comparison, looking at findings of research on the use of information policy provisions in arms control treaties and treaty proposals through 1989 (up to the point at which the Soviet Union was dismantled) (Braman 1990a, 1991) and analysis of information policy via the application of existing international law to cybersecurity threats as presented in the first edition of the Tallinn Manual, published in 2013 (Braman 2014).1 The differences are profound:...

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