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Communication and Political Crisis

Media, Politics and Governance in a Globalized Public Sphere

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Brian McNair

Communication and Political Crisis explores the role of the global media in a period of intensifying geopolitical conflict. Through case studies drawn from domestic and international political crises such as the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, leading media scholar Brian McNair argues that the digitized, globalized public sphere now confronted by all political actors has produced new opportunities for social progress and democratic reform, as well as new channels for state propaganda and terrorist spectaculars such as those performed by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. In this major work, McNair argues that the role of digital communication will be crucial in determining the outcome of pressing global issues such as the future of feminism and gay rights, freedom of speech and media, and democracy itself.
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Chapter 7. Beyond chaos?

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← 164 | 165 →

· 7 ·

BEYOND CHAOS?

Like all previous waves of technological innovation in media, digital technology has created new possibilities for the production of political communication, on the one hand, and the expansion and democratization of its reach, on the other. What individuals and organisations do with this potential, and the control responses of governing elites, cannot be predicted with any certainty; neither can the scale and quality of the political crises which result from a given communication event or cycle. Within a chaos paradigm, political outcomes are not reducible to a single media cause but are determined by a range of factors including the reach and influence of the sources of crisis communication, the skill with which actors communicate and the richness and complexity of the information environment as a whole.

What can be said with certainty is that the information environment has got richer and more complex: more diverse and multi-layered in the information it supplies, and faster, as an inevitable consequence of the technology which forms its infrastructure. Elite control of the public sphere—now globalized and networked through digital channels which did not exist in the past—has been diluted and challenged in ways that were never possible in the age of capital-intensive, centralised, top-down, elite-mass analogue media. ← 165 | 166 →

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