Tagged: media

Mathis Lohaus

International Relations & New Media


In the current issue of Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen (ZIB), four authors discuss International Relations and New Media. To complement the series in ZIB, we’re running a so-called “blog carnival” that deals with the topic. Please head over to zoon politikon to check out what our colleagues have written [in German].

Here, I would like to address two of the four ZIB articles. The first was written by Ali, a former colleague in Berlin, who is a very experienced blogger (and Twitter power-user).

Under the heading “The Republic of Scholars 2.0” [PDF, in German], he argues that academic discourse in less formalized settings (such as social media and blogs) is the modern equivalent of the exchange of letters among scholars in the 17th century. Thus, German-speaking academics should overcome their shyness and catch up to their American and English colleagues, who seem to be more active users of new media. You can find a summary of Ali’s argument on his blog.

Based on conversations Ali and I had last year, I have argued in the same direction:

Does this lead to shared cultural understandings or at least mutual tolerance? Or does the web merely offer a cheap and anonymous way of reinforcing prejudices and being angry at each other? As any self-respecting political scientist will tell you: It depends…

Academic blogging is probably a “most likely” case of a positive effect. After all, we’re talking about a group of people who share similar ideas and practices, are used to cross-border exchange, and have a lot to gain from talking to each other. Yet I am also cautiously optimistic for non-academic political blogs that speak to a general audience. Whenever people are exposed to voices from outside of their well-established “filter bubble”, this is a great chance to learn and understand new perspectives. The internet certainly offers a huge potential in that direction.

The second article is called: “Teaching IR with New Media” [PDF, in English]. Kimo Quaintance (who has a blog, too) advocates the use of tools such as Wikis and blogs in teaching, but also cautions that not all optimistic assumptions about digital natives should be taken at face value:

While students may possess broad experience with e-mail, social networking and mobile devices, this doesn’t necessarily translate into the kind of information literacy or knowledge creation skills useful in academia.

Kimo has some very good, constructive points on how to foster information literacy, collaboration and outreach. I recommend you read the whole piece.

Here I just want to echo his words of caution. Take the following as me playing the devil’s advocate: Under some conditions, I think that the usage of “new media” in teaching can feel artificial or forced. Blog posts instead of essays, web sites instead of presentations? That might work, but we should be careful not to be too optimistic based on our own enthusiasm for the medium.

First, and most generally, if the core elements of the discipline are old-fashioned, teaching might not be the best venue to change things. If the #1 skill to master is writing formal papers, that should be what you (are forced to) practice. But of course this is subject to change and should not be used to kill all kinds of innovation, so I don’t want to over-stress this point.

Second, think about the value added. Model UN and other simulations are useful because they are inductive tools to experience dynamics that might be difficult to understand based on theory alone. Spending many hours to set up a mock NGO website might be interesting, but we have to be sure that it really adds something that could not be learned in a more efficient way. Also, depending on the class, the experience should not overshadow the contents: If after three days of mock conference / web design I only remember how much fun the negotiating / coding was, but nothing about policy issues, maybe that’s a problem…

Finally, how many people do you know that were born in the 1990s and maintain a blog (in the “traditional” sense)? It might be that blogging is completely passé by now and  we’re beating a dead horse. Maybe the easiest way out would be to ask people about their media habits and productivity tools first, see how much desire for change there is, and then make suggestions. Or let people experiment in groups?!

To wrap up: Ali and Kimo have made a number of very good points on the usefulness of new media in the exchange between scholars and for teaching, respectively. I highly recommend both pieces! Again, please consider looking at the other blog posts dealing with New Media and International Relations, and of course the rest of the ZIB issue.

Mathis Lohaus

Links: Coase; End of IR Theory; Spying and Leaks; Twerking and Colonialism


Transaction Costs

  • Ronald Coase passed away on September 2. Here is a brief discussion of his most famous contributions, of which “transaction costs” matter most for political scientists.

The End of IR Theory?

  • In case you somehow missed it: The Duck of Minerva is running a symposium called “The End of IR Theory?” together with the European Journal of International Relations. It spans “twenty-five planned posts consisting mostly of teasers of articles in the special issues and responses to those articles”. Here is an overview of all blog posts, and you can find the special issue here.
  • Steve Saideman offers a related post, looking at the types of theorizing and hypothesis testing that are being published in IR journals. (Also see Wiebke’s posts in this blog.)

Spying and Leaking

“If the US has demonstrably lied to the EU about the circumstances under which it has been getting access to SWIFT, it will be hard for the EU to continue with the arrangement (and, possibly, a similar arrangement about sharing airline passenger data) without badly losing face.”

Twerking and Colonialism

Mathis Lohaus

Links: Good Abstracts, News from the Blogs, Misunderstood Data

Abstract "check list" from the LSE's Impact blog
Abstracts “check list” from the LSE’s Impact blog

Tips & tricks for academics

How to write a good abstract, with some interesting advice on how to manage search keywords. This is part of a bigger series of “how-to” guides by the LSE Impact Blog.

New blogs & new affiliations

“Democracy & Democratization” is a brand new blog by our colleagues at the WZB. So far, all posts have been in German, but I guess it’s going to be bilingual!?

– Dan Nexon will leave the Duck of Minerva (to focus on his new role as ISQ editor), which makes me wonder a bit about the new ideas he had floated earlier…?

– Even bigger news: The Monkey Cage has struck a deal with the Washington Post. Interestingly, the blog will be placed completely outside of the Post’s paywall for the first year. After that readers with US government or education IP addresses will be exempt. And us poor Europeans? Well, if you land on the page after clicking a Facebook or Twitter link, you’ll still be fine.

– Some reflections on that: (1) That’s quite a leaky paywall, isn’t it? I’m curious to see how they will handle advertising. (2) The only ones who are truly screwed are people like me, who are relying on RSS/feed readers. It’s a pity that this great technology is being abandoned in favor of “walled gardens”. (R.I.P. Google Reader!)

Interpreting & Representing Data

– Jay Ulfelder did a post last week on how a data set on the media treatment of mass protest has been misinterpreted, despite the authors’ best efforts to include all relevant caveats:

So now we get a version that ignores both the caveat about GDELT’s coverage not being exhaustive or perfect and the related one about the apparent increase in protest volume over time being at least in part an artifact of “changes in reporting and the digital recording of news stories.” What started out as a simple proof-of-concept exercise —”The areas that are ‘bright’ are those that would generally be expected to be so,” John wrote in his initial post— had been twisted into a definitive visual record of protest activity around the world in the past 35 years.

Mathis Lohaus and Sören Stapel

German Foreign Policy Bingo


On Sunday, September 1st, all major TV channels in Germany will broadcast the first (and only) “duel” between Angela Merkel and her challenger in the upcoming federal elections, Peer Steinbrück. As we have criticized in a previous post, both are not exactly known for their visionary positions on foreign policy.

Nonetheless, we will make sure to watch the show. In particular, we’ll pay close attention to any mentions of foreign policy and international affairs.

And to make things more interesting, we suggest you gather a group of friends for a round of “German foreign policy bingo”! We’ve come up with 24 topics that could be featured in Sunday’s debate and created a set of randomized bingo sheets. Please download, print, and share them with your friends:

German Foreign Policy Bingo [PDF with 12 sheets]

PS. For added fun, turn this into a drinking game! Take a shot for every topic that is mentioned, and prepare a bottle of champagne for the lucky winner (in case the candidates actually talk about foreign policy enough to fill a row on the card).

PPS. Think we missed an important topic? Just create your own version (and share it in the comments if you like)! Our word list for convenient copy & paste: Continue reading

Maurits Meijers

On Dijsselbloem

Why everyone should calm down – and be careful when speaking in their second language

Jeroen Dijsselboem
Jeroen Dijsselboem

The last two days the European media (and markets) were in a state of shock. Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem had supposedly said in an interview with the Financial Times and Reuters that the Cyprus bail-in strategy could be a template for resolving banking crises in the future. The result was a truly Europeanized response.

There seemed to be a great consensus that Dijsselbloem was disquieting the markets, that he is unfit for the job, while he was even labeled as ‘chaos crisis manager’. The Süddeutsche Zeitung noted that the inexperienced, agricultural economist Dijsselbloem should ‘choose his words’ wiser.

Dijsselbloem subsequently published a short statement saying:

Cyprus is a specific case with exceptional challenges which required the bail-in measures we have agreed upon yesterday. Macro-economic adjustment programmes are tailor-made to the situation of the country concerned and no models or templates are used.

Four brief points on this whole charade are in order. Continue reading