Posts By / Darren Lilleker

CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS Two-day workshop: Politics in a post-truth era


Two-day workshop: Politics in a post-truth era

10th – 11th July 2017, Bournemouth University

The concept of post-truth, where facts are deemed less important than beliefs, is one that has recently been frequently invoked when making sense of the modern political campaigning environment. The suggestion is that political campaigns exploit and reinforce strongly held beliefs, encouraging the disavowal of contrasting facts, in order to undermine support for the arguments of opponents.

Post-truth has become most associated with campaigns that invoke more populist arguments. Such arguments give voice to privately held beliefs, often hidden by norms of societies which reinforce pejorative stereotypes based on religious and racial differences, gendering of roles and discussing myths of us (as a nation and people) and the others whose differences mark them as not us. Hence there are far-reaching implications of such practices for democratic societies.

The workshop will explore the underlying themes and implications of this phenomenon.


1) Is post truth really new, or simply a synonym for the exaggerations and spin long associated with the techniques of political campaigns? Or have political campaigns been proven to lie more?

2) What does a post-truth campaign look like, how is the communication constructed to tap into belief systems and feed the dynamics of a post-truth (belief-based) political environment?

3) Why might beliefs have more power in influencing voting behaviour than more fact, logic or reason based arguments?

4) How does post-truth link to the models of a marketised and professionalised campaign environment?

5) What does post-truth tell us about the current and future state of democratic engagement and of democracy itself?


Contributions need not be full papers, rather informed arguments that promote discussion – although they should have the potential to be full or part papers. The workshop seeks to tease out what post-truth means, how this is encouraged during political campaigns, its root causes, impacts on election outcomes and, importantly, what are the implications for democracy.


The longer-term aim is to develop an edited collection of work that would include solo-authored or joint publications from participants that address these questions. The volume will be published in the Palgrave series Political Campaigning and Communication.


The event will be held on July 10th and 11th with a workshop dinner on the evening of the 10th. There will be no attendance costs – the venue, refreshments and evening meal will be covered jointly by funding from the Centre for Politics and Media Research and the PSA Political Marketing Group.  Participants should expect to cover travel and accommodation. The venue will be the Bournemouth University’s Executive Business Centre close to Bournemouth train station.


Interested participants should propose their participation by offering a short 200-300 word abstract that summarises the main points of the argument, case studies and evidence drawn upon and the broader socio-political implications into which their argument offers insights. The deadline for abstracts is 1600hrs GMT on Friday 6th April 2017. Please email them to

Publication of: Politics, Protest, Emotion: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. A Book of Blogs

Pol.Prot.Emot.The Centre for Politics and Media Research is pleased to announce the publication of “Politics, Protest, Emotion: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. A Book of Blogs”, edited by Paul Reilly (University of Sheffield), Anastasia Veneti (Bournemouth University), and Dimitrinka Atanasova (Queen Mary, University of London).

The origins of this book of blogs can be traced back to “Politics, Emotion and Protest,” an interdisciplinary workshop co-hosted by Bournemouth University’s Centre for Politics and Media Research and Civic Media Hub, the Department of Media & Communication at University of Leicester, the Politics and Media Group of the Political Studies Association, and the Protest Camps Research Network. This event, held on 9-10 July 2015, brought together researchers from a variety of disciplines in order to discuss the intersections between power, politics and emotions.

The publication features contributions from 37 academics across the globe. It presents a range of disciplinary perspectives on politics and emotions, including the fields of computer science, (digital) media studies, journalism studies and political science. Drawing on a range of case studies such as the 2016 Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament march in London, the movement against TTIP-TAFTA and, health activism such as “I Want PrEP Now”, the contributors provide new insight into the affective turn in protest and social movements.

Dr Paul Reilly said: “The purpose of this volume is not to offer conclusions or recommendations for those readers interested in the affective turn in protest and social movements. Rather, it is hoped that these blogposts provoke debate and reflection in relation to how everyday and extraordinary political actions has become infused with emotion. We would like to thank all of our authors for contributing to this conversation on Politics, Protest and Emotions.”

The book of blogs is divided into five main thematic categories: Politics, emotion and identity performance; Emotion and the news media; Women, politics, activism; Digital media and the politics of protest; Health, emotion, activism.

This open access publication can be accessed online here or downloaded as a  pdf.


If you wish to obtain an EPUB version (suitable for Nooks, Kindles and other e-readers) then please email

Post-Doc Research Opportunities in Politics at BU

The Centre for Politics and Media Research in the Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University welcomes interest from recently qualified post-doctoral researchers to come and work in the Centre as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow.

Research projects of interest are:

  • Political talk and the online public sphere
  • Global citizenship, public engagement with global affairs and political participation (particularly engagement via digital media)
  • The media framing of politics and its impacts
  • The politics of public space
  • Extremist politics, security and social cohesion, fundamentalism, freedom of speech

Specialist skills training we can offer at Bournemouth University:

  • Quantitative and qualitative methodologies
  • Web platform and social media data capture and analysis
  • Mass media data capture and analysis
  • Psychological and sociological approaches to the study of politics
  • Consumer behaviour/psychology approaches to the study of political participation

Full details about the call can be found at the below link.

Initial expressions of interest should be sent to the Centre Director, Dr Darren Lilleker ( including a summary of the proposed research project and accompanying curriculum vitae.

The planned opening of the call is April 12th 2016 with a submission deadline of 14th September 2016.

Is bid writing a waste of time and money

Writing for the Alternative Democracy Research website Jan Blommaert offers a very interesting and controversial perspective on bid writing. His claim is that it is large a waste of time and public money. His case relates to his participation in a Horizon 2020 bid consortium, the production of the bid he estimates having taken hundreds of man hours, but the stream could only fund two projects. The fact that 147 were submitted meant that independent of quality 145 of which could be deemed excellent but could not be funded.

One might consider this argument as sour grapes on the part of a member of a team whose project was deemed excellent but could not be funded. But there is a serious point here. If the hours taken up by bid writing were re-channelled, would more valuable research be done. In other words if the 100+ hours of manpower devoted to writing bids were monetized would this be seen as an ineffective way to expend resources and instead the funds were used to support actual data gathering. It is an interesting thought. Much research entered into the REF in the UK is deemed excellent, what percentage of that is funded research is unknown. If research does not have to be funded to be excellent, and if bid writing detracts from research in order to meet arbitrary targets is this a misallocation of valuable resources. This argument may be particular prescient for social science where funding is less available yet no less important.

The thought here is whether academics explore ways to minimize costs of research that still answer important research questions rather than constantly seeking funding. It is a thought.


Civic political engagement in the new digital era: Paris 24-7 June 2014

The grand international conferences attracting up to 1,000 academics are highly prestigious, however the opportunities to find academics in a field, talk in-depth about approaches, concepts, methodologies, data and future ideas is constrained by the size and scale. Hence BU collaborated with Science-Po (Paris) and Sciencecomm (Audencia Nantes) to bring together scholars whose work has a specific focus on online political engagement in order to explore current thinking and investigate avenues for collaboration. The event #CPE2014 ( attracted 34 participants; some very established some just starting out in a research career, some invited some who submitted abstracts speculatively following the call. What connected the works was the objective of conceptually and empirically determining what engagement and participation means in the age of ubiquitous digital media.

The keynotes from Rachel Gibson (Manchester, UK) and Bruce Bimber (University of California, US) set the scene conceptually asking what is really new in the digital age, and arguing technology is a context for communication and for action as opposed to a cause. Many papers thus explored to what extent we can argue something new has emerged, what might that be and what in terms of political engagement and participation does digital technology facilitate.

What did we learn from this? It is no real surprise to hear of the breadth and depth of the forms and types of activities that online spaces provide. We know vast numbers of organisations, corporate, political and third sector, who populate the world wide web. We also know most of these have gravitated towards social media, having a Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter feed seem de rigeur at the very least. And we find many affordances for Interaction (Giraldo-Luque & Duran-Becerra) as well as learning and engaging (Schneidemesser; Vasilopoulos; de Blasio & Santaniello). The biggest questions revolve around impact, are there new forms of communication, of engagement, of participation, of influence that are a by-product (wanted or unwanted) with the colonisation of the social web?

As would be expected the answers to these questions offer mixed results, and any conclusions are tentative at best. One key theme is the notion of expressive participation, ‘having a say’ whether it be commenting or talking online (Kountouri or Bouillianne for example), acting as an online vigilante (Loveluck) or as a news gatherer (Wimmer & Schultz). The data from studies by Rachel Gibson and colleagues, Christian Vaccari and Homero Gil de Zuniga certainly provide compelling evidence to suggest expression as a pathway to deeper forms of participation. We also gain a sense of how influence can be exacted (Mossberger & Kao; Bang), though also that perhaps the social web can also be a distraction leading users away from the civic rather than more positive perspectives (Bojic). The visualization of forms of expression (Koc-Michalska, Lilleker & Wells; Vergeer, Boynton & Richardson) go some way to understanding some aspects of the nature of these expressions, though they raise issues regarding how to make sense of the big data which can be gathered from the Internet; discussions around this and the tools available was one key outcome of the workshop.

The workshop also showed the importance of mixed methods. We talked of understanding the lifeworld (Lilleker), how politics links with or is seen as separate from the everyday, and whether civic, social, political are the same or each have clear boundaries both conceptually and practically (Bang). But this raised the importance of mixed methods. Vergeer took us beyond the quantitative, sociological meat grinder of the survey which boils down human factors to key indicators, yet this exposes the contradiction when in exploring big data we have to mince and mash rich text resulting from complex behavior to get to the structure (the DNA) rather than the nuances of each individual contribution. Hence the interview (Bouillianne, Neys), ethnographic work (Ozkula) and text and diary entries (Cantioch) offers fascinating insights that can build understanding on top of the numbers (Vozab; Klinger: Hooghe for example).

The workshop therefore is part of a development in the understanding and a revisionist movement around the notions of engagement and participation and the theoretical positions which have to date been used to understand human civic and political behavior. The value of the meeting of these scholars was to identify the different strands of research, the expertise in the field, the current indications from data, the methodologies and where the research should go next. For us some will be exploring collaboration around a Horizon 2020 bid on youth as a driver of social change (YOUNGa-2014a), some further will be meeting again at the ECPR Joint workshops in Warsaw 2015 in a workshop again organized by Koc-Michalska and Lilleker, some will also likely find opportunities to share data and develop publications. A proposal for a special collection is in the pipeline gathering together the more empirically driven works. Hence this now tight-knit group may well remain close and develop as a collaborative network long into the future.

My success with the BU EU Networking Fund: Network Building at Conferences

I have always championed conferences as a means for both becoming known within the academic community as well as the opportunities they provide to meeting people with similar research interests and building networks of contacts. It was with these goals in mind I put together a bid to the EU Network Fund to attend the 2012 IPSA (International Political Studies Association) Conference in Madrid on Re-ordering Power: Shifting Boundaries. Happily I was successful and so the planning now starts, and it is important to go to a conference with a plan.

I am already highly involved in the Conference. I am Co-convenor and chair of ‘Political participation in the Web 2.0 era’ panel and Co-convenor and Discussant of ‘Political Marketing: empowering voters or electoral organisation’ panel. I am also presenting a paper on online political marketing and the 2011 Polish election within the panel entitled ‘Civic Participation and Public Sphere’, co-authored with Karolina Koc-Michalska.

IPSA is, as the name suggests, a global organisation connecting scholars of political science from every nation. It is thus a fantastic opportunity to meet and present work to a range of peers. Being involved in convening panels presents even further opportunities for networking.  The themes of my panels relate to a number of key questions regarding strategic political communication and voter engagement, in particular how campaigning (during elections or as part of the permanent campaign) and communication by representatives is evolving due to its adaptation for digital media and with what impact. These themes link with work I want to develop for a COST initiative. COST funding streams are designed for building partnerships. The initial stage is to propose an idea under an open call for a network, to be completed by March 30th. If this is successful the idea must then developed and fully costed for the second round, the shortlisted candidates then must present their ideas prior to final acceptance.

The idea for the network is how interactive communication technologies can contribute to democracy. The proposed project is to focus on patterns of influence online, basically how representatives (parliamentarians, lobby group members and media elites) and independent actors and citizens meet online (within social networks, on forums or through use of weblog tools), how they interact and whether influence is unidirectional from elite outwards or multi-directional. The aim is to develop a model of best practice for the use of Web 2.0 tools and platforms for those active in politics who seek to engage with citizens. This initiative is central to new styles of communication emerging in theUSAunder the Obama administration but is also being encouraged by the European Parliament in order to legitimise that legislature as well as by numerous political think tanks. Therefore, there are indications that many official bodies, from legislatures to NGOs, are pushing for greater use of the online environment to reconnect citizens to electoral politics. To be successful this project requires input from a range of scholars from various disciplines including political science, communication studies and ICT development.

The conference will allow, following submission of the initial proposal, to develop ideas, from both theoretical and methodological perspectives, gain firm commitments to collaborate within a network, either one funded through the COSTinitiative or by other means, and apportion tasks required for successful completion of a large bid. Furthermore, the event offers opportunities to meet and set out clear plans for development of the research agenda, identify further potential participants either at the conference or though contacts made there, and co-ordinate future communication. Central to this, particularly while awaiting the outcome of funding bids, will be the creation of an online space to share ideas, literature, calls for papers and general discussion points to maintain communication and so the cohesion and enthusiasm of partners – possibly a Google group of similar space for closed discussion and sharing. That is the plan. I am all set for some network building.