// January 10th, 2013, CGCS and the Iran Media Program presented a noontime seminar with Philip N. Howard, PhD on The New Cold War: Information Policy and Political Rift.
Philip N. Howard (BA Toronto, MSc London School of Economics, PhD Northwestern) is a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington. He directs the Digital Activism Research Project, the World Information Access Project (wiaproject.org) and the Project on Information Technology and Political Islam (pitpi.org).
There is a new Cold War starting. It does not involve opposing military forces, but it does involve competing ideas about how political life should be organized. The battles are between broadcast media outlets and social media upstarts, organizations that have very different approaches to news production, ownership, and censorship. In several countries, this war pits the ruling elites who dominate broadcast media against the civil society groups who flourish through social media. These are not simply information wars between political elites and persecuted democracy activists.
There is a deep structural rift between the organization and values of broadcast media and those of social media, and this rift has become a defining feature of political culture in many authoritarian regimes. Digital activism is on the rise globally, and the impact of activist projects grows more impressive year by year. Political tension between the institutions of broadcast media and the new organizational upstarts of social media is significant, yet plays out in similar ways in Russia, Venezuela, and China. Political elites tend to defend the media organizations that already exist, but almost all of the exciting and innovative civic innovation happens online.