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The Paris Effect: Journalism, Diplomacy, and Information Controls

April 4, 2016 - April 6, 2016

Diplomatic Academy of Vienna

Categories: Conference/Symposium

Milton Wolf Seminar 2016

The Paris Effect: Journalism, Diplomacy, and Information Controls

Vienna, Austria

April 4 – 6, 2016

About The Milton Wolf Seminar Series

Launched in 2001, the Milton Wolf Seminar Series aims to deal with developing issues in diplomacy and journalism – both broadly defined. This is the seventh year in a row that the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication is co-organizing the Milton Wolf Seminar on Media and Diplomacy with the Diplomatic Academy, Vienna and the American Austrian Foundation. Panelists and participants will include those working for state and multi-lateral organizations, journalists, media development practitioners, academics, and a select group of highly engaged graduate students whose studies relate to the seminar themes.

In order to encourage an open exchange of ideas, seminar attendance is limited only to invited participants and graduate students. Graduate students currently completing an MA, JD, PhD or post doctoral program related to the seminar themes are encouraged to apply for the 2016 Emerging Scholars Program.

More information about previous Milton Wolf Seminars can be found here and on our Facebook Page.

About the 2016 Seminar Theme

On November 13, 2015, the world watched as a coordinated team of individuals claiming allegiance to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) unleashed a wave of suicide bombings and mass shootings at concert halls, concert venues, and stadiums across Paris, which claimed the lives of 130 people and injured hundreds of others. The Paris attacks were only the latest in a long list of Islamic State actions during 2015 that spanned multiple countries and venues. The size and scope of the Paris attacks and their symbolic targeting of Western everyday-life locales, however, brought home the fact that the rise of ISIS, destabilization in Syria, and the related refugee crisis were not a “Middle East problem.” No one and no country was safe. In the month leading up to the 2016 Seminar, a new wave of attacks has occurred – in Brussels, Belgium; in Lahore, Pakistan; in Antalya and Istanbul, Turkey; and in Dikwa, Nigeria – bringing with them untold human suffering and new geopolitical and uncertainties as well as a heightened need to focus on the implications of communicative actions and policies for geographic and metaphoric boundaries.

These attacks provide an entry point for a discussion at the Milton Wolf Seminar 2016 of the multiple anxieties which came to the fore in international relations: a renewed sense of urgency to combat ISIS, panic over the “dangers” of Muslim refugees, and concern over how to reassert control over both geographic and informational borders.

Milton Wolf 2016 also coincides with the centennial anniversary of the 1916 Sykes–Picot Agreement, which effectively divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire into areas of French and British control. In the ensuing century, Sykes-Picot has become symbolic of the hubris of imperial powers and often credited with directly contributing to contemporary destabilization in the Middle East and by extension the rise of ISIS and related attacks. Its 100th anniversary provides an ideal occasion to consider the complex relationship between states with fixed geographic boundaries; state and non-state symbolic actors; and flows of media, information, and people across borders.


Many have noted asymmetries in global media responses to the events in Paris and Belgium and recent ISIS attacks in countries like Lebanon, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Discussions about these asymmetries will take center stage at Milton Wolf 2016. Panelists will explore the role of actors across the geopolitical spectrum, from Western powers, to non-state terrorist networks, to Iran, to Russia, to China. They will also discuss how recent events have opened up new geopolitical possibilities. For example, Iran long a Western antagonist, has surfaced as a necessary ally against ISIS and Russia is collaborating with France in intelligence gathering related to terrorist activities. Discussions will consider the implications of a range of new and old media, individuals, and institutions in undermining and or reinforcing these trends.

With a particular focus on the role of new and old media, panels will examine in detail:

  1. the escalation and perpetuation of narratives of global conflict and their implications for diplomacy;
  2. how the interaction of the press, diplomatic responses, and new media memes have shaped responses to migrants and refugees;
  3. apprehension about the porous nature of contemporary media and information flows and the resurgence of calls for states to be able to control internet and media systems and content within their borders as a means of ameliorating the threats to geographic sovereignty;
  4. the implications of these activities for free expression and state information controls;
  5. the legacy of Sykes Picot 100 years later: one of the most significant attempts to divide geographic territories as well as a key symbol of Western attempts to shape and contain the Middle East;
  6. the rise of new strategic communication actors and practices designed to shape and control these trends.


The 2016 Milton Wolf Emerging Scholars Program

We are currently accepting applications for the 2016 Emerging Scholars program. Each year the seminar organizers select 5-8 outstanding PhD students, post doctoral students, law students, advanced MA Candidates, or equivalents who are working in areas related to the seminar theme to serve as Emerging Scholar Fellows. Selected candidates will receive full funding to attend the Seminar.  In exchange for full funding, Emerging Scholars must author a 2000-word blog post relating to the 2016 seminar discussions as well as attend all seminar events. These pieces are then collected in a Seminar Compendium published on the CGCS website. More information about the program can be found here.


To apply for the 2016 Emerging Scholars Program, please send your CV, a brief cover letter outlining your interest in the 2016 seminar topic, and a completed application form to Amelia Arsenault.

Application Deadline: January 25, 2016.