Professor Ben O'Loughlin

Educational background

BA University of Northumbria

MA University of Warwick

DPhil University of Oxford

Personal profile

Twitter: @Ben_OLoughlin

Ben O'Loughlin is Professor of International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is Co-Director of the New Political Communication Unit, which was launched in 2007 by Professor Andrew Chadwick. Before joining Royal Holloway in September 2006 he was a researcher on the ESRC New Security Challenges Programme. He completed a DPhil in Politics at New College, Oxford in October 2005 under the supervision of the political theorist Elizabeth Frazer and journalist Godfrey Hodgson.

Ben's expertise is in the field of international political communication. He is Specialist Adviser to the UK House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power and UK Influence. The committee aims to understand how power and influence are changing in a transformed global media and geopolitical landscape and how the UK can most effectively exercise power within that landscape. It will publish its report in March 2014.

Ben's latest book is Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order (November 2013). The concept strategic narrative has been developed by Ben with colleagues Alister Miskimmon at Royal Holloway, Andreas Antoniades (Sussex) and Laura Roselle at Elon University. Strategic narratives refer to how states tell stories about international affairs in order to influence the behaviour of other states and non-state actors. This research has been supported by the International Studies Association (ISA) and the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC).

Through a number of projects, books and articles he has explored how politics and security are changing in the new media ecology. This work is drawn together in the book War and Media: The Emergence of Diffused War (Cambridge: Polity, 2010), co-authored with Professor Andrew Hoskins. He has published articles in Political Studies, Review of International Studies, International Affairs, International Journal of Press/Politics, Journalism, and many other peer-reviewed scientific journals.

He has carried out projects on media and radicalisation for the Economic and Social Research Council and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure. This led to the book Radicalisation and Media: Terrorism and Connectivity in the New Media Ecology (London: Routledge, 2011) co-authored with Akil N. Awan and Andrew Hoskins.

Ben has been a leader in creating debate about the politics of social media monitoring. He has conducted research exploring how online public opinion can be tracked -- what he calls, with Nick Anstead, Semantic Polling. Based on their findings, the Council of Europe have organised a debate on the ethics and regulation of Semantic Polling at the World Forum for Democracy in November 2013. In 2010 Ben completed a project for the UK Technology Strategy Board exploring how Twitter data can reveal emerging crises, infrastructure problems, and shifts in public opinion. With Marie Gillespie (Open University) he carried out social media research with the BBC in 2012 exploring how audiences around the world responded to the 2012 London Olympics.

Ben is Co-Editor of the Sage journal Media, War & Conflict. The journal was launched in 2008. It is a major international, peer-reviewed journal that maps the shifting arena of war, conflict and terrorism in an intensively and extensively mediated age. In 2013 Ben hosted the journal's Fifth Anniversary Conference at Royal Holloway.

Ben has presented research to the No. 10 Policy Unit, Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, OFCOM, the European Commission and European Broadcasting Union (EBU), as well as expert groups like the Global Futures Forum. He has contributed to the New York Times, Guardian, OpenDemocracy, Sky News and Newsweek. He is a columnist for Global Policy and blogs for the New Political Communication Unit.

Research interests

Ben specialises in international political communication. He was co-investigator of the ESRC-funded project, Legitimising the Discourses of Radicalisation: Political Violence in the New Media Ecology. Before that he was a researcher on the ESRC project Shifting Securities: News Cultures Before and Beyond the Iraq War, part of the New Security Programme. Both projects were awarded the highest possible grade, Outstanding, by the ESRC’s reviewers.

This body of work on media and security is part of a broader interest in understanding the role and influence of political ideas, the translation and adaptation of ideas across different groups of actors and institutions, and the ways in which social and political life is becoming not so much mediated as mediatized. He has published extensively on security and conflict in the new media ecology (see publications). Ben is a founding Editor of the journal, Media, War and Conflict (Sage, from April 2008).

His current research addresses two questions.

  • In international affairs, how do states use strategic narrativesto project their interests and identities to shape the behaviour of other actors?
  • In domestic politics and society, how are digital technologies creating “the new mass” society, the return of a dense social mainstream which people unconsciously locate themselves inside or as ‘radicalised’ outsiders?

Ben is Director of Research in the Department of Politics and International Relations.

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