Research from the Stratnarra project was presented at two international events this month.
First, Dr Szostek participated in 'Media Systems under Pressure: Recent Developments in Media Freedom in Central and Eastern Europe', a workshop hosted by the University of Amsterdam. She then travelled to Florence to present at the Media, War and Conflict Journal 10th Anniversary Conference.
At both events, Dr Szostek presented a paper titled 'Russia, Ukraine and presumed media influence in wartime', which uses a survey of journalists and interviews with policy-makers to explain changes in the Ukrainian media environment since 2014.
The latest research article published by Dr Szostek is titled 'The Mass Media and Russia's "Sphere of Interests": Mechanisms of Regional Hegemony in Belarus in Ukraine."
The article examines the role of local actors in delivering Russian media content to large audiences in Ukraine and Belarus. It argues that the Russian leadership's current approach to narrative projection is damaging the partnerships and mechanisms which might have underpinned a consensual hegemonic order in the region.
This article is set to appear in a special issue of the journal Geopolitics about the 'return of spheres of influence'.
On 1 December Dr Szostek presented results from the Stratnarra project in Oslo, Norway, at the annual Russia Conference of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).
The conference, titled 'Russia and the West – competing realities' drew an audience of over 200 people.
The entire event, including Dr Szostek's presentation, can be watched on YouTube.
An article based on Stratnarra research has just been published in The International Journal of Press/Politics.
The article investigates how Ukrainian news consumers decide where to get their news and what to believe in a media environment where “propaganda” and “disinformation” are regarded as major threats to national security.
Using evidence from audio-diaries and interviews, the research shows that individuals judge the credibility of narratives based on whether issues that matter to them are addressed, not only on whether particular “facts” are likely to be genuine. Personal experiences, values, and social connections, therefore, play a crucial role in strategic narrative reception.
The journal East European Politics and Societies (EEPS) has just published a 'virtual' special issue about Ukraine, with an introductory essay by Dr Szostek.
The essay is titled 'Revolution in progress? Continuity and change in Ukrainian politics'. It discusses recent developments in Ukraine in the context of research previously published in EEPS.
The first results from the Stratnarra project have just been published in Perspectives on Politics.
Using original survey data, the article shows that support for the Russian government's strategic narrative among Ukrainians is predicted by personal and cultural connections to Russia, including travel, media consumption, religious attendance, and conversations with friends or relatives. These connections are interpreted as social and communicative types of 'linkage', following Levitsky and Way (2010).
The article challenges assumptions associated with the idea of 'soft power': it argues that the acceptance of a strategic narrative by a target audience should not automatically be equated with foreign policy success if negative responses from other audiences, including rival states, are elicited as well.
Fieldwork in Ukraine for the Stratnarra project ended in March. Dr Szostek has now moved back to London and started a five-month secondment at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
From April until the end of August, Dr Szostek will be working for the FCO's Eastern Research Group to share findings and insights from the Stratnarra project with policymakers.
“Nothing is true? Audience responses to news and narratives during ‘information war’ in Ukraine”
Wednesday 22 March, 16:30, at the Mohyla Journalism School, 8/5 Voloska St, building 4, room 409
Audio recording from event (in English with some Russian)
Report about event in Media Sapiens (in Ukrainian).
Ukrainian citizens are confronted by a huge range of news sources which convey diverse, often contradictory narratives about domestic and international affairs. How do Ukrainian news consumers decide what to watch and believe, in an environment where ‘propaganda’ and ‘disinformation’ are considered major threats to national security?
In this presentation Dr Joanna Szostek of Royal Holloway, University of London, discussed her recent research from Odessa Region on how citizens form ‘news media repertoires’ and assess the credibility of news stories. The research is based on survey analysis, as well as ‘audio-diaries’ and interviews, in which Odessa residents talked in depth about their news consumption habits and beliefs. The findings provide insights into the state of media literacy in Ukraine and the dynamics of public opinion during ‘information war’.
A new research article by Dr Szostek is now online in Europe-Asia Studies.
The article explores the link between media use and views of the West in Russia, using a survey of Moscow university students. It shows that many of the Russian government's anti-Western claims are supported even by young people who do not rely on the main state-aligned news sources.
This research comes from Dr Szostek's previous project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon programme at UCL-SSEES.
Two research papers from the Stratnarra project have been accepted for presentation at the annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA).
Findings from Stratnarra will also be presented at the British International Studies Association (BISA) annual conference in June.
The final stage of Stratnarra fieldwork was launched in December. Ukrainian journalists, editors, media analysts, political representatives and civil servants are being invited to complete an online questionnaire about the problem of 'propaganda' in Russian-Ukrainian relations, and how best to deal with it. The survey results should provide insights into how Ukrainian opinion leaders are responding practically to the (mis)use of information during the conflict with Russia.
The online questionnaire will be open until the end of March
Why are certain news sources and political narratives considered more 'credible' than others? To investigate this question, the Stratnarra project is using audio-diaries to collect information about how Ukrainian citizens follow and react to the news.
Thirty adults from Odesa Region made regular audio recordings about their news consumption over two-week periods in September and October. They described the news stories they encountered, where they encountered them, and what they thought about them. Afterwards, the participants were interviewed about their news habits, preferences and beliefs by Stratnarra researcher Dr Joanna Szostek.
The resulting material is currently being analysed and findings should be ready for publication in 2017.
And another new research article is now online - this time in Geopolitics, titled 'Defence and promotion of desired state identity in Russia's strategic narrative'.
The article demonstrates how determination to protect ‘great power’ and ‘European’ identities underlie intense anti-Western rhetoric generated by the Russian state. Russia's strategic narrative achieves results domestically, as it boosts sentiments of collective self-esteem among Russian citizens. However, it fails to produce – and arguably obstructs – desired responses among important international audiences.
The article is based on research conducted during a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at UCL-SSEES.
A new article by Dr Szostek is now available in New Media & Society.
The article examines how digitally connected Russian university students construct their 'news media repertoires'. It reveals widespread dissatisfaction with 'propagandistic' state television and a preference for comparing multiple sources to find out what is 'really' going on. However, diversity in the students' news media repertoires is not accompanied by much disagreement with the Russian state's narrative of international affairs.
The article is based on research conducted during a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at UCL-SSEES.
The first findings from the Stratnarra project have been presented in Lviv at the ASEEES-MAG Summer Convention.
Based on survey results from Odessa Region, Dr Szostek identified personal ties to Russia (e.g. regular travel and communication with relatives), church, media and language preferences among predictors of support for the Russian state's strategic narrative of international affairs.
Dr Szostek presented on a panel alongside Professor Marta Dyczok (Western University, Canada) and Professor Jan C. Behrends (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Germany).
This April Dr Szostek was invited to present at the annual Milton Wolf Seminar hosted by the Diplomatic Academy, Vienna. This year the seminar provided a platform to discuss the multiple anxieties which came to the fore in international relations following the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels.
As a participant in the first panel on ‘Narratives of Global Conflict and Negotiation Post Paris’, Dr Szostek unpacked the abrasive messages projected by Russia in response to Islamist terrorism
in Europe. Countering claims that Russian ‘propaganda’ is designed only to mislead and confuse, Dr Szostek argued that the Russian government projects a strategic narrative which reflects the
leadership's long-term objectives vis-a-vis the global order.
Thanks to Monroe Price, Amelia Arsenault and all those who make the Milton A. Wolf Seminar possible.
Stratnarra researchers Joanna Szostek and Ben O'Loughlin travelled to Atlanta, Georgia, for the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention. They joined Alistair Miskimmon, Laura Roselle and Valentina Feklyunina for a panel on 'Strategic Narratives and Ukraine' which was attended by over 30 delegates (despite an 08:15 start!)
Ben's book with Alistair and Laura, Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order, received the 2016 ISA-ICOMM Book Award.
A survey is being conducted this month in Odessa Region as part of the Stratnarra project. The survey is designed to identify news consumption patterns and assess support for different narratives about the West.
The survey is being implemented by TNS Ukraine among a sample population of 1,000 respondents. It will be followed by qualitative research among a smaller number of people.
A new article by Dr Szostek has been published in The Journal of Social Policy Studies (Журнал исследований социальной политики).
The article is titled "The Power of Detraction: Belarusian Reporting of Russian Social Problems during 'Information War'".
It presents a study of the Belarusian state media's behaviour in 2010, during tensions between Moscow and Minsk. Using the conceptual framework of strategic narrative, the article explains how the Belarusian leadership sought to undermine the reputation of its Kremlin critics, while simultaneously reaffirming close ties with Russia.
This month Dr Szostek presented research findings on the relationship between media consumption and geopolitical imaginations in Russia at two international conferences.
Dr Szostek has arrived in Ukraine for an 18-month secondment at Kyiv Mohyla Academy. The secondment will be used to gather data on media consumption and geopolitical views among different groups
of Ukrainians, including students and elites. Dr Szostek will also use her stay at Kyiv Mohyla Academy to improve her Ukrainian language skills.
Stratnarra is based at the Department of Politics and International Relations,
Royal Holloway, University of London.
Project partners include the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Stratnarra is funded by a grant from the European Commission under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship programme.