IRD M077



The Politics of International Communications



Spring Trimester 2019





Tutor: Graham McBeath




Tuesdays: 1 - 3pm, Senate Building, room 311



This module aims to generate argument and debate on the growth and dynamics of electrical and electronic systems of communicstions as they have emerged from technological dicoveries implemented in individual nations to networked communications systems. As such, these apparently neutral platforms of transmission of messages are deployed and exploited as media for political, economic and military advantage.


Initially new media platforms such as telephones, telegraphy, radio and television were largely passive forces. By this, I mean to suggest that any effects that they had were not irrepressible properties of the media themselves but, were dependent upon the degree to which the receivers accepted and intepreted the message.


Certainly radio and TV could impress with their vivid images conveyed by the voice or the audio-visual elements. In the early years the fear was of,  and indeed many attempts were made to use the airwaves for, propaganda.  In recent years, with the rise of computer driven networks that can analyse and process information structures, patterns, and content at enormous speeds, the 'new' media can re-shape and control almost any form of information in terms of its production and extraction, the latter othewise known as surveillance and cyber-espionage. The latter are there both to quiet and intimidate citizens as well as to ensure national security, the former being done as part of the range of the latter depending on the type of political regime in place. Such active powers of comunications networks are not communications to/with persons but primarily between networks to which politico-security agencies are attached  and utilise highly codified filtering and interpretive frameworks to decode the 'meaning' of the data received. Arguably people are 'statistical' types - 'terrorist/not terrorist'; 'of interest/not of interest'; 'likely purchaser/not purchaser' and so forth - denuded of their human 'spiritual, intentional qualities as was the case when information turned for its effectivity upon the psychological and personal profile of the audience. With these aspects in mind we should open up the question of how nations co-operate with each other on surveillance and hacking as well as attack each other in these regards.


The very inter-connectivity that is available enables the extraction and re-mediation of commercial data as it feeds into intelligence purposes. This not only at the level of say the ISPs but, also the main on-line retailers and social media networks. The notion of a networks has to be understood as precisely that - a network that has a physical presence of machines and cables built out of information - of CODE that is coded by hierarchies of meta-structures e.g. folders in relation to files...and this brings us to the Politics of International Communications as now grounded in the politics of the Internet. Who controls the net? what are its rules for transmission and distribution of data? Should there be net neutrality? Why is encryption on the net variously contentious?


Lecture sessions:


1) 5-2-19         Intro Session



2) 12-2-19       The very idea of Communication - oral, written, sent.



3) 19-2-19       Communication from Empires to Global networks.



4) 26-2-19       Cybernetics of Decision-making: Networks, Information, Communication



5) 5-3-19         Cold War Communications: The shock of satellites and the making of international policy on Space



6) 12-3-19       Post-Cold War Communications: Physical cntrol of the Virtual - foundations of the Internet.



7) 19-3-19       Does the globalisation of Communications undermine State autonomy or more importantly...state control?






Assessment: 2500 word essay.

Each of you is permitted to create your own title but you must outline/plan it with me in advance

To be submitted to turnitin  by midnight, 30th April, 2019



Or: Essay Questions:

 1)  'In  a global age of comunications it is not just the variety of information but also the speed of its transmission and its remediation and relay that makes it threatening to agencies of power and control'. Discuss.

 2) Is the transmission of communication critical to creating and maintaining Empires?

 3)  How and to what extent affect were the inter-national political manoeverings of the Cold war mediated by the quest for technological advantage in communications?

 4)  To what extent  has the question of control of the organsiational structure of the internet been at the centre of the politics of international communictions?

 5) Is the challenge to maintain cyber-security heralding a post-Westphalian world?

 6) 'Sovereignty has shifted from control of national borders to national control of communication flows.' Discusss.

7) Given the success of militant non-state actors and the mobile insurgnt armies does power come from the barrel of a gun or wi-fi?

8) To what extent are the current arguments between the privacy and security symbolic of a more fundamental struggle between the interests of cyber-capitalism and those of political sovereignty?




 Arquilla & Ronfeldt eds. (2008) Cyberwar & Netwar, London, Routledge.

 Benkler, Y, (2011) 'Networks of power, degrees of freedom', International Journal of Communication 5 (2011), 721–755

 Benkler, Y (2011) WikiLeaks and the protect-ip Act:A New Public-Private Threat to the Internet Commons,  Daedalus, 140.4

 Benkler, Y (2009) The Wealth of Networks, Mass, Harvard UP.

Brousseau, E. & Curien, N (2007) Internet and Digital Economics

 Castells, M. (1989)  The Informational Economy.  .  Blackwell publ.

 Castells, M. (1996) The Rise of the Network Society.    Blackwell.

 Castells, et al. (2007) Mobile Communications and Society: A Global Perspective

 Castells, M (2009) Communication Power, Oxford UP.

 Cowley, P. et al. Transforming Global Information and Communication Markets: Te Political Economy of Innovation

 De Nardis, (2009) Protocol Politics: The Globalization of Internet Governance, Mass, MIT press

 DeNardis (2012) Hidden levers of internet control, Information, Communication & Society, 15:5, 720-738,

 DeNardis (2013) Internet Points of Control as Global Governance, paper for Center for International Governance Innovation.

 Drake, W. & Wilson, E, eds Governing Global Electronic Networks: International Perspectives on Policy and Power

 Galison, P (19994) Ontology of the Enemy, Critical Inquiry vol. 21 no1.

 Galloway, A (2005) 'Global Networks and the Effects on Culture', ANNALS, AAPSS, 597, January 2005

 Galloway, A. (2009) Protocol, Mass, MIT

 Gerovitch, S. (2002) From Newspeak to Cyberspeak, Mass, MIT press.

 Hallin, D & Mancini, P. (2011). Comparing Media Systems Beyond the Western World Cambridge, CUP

 Harrison & Woods,(2009) European broadcasting: law and policy, Cambridge, CUP

 Jørgensen, ed. (2006) Human Rights in the Global Information Society

 Kerckhove, D. (2004) From memory societies to knowledge societies: The cognitive dimensions of digitization - Report for UNESCO.

 Miskimmon, A et al. (2013) Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order London, Routledge

 Mueller, M (2008) Securing Internet Freedom Security, Privacy and Global Governance (Inaugural lecture, Univ of Delft)

 Murray, A (2006) The Regulation of Cyberspace. Routledge.

 Lessig, L. (2005) Code 2.0 (

 Lessig, L. Future of Ideas (

 Lessig, L. Free Culture: how big companies lock down the net

 Schlesinger &  Fossum, (2010) 'The European Union and the Public Sphere: A communicative space in the making?' (draft paper)

 Waz, J and Weiser, P (2013) 'Internet Governance: The Role of Multistakeholder Organizations' paper to Silicon Flatirons Roundtable

 Wilson, E. The Information Revolution and Developing Countries (2004)

 Zittrain, J. et al eds. (2008) Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering




All items with a star (*) cannot be changed without approval.




Business & Law


Economics, International Relations & Development


Economics, International Relations & Development











Graham B McBeath



Tick applicable:

If off site please specify location

On Site (UoN)


Off Site



Additional Site















This module has no supplementary regulations                 X


This module will provide an inter-disciplinary evaluation of the impacts, politics and socio-cultural ramifications of the emergence of electronic communications systems that have helped to transform the structure of effects of information across the world. In particular we will examine the struggles for the control at one level of all flows of information especially at times of political strife, at another level for the implementation of the Internet, and at a yet further level of the challenges to belief, ideology and forms of governance that the breadth and availability of information implies. Theoretically the module will explore the erosion of institutional structures and stabilities by more fluid and rapidly changing patterns of international communications.



* To get to grips with the synthetical power of contemporary communications networks to shape the meaning and the overthrow of socio-cultural, economic, and political orders


* To create an analytical appreciation of the labile character of information inside and between populations, cultures and nations.



On successful completion of the module students will be able to:



a)      Demonstrate critical awareness of how technology re-calibrates the power of communications


b)      Evaluate differing levels of International communications systems wit reagrd to their political, social and cultural impacts.


c)      Appreciate the meanings of the digital divide for IR and be able to discuss the implications of it for the politics of development


Subject - specific Skills


d)      Compare, contrast and evaluate differing concepts and competing theories of globalized communication


e)      Use data bases, elements of big data as well as various forms of  communication networks mappings to illlustrate readings of  evolving networks


f)       Analyse the relations between international communications policies and the information needs and purposes of nation states..


Key Skills


g)      Utilise a variety of knowledge resources.


h)      Convey ideas and arguments in both written and oral form.


i)       show abillity in the use of different forms of data, its display, and its evidential power.



The key foci of this module will be to open up an understanding of theoretically informed empirical processes of change wrought by transformations in technologies as well as the practices of communication. With this in mind the module will:

1) note the development  and adoption of communications systems as new information sources qua cultural and politico-ideological information and as regulated via such bodies as the ITU as well as WTO

2) evaluate the emergence and historical significance of telegraphy, radio, TV, satellites

3) Explore how the US based setting up of the Internet became an Internationally contentious global political struggle and account for how, consequently, it has been mired in multiple state political negotiations

4) having cleared these elements, the module wishes especially to focus on the uses of computer and mobile communications to engage internationally in national struggles of which the Arab Spring was a particular example and, on security issues the most obvious of which is the Edward Snowden affair - and this will permit the module to make moral as well as political evaluations.



Substantial support is offered especially near to submission of assessed work. Tutors are available for face to face consultation as well as by email.

All information relating to the module not least the Module Guide, readings, lecture notes, and regularly updated articles/commentary is placed on the web.


Teaching, learning + assessment activities

Study hours

All contact hours: (total)
(please list contact hours separately below)


6 x 1 Hr Lectures                                                            



6 x 1 Hr Seminars                                                          



4 x 1 hr tutorials


Independent study hours (total)


Self-directed study


Data research


Assessment Hours (with detail) ¼ of the module


   2,500 word Essay assignment                                                                        











Assessment Items                                       Units Weighting Learning Outcomes

AS1- 1 x 2500 Word Assignment                     2.5            50       a,b,c,d,e,f,g

The assessment criteria for th

The 2500 word essay assignment fall under three headings:  analytical skills, research/preparation skills and communication skills.  The essay is designed to test students' ability to understand, explain and critically analyse a selected globalization and development issue with reference to relevant concepts and theoretical models