On September 26th the Portulans Institute held a roundtable at University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School titled “How the War in Ukraine Could Reshape Global Information, Communication, and Security”. The hybrid event was attended by 32 individuals (with 2 apologies from individuals who contributed a position paper), 16 of those participating in-person.
The roundtable built on over twenty position papers authored by the participants with discussion of diverging viewpoints and key issues identified in the discussion. The event posited the question of whether the Russo-Ukraine War (RUW), particularly since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, has had transformative implications. Five interrelated areas were discussed:
- Influence operations, such as strategic communication, propaganda, and information warfare on the part of Russia, but also strategies of Ukraine and the West, with discussions of historical continuities and differences between authoritarian and more pluralist, democratic states;
- Public reception, where discussion focused on the many unknowns around public opinion in Russia, Ukraine, and worldwide, distrust in many media and news sources, and the factors shaping opinions, as well as the multiple roles of propaganda in shaping opinions, perceived truths, and signaling what can and cannot be said without fear of serious reprisals;
- International networking, which focused on how nations are aligning on support for Ukraine, including stances of the Global South countries, the motivations or logic of these positions, and with much discussion of the roles journalists and news media played in the context of the RUW;
- Cybersecurity, with discussion bringing out the role of private-public collaboration in supporting cybersecurity in Ukraine with connections with other topics in which relationships between governments, private companies such as platforms, and citizens were innovative and defied simple notions of state sovereignty; and
- Innovation, highlighting the immediate and long-term innovations resulting from new media and information technologies, such as AI, and shifts in government spending, technology transfer, and the surprisingly strong role of citizens using open-source software along with new actors in the private sector and civil society, such as Bellingcat.
Across all five topics, challenges for systematic empirical research were among the most prominent cross-cutting issues. The starkest example was speculation about the role of propaganda and influence operations in Russia when we know so little about public opinion and distrust much of what is cited. One theme of discussion was around innovative ways of gaining trace evidence of behaviors, such as shifts in opinions. From the standpoint of policy and practice, some argued that this is an area in which policy-makers and practitioners cannot wait for the last word in empirical research. Academics and other researchers must step-up with best available evidence, which underscores the value of international collaboration across disciplines and fields.
The leaders of the roundtable will be preparing a discussion paper to identify key themes and issues for research. In addition, the project will move ahead on related activities, including: a seminar for doctoral students; a broad case study; some embedded case studies of specific events or activities; networking, providing any help in building on the network of researchers and practitioners identified in organizing the roundtable; and developing support to continue and expand this work.
The organizers thank the many participants for their contributions, and the Saïd Business School, and Dean Soumitra Dutta, for hosting and helping to organize this roundtable. His staff and facilities were critical to the success of the day.
Other key support was provided by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), Oxford’s Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre (GCSCC), the Oxford Martin School, the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG), which hosted the first roundtable on this topic; Niva Elkin-Koren at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Law, who introduced the topic of innovation; Olena Goroshko and her colleagues from Kharkiv and the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv, who helped ensure the voices of Ukrainians were well represented; and the Portulans Institute, which provided critical support for launching this project.
Please let us know if you share our interest in better understanding the factors shaping the RUW as well as the longer-term consequences of information, communication, and security, including innovation and all the research challenges these issues face.
Participants in the roundtable included:
Sylvie Antal, Portulans Institute; Grant Blank, Oxford Internet Institute; Natalia Boiko, Institute of Sociology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine; Yaroslava Bukhta, The School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, Oxford University; Mariam Chaduneli, Portulans Institute; Antonina Cherevko, Senior Advisor with the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media; Lisa Chernenko, Oxford Internet Institute; Soumitra Dutta, Oxford’s Saїd Business School; William H. Dutton, GCSCC, Oxford and Portulans Institute; Niva Elkin-Koren, Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law, Israel; Patricia Esteve-Gonzalez, GCSCC, Oxford Martin School; Yuliia Germanova, National Technical University “Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute”; Olena Goroshko, National Technical University “Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute”; Simon Haselock, Albany Associates Ltd, London; Louise Marie Hurel, Media and Communications, LSE; Nicholas James, Politics and International Relations, Oxford University; Emil Kamalov, Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute in Florence; Alina Kontareva, Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin; Igor Kotsiuba, Durham University Business School; Kseniia Kudriavtseva, National Technical University “Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute”; Yara Kyrychenko, Psychology, Cambridge University; Alexander Libman, Institute for East European Studies, Freie Universität Berlin; Mykola Makhortykh, Institute of Communication and Media Studies, University of Bern; Emma Mateo, Harriman Institute; Joe Morley-Davies, Albany Associates Ltd, London; Daniil Romanov, Politics and International Relations, Oxford University; Jon Roozenbeek, Psychology, Cambridge University; Jamie Saunders, GCSCC, Oxford Martin School; Elena Sherstoboeva, Essex Law School, University of Essex; Yuliia Siedaia, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Berlin; Nataliia Sokolovska, Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin; Alexander Soldatkin, School of Global and Area Studies, Oxford; Viktor Stepanenko, Institute of Sociology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine; Florian Toepfl, University of Passau, Germany; Ilya Yablokov, Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield; and Mariia Zolkina, International Relations, LSE
For more information on the Ukraine Case Studies, visit https://billdutton.me/the-ukraine-case-studies/