45 episodes

Where political communication theory meets on the ground strategy. Host, Professor Elizabeth Dubois, picks a political communication theory, explains it to a practitioner, and then they have a chat about whether or not it makes sense at all out in the world of politics and communications. She chats with political staffers, journalists, comms experts, lobbyists, activists and other political actors. Elizabeth quizzes them on pol comm theory and they tell her how ridiculous (or super helpful) that theory actually is.

Wonks and War Rooms Elizabeth Dubois

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Where political communication theory meets on the ground strategy. Host, Professor Elizabeth Dubois, picks a political communication theory, explains it to a practitioner, and then they have a chat about whether or not it makes sense at all out in the world of politics and communications. She chats with political staffers, journalists, comms experts, lobbyists, activists and other political actors. Elizabeth quizzes them on pol comm theory and they tell her how ridiculous (or super helpful) that theory actually is.

    Season 5: Technology, Politics & Policy

    Season 5: Technology, Politics & Policy

    Get ready for Season 5 of Wonks & War Rooms! This season we’ll be diving into tech, politics, and policy. Host Elizabeth Dubois will talk to public policy managers, technologists &  campaigners to discuss how technology policy is shaped, how technology is used in political campaigns, and what that means for political communication research and practice.

    As always, episodes will drop on Wednesday mornings each week starting Wednesday, February 8. Mark your calendars!

    Get caught up on past episodes and find fully annotated transcripts in English and French at https://www.polcommtech.com/. 

    • 1 min
    Post-Truth Politics with Vinita Srivastava

    Post-Truth Politics with Vinita Srivastava

    Vinita Srivastava is the senior editor of culture and society for The Conversation Canada, and host of the podcast Don’t Call Me Resilient, as well as a research associate with the Global Journalism Innovation Lab. This episode, Vinita and Elizabeth chat about post-truth politics and the idea that how people feel about information is sometimes more influential than the actual facts. They discuss differences between the facts contained in a story versus the perspective of who is telling a story, as well as the question of which stories get told, who gets to decide that, and the idea of truth as a product of power. 
    Additional Resources
    Elizabeth notes that “post-truth” was Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2016. This Washington Post story explains why (and also gives a good overview of the term). Elizabeth mentions that a key feature of a post-truth world is that there are no longer “universally recognized arbiters or referees of fact.” This idea comes from David Roberts’ 2013 post on Grist. There is also general consensus that Roberts coined the term “post-truth politics” in this earlier post.For a more academic take, philosopher Lee McIntyre wrote a book called Post-Truth. Here’s a 2020 interview with him.Also, this article by Matt Carlson looks at how the concept of post-truth politics affects journalism specifically.Elizabeth brings up the concept of the “relativization of facts.” Learn more about that in this article by Sebastien Schindler.Vinita gives an example of how India’s press is being muzzled by its government. Reporters Without Borders generates an annual World Press Freedom Index to track where press freedoms are being violated and how. (India ranked 142 of 180 in 2020; Canada was 14th and the U.S. was 44th).Vinita brings up the old adage that journalism is “the first draft of history.” Here’s the backstory of that saying.Elizabeth talks about how emotion is a big part of mis and dis information. Check out this study that showed how anger contributes to the spread of misinformation. This was also something Claire Wardle talked about in her episode earlier this season on information disorder. Listen here.Check out www.polcommtech.ca for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.

    • 33 min
    Regulating Big Tech with Taylor Owen

    Regulating Big Tech with Taylor Owen

    Taylor Owen is a professor of public policy at the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill university, and his research focuses mainly on tech regulation. This episode, he and Elizabeth define and categorize types of regulation. They discuss what tech regulation looks like, how lobbying impacts tech regulation, why regulation of tech is difficult, and the balance governments (both in Canada and internationally) must grapple with between regulation options and public good. This episode, recorded in January 2022, does not explore current legislation or the nitty gritty of the regulatory options. However, Elizabeth and Taylor provide the background  for understanding what the options are and why regulation and self-regulation happen.
    Additional Resources
    Elizabeth draws on this article to form her list of types of regulationTaylor mentions how many of these big tech companies are so many things, making them difficult to regulate. He uses the example of facebook launching a digital currency and Amazon launching health care services.  Taylor and Elizabeth discuss Canada’s tech lobby. Here is an article (from former Wonks and War Rooms guest Megan Beretta) that further delves into how tech lobbying shapes federal policy.Elizabeth and Taylor address Canada’s online harms bill. This article gives an overview of the status of that bill. This page also gives an overview of the steps the government is taking to address online harms (including the creation of the advisory committee which Taylor was recently appointed to).Taylor mentions the EU’s Digital Service Act as a model that focuses on risk assessment. This article gives an overview of that legislation. Want to hear more from Taylor? Check out his podcast Big Tech.Check out www.polcommtech.ca for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.

    • 35 min
    Journalism and online harassment with Rosemary Barton, Fatima Syed and Mark Blackburn

    Journalism and online harassment with Rosemary Barton, Fatima Syed and Mark Blackburn

    This episode is an audio version of a special live taping of Wonks and War Rooms, in partnership with uOttawa’s Centre for Law, Technology and Society, where Elizabeth is joined by a panel of journalists to tackle a tough topic: online harassment of journalists and what it means for our democracy. 
    Rosemary Barton is the Chief Political Correspondent for CBC News; Fatima Syed is a reporter for the Narwhal and host of Canadaland podcast The Backbench; and Mark Blackburn is the social media and online producer at APTN. Elizabeth and the panel look at different types of online negativity, the motivations behind harassment and attacks, and the impacts of weaponizing media. They also talk about different ways of managing online harassment, and how to balance their responsibilities as journalists with protecting themselves as individuals.

    Additional Resources
    Off the top, Rosemary and Elizabeth mention the day of the live event was not exactly a slow news day. Here’s why. This topic brings a bunch of terms that get jumbled together: harassment, abuse, toxicity, negativity, incivility, hate speech, intolerance. This Public Policy Forum report provides a framework for thinking about harmful communication online.Fatima talks about “chilling effects” that online harassment can have on journalists. Here’s a report from earlier this year about these kinds of impacts, published by The Canadian Journalism Foundation and the Canadian Association of Journalists.Also, last fall IPSOS ran the first Canadian survey on online harassment against journalists and media professionals, which showed it is “prevalent and pervasive.” Here are the results.Rosemary and Elizabeth discuss trolling and how it has changed over time. This article by Silvio Waisbord looks at the specific impact trolls have on journalism.Rosemary mentions that the pandemic has been a turning point for journalism. This special issue of Digital Journalism has a collection of articles on all the ways that COVID-19 has impacted the work of journalists over the past few years.Check out www.polcommtech.ca for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.

    • 48 min
    Backfire Effect with Riyadh Nazerally

    Backfire Effect with Riyadh Nazerally

    Riyadh Nazerally is the Director of Communications for the Hon. Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, and is the former Director of Communications for Capital Pride in Ottawa. This week he and Elizabeth discuss the backfire effect and its three types: familiarity, overkill and worldview. They talk about how to understand and handle the backfire effect when it happens. Riyadh explains how comms and policy teams figure out how much information to send, who to send it to, and when. 
    Additional resources:
    Elizabeth uses this article from Lewandowsky and this article from Peter & Koch for  academic definition of backfire effect Early in the episode Riyadh mentions the book Weapons of Math Disruption by Cathy O’Neil — here is a review that summarizes what it’s all about.Elizabeth also mentions last week’s rebroadcast episode about Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles with Adi Rao.The term “information overload” is used in this episode. Here is an interesting article with simple tips on how to deal with information overload. Riyadh discusses the benefits of use of infographics to make information more accessible. Linking to the theme of the season, however, this post shows how infographics can easily be used to spread misinformation.Riyadh leaves us with this useful tip for communication strategies: “Would your mother understand this and are you pissing off a stakeholder?”Check out www.polcommtech.ca for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.

    • 35 min
    Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles with Adi Rao (re-release)

    Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles with Adi Rao (re-release)

    Adi, a lawyer and campaigner, explains how campaigns are often thinking about how they can crack into people's filter bubbles in order to raise awareness and find new supporters. During the  conversation Elizabeth and Adi tease apart the difference between algorithmically driven filter bubbles and echo chambers which come about as a result of individuals choices in their media environment.
    Additional Resources:
    Eli Pariser has a helpful Ted Talk about his notion of the Filter Bubble: Beware online “filter bubbles”.This academic article by Dubois (yes, your host) and Blank breaks down the theory of echo chambers and talks about how people's media diets might help them avoid echo chambers: The echo chamber is overstated: the moderating effect of political interest and diverse media.This Knight Foundation report is a great, accessible, overview of academic research related to echo chambers: Avoiding the Echo Chamber about Echo Chambers.Early in the episode Elizabeth mentions homophily which is basically the idea of "birds of a feather flock together." The Wikipedia article on homophily is a great place to start.Check out www.polcommtech.ca for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.

    • 27 min

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