Five Propositions for the Pax Technica

CEU Community + Invited Guests
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 12:45pm
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Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 12:45pm

This Thursday the Media and Change Discussion Series will host a talk by Philip N. Howard, CMCS Director and SPP Professor. Howard will talk about his ongoing research on the impact of information technologies on global politics and current events.

The CMCS Media and Change lunch series aims at creating a space for reflection and informal discussion about media policies, perils, potentials, and practices. We view this as an opportunity for networking with each other and fellow CEU faculty, students, staff and researchers interested in the media, communication and technological transformations taking hold.

Five Propositions for the Pax Technica

Presentation by Philip N. Howard CMCS Director and SPP Professor

Date: Thursday February 6 at 12.45

Location: CEU, Monument building, room 203

What are the safest things we can say about the impact of new information technologies on current events? First, the Internet has been weaponized. Governments, firms, and civic groups aggressively use the Internet to attack each other and defend their interests. Second, people increasingly use the Internet to best their own governments. These days, when governments succeed or fail, it’s often because of the savvy or silly ways they work online. Third, information technology is beating back ideologies. Radical ideas are being marginalized, and dictators find that controlling the Internet merely erodes their long-term credibility. Fourth, the Internet is helping people solve a plethora of collective action problems. It’s helped create a few new problems, but the number and diversity of shared problems that get solved with digital media is inspiring. Finally digital media — through big data analysis — increasingly providing us with connective security. There are clear trade-offs that many privacy advocates dislike, but the national security benefits of responsibly handled big data analysis are easy to list.

This peace is not so much the absence of war but the presence of transparent governments, empowered citizens, open information systems, and shared norms of information access. Governments don’t always want to be opened up for scrutiny, and activists don’t always use social media very well. But it is clear that the rules of global power politics have changed. There are some other safe assumptions. International tensions over competing technology standards are only going to increase. Even some of the most banal engineering protocols for how the Internet works can have immense implications for political life. If the Russians, Chinese, or Iranians can put those protocols to work for their political projects they will. Technology standards used to be left, frankly, to technocrats—the experts who actually understand how the Internet works. But political leaders of all stripes have seen how information technology shapes political outcomes, so they’ve taken over and exacerbated technology disputes in predictable ways.

Short presentation followed by discussion.

Philip N. Howard is the Director of the Center for Media and Communication Studies and Professor of media and communication policy and governance at the School of Public Policy (SPP). Professor Howard is an academic and commentator on global media policy issues who investigates different aspects of the global politics of technology diffusion. Howard’s latest book, Democracy's Fourth Wave? Digital Media and the Arab Spring was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. He writes commentary about digital media and international affairs for the Huffington Post, Reuters, and Slate. His writings appear at and he tweets from @pnhoward.


We are always interested in new ideas for discussion topics and presentations, and encourage volunteers from faculty, students and staff to moderate future sessions.