Mirko Tobias Schäfer / Assistant Professor
University of Utrecht Department for Media and Culture Studies

Mapping #NSS2014

The summit provides us with the unique opportunity to witness how various audiences interact  and how issues are represented in mainstream media and  social media. Although the decisions and policies coming out of this summit have been drafted weeks ago, it remains to be seen to what extent participating countries will be willing to commit eventually to more transparency and openness concerning the safety of nuclear material. Additionally the summit is the first large gathering of political leaders since the emergence of the Crimean crisis and provides opportunity for coordinating further actions.

Dominant discourse and marginalized topics

There are many issues to be discussed and others that should be on the agenda. However, the debate seems widely shaped by political interests and political correctness. Focusing on civilian nuclear material (e.g. from energy industry and research) the summit deliberately marginalizes or even excludes a discussion of nuclear arms. Framing the civilian nuclear material as potentially accessible to terrorists implies the summit might seek ways of helping the industry to protect their waste on tax payers expenses. In any case there are many issues at hand but some are in the spotlights of mainstream media and are prominently placed on the conference agenda, while others are marginalized or excluded. Various issue networks try to gain attention for their topic. In the past weeks we have already seen the emergence of activists, concerned experts and politicians on social media networks to express their opinion about the summit and the topics discussed. In the past days the social media see a steep increase of general local audiences sharing how the summit affects their everyday life. Mocking the security measures, a popular image displays a fighter jet at a gas station.

Security measures

With over 50 political leaders and 5000 conference delegates coming to the Netherlands for two days, the security activities put into action have a significant impact on civilian life. The safety precautions involve gated zones protected by fences and accessible only for authorized persons, an excessive force of 13000 policemen, 4000 military personnel, three navy vessels guarding the coast off The Hague, no-fly zones and anti-aircraft missiles put in place, intermission of the Schengen agreement and increased controls at border crossings and numerous road blocks. An entire runway has been shut down at Schiphol airport park the government airplanes and the highway between Schiphol Airport and The Hague is not accessible for civilian traffic. The social media show an increasing outburst of astonishment about the excessive security measures. Photo's of children in front of road blocks, soldiers in front of anti-aircraft missiles, military helicopters are spread through Twitter and Facebook. With amazement users comment on the prohibition to sit on balcony’s in various zones in Amsterdam during the period of the summit and the complete prohibition to use and carry photo cameras, banners or gather in groups of four or more persons in Haarlemmermeer (a village in close proximity of the airport).

City marketing

 The summit ranges in the Olympic league of political conferences. Therefore the organizers and the city of The Hague use social media channels to show off the smooth organization, the art works and flower decorations put in place and to point out the vital economic interest of hosting such a summit. Hundreds of tweets are laudable about the efforts put into place.

Mapping issues, audiences and interaction

For researchers of the connected public sphere this summit is interesting because we can in real-time map how issue networks evolve, how messages spread through social media, how issue appear to be marginalized while others receive great attention by policy makers and how the summit is represented in media to the general audience. The summit also provides us with the unique opportunity to map how events unfolding on the territory reflect in the social media sphere. Here, we are interested to what extent the alleged security needs conflict with the civic right for expressing opinion and taking to the streets for demonstrations. We are aware of the attempts to stifle approved demonstrations and there are reports of police intimidating potential demonstrators. The NSS continues the trend of hermetically sealed gathering of politically leaders. In the recent years concerned voices have been banned to so-called 'free speech zones' far away from the actual  political assemblage mocking the traditional understanding of dissent and debate in a vital democracy.

Our effort during the next three days is to map the various audiences, identify issues and analyze the dynamic of the different participants interacting with each other. We want to see to what extent 'strong audiences' and 'weak audiences' can be traced in social media. Furthermore we hope to employ the data for deeper insight into the transformation of public sphere through an inseparable interconnection of physical public space with a connected media sphere.

Together with our technology partner Buzzcapture, we have been collecting data from online sources (Twitter, Facebook, various blogs, mainstream media websites, online forums) over the past four weeks. On 24 and 25 March a hackathon will be hosted by the Utrecht Data School at Rotslab Utrecht. A team of data analysts and new media students will make sense of these data.

#NSS2014 hackathon:

Rotsoord 9
3523 CL Utrecht

24 and 25 March, starting at 9:00 am.

#NSS2014 hackathon is organized by the Utrecht Data School
Coordination: Mike van Stroe, Thomas Boeschoten, Karin van Es and Mirko Tobias Schäfer

Participation and registration: http://www.dataschool.nl/events/nss-hackathon/

The #NSS2014 hackathon is funded by the Institute for Cultural Inquiry at Utrecht University

Date March 2014 Category News

On 24 and 25 March 2014 The Hague will host the third Nuclear Security Summit. The summit is explicitly concerned with the alleged threat of nuclear terrorism and seeks ways of protecting  nuclear material to fall into the hands of so-called terrorists. The Utrecht Data School seizes the opportunity to map this large event and the various issues revolving around it, as well as the participating audiences as they are displayed in the connected public sphere.

2000 - 2018 Mirko Tobias Schäfer

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