How do ideas become powerful?

📚📚📚 This week, we’re celebrating a new book launch!

Power in Ideas, by Kirsten Adams and Daniel Kreiss, offers three case studies on how ideas emerge, acquire legitimacy, travel across fields, and ultimately become powerful in political communication. They trace the histories of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s case for reparations, Mark Zuckerberg’s definition of free expression, and universal basic income policy to understand the role of ideas in public discourse.

The project began as an attempt to understand and explain the importance of Coates’s work:

We could not explain Coates’s essay and its influence if we reduced reparations to a frame, although that concept was crucial to elucidating the dynamics of the subsequent debate over reparations. Even more, the Coates essay was compelling because it fundamentally addressed the question of racial justice, with the Black Lives Matter movement clearly shaping the context for the reception of the idea of reparations while forcing a long overdue racial reckoning for America, which was made clear during the 2020 presidential race. As such, this case presents the history of reparations as an old idea on the margins of American political discourse that was given new life through Coates’s essay, shifts in the political field, a social movement for racial justice, and the discursive opportunities provided by electoral politics. Taken together, all of this made reparations a compelling case for us both theoretically and substantively.

Adams and Kreiss draw on interpretative, quantitative, and computational methods and propose a new framework for studying ideas in political communications.

Power in Ideas is part of the Elements in Politics and Communication series. Cambridge University Press is making the full text available for free download for the next two and a half weeks.

Power in words

Online, Deen Freelon started a conversation about how academics should respond to journals that bowdlerize direct discussions of racism, in response to a report that the Journal of the American Medical Association has asked researchers to “replace the word racism in articles.”

Recent publications and appearances

“Polarization is the inevitable outgrowth of these increasingly forceful challenges to the historic political, economic, cultural, and social power of dominant groups in America. None of which is to say that polarization is not a concern or that it is not potentially harmful. It is to say that polarization is not the only or even the primary thing we should worry about when discussing how to change or regulate tech.” Shannon McGregor and Daniel Kreiss write about the misplaced focus on polarization in the tech regulation discourse in Wired.

“So what does it mean to be a Black mother in a time when Black women’s bodies are not exclusively used for exploitative labor practices? What does it mean to be a Black woman who can choose how, where, and with whom she wants to start a family? What does it mean to be a Black mother who not only survives but remains alive long enough to pass on stories, customs, traditions, and most of all, love?” Dr. McMillan Cottom’s book Thick and Other Essays was cited in an Elle magazine essay on the precariousness of Black motherhood.

Coming soon

On April 12, Rachel Kuo will give a talk on Movement Media: Racial Solidarities Across Platforms at ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

Tressie McMillan Cottom will be giving this year’s Ed Mignon Distinguished Lecture at the University of Washington Information School on April 13, and the keynote address for the Association of College & Research Libraries 2021 Conference, taking place April 13-16.

Informal, Criminalized, Precarious: Sex Workers Organizing Against Barriers” CITAP is presenting a webinar series with Hacking//Hustling, the Cornell Gender Justice Clinic, and the Berkman Klein Center.  Sessions are scheduled throughout April.

Alice Marwick will speak on a panel about disinformation in the digital age for the 2021 #SpeechMatters conference on April 20.

Rachel Kuo is co-facilitating an Ethical and Effective Public Scholarship workshop on April 30, as part of Boston College’s conference on Building the Fugitive Academy: Communication, Culture, Media, & Rhetoric Scholars on the Work of Transformation.

Rest of Web

Linterna Verde translated CITAP’s critical disinformation principles into Spanish!

Francesca Tripodi shared a new article by Leon Yin and Aaron Sankin, which provides a deep analysis of the power of keywords and the role nuance plays in effectively blocking hate.

Zeynep Tufekci has a great Twitter thread on the pitfalls of back-of-the-envelope calculations about the transmissibility of specific COVID-19 variants.

Looking for materials to teach platform governance? Alice Marwick shared a set of case studies from the Trust and Safety Foundation.

SILS Professor Maggie Melo wrote about her experiences with racism as a Filipina American in a collection of short essays from Asian voices at Carolina.