The VOX-Pol Guest Lecture Series, Autumn 2023

VOX-Pol is pleased to share the Autumn 2023 Guest Lecture Series on our YouTube Channel. The lectures are freely available for use in teaching and research, and we encourage our viewers to share them with your own networks.

Introductory lecture

Presenters: Stuart Macdonald, VOX-Pol Coordinator, and Jonathan Collins, VOX-Pol NextGen Network.
Title: An Introduction to VOX-Pol and the Next Gen Network

Conceptual foundations of violent extremism and terrorism online

Presenter: Dr Anthony Richards
Title: ‘Conceptualising Terrorism: Challenges and Implications’
Outline: “Why is it important to generate an agreed definition of terrorism? What are the challenges that confront this and to what the extent can we view terrorism as an analytically distinctive concept?”

Presenter: J.M. Berger
Title: The Conceptualisation of Extremism Online
Outline: The rise of the online environment has been a game changer in enabling extremist movements to destabilize civil societies around the globe. This presentation explores the interface between extremism and the internet and presents contemporary approaches to understanding violent extremism online.

Research methodologies

Presenter: Jonathan Collins
Title: An Introduction to Netnography and Step-by-Step Guide
Outline: “New immersive methodologies are needed to better understand online extremist communities. The presentation will cover one of these (Netnography), providing an essential glimpse into this multifunctional tool and the benefits it offers to the field. The lecture will also include a step-by-step guide on how to conduct a netnographic study, offering a great starting point for those looking to adopt the technique.”

Presenter: Dr Joe Whittaker
Title: Catch 22: Researcher Welfare and Institutional Ethics within Online Terrorism and Extremism Research
Outline: “Recent years have seen an increase in concern over the welfare of researchers who regularly engage with extremist and terrorist content online. This comprises external (such as death threats, doxing, and trolling), internal (psychological issues surrounding engagement with content), and professional issues. This lecture focuses on an important and understudied aspect of the issue of researcher welfare; the navigation of ethics committees. Drawing on interview-based research with 39 academics, Joe will discuss researchers’ experiences with the ethical application process; how and whether researcher welfare is considered; and the concern that institutions will make it more difficult to conduct research in future. These issues leave online extremism researchers in a “Catch 22” in which they either have little institutional oversight but experience harms conducting their work, or do have oversight, but with more barriers put up.”

Responses to violent extremism and terrorism online 

Presenter: Kristina Kirk, Principal Advisor, Christchurch Call Unit, New Zealand Government
Title: The Christchurch Call
Outline: This presentation will discuss the establishment and evolution of The Christchurch Call, an initiative arising as a consequence of the livestreaming of an horrific terrorist event in New Zealand in 2019. The Call outlines collective, voluntary commitments from Governments and online service providers designed to address the issue of terrorist and violent extremist content online and to prevent the abuse of the internet as occurred during and after the Christchurch attacks.

Trends and challenges

Presenter: Dr. Rohit Chopra
Title: Online Hindu Extremism: Local, National, and Global Dimensions
Outline: This presentation traces the history of online Hindu extremism, from its origins in the early years of the post-web internet to its significant amplification during the last decade with the political ascendancy of the Hindu Right in India. Delineating the key characteristics of online Hindu extremism, the presentation describes how online Hindu extremism feeds off local, national, and global developments and operates at each of these levels.

Presenter: Dr. Saimum Parvez
Title: Digital Media and Narrowcasting: How Bangladeshi Violent Extremists Target Women and Youth for Recruitment
Outline: This presentation discusses the role of digital media in recruitment and how it helps recruits and recruiters discover each other. In Bangladesh, digital media have provided opportunities for violent extremists to reach previously unreachable demographics, such as women and youths from ‘westernized’ and well-off backgrounds.
Saimum Parvez, Ph.D., is a MSCA-IMPACT cofund post-doctoral fellow at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). This research project is co-funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 101034352.

Presenter: Jade Hutchinson
Title: The Far-Right Online Ecosystem
Outline: This presentation provides a conceptual and empirical overview of how networks of online platforms and devices shape Far-Right extremism and terrorism. Drawing on current PhD research into how online extremist ecosystems operate, issues of ecosystem conceptualisation, data collection, and the challenges associated with online ecosystem research are discussed.

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