SEMINAR: IR and Social Media: Theory and Cases

Course content

In the last decade, Social Media- understood as web services which facilitate the exchange of user generated content, has become an integral part of everyday life, increasingly changing the way in which social relations are mediated, both locally and globally. In particular, the increased circulation of user generated content on these web services, such as images and videos produced by widely available mobile technologies circulating on platforms such as Facebook and Tweeter, has profoundly changed the visibility of the international domain, and many of the practices through which it has been traditionally mediated. On one hand, spectacular events such as the Arab Spring has vividly demonstrated the political significance of this, as political and cultural boundaries become transcendent while new paths of communication for publics across the globe previously monopolized by the state begin to open. Yet, on the other, the same socio-technological disposition facilitates also for new practices of surveillance and censorship, which threaten to encroach upon the political potentialities of these new emerging sites of participation and contestation, as many states attempt to re-monopolize this emerging public sphere. Thus, as academics and practitioner alike begin to recognize that politics as such, and foreign policy in particular, are increasingly mediated through Social Media, it raises the question of what are the implications of this socio-technological revolution to the manner in which we understand and study IR?

The competencies acquired:

This course enhances the students’ ability to understand the emerging logic of contemporary international interactions on Social Media, and will be useful for students who aim at careers both in the public and private sectors, engaging with global affairs.




Learning outcome

This course will engage the students in theoretical and empirical debates which will attempt to make sense of the way in which contemporary international relations are mediated through Social Media and the ways in which it reshapes the political terrain. For this purpose, the course shall introduce students to the basic concepts, themes and methodologies in Social Media research, discuss the heterogeneous ways in which Social Media affects the practices and discourses of the exceptional and the mundane mediations of international relations, namely security and diplomacy,  and apply these insights to empiric cases.

Upon completion, the students will be expected to


  • Describe the key concepts and theories in Social Media research and their relevance for IR.
  • Critically reflect upon the strength and weaknesses of these theories and concepts.
  • Apply these insights onto concrete cases.



Lectures, Guest Lectures and Hands-On Research Workshops




Fuches, C. (2014) Social Media: A Critical Introduction Sage: London.  (266 pages)


Part I: Introduction

What is Social Media?



Fuches, C. (2014), Ch. 1-3 p. 1-68 (special attention to 1-10, 31-38).

O’Reily, T. (2012) “What Is Web 2.0? Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software”, in Mandiberg, M. (ed.) The Social Media Reader New York University Press: New York.

Kaplan, A and M. Haenlein (2010) “Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media” Business Horizons 53: 59-68.


The Political Economy of Social Media:

Fuchs (2014) Ch.5- 6 (p. 97-152)


Social Media and Politics :


 The optimist/pessimist divide

Fuchs (2014), Ch.8

Shirky, C. (2011) “The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, The Public Sphere, and The Political Change” Foreign Affairs 90(1).

Bakardjieva, M. (2009) “Subactivism: Lifeworld and Politics in the Age of the Internet” The Information Society 25: 91-104.

Morozov, E. (2011) The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom Public Affairs: New York. p. ix-xvii; 179-203

Dean (2005) “Communicative Capitalism: Circulation and the Foreclosure of Politics” Cultural Politics 1(1):51-74. 


Conceptual clarifications - Public Sphere, Visibility, Power and Mediation  


Fuchs (2014), Ch. 4  (69-93)

Crossley, N. and Roberts, J.M. (2004) Introduction, in After Habermas: New Perspectives on the Public Sphere. Blackwell Publishing. 1-27

Thompson, J.B. (2005) The New Visibility, Theory Culture& Society 22(6): 31-51.

Beer, D. (2009) Power through the algorithm? Participatory web cultures and the technological unconscious. New Media& Society 11(6). 985-1002.  


PART II: Methods


The ontology and the epistemology of networks


The ontology of networks:

Eriksson, K. (2005) Foucault, Deleuze, and the ontology of networks. The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms 10:6, 595-610

Latour, B. (2005) Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory, Oxford University Press, p. 1-17.

The epistemology of networks:

Muller, M. (2015) Assemblages and Actor-networks: Rethinking Social-material Power, Politics and Space, Geography Compass 9(1): 27-41.

Latour (2005) introduction to actor network theory 1-17; 245-262

Venturini, T. (2010( Diving in magma: how to explore controversies with actor-network theory, Public Uniderstanding of Science 19(3): 258-273.

Rogers, R. (2013) Digital Methods MIT Press: Cambridge. (1-17)

Rupper, E., Law, J. and Savage, M. (2013) Reassembling Social Science Methods: The Challenge of Digital Devices. Theory, Culture& Society 30 (4) 22-46


Issue mapping and Twitter analysis


Marres, N. (2015) Why Map Issues? On Controversy Analysis as a Digital Method Science Technology & Human Values

Rogers, R. (2013) “Mapping public Web space with the Issuecrawler”, in Digital Cognitive Technologies: Epistemology and the Knowledge Economy, eds Bernard Reber, Claire Brossaud, Wiley

Borra, Erik, and Bernhard Rieder. "Programmed method: developing a toolset for capturing and analyzing tweets." Aslib Journal of Information Management 66.3 (2014): 262-278.


Facebook, Instagram and YouTube

Rieder, Bernhard. "Studying Facebook via data extraction: the Netvizz application."Proceedings of the

5th Annual ACM Web Science Conference. ACM, 2013.


Network visualization and research ethics

Manovich, L. (2012) Media Visualization: Visual Techniques for Exploring Large Media Collections. In Media Studies Futures, ed Gates, K. Blakwekk 2012

Markham, A. and Buchanan, E. (2012) “Ethical Decision- Making and Internet Research”[ ]


PART III: IR and Social Media


Social Media and IR I:  Digital Diplomacy and the challenges of social media to the diplomatic practice

Constantinou, C.M. and Der Derian, J. (2010) ‘Introduction: Sustaining Global Hope: Sovereignty, Power and the Transformation of Diplomacy’, in Constantinou, C.M. and Der Derian, J. (2010) Sustainable Diplomacies. Palgrave, p. 1-19.

Bjola, C. (2015) “Introduction: making sense of digital diplomacy”, in

Bjola, C. and Holmes, M. (eds) Digital Diplomacy: Theory and Practice Routledge: London, p. 1-5.

Holmes, M. (2015) Digital Diplomacy and International Change Management, in Bjola, C. and Holmes, M. (eds) Digital Diplomacy: Theory and Practice Routledge: London 13-32. 

Seib, P. (2012) Real-Time Diplomacy: Politics and Power in the Social Media Era Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke. 1-12

Sifry, M. and Rasiej, A. (2009) P2P2G: The rise of e-diplomacy. Politico [

For empirical examples see:


Social Media and IR II: Public Diplomacy 2.0

Sotiriu, S. (2015) “Digital Diplomacy: Between promises and reality”, in Bjola, C. and Holmes, M. (eds) Digital Diplomacy: Theory and Practice Routledge: London, 33-51. 

Arsenault, A. (2013) “Networks of Freedom, Networks of Control: Internet Policy as a Platform for and Impediment to Relational Public Diplomacy”, in Zaharna, R.S. et al (eds)Relational, Networked and Collaborative Approaches to Public Diplomacy, Routledge, 192-208.

Cull, N.J. (2011) WikiLeaks, public diplomacy 2.0 and the state of digital public diplomacy,Place Branding and Public Diplomacy 7, 1-8.

Khatib et al (2012) “Public Diplomacy 2.0: A Case study of the US Digital Outreach Team”,  Middle East Journal 66 (3): 453-472.

Morozov, E. (2009) “The Future of ‘Public Diplomacy’ 2.0” Foreign Policy 9th Jun]


Social Media and IR III: (de)Securitization

Friis, S.M. (2015) ‘Beyond anything we have ever seen’: beheading videos and the visibility of violence in the war against ISIS. International Affairs 91 (4): 725-746.

Hansen, L. (2011) Theorizing the image for Security Studies: Visual securitization and the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis.  European Journal of International Relations 17(1): 51–74.

Der Derian, J. (2013) “From War 2.0 to quantum war: the superpositionality of global violence” Australian Journal of International Affairs 67 (5): 570:585.

Hochman, N. (2014) The Social Media Image, Big Data& Society (July-December): 1-15.

Rainie et al (2012) “Photos and Videos as Social Currency Online”, []


Social Media and IR IV: Surveillance and Cyber Security

Fuchs (2014) Ch. 7 and 9

Baumen, Z. et al (2014) “After Snowden: Rethinking the Impact of Surveillance” International Political Sociology 8: 121-144.

Tufekci, Z.  (2014) Engineering the public: Big data, surveillance and computational politics,First Monday 19 (7)


Caluya, G. (2010) The post-panoptic society? Reassessing Foucault in surveillance studies,Social Identities 16 (5)

Hansen, L. and H. Nissenbaum (2009) ”Digital Disaster, Cyber Security, and the Copenhagen School” International Studies Quarterly 53, 1155-1175.


Project pitching/ Student Presentations

Summary/ Q&A


Fuchs (2014) Ch.11


Bachelor level knowledge of International Relations, and keen interest in global affairs and Social Media.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individuel written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Passed/Not passed

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28