An essay by Jonathan Corpus Ong, associate professor of communication, is among the first articles published by the new journal “Digital War.” In “Limits and luxuries of slow research in radical war: how should we represent perpetrators?” Ong explores how researchers apply the practices of “slow research,” and how ethnography and principles of slow research help make sense of fast-moving battles for truth, attention, and control in digital environments.
“For me, using insights derived from slow research and ethnography to inform policy nevertheless worked most effectively when offered as correctives to dominant approaches already out there,” Ong writes in the essay, which appears as a digital-first publication online. “The value of patient attentiveness attunes ethnographers to gaps, vulnerabilities, taboos, and all that is ‘not said’ in broader culture and therefore helps develop plausible alternatives.”
Ong’s essay draws on his three years of ethnographic research and policy interventions into the political marketing and its affiliated “fake news” industries in the Philippines. In the piece, he argues that “ethnographic approaches can potentially nuance journalists’ personality-oriented name-and-shame reporting and develop more systemic critique and locally minded interventions.” However, he also believes academics also need a thoughtful reckoning with the limits and luxuries of slow research.
“Slow research can help researchers work through within specific local contexts on how to engage with two central and ever-recurring challenges we face in the radical war moment: first, the challenge of representing perpetrators and second, the challenge of developing interventions which tackle the root causes behind democratic backsliding,” Ong writes.
“On the first challenge, I have found that slow research helped develop contextual responses in addressing the tension between, on the one hand, the responsibility of diving deep to understand the genesis of critical events or motivations of bad actors and, on the other hand, practicing caution or ‘strategic silence’ such that we do not popularize dangerous ideas and encourage copycats.”
Ong is co-editor-in-chief of the journal “Television & New Media,” housed in the department of communication, and his research on disinformation campaigns in the Philippines has previously been published by the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, New Mandala and the Newton Tech4Dev Network.
The inaugural issue of “Digital War” will be a double issue due for publication Summer 2020. The content of the first issue will not be peer reviewed.