Organized every year since 2010 by Kadir Has University Faculty of Communication Department of Public Relations and Publicity, the main aim of International Conference on Conflict, Terrorism and Society (ICCTS) is to bring together academics, researchers, experts and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines working on the subject. The conference is multidisciplinary with a specific focus on political, international and communication studies.
In the first year of the conference, we explored ongoing problems and challenges regarding terrorism in a wide range of perspectives from media to the governments, laws, and human rights, with the contributions of famous terrorism experts, Yonah Alexander and Brian Jenkins.
In the second conference, we put the people (civilians) into our main focus. Over the years, millions of people have already died in civil wars, environmental disasters, famine, preventable diseases, poverty and violation of human rights by military threats. In this aspect, the second year’s conference theme was ‘Terrorism and Human Security.’ With the human security approach, we tried to tackle the human dimension of terrorism whether in the discussions of its root causes or in crafting responses to be able to strike a fair balance between human rights and security.
The third year’s conference hot debate was new media’s effects. Over the past decade, the influence of the internet as a means to spread information and challenge existing media controls has rapidly expanded. As events in the Middle East in the winter of 2011 have demonstrated, the internet has also emerged as a crucial medium through which citizens can mobilize and advocate for political, social, and economic reform. Fearing the power of the new technologies, authoritarian states have devised subtle and not-so-subtle ways to filter, monitor, and otherwise obstruct or manipulate the openness of the internet. Even a number of democratic states have considered or implemented various restrictions in response to the potential legal, economic, and security challenges raised by new media. It is not surprising to see that there are different approaches to the growth of new media in different societies and the impact of it on different nation-states may have different results. In the 3rd International conference on Conflict, Terrorism, and Society, we discussed new media politics from divergent perspectives in different countries.
The 4th International Conference on Conflict, Terrorism, and Society was titled “Framing Violence: Borders, Conflicts, and Identities”. In that time we were living in a world global terrorism was in rise, new media was surrounded by violent contents created by terrorist organizations and there was a global debate regarding immigration, borders and identities. The tension between mobility of bodies, labour, ideas, and identities and the force of borders, either on the maps or in the minds, was frequently turning into violent conflicts across globe. We tried to focus on these issues on 4th conference.
The 5th ICCTS was titled “Non-State Actors in Conflicts: Conspiracies, Myths, and Practices”. From armed actors to non-armed actors, non-state actors’ impact over the global politics were in rise and from politicians to academics everybody was asking the same question: How to deal with these actors fairly and effectively, might they be relevant for establishment of a more democratic world order or are they a threat for democratic and peaceful world order. It was also a very exciting conference for us organizers, and attendants due to its actuality and tempo.
The 6th ICCTS was titled “Framing Violence: Borders, Conflicts, and Identities” in a world that was under the siege of post-truth politics. Conspiracy theories and conspiracies were turned into main agenda of even mainstream media and mainstream politics was highly affected by this invasion of post-truth politics. From media scholars to political science scholars, everybody had the same question. Are we in the end of rational voting and rational political debate.
The 7th ICCTS was titled “Polarization, Populism, and the New Politics: Media and Communication in a Changing World”. This title provided a continuity with reference to previous years’ themes in terms of its possible contributions to future of liberal democracies, transparency, human rights, civil society and the aim of living in a peaceful society. From new media platforms to traditional media outlets, polarization became a triggering factor in daily life. The utopia of social media as an open public sphere for democratic discussion is nearly collapsed. Social media is totally monetized and as latest revelations about Facebook demonstrated, most of social networks turned into massive surveillance tools. From a football match to a news piece about celebrity, masses can polarize over every single content, and totally ignore each other. Question marks have been replaced by exclamation marks and arguments easily turn into accusations. However, this polarization is not only experienced in social networks. It is even possible to say this is an outcome of mainstream political discourses and end of the era of negotiaton and agreeableness. Political leaders are moslty insensitive about public tensions and they are totally benefiting from tensions. Populist leaders, particularly, benefit from this tensions in a really creative way and more and more politicians these days try to establish their political carreers on the path of populism rather than ethical politics and certain ideological values. Populism, as a communicational style, became a norm and group polarization became an unfortunate mechanism which is easily “benefitable” to many political actors. We tried to discuss and focus on these issues on 7th conference.