Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob, PhD, FRSA
My teaching and research interest is located at the intersection between communications, war, and peace in contemporary society. I am particularly interested in how communication interventions are localized, encountered and contested in extremist and violently divided societies. The applied area of my work involves developing and deploying contextually relevant strategic communication solutions to local and national crises and working with civil society and social movement organizations to achieve social and cultural change.
Assistance or Hinderance? Policies, Practices, Coordination and Impacts of Foreign Media Intervention in Conflict-Affected Societies
Date: April 20, 2021
Virtual Event: The Hub for Hybrid Communications in Peacebuilding, Centre for Freedom of the Media, University of Sheffield, UK
Boko Haram and the attack on Education in Nigeria since Chibok
Date: April 9, 2019
Venue: 2020, Rayburn House Office Building,
Capitol Hill, Washington DC, USA
UPCOMING AND RECENT SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
Technology & Policy at the Margins
Inciting Peace in Times of War: Principles, Practices, and Ethics of Peace Journalism
Date: August 9, 2019
Venue: Pembroke College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Public Lecture/panel discussion
Clark Forum for Contemporary Issues
Date: November 14, 2019
Venue: Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA
United Nations Department of Peace Operations (DPO)/Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI)/DDR Section
“Research perspectives on Public Information and Strategic Communications during
Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) processes”
Date: June 25, 2020
A joint virtual event between the UN's DPO/OROLSI/DDR Section and the Research Group on UN Media and Peace Processes (RUNMAPP), at the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM), University of Sheffield, UK
Thabo Mbeki Foundation
Date: April 29, 2021
Virtual Event: Thabo Mbeki African School of Government & Public Affairs, University of South Africa, South Africa
Countermeasures to extremist propaganda: a strategy for countering absolutist religious beliefs in northeast Nigeria
My latest publication is a book chapter in the Edward Elgar Research Handbook on Political Propaganda, edited by Gary D. Rawnsley, et al. The chapter contributes to contemporary debates on the nature of impacts of counter-narrative campaigns. The editors dedicate the volume to three of my intellectual heroes - all legends in the field: Professor Nicholas Pronay who founded the Institute of Communications Studies at the University of Leeds where I studied, Professor Philip M. Taylor (1954-2010) who was my doctoral supervisor and Professor Jay Blumler (1924-2021) whose towering body of work greatly influenced my research interest at Leeds.
Here are some excerpts:
One of the fundamental findings that emerged from our formative survey was the role of the religious Hero, defined here as the person that symbolises the absoluteness of religious text and through whom believers establish a vicarious primordial relationship with their religious beliefs. I use Hero here in a similar way as Martin Heidegger in his exposition on the choosing of a hero: a deliberate, intentional decision to make one’s life a replication of an original authentic life (Heidegger, 1980). The life of Jesus Christ, for example, is the quintessentially authentic life after which Christians seek to pattern their lives. The Heideggerian Hero, as used here, inspires devotion and propels believers into a mechanical, amorphous collective abnegation of personal will and agency in favour of a collective unified faith that modulates personal and collective behaviour. In modelling the Hero's devotion to the letter, the believer models scriptural living. Heroes are not just faith leaders. They wield enormous personal and social influence and domination, as they are associated with scriptural texts and, by extension, religious beliefs. The propaganda of the religious Hero is contained in the human face and form that they give to scripture through their absolute devotion to doctrinal beliefs. This bestows enormous powers and influence on them, as they become the standard and authority for the right form of religious behaviour. ... The Hero may not necessarily be the traditionally recognised religious leader. ... The misstep of working with 'moderate' religious leaders in countering violent extremism is that the moderate leader, though he may be the Emir, Sultan, or an established cleric, lacks the patrimonial authority that true believers look up to for standards and patterns for the manifest expression of their beliefs. ... In its patrimonial form, absolute religious beliefs mutate into systems of social control, domination, and rewards. Scriptural injunctions, symbolised and signified by the most religious Heroes, penetrate the society, not through mainstream or conventional pipelines such as mosques or churches, mainstream media, family units, etc., but through diffused repetitions of behaviours, codes and mores which eventually become standards of religious behaviour. In this extended form, absolutist beliefs go beyond the regular religious systems, personalities, or institutions that modulate religious practices and performances in society.
Jacob. J.U. (2021). 'Countermeasures to Extremist Propaganda: a strategy for countering absolutist religious beliefs in northeast Nigeria'. In: G. Rawnley, Y. Ma, & K. Pothong (eds.) Research Handbook on Political Propaganda. Edward Elgar, London.
Outsourcing Public Diplomacy Operations: Neoliberalism and the Communications of the United Nations since the End of the Cold War
My recent book chapter focuses on the development of public diplomacy activities by the United Nations. I argue that neoliberal pivots within the UN have had negative consequences for its public diplomacy programs. The chapter provides a critical analysis of two outsourced partners of UN public diplomacy. Namely, Fondation Hirondelle and the global PR firm Bell Pottinger.
Here are some excerpts:
The UN has been an outwardly communicating organisation since its inauguration in 1945 and throughout its existence those communications have been keen to reflect the competing and prevailing trends of global hegemony. This includes the UN’s own efforts at public diplomacy: mass communications that have primarily accompanied their peacekeeping and conflict resolution tasks and general explanation and legitimation of itself and its purpose to the world. However, the UN spent the first forty-five years of its life being largely superseded by the bi-polar power structures and major events of the Cold War, which only rarely provided opportunity for the organisation to take a lead role. This changed in the 1990s though as the end of the Cold War opened potential windows of opportunity for the UN to assert itself on international affairs in ways that had not existed before. Nevertheless, it is the argument of this chapter that, at the very moment when the UN had an opportunity to lead international actors into a furthering of their moral gaze, neoliberal pivots within the organisation curtailed the prospect of that becoming a positive reality. Indeed, such was the organisation’s coveting of neoliberalism as it spread around the world, the changes that it ultimately made sabotaged much of the prospect for an advancement of the role of morality and ethics within global affairs that the UN had been well-placed to lead. Read more excerpts here.
Jacob J. U. (2021). 'Outsourcing Public Diplomacy Operations: Neoliberalism and the Communications of the United Nations since the End of the Cold War'. In: Alexander, C. (ed.) The Frontiers of Public Diplomacy: Hegemony, Morality and Power in the International Sphere (1st ed.). Routledge, London.
Uses and Abuses: How increased Social Media usage threatens Nigeria’s democracy
Nigerians spend an average of 3 hours 41 minutes daily on social media. The country has the largest mobile phone connection and social media users in Africa. Last summer, the Nigerian government placed an indefinite ban on Twitter, citing misinformation and fake news on the platform, which it said undermines Nigeria's corporate existence. In my article for Nigeria's Premium Times, I write about the opportunities and perils of social media uses in the country. I argue that social media can indeed be a threat, however, banning Twitter is not the solution. The regulatory framework should focus on algorithmic oversight so they are not left entirely to the untrustworthy capitalist hands of powerful social media owners. Read the article here.
USAID and World Bank adopt the Transactional Radio Instruction model to support COVID-19 education continuity in West Africa
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank have adopted the Transactional Radio Instruction (TRI) model to support distance learning for 500,000 children in northeast Nigeria. The project is part of USAID's Strengthening Education in Northeast Nigeria (SENSE) activity implemented by the American University in Nigeria (AUN) in coordination with the World Bank’s Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) activity and the State Universal Basic Education Boards of Adamawa and Gombe States. Both states have experienced significant educational deprivation and disruption due to extremist violence and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The TRI model of radio instruction weaves problem-based lessons into radio drama along with synched workbooks to help learners overcome cognitive and cultural barriers to their learning. I led the development of TRI at AUN as part of a USAID-funded Technology Enhanced Learning for All (TELA) project. Visit here for a transmedia narrative of the first TRI deployment.
The Cognitive Crucible Podcast
I recently dropped by the Cognitive Crucible - a podcast of the Information Professionals Association - to talk about my work and some critical topics in strategic communication. I argue that while messaging is important in any counternarrative or broader strategic communication campaign, greater attention should be paid to understanding the networked influences that drive long-term changes to social norms. Follow this link to listen in: https://information-professionals.org/.../cognitive.../
The Public Information and Strategic Communication Module of the UN's Integrated DDR Standards
On Thursday, June 25th, 2020, I facilitated a joint virtual roundtable consultation by the DDR Section of the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI), Department of Peace Operations at the UN, and academic experts. The roundtable brought scholars together with UN policymakers and DDR practitioners from the field to discuss how public information and strategic communication can contribute to the DDR process.
A New Master’s Program in Managing Complex Disasters at Dickinson College
Dickinson College has launched a new Master's Program in Managing Complex Disasters. Building on Dickinson's long-standing partnership with the US Army War College, the program is the first of its kind in the world. It provides those in government, public health, disaster response organizations, humanitarian and military service the knowledge and experience to understand the causes of complex challenges and develop strategic and innovative solutions to meet those challenges.
I am excited to be on the program's highly esteemed faculty. This spring, I will teach Influence Operations in the Age of Networks. Working through various case studies and scenarios, students will develop the knowledge and skills necessary to plan and analyze influence operations and counter their threats. Visit here to learn more.
Transactional Radio Instruction: Improving Educational Outcomes for Children in Conflict Zones
My new book with Dr. Margee Ensign has just been released!
Schools are one of the first institutional casualties of war. It is a lot worse when the principal belligerent is ideologically opposed to education. Pupils and teachers, school buildings, laboratories, and libraries, all become the targets of a senseless war. This has been the tragic case with the Boko Haram insurgency in Northeast Nigeria—a war that has been going on since 2009, and for many years largely ignored by Western media, governments, and policymakers. It took an attack on a girls’ secondary school in the sleepy rural town of Chibok to arouse short-lived international outrage and interest in the violence. Chibok has since remained a byword for the Boko Haram insurgency, and the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by the insurgents have become the poster-casualties of the war. But beyond the sad faces of the Chibok schoolgirls lies a much more bizarre story.
On the 'VIP Show' with Linord
I recently sat down with the VOA's Linord Moudou in her VIP Show to talk about a range of issues and how my background and upbringing has influenced my work.
RESOLVE Network Research on Secularism and Politics of Religion in the Lake Chad Basin
The third Annual Researching Solutions to Violent Extremism (RESOLVE) Network Global Forum at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) explored new approaches in Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) research. I facilitated a salon discussion featuring RESOLVE Network Country Fellows and Principal Investigators from the Lake Chad region. We discussed findings from our three-country study on secularism and the politics of religion in higher education spaces. The project covered Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria.
To find out more and watch the entire Forum visit https://www.usip.org/events/resolve-network-2018-global-forum
Working with women to prevent extremism using a Community Extremism Risk Assessment and Early Warning app: Lessons Learned
The participation of local women in peacemaking and conflict prevention (in line with UNSCR 1325) should be given higher priority. My work, along with a continually growing body of research, has shown the importance of women's involvement in peace and security issues. In my work on this project, I was amazed at how incredibly informed, engaged, and committed women were in finding solutions to the problem of radicalization in their communities.
Using a community-based participatory action process, I worked with 60 women leaders from 60 communities in Northeast Nigeria to develop a new community extremism risk assessment (CERA) tool. The tool is used to systematically identify individuals at risk of joining Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs). The 60 women all had one thing in common: a known person from their community had joined Boko Haram.
Over three days, the women worked together in teams to discuss the common characteristics demonstrated by the persons they knew who had joined Boko Haram, the timelines in which certain behaviors were observed, their families, their close associates and influencers, and various other push and pull factors. After identifying the risk factors and their indicators, the women then ranked them by order of gravity and assigned weights for each factor. I should add that the risk factors they identified and ranked high were different from those prevalent in literature on risk factors associated with radicalization. The variance can be explained in many ways. Still, for me, it confirmed the need for researchers, international organizations, national governments, and civil society organizations to give local women a louder voice and more robust agency in the research and interventions that affect their lives and communities. CERA was built based on the risk factors and indicators the women identified.
CERA, which has been developed into a mobile app, is used as part of the project, Women Action to Combat Violent Extremism and Radicalism in Northeast Nigeria (WACVERN). WACVERN is supported with funding from the USAID's Nigeria Regional Transition Initiative and Nigeria's North East Regional Initiative (NERI).