Series Spotlight – Geopolitics of Information

Geopolitics of Information – University of Illinois Press

What was the catalyst for the series?

The Geopolitics of Information has its origins in a few illuminating conversations with Dan Schillera historian of information and communication systems and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, who felt not enough attention was being devoted to the role information and communications technologies were playing in an increasingly conflicted world, a world where the United States’ unipolar moment was, if not over, at least challenged by new economic alignments and blocs.

With the help of Yuezhi Zhao at Simon Fraser University and Pradip Thomas at the University of Queensland, we designed a series to rethink geopolitical power through the lens of information and networks. As the dispensation of the world’s communication systems and information resources constitutes both a domain of political-economic rivalry conducted by states and corporations, and a field of social contestation involving a wider set of social actors, the series is broadly defined to foreground both interstate rivalries and societal struggles, and to encompass emergent pressure points and environing social-historical dynamics.

Why is the Geopolitics of Information important?

Wikileaks and, shortly after the launch of the series, Edward Snowden, confirmed the urgency of scholarly production in this field. These are issues that are timely, important, and require careful research. As a leading publisher of critical communication titles, the Geopolitics of Information is a natural fit for the mission and history of the University of Illinois Press. We see the series as the place where the global ramifications of these pressing questions can be analyzed in their complexity.

Schiller’s own Digital Depression set the stage for the series with a wide-ranging look at digital capitalism in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, its relationship to commodity chains, labor, finance, and militarization, and questions of domestic and international regulation of the global information system. We followed shortly thereafter with Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski’s definitive collection on media infrastructure, Signal Traffic. From there, books in the series have examined authoritarianism, religion and media in Turkey, the labor behind the systems of exploitation that undergird our fanatical consumption of digital media, and the links between the global media system and the boundaries of our environmental imagination.  Forthcoming titles range from television in Afghanistan to the geopolitical and economic implications of the rise of Huawei.

The series was prescient. Since its launch, these power struggles around the geopolitics of information have both widened and sharpened, even as social class forces have been realigning nationally, regionally, and globally. The geopolitical sphere is altering in response, sometimes ominously, and, as such, the need of scholarly production in this field is more urgent than ever. 

What’s next for the series? What will you be looking for?

We welcome proposal submissions on appropriate topics. Dan Schiller and Yuezhi Zhao remain invested in the series and have worked diligently to find scholars capable of researching and writing for the series. We are quite excited to welcome Amanda Ciafone at the University Illinois as a third series editor.  While structural issues and political economic questions remain at the fore, she will help us bring attention to new work on Latin America, the transnational Americas, and culture industries and culture more broadly.  We are particularly invested in new titles that grapple with the following questions:

How and why are cyber-infrastructures being organized or re-organized? What are the roles of corporate network suppliers and corporate network users, and of military and intelligence agencies, in this ongoing transformation?  For whom and for what are technical standards being devised and implemented, across the array of networking systems and services? Is digital capitalism fragmenting into competing political-economic power blocs, as might be seen by studying the growth of rival Global Positioning Systems? What are the new techno-social and geo-spatial sites for the formation of counter-hegemonic alliances? What are the prospects for decommodification and democratization of information? How is the gathering trend to authoritarianism affecting the system of information provision?

These and related questions require national as well as supranational scales of analysis. Well-documented case studies of political-economic trends and conflicts at the national level are indeed essential. How, for example, is China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative — which possesses a substantial networking component — playing out in individual countries, where it faces both more or less entrenched US interests and altering domestic social class and ethic relations? How is the longstanding US structure of dominance over European information and communications altering, both in light of Britain’s imminent departure from European Union (Brexit) and of political pressures and counter-pressures being generated within and between other European Union countries? What impacts on or through information are occurring as a result of rapid changes in different regions — from India to Mexico and from Russia to South Africa?

The Geopolitics of Information has moved to the center of the encompassing and increasingly conflicted question of who will shape the global political economy, and how. We are now soliciting book manuscripts in the 60,000-80,000 word range — short, well-documented, critical studies of topical issues and trends.

Series Editors: Dan Schiller, Yuezhi Zhao, and Amanda Ciafone
Please direct all questions and submission to:

Daniel Nasset
Senior Acquisitions Editor
University of Illinois Press
1325 South Oak St. Champaign, IL 61820-6903