The Return of Propaganda: Call for Nordic Journal of Media Studies

Deadline for extended abstracts: 15 February 2022

Background and aim

Digitisation has brought with it increased opportunities for individuals, organisations, and loosely formed groups to produce and disseminate information. This new infrastructure has undermined traditional gatekeepers and led to a more plural landscape of information and opinions, creating a media landscape where quality control and accuracy of disseminated knowledge and facts has become increasingly difficult to maintain. At the same time, the potential power to control datafied flows in the platformed media environment of communication has become more centralised and opaque, raising questions about “networked propaganda” and data as a source of social and political power. In recent years, we have witnessed new forms of foreign interventions through social media in national elections, as well as the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories during times of military and civil crises, for instance, the Ukranian–Russian war and the Covid-19 pandemic. Legacy news media have increasingly come under attack from populist movements at the same time as authoritarian political forces are using digital media and datafied techniques to question key democratic institutitions in society. Global tech companies have not only become incredibly rich, but have also acquired unprecedented power to control communication networks and flows.

This twin process of fragmentation of communication infrastructures and centralisation of their control capacity coincides with the rise of new social political movements (on both sides of traditional left–right divides) and formation of new political divisions and identities.  

A number of neologisms have thus entered into the vocabulary of research and public debate – such as “fake news”, ”misinformation”, “disinformation”, and “post-truth” – which has revived discussions on persuasion, strategic communication, strategic narratives, soft power, information management, and other concepts for what was once termed propaganda.

The current moment (conjuncture) calls for a collective and critical reflection by the community of communication scholars. This effort demands robust empirical evidence of the dynamics changing information environments and new methodological innovations for better analysis of data-driven communication, but also a reinvigorated conceptual debate. 

At the same time – as the history of the field (communication research) is intimately intertwined with the social and political power of media and communication – this points to the need for reengaging with earlier theories of propaganda (for example, contributions by Harold Lasswell, Jaqcues Ellul, Edward Berneys, Hanna Arendt, and Noam Chomsky), paradigm encounters (in the field of communication research) around media power and effects, as well as theoretisations about earlier transformative moments.

How can we read contemporary discussions in the light of previous thinking about political, state, or commercial propaganda and related phenomena? What lessons can be learned from earlier theories, formed in different political and cultural conjunctures and media landscapes? How are new media technologies adopted for strategic purposes, and what does that mean for theorising communication? What new evidence is there of the “return” of propaganda in the digitalised, conflictual, and networked media landscape? What are most promising and innovative methods that could harness communication research with better tools to take part in these debates?We invite scholars around the world to address these questions in scholarly reflections that can be descriptive, analytical, as well as normative, and can relate to topics including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Conceptual discussions of propaganda, strategic communication, misinformation, soft power, and adjacent terms
  • The relationship between authoritarian and populist movements and newer forms of propaganda
  • The role of hacking and algorithms in manipulation of information  
  • Historical accounts of the development of strategic communication technologies
  • Historicizing of the phenomenon of propaganda (strategic communication, PR, etc.)
  • Analysis and accounts of national and regional characteristics of propaganda (e.g., Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa)
  • Propaganda and ideology: The propaganda model revisited
  • Propaganda and digital information management
  • Empirical analysis of (past or present) dis/misinformation campaigns
  • Analytical and/or methodological approaches to propaganda
  • Propagandistic representations in fiction and documentary


  • Göran Bolin (Professor, Södertörn University)
  • Risto Kunelius (Professor, Helsinki University)


Important dates: 

  • Deadline for extended abstracts: 15 February 2022
  • Deadline for full submissions: 1 September 2022  
  • Peer review: October 2022–December 2022
  • Expected publication: Spring 2023

Procedure Those with an interest in contributing should write an extended abstract (max. 750 words)  where  the main  theme (or argument)  of the intended article is described. The abstract should contain the preliminary title and five keywords. How the article fits with the overall aim of the issue – to critically reflect on the dynamics changing information environments, propose innovative methodological approaches for analysing data-driven communication, and reinvigorate the conceptual debate around propaganda – should be mentioned. Send your extended abstract to Göran Bolin ( and Risto Kunelius ( by 15 February 2022.  Scholars invited to submit a full manuscript (6,000–8,000 words) will be notified by e-mail after the extended abstracts have been assessed. All submissions should be original works and must not be under consideration by other publishers. All submissions are submitted to Similarity Check – a Crossref service utilising iThenticate text comparison software to detect text-recycling or self-plagiarism. 

After the initial submission and review process, manuscripts that are accepted for publication must adhere to our guidelines upon final manuscript delivery. You may choose to use our templates to assist you in correctly formatting your manuscript.