New RISJ publication launched: ‘Skyful of Lies' & Black Swans: The new tyranny of shifting information power in crises’ by Nik Gowing

The study highlights how in a moment of major, unexpected crisis the institutions of power - whether political, governmental, military or corporate – face a new, acute vulnerability of both their influence and effectiveness.

Exponential changes in portable digital technology are redefining, broadening and fragmenting the nature of the media in a crisis by way of a new omnipresent breed of 'information doers'. These new 'media players' have an unprecedented mass ability to bear witness leading to a proliferation of instant impressions in a crisis that get wide and immediate distribution. The resulting new matrix of real-time information flows is highlighting the inadequacy of the structures of power to respond both with effective impact and in a timely way.

Based on interviewing, brainstorming and case studies, this discussion paper confirms the new fragility and brittleness of those institutions. Most have yet to appreciate and embrace these new media realities. Yet they can devastate political reputations and corporate brands in minutes.

After detailed examination of these new media realities in moments of acute crisis, the study concludes with a series of recommendations for how institutions can further modify mindsets and prepare both their structures and personnel at all levels to respond.

The revealing study was carried out while Nik was a Visiting Fellow at the RISJ and is based on two years research, extensive interviewing, brainstorming and case studies.