From newspaper responses to terrorism, media coverage of the banking crisis, or state responses to civil disobedience, discourses of national and transnational crises provide compelling accounts of ideological contentions and complex power relations in society. Traditional media formats have provided vast ground for critical investigation and analysis, which Darren Kelsey has explored throughout his research on journalism and discourse studies. But how have digital developments in media technologies impacted upon the power relations and ideological roles of media in society? How have issues of media production and consumption been further complicated by these expansive and evolutionary changes in global communications? Kelsey’s research provides some answers to these questions: from his analysis of mythology in online news coverage of the banking crisis, to his innovative work on social media and the nuances of power, context and surveillance in the digital world. Kelsey’s research has examined the role of mythology and ideology in journalism as well as discourse, power and surveillance on social media. His work shows how media and cultural theory can be adopted within frameworks of Critical Discourse Analysis to analyse journalism, news discourse, political rhetoric, global economics, national identity and other socio-political phenomena. Kelsey has also published work on journalism education and ethics following the Leveson Inquiry. He has presented his research at various international conferences.
Kelsey’s research on the July 7th bombings explored the ideological battleground between discourses that recontextualised the myth of the blitz from 1940 in 2005. The “blitz spirit” is a popular story of Britain during the Second World War, uniting together with defiance and resilience to overcome the threat of invasion from Nazi Germany. By exploring critical frameworks of mythology, Kelsey scrutinises the origins of wartime propaganda that partly inform this myth by considering the messages it suppresses and mobilises in the ideological role that it played in media discourses after July 7th. He then adopts Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as an approach for investigating how the blitz myth was constructed – considering the threat that London faced in 2005 was drastically different to that of 1940.
In some cases blitz spirit discourses condoned military responses to terrorism and suppressed criticisms of the war on terror. But in other contexts it mobilised criticisms of British and American foreign policy. Some discourses also reflected criticisms of Islam, immigration and multiculturalism as threats to national security and British identity, whilst others praised London for its multicultural unity and strength. Research outputs from this project explore the complex role of mythology in blitz spirit discourses and argue that whilst these messages were often a problematic feature of post-July 7th media coverage, they did not serve one ideological purpose. Rather, an ideological battleground occurred when elements of myth and popular memory were reused to define events in the present.
Since this research Kelsey has continued to refine critical frameworks of mythology and discourse by developing a discourse-mythological approach (DMA) to CDA. In addition, Kelsey has continued to pursue his interests in journalism and discourse studies by analysing the complexities of ideology and power in media responses to other issues such as the banking crisis and London riots. These publications have continued to explore the contentions, contradictions and paradoxical mechanisms of discourse and ideology in socio-political and economic contexts.
Since his early work on mythology and terrorism Kelsey has developed a discourse-mythological approach (DMA) for analysing the media, mythology and ideology. DMA encompasses an interdisciplinary framework that draws on theoretical elements beyond traditional approaches to CDA. Previous models of myth, despite their relevance and use, have not always been able to provide systematic ways of analysing myth in the language and expression of texts. Therefore, DMA also demonstrates the analytical advantages that CDA offers, which other disciplines can benefit from. Whether we consider the archetypal features of mythology or the ideological construction of cultural texts, Kelsey’s work shows how societies continue to reflect these conventions in both the production (construction) and consumption (interpretation) of storytelling. Journalism is one area in which this dynamic operates. Hence, Kelsey’s forthcoming research shows how mythology has functioned in media coverage of the banking crisis, by considering the systemic implications of bankers functioning as mythological tricksters in moral storytelling and the Mail Online. More recently Kelsey’s work has shown how traditional approaches to CDA can also be adapted to analyse social media. By reviewing, refining and applying surveillance theory within the dimensions of discursive and social practice, Kelsey has analysed the complex power negotiations that operate through Twitter and the contextual nuances of online communication. Through an analysis of the Paul Chambers’ Twitter trial Kelsey explores the sophisticated dynamics of panoptic, synoptic and omnioptic power relations that operate through the communicative landscape of social media.
Kelsey’s research outcomes inform a dynamic profile of methodological and theoretical innovation designed to investigate the complications and conflicts of communicative issues in society. Synergising approaches from the fields of journalism, media and cultural studies with those of discourse, language and politics, Kelsey’s research is at the forefront of interdisciplinary outputs across the humanities and social sciences.
Currently preparing a monograph on media, mythology and terrorism for Palgrave Macmillan.
Currently guest editing a Special Issue of Critical Discourse Studies on the discourse of austerity: http://media.ncl.ac.uk/pages/research/cfp-cds.php
Attending British-Brazilian Research Council funded workshop in Sao Paolo (April 2014): “Beyond the Digital: Collective Memory and Social Networks in Emerging Global Conflicts”. He has been selected as one of 10 UK Early Career Researchers for this event. This workshop will synergise different strands of Kelsey’s previous research on collective memory and mythology with his current research on digital media and social networks.
Founder and editor of Journalism and Discourse Studies journal: www.JDSjournal.net
Co-convenor of the Newcastle Critical Discourse Group: http://www.criticaldiscoursegroup.net/
Member of Newcastle University's Military, War and Security Research Group: http://research.ncl.ac.uk/military-research/index.html
Member of Newcastle University’s Strategy, Organizations and Society Research Group: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/nubs/research/centres/sos/
- Kelsey, D. and Bennett, L. Discipline and resistance on social media: Discourse, power and context in the Paul Chambers ‘Twitter Joke Trial’. Discourse, Context & Media. 2014, in press.
- Kelsey, D. The myth of the city trickster: Storytelling, bankers and ideology in the Mail Online. Journal of Political Ideologies. 2014, in press.
- Kelsey, D. Defining the ‘sick society’: Discourses of class and morality in British, right wing newspapers during the 2011 England riots. Journal of Capital and Class. 2014, in press
- Baines D, and Kelsey D. Journalism education after Leveson: Ethics start where regulation ends. Ethical Space 2013, 10(1).
- Kelsey D. Remembering to forget: Supporting and opposing the war on terror through the myth of the Blitz spirit after the July 7th bombings. Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis Across Disciplines 2012, 6(1), 23-37.
- Kelsey D. Pound for pound champions: the myth of the Blitz spirit in British newspaper discourses of the City and economy after the 7 July bombings. Critical Discourse Studies 2012, 9(3), 285-299.