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[liberationtech] USIP Report on New Media & Contentious Politics

Mary Joyce marycjoyce at gmail.com
Wed Sep 22 11:50:36 PDT 2010


Highly recommended reading:

"*Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics*"
<http://www.usip.org/files/resources/pw65.pdf>

by Sean Aday, Henry Farrell, Marc Lynch, and John Sides of George Washington
University
John Kelly of Morningside Analytics
Ethan Zuckerman of the Berkman Center.
(August, 2010)

*Executive Summary*

   - New media, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, have played a
   major role in episodes of contentious political action. They are often
   described as important tools for activists seeking to replace authoritarian
   regimes and to promote freedom and democracy, and they have been lauded for
   their democratizing potential.
   - Despite the prominence of “Twitter revolutions,” “color revolutions,”
   and the like in public debate, policymakers and scholars know very little
   about whether and how new media affect contentious politics. Journalistic
   accounts are inevitably based on anecdotes rather than rigorously designed
   research.
   - Although data on new media have been sketchy, new tools are emerging
   that measure linkage patterns and content as well as track memes across
   media outlets and thus might offer fresh insights into new media.
   - The impact of new media can be better understood through a framework
   that considers five levels of analysis: individual transformation,
   intergroup relations, collective action, regime policies, and external
   attention. New media have the potential to change how citizens think or act,
   mitigate or exacerbate group conflict, facilitate collective action, spur a
   backlash among regimes, and garner international attention toward a given
   country.
   - Evidence from the protests after the Iranian presidential election in
   June 2009 suggests the utility of examining the role of new media at each of
   these five levels.
   - Although there is reason to believe the Iranian case exposes the
   potential benefits of new media, other evidence—such as the Iranian regime’s
   use of the same social network tools to harass, identify, and imprison
   protesters—suggests that, like any media, the Internet is not a “magic
   bullet.” At best, it may be a “rusty bullet.” Indeed, it is plausible that
   traditional media sources were equally if not more important.
   - Scholars and policymakers should adopt a more nuanced view of new
   media’s role in democratization and social change, one that recognizes that
   new media can have both positive and negative effects.

-- 
MARY C. JOYCE
Founder | The Meta-Activism Project  | Meta-Activism.org
"Digital Activism Decoded"  |  New Book Drops in Summer 2010
Mobile | +1.857.928.1297
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