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[liberationtech] USIP Report on New Media & Contentious Politics
marycjoyce at gmail.com
Wed Sep 22 11:50:36 PDT 2010
Highly recommended reading:
"*Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics*"
by Sean Aday, Henry Farrell, Marc Lynch, and John Sides of George Washington
John Kelly of Morningside Analytics
Ethan Zuckerman of the Berkman Center.
- 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
- 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
- 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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