Blogs and Bullets I: New Media in Contentious Politics

Blogs and Bullets 1

Summary 

In this report from the USIP’s Centers of Innovation for Science, Technology, and Peacebuilding, and Media, Conflict, and Peacebuilding, a team of scholars from The George Washington University, in cooperation with scholars from Harvard University and Morningside Analytics, critically assesses both the “cyberutopian” and “cyberskeptic” perspectives on the impact of new media on political movements. The authors propose a more complex approach that looks at the role of new media in contentious politics from five interlocking levels of analysis: individual transformation, intergroup relations, collective action, regime policies, and external attention. The authors are particularly indebted to Sheldon Himelfarb of the Centers of Innovation for his support and contributions to this project; and would also like to thank research assistants Brett Borrowman, Juliet Guaglianone, Chris Mitchell, and Rachel Whitlark.

Authors

  • Sean Aday, director of IPDGC, associate professor of media and public affairs, GW
  • Henry Farrell, associate professor of political science, GW
  • Marc Lynch, associate professor of political science and international affairs, GW
  • John Sides, assistant professor of political science, GW
  • John Kelly, founder and lead scientist at Morningside Analytics
  • Ethan Zuckerman, senior researcher, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University

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Evaluating the Impact of New Media on Conflict

July 8, 2010

IPDGC and the Center of Innovation for Science, Technology, and Peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace hosted a public event exploring the role of new media in contested politics around the world. From Iran to Kenya to Colombia, the impact of new and social media on movements for political and social change has been the subject of much discussion, and controversy.

In a USIP Special Report, “Blogs & Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics,” a team of scholars from GW, in cooperation with scholars from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and from Morningside Analytics, took a fresh theoretical, and empirical approach to answering this question. The report critically assesses both the “cyberutopian” and “cyberskeptic” perspectives, and proposes a new framework for assessing the role of new media in contentious politics.

This event explored these themes in three panels. In the first panel, Alec Ross of the U.S. State Department, Berkman’s Ethan Zuckerman, and GW’s Marc Lynch engaged in a discussion of these topics moderated by USIP’s Sheldon Himelfarb. The second panel featured bloggers and citizen journalists from around the world to offer a ground-view perspective. The final panel brought together tech firms eBay and Facebook to explore their perspectives on new media and conflict.