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The medium and its message: how new media is changing the dynamic of dissent

Nicholas van Praag's picture

 

    Grand old man of the medium Photo: Reckon, Chris Weige

The role of cell phones and new media in mobilizing people on the streets of Egypt and Tunisia has evinced as much interest in some quarters as the grievances that lie behind the unrest.

Some commentators dismiss this fascination as a cliché driven by the born-in America phenomena of Twitter and Facebook. But make no mistake: these new types of media are flattening the hierarchical media environments long held in the iron grip of governments and elite owners of the means of communication.

Their grip on these levers of control remains strong, as we have seen in Egypt these past few days, but the advent of new media threatens the continued dominance of top-down communication.

That’s a big change; one that empowers ordinary people in a potentially revolutionary way. According to Jason Liebman, co-founder of Movements.org, “these technologies not only shrink the world by allowing us to communicate with more people than ever—but they enable every person to be an activist for peace and human rights”.

His organization provides a go-to site for movements around the world where they can find how-to guides, case studies, and blog posts about digital activism.

Clare Lockhart and Ory Okolloh on "Making States Work Better"

Daniel Maree's picture

"New Media and Conflict" is our ongoing series which explores the affect of new communication technologies on issues of conflict and development.

Last Tuesday (Sept. 7), the Grand Hyatt Washington was abuzz with the Gov 2.0 Summit, which brought together innovators from government and the private sector to highlight technology and ideas that can be applied to “the nation’s great challenges.”

 

One session we found particularly interesting was "Making States Work Better" featuring Ory Okolloh, founder of the groundbreaking “activist mapping” platform Ushahidi, and Clare Lockhart, founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness, co-author of Fixing Failed States, and author of two input papers for the 2011 World Development Report.

 

Reflecting on their post-conflict experiences in Afghanistan and Kenya, respectively, Lockhart and Okolloh stressed the importance of building institutions that provide effective and accountable security, justice and economic prospects.

 

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