The paper, “Digital Media in Conflict-Prone Societies” that is the outcome of the work that originally motivated this blog has been published by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA). I originally wrote the paper while a fellow at USIP, and now, more than a year later, it’s in print. Hopefully it’s still timely.

It seems that in the past year a lot of the issues discussed in the paper have reached more mainstream awareness. Conflicts in Georgia, Gaza, and Madagascar, civil unrest in Moldova, Iran, Fiji, China, and Guinea, and a terror attack in Mumbai have all played out in public spaces. Citizen media played important roles in each one of them, to organize opposition, to amplify alternative viewpoints, to report and record violence, and to track and identify opponents. Governments have responded by slowing or shutting internet and cell phone use (Iran, China). DDOS attacks and censorship have also been prominent (Georgia, Iran, China, Gaza) when governments and/or non-state supporters of parties to conflict have participated in shutting down opposing websites and cellular networks. Finally, activists and media have designed projects that support a greater flow of information, or attempt to map and parse information for accuracy and coherence (Madagascar, Mumbai, Gaza, Iran).

A short description, from CIMA, follows:

Throughout history, war has affected media, with conflict often creating an information void. In the 21st century, media has begun to affect war more than ever before. Digital media technologies – particularly participatory, networked tools – have increased communication and information dissemination in conflict settings, affecting all sides and involving new producers of news coverage. These new tools can be used to foment violence or to foster peace, and it is possible to build communication systems that encourage dialogue and nonviolent political solutions. The international media development community must adapt its conflict-zone programs to fit a new media environment, designing projects that encompass digital media applications that encourage more open communities and states, provide venues for dialogue, and reduce control of information.

We’ll be discussing the paper at CIMA October 27, together with Erik Hersman of Ushahidi. We’ll also consider a new generation of innovative digital media projects that focus on producing accurate information in conflict, often in the developing world, as local communities build digital media tools and applications for their own needs.