Blog Archives

Social Capital and You

I bet you’ve heard the term “social capital” a zillion times. Over the last decade it became another corporate buzzword that is mindlessly used everywhere. “Build your social capital”, “reap social capital benefits”, “invest in social capital” and even “social capital and you” – how often did you see articles or pages with titles like that? For instance, Google finds 124 million results for the query “how to build social capital”.

google-soccap

However, a lot of people do not know what “social capital” is in reality. In popular culture social capital is usually defined in economic terms and implies getting some advantages or benefits via communication. According to Kadushin, the theory of social capital has two underlying assumptions: Read the rest of this entry

Netwar and battle of the story

Looking back at the events in Georgia, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine, you might have noticed that the conflicts there have a new component. They are characterized not only by traditional military warfare, but also by involvement of other different structures in conflict. These structures are decentralized and rely heavily on usage of modern information and communication technologies to reach their goals. The confrontation between these structures happens mostly in cyberspace and is more social by nature. In other words, it goes beyond cyberwar. Scholars call such conflicts netwars.

For instance, Arquilla and Ronfeldt define netwar as “an emerging mode of conflict at societal levels, in which the protagonists use network forms of organization and related doctrines, strategies and technologies attuned to the information age”. The netwar actors are very different, often stateless and geographically dispersed. They are organized in various structures, with little hierarchy, and there may be multiple leaders among them.

The emergence of netwars is a result of the digital information revolution and recent development of information and communication technologies in particular (mobile phones, emails, web sites, etc.). In order to operate efficiently, netwars’ actors need to be constantly connected to different data and communication networks, as well as have possibility to exchange the information quickly.

One of the most important aspects of netwars is a “battle of the story” – a confrontation in information space. Different versions of events are propagated in order to change public opinion and, as a result, make adjustments to government policy. Experts say that one of the greatest “battles of the story” took place during the Russia-Georgia war of 2008. All sides of the conflict manipulated the information, launched cyber attacks and blocked communication channels. This summer I created a prezi about this case:

Georgia-Russia war. An information control story. by Tanya Erofeeva on Prezi

Click the image to open Prezi

Aren’t you impressed by the magnitude of this netwar? For instance, I am. The other thing that I’ve learned is that we shouldn’t believe blindly anything we hear or see both in traditional communication channels and online. In order to understand real state of affairs in modern conflicts, we should get information from different sources first and then analyze it ourselves. Otherwise, we risk becoming pawns in political games and acting as transmitters of faulty and biased information. If you ask me, I do not want to become a netwar actor. What about you?