Social networks theory can help us understand and explain the ongoing processes in societies all over the world. In this video I apply network theory to analyze the dynamics of protests in Ukraine, from Euromaidan to situation in Crimea.
Hope you will like my video! Let me know what you think about it in comments below 🙂
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:
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?
First of all, I think that what is happening at the moment in Ukraine is horrible; in fact, it’s a tragedy not only for Ukrainian and Russian people, but also for the whole world. I still hope that the conflict can and will be solved without violence, in a peaceful manner.
Nevertheless, when I was following the story in the news, I understood that we could actually use the network theory principles to understand the conflict dynamics in southeastern regions of Ukraine.
So, in this post I would like to avoid politics, discussions about who’s right and who’s wrong, as well as calling names, and look at the situation from the positions of social networks scholars instead. My small research is based on the information available on different Ukrainian and Russian web sites, discussions with friends in Ukraine, as well as on some reports in Western press.
As we know, the whole population of Earth can be described in terms of social networks. This enormous network consists of myriads of different more or less dense clusters connected with each other by strong or weak ties, as well as of structural holes.
The dense clusters are usually formed on the basis of homophily principle (i.e. some common attributes, such as connection, friendship and even language). Propinquity (often geographical) is another characteristic of network clusters. These properties of social networks help to develop a sense of “trust” among their members, as well as generate social support, cohesion and embeddedness, in other words, make people feel themselves as a part of one group and support group decisions. Read the rest of this entry →