Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Rise of Citizen Propaganda

My latest article in the Christian Science Monitor looks at how the recent war in Gaza played out online, where a fierce battle of its own was taking place.

Israel's decision to bar reporters from entering the Gaza Strip provided an opportunity for bloggers and other new media voices to fill the void. It also gave a chance for the new media ventures of mainstream media organizations, especially Al Jazeera, to come into their own.

At the same time, elements of the online war over Gaza provided another example of the rise of what some are calling "citizen propaganda." As Ethan Zuckerman, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, puts it: "Rather than becoming the cafe of the world, where we interact on common ground, the Net has become a very effective place to rally people to your own cause and try to coordinate their actions."

Zuckerman said something very similar happened last summer's conflict between Russia and Georgia. "I think what has become really interesting is that in an era when you have armed conflict between states, you now have people online looking to see how [they] can become part of that conflict without leaving their computers," he says.

For more background, take a look at this article by Riyaad Minty, a new media analyst at Al Jazeera.

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