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Analyzing Digital mobilization: Casual /System modelling Approach

Hi Everyone!

My Paper is aimed at analyzing the affects of digital media on mobilization, during the Arab Spring revolution and to derive strategies which could help governments in approaching such movements.

My background is in media analytics and during my daily work, I approach most of my clients’ problems through causal analysis. Seeing this as an opportunity to try something different I was approaching this paper through a systems modelling approach, initially.

The idea was to understand the relationships and spread of viral news across a population and to understand the factors which lead to the spike and create a system which can simulate its spread. The advantages of this approach were that once such content is detected, its spread can be curtailed by choking its flow.

After doing the literature review and discussing with Nitin; have come to the conclusion that this might not be the best approach because:

  • System modelling approach works really well when the system is rigid and closed. In such cases the simulation will only depend upon how relevant data you have and the capability of building the right type of model to simulate it. But the digital communication ecosystem evolves very fast and any model which is developed might become obsolete very quickly,  unless the system is  developed holistically, is dynamically evolving and backed by large amounts of data. Presently to build/buy something like this is beyond my means in terms of time and resources.
  • Human communication networks, work as a very flexible evolving system. If the message content is strong and evocative, even during times when the normal flow of information is blocked, it will in most cases, find its way to the targeted population, given the right amount of time and resources.  It’s almost like river water reaching the ocean.
    Case in point is in Egypt where, when the government clamped down on the internet by asking ISPs to turn off their connections; activists circumvented this by using proxies, dial in connections and even in some cases HAM radio. (Source: Networks of Outrage and Hope Manuel Castells).

So having abandoned the system approach, I look to causal analysis, as a better approach. Although it is more simplistic, it would be a broader in nature and therefore will give more flexibility in terms of the cases that the findings can be applied to.


Next week I hope to update you on the detailed approach.

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