ISIS, activists and Netwar: New fears, new hopes

What do ISIS militants and #OccupyWallStreet activists have in common? A lot, as it turns out, when viewed through the lens of security and defense analysis. Both operate as de-centralized nonstate entities, both swarmed and occupied physical spaces in ways that caught everyone off guard and both mastered the use of digital communications for added advantage in recruitment and logistics. In short, despite their vastly different motivations, tactics and social impacts, these movements are, each in their own way, a threat for governments precisely because they operate in ways that authorities find hard to predict and manage. Continue reading


Is Social Good Overtaking Cats?

Longtime thinker and doer on sustainability and CSR issues, David Connor reflects on the rise of cause related content on social networks and reasons to hope that social media may catalyze progressive social change.


Climate Summit_HubFor the first time in quite a while I’ve noticed a distinct lack of cute / comedy cat posts (albeit somewhat distorted by buckets of ice water) and a stronger impression of more purpose based flashes in the social media world.

My gut, if backed up by more than a little professional insight into the data, feeling is that we may at long last be turning a social good communications corner. The activist world had too long preached at its audience to save the whale / panda / water / energy / planet to only see early plateauing of resulting engagement. Those who get it, got it pretty quick, but the wider mainstream world nodded, smiled and apathetically carried on regardless.

One latest indicator of the turning tide is the latest collaboration between Upworthy, Unilever’s Project Sunlight and the United Nations Climate Summit. In a space where such apathy has…

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Busting through climate change apathy: What will it take?

I’ll admit it. From a communications perspective, the challenge of making people care about climate change had me stumped. I mean, the complexity of the issue along with our enduring fixation with the economy and astounding capacity for denial has made this the Death Star of all social change issues. But quite recently, I have started to feel a shift in the wind. With the coming of the People’s Climate March and the release of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, there are signs that we’re just now figuring out how to crack this nut and gain some critical momentum. Continue reading

Social media in Saudi Arabia: More is less, less is more?

We’ve discussed the Arab Spring here and speculated as to when more of the same might happen in the Middle East. Here is an analysis of social media adoption and attitudes by Charlie Pownall that provides some more clues.

Charlie Pownall 查理·保诺

One of the more interesting take-aways from my trip to the Middle East last week is the extraordinary enthusiasm for social media amongst Saudi Arabians.

Consider the following:

  • The Kingdom accounts for the highest penetration of Twitter in the world (see chart below)
  • Virtually half (47%) of the total tweets produced in the Arab world are produced in or by Saudis, despite the Kingdom’s relatively small population of 29m, according to the 5th Arabic Social Media Report (pdf)
  • Saudi Arabia boasts the highest number of YouTube views (90m per day) in the world per Internet user (source: Google).

To westerners, Saudis’ enthusiasm for social media may seem obvious: where else would they go for the facts when the mainstream media is little more than government propaganda? (This is also an argument regularly trotted out to explain the enthusiasm for all things social amongst Chinese, Malays, Singaporeans, Vietnamese and others living under…

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INFOGRAPHIC – Digital activism around the world

Just discovered the University of Washington’s Digital Activism Research Project (DARP). Seems to be an academic powerhouse focusing on all forms of digital activism around the world. A treasure trove of material is stockpiled there for those passionate about the subject, as I am! Among these gems, I found the following infographic that I am happy to share with you: Continue reading

Dialogue and that sonofab*tch called Power

In honour of this year’s theme for Memefest: The International Festival of Socially Responsive Art and Communication, I will speak to role of capital-D dialogue as an agent of social change. And because I am too impatient to be a theorist, I will speak to the promise and limits of dialogue drawing from ‘real life’ experiences. Continue reading