Contentious politics in a digital world

From Iran to the Ukraine to the Arab Spring, digital technology seems to have provided protesters on the streets with new means to voice their grievances and mobilise against repressive rulers. At the same time, governments from China to Turkey are steadily increasing censorship of the Internet. This course will focus specifically on the ways in which information and communication technology, including mobile phones, social media and geographical location tools has changed the opportunities, choices and incentives of activists, protest movements, armed organisations, and governments.

By the end of the course, students will have developed an understanding of the current state-of-the-art research and developments on the relationship between digitalisation and contentious politics. This includes an understanding of the ways in which social media and the Internet in general have affected mobilisation processes, conflict dynamics, activism and authoritarian survival. The course will be divided in the three parts. The first part will deal with non-state actors’ use of digital tools in contentious politics. The second part will investigate state control of the Internet. The final section will examine the power and politics of digital platforms (such as YouTube and Facebook). A key objective is to equip students with the tools that will help them to critically evaluate the fast-moving debates in the area (in particular the sweeping claims frequently made in public debate), critically evaluate empirical research being produced in this area and reflect on and develop their own understanding of how technological developments are affecting contentious politics.

This course is for 2nd year MIA and MPP students only.

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