Athina Karatzogianni is Lecturer in Media, Culture and Society at the University of Hull. I recently read her very interesting book on The Politics of Cyberconflict: Security, Ethnoreligious and Sociopolitical conflicts. She gave a presentation on her book at the Politics 2.0 conference here in London. The topic of her book and presentation is closely aligned with my dissertation research. She focuses on the impact of the Internet on dissident and protest activity.
I very much agree with Dr. Karatzogianni’s comment that file-trading networks like Kazaa and Gnutella increasingly facilitate communication between dissidents since they have no central source and would be harder to turn off. Indeed, some scholars assert that the rise in peer-to-peer (P2P) communication networks threaten authoritarian rule. She also emphasizes the significance of “technologically enhanced tactics” which I find to be an important factor that may play in favor of social resistant groups. Because these groups are decentralized and mobile, their organizational structures may allow them to better capitalize on distributed and mobile ICTs.
Dr. Karatzogianni and I are also on the same page vis-a-vis the outcome of the Internet’s impact of state-society relations. As she argues, it remains to be seen whether it will develop into a powerful engine for democratization, or will fall under the pressure and regulation of authoritarian regimes. I recently blogged about this specific issue here.
Dr. Karatzogianni concluded her presentation with the interesting notion that the Internet may be leading states in the direction of more networked organizational structures while enabling dissidents to become more efficient in their capacity to organize. In other words, the two actors are becoming more similar in their organizational topologies. This is not an entirely new notion, however, as the same argument has been made in the netcentric warfare literature. In contrast, network theory suggests that as a hierarchical organization takes on a networked organization, the latter becomes more decentralized and the former more centralized.
During the Q & A session, I asked Dr. Karatzogianni whether two years on since writing her book she still feels that she has changed her mind about which side, state or society, will gain the upper hand thanks to the Internet. She replied yes, she’s more inclined to believe that as the periphery becomes increasingly connected, we may very well see “dissidents of the world unite” since the core will be less effective in providing ideologies of interest to the periphery in response to globalization’s increasing challenges and divides. This certainly echoes some of the research on the rise of fundamentalism such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. While I would like to think she is right, I think it still remains to be seen which side will make more effective use of ICTs, as I blogged about here.
I had coffee with Athina after the talk and had a great chat with her about our shared interests.