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The Technology of Nonviolence

The Technology of Nonviolence: Social Media and Violence Prevention

Joseph G. Bock
Foreword by John Paul Lederach
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Technology of Nonviolence
    Book Description:

    Tunisian and Egyptian protestors famously made use of social media to rally supporters and disseminate information as the "Arab Spring" began to unfold in 2010. Less well known, but with just as much potential to bring about social change, are ongoing local efforts to use social media and other forms of technology to prevent deadly outbreaks of violence. In The Technology of Nonviolence, Joseph Bock describes and documents technology-enhanced efforts to stop violence before it happens in Africa, Asia, and the United States. Once peacekeeping was the purview of international observers, but today local citizens take violence prevention into their own hands. These local approaches often involve technology--including the use of digital mapping, crowdsourcing, and mathematical pattern recognition to identify likely locations of violence--but, as Bock shows, technological advances are of little value unless they are used by a trained cadre of community organizers. After covering general concepts in violence prevention and describing technological approaches to tracking conflict and cooperation, Bock offers five case studies that range from "low-tech" interventions to prevent ethnic and religious violence in Ahmedebad, India, to an anti-gang initiative in Chicago that uses Second Life to train its "violence interrupters." There is solid evidence of success, Bock concludes, but there is much to be discovered, developed, and, most important, implemented.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30555-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    John Paul Lederach

    The wider peacebuilding field has long suffered under the weight of an intriguing paradox: Violence has never been more studied, understood in terms of its dynamics and patterns, and officially identified as a policy challenge than it has in past the twenty years. And violence continues to unfold with extraordinary resilience in too many communities around the world.

    In this book Joe Bock makes a significant step into unpacking and suggesting creative ways to respond to this dilemma. I say that as a practitioner-scholar with thirty years of experience in community conflict and as a critic of the difficulties that...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    We are living at a time of dramatic shifts in information and communication technologies (ICTs) that are transforming how we view and engage in the world. Cell phone cameras and social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) turn individuals into on-the-spot reporters, sidestepping what used to be the exclusive purview of journalists and media syndicates. The general public is now capable of taking pictures and videos of violence, sending them to friends, who then distribute these disturbing images onward, providing mass-media-type coverage in seconds. This “citizen journalism” makes us wonder what these new technologies will mean if used in places...

  7. I Theory and Methodology

    • 1 Toward an Applied Theory of Violence Prevention
      (pp. 17-36)

      For years social scientists have been developing theories to explain why there is violence between people of different identities. Many of the theories have a mechanical quality. The theory of relative deprivation, for example, posits that it is not so much a lack of resources that makes people become violent. Rather, it is the perception that one group is being favored above another group, and the latter group feels deprived in a relative sense (Merton 1938). Quantitative studies tested hypotheses deduced from such theories, documenting relationships between variables such as inequity between groups and the number of injuries and deaths...

    • 2 Reporting and Warning about Deadly Possibilities
      (pp. 37-54)

      Early warning and early response for violence prevention involves three main activities. First, those monitoring a conflict must collect information. Second, the information must be analyzed over time. And, third, warnings must be conveyed to those who can take action. Of course, if a warning does not result in a response, then these three steps are of no value.

      In this chapter, we cover how information about conflict and cooperation is collected, how it differs from more static indicators, and how it is weighted. We also assess the accuracy of developing data using automation as compared to creating it manually....

  8. II Violence Prevention on the Ground

    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 55-56)

      In their insightful article, “The Electronic Oracle: Computer Models and Social Decisions,” D. H. Meadows and J. M. Robinson seek to clarify the limitations of using computers (what they call an electronic oracle,” a source of knowledge or wisdom) to enhance decision making and improve public policy (Meadows and Robinson 2002). More recently, Thomas W. Malone expresses convincingly our challenge in understanding the limits of human–computer interaction and group decision making. As he stated in his address at the opening of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence in 2006:

      Sometimes collective intelligence is good; sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it...

    • 3 Organizing against Ethnoreligious Violence in Ahmedabad
      (pp. 57-80)

      From 1993 to 1997, I had a fellowship with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation that provided funding to investigate how international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) can prevent violence between people of different religious identities. In the winter of 1994, I traveled to Mumbai, where I was told I needed to meet Fr. Cedric Prakash and learn about his work in Ahmedabad, a city in the state of Gujarat in the northwestern part of the country. He was identified as a leader in the field of violence prevention, who worked with people of all faiths, in this religiously cosmopolitan, largest democracy on...

    • 4 Interrupting Gang Violence in Chicago
      (pp. 81-90)

      I participate in a working group on campus looking into potential educational uses of virtual reality. Our primary focus is Second Life. This web-based social media system allows users to develop avatars of themselves and to interact with others. Avatars meet on “islands” that are designed to reflect different settings.²

      I decided to see if anyone was using Second Life to train people in violence prevention. I stumbled across a website for the Center for the Advancement of Distance Education (CADE) of the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health.³ The virtual reality site they developed, modeled after...

    • 5 Counteracting Ethnoreligious Violence in Sri Lanka
      (pp. 91-104)

      A good friend at The Asia Foundation called me one day to see if I would be willing to help him and others develop their conflict management and democratic governance programming. They had received a major grant to develop their capacity in this area from the Hewlett Foundation, and they needed someone to help them design their programmatic approach. I did periodic consulting work with The Asia Foundation from 2001 to 2006. This work took me to San Francisco (where The Asia Foundation is headquartered), Bangkok, Thailand, and Kathmandu, Nepal. We developed “conflict diagnostics” with which to evaluate the impact...

    • 6 Crowdsourcing during Post-election Violence in Kenya
      (pp. 105-126)

      The availability of GIS (geographic information system) data has increased the potential for greater precision in early warning and early response at a local level. Indeed, the uses of GIS and events data go far beyond violence prevention. GIS data, combined with information on rainfall and the like, are being used to predict famine (Logan and Moseley 2001). GIS and health data are being used by epidemiologists for infectious disease control. While country-wide data might indicate a very low incidence of, say, tuberculosis per capita, linking infectious disease data over time with GIS data can identify concentrated pockets of a...

    • 7 Circumventing Tribal Violence in East Africa
      (pp. 127-134)

      In 2007, I met with CEWARN staff members in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to learn more about their work. I was struck by how different CEWARN was from FCE. CEWARN is an entity of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional body with seven member states: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda. I inferred as I listened to CEWARN staff members that being an official regional organization had its advantages and challenges. Advantages consist of having access to top-level decision makers and being able to secure governmental funding. Challenges include pressure to not report anticipated or actual violent...

    • 8 Comparing the Approaches
      (pp. 135-146)

      This chapter compares the costs and benefits of the different approaches. It offers propositions relating to peripheral vision, information processing, inductive reasoning, situations when there are only a small number of events, and the importance of timeliness in warnings and responses.

      When considering the costs of early warning and early response systems for violence prevention, it is helpful to keep in mind the major steps involved in setting one up. The steps needed with a “low-tech” approach are as follows: (1) form local organizations (such as peace committees); (2) gather information from trusted leaders in each community and build relationships...

    • 9 How to Intervene Effectively
      (pp. 147-160)

      There are, of course, many ways to intervene to prevent violence. Much more research is needed about how interventions can be most effective in differing conflict situations. Here, I present examples that illuminate approaches relating to the analytical framework and theories in chapter 1. The examples are divided into these groupings: reducing emotional escalation and counteracting justification for violence, changing norms, reducing the sense of threat, increasing the sense of risk of becoming violent, and developing options of what to do if faced with violence.

      One often hears the words “mob psychology” when reference is made to groups that have...

    • 10 What to Do When Violence Prevention Is Unlikely to Work
      (pp. 161-176)

      Early warning and early response approaches often have treated the local population as if they are passive recipients of informed, brave, and well-prepared interventions from the outside. This view is akin to a perspective about poverty alleviation, sometimes called the “white man’s burden” (a gender-biased phrase). Putting the two together, one gets a perspective that reads:These poor and vulnerable people need our help. If they are poor, we must provide charity by feeding and clothing them. If they are vulnerable, we must bravely step forward and intervene to protect them.

      An alternative view has been called people-centered early warning...

  9. III Resource Allocation Considerations and Recommendations

    • [III Introduction]
      (pp. 177-178)

      This part of the book covers various criticisms of and recommendations for conflict early warning and early response systems. The criticisms, covered in chapter 11, fall into three categories: (1) they do not focus on the causes of the violence; (2) they are a drain on resources (both human and financial), to the detriment of other programs that are of higher priority; and (3) there is often a lack of a mandate to intervene.

      Chapter 12 covers future directions and recommendations, arguing that there are ways to keep costs down, that it is important to exploit economies of scale. It...

    • 11 Concerns about Misallocation of Resources
      (pp. 179-188)

      This chapter covers three categories of criticisms regarding resource allocation: (1) that early warning and early response programming has the wrong focus; (2) that it drains limited resources; and (3) that it lacks a mandate.

      Some argue that conflict early warning and early response fails to pay adequate attention to thestructuralcauses of violence. Theoperationalfocus of preventing violence is seen as a distraction. According to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict,structural preventionmeasures are designed to “ensure that crises do not arise in the first place or, if they do, that they do not recur.”...

    • 12 Future Directions and Recommendations
      (pp. 189-202)

      This chapter offers ideas about how to enhance software as it relates to the volume of data that will be available for early warning. It describes how decision sciences can assist the field in refining our technology of when to issue a warning. It provides guidance on how to minimize costs, and offers recommendations for the field of violence prevention for funders, researchers, and practitioners.

      While circumstances require that early warning and early response systems are tailor-made from one location to another, there are components that can be developed and used globally. They fall into these categories: software, training programs,...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 203-208)

    Currion’s assessment that politics trumps technology is a sobering reminder that we must always keep the big—including the political—picture in mind. But this does not detract from the main argument of this book: that violence prevention initiatives at a local level, combined with the support of middle- and top-level leaders, using various combinations of technology, have saved and can save lives. The question is not so much whether technology can be helpful, but what configuration is best in a given circumstance in view of limited financial and human resources constrained by security considerations of both staff members and...

  11. Appendix A: Reporting Sheet for Field Officers
    (pp. 209-210)
  12. Appendix B: Categories for Local Conflict Early Warning and Early Response
    (pp. 211-216)
  13. Appendix C: ʺSuper Eventʺ Categories
    (pp. 217-220)
  14. Appendix D: Indicators of the CEWARN Mechanism
    (pp. 221-224)
  15. Appendix E: Results from Statistical Analysis on Organized Raids
    (pp. 225-226)
  16. Acronyms
    (pp. 227-230)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 231-238)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 239-256)
  19. References
    (pp. 257-274)
  20. Index
    (pp. 275-288)