Today I delivered a presentation at my Alma Mater, Middlebury College. The presentation was titled, “The Digital Duel: Resistance and Repression in an Online World.” It looked at the role of digital tools and social media in aiding and advancing nonviolent struggles around the world in places like Egypt, Colombia, Iran, Burma, and Ukraine. It also looked at how repressive governments are finding their own ways to clamp down on the use of these tools.
I was invited to speak by the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, the Geography Department, and a former professor of mine, Guntram Herb. The whole experience was very cool because I actually took Guntram Herb’s Geography of Peace class back in 2002 when I was an undergrad. It was in that class where I first read the book, A Force More Powerful, which chronicles this history of nonviolent struggles throughout the 20th century looking at movements like the Danish resistance of the Nazis during WWII, India’s Independence Movement, the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa, and several others. That class, and that book more specifically, introduced me to the strategic elements of nonviolent action as a way to affect political and social change. The book was written by Jack DuVall and Peter Ackerman, who are the two gentleman that founded the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, where I now work. So, to go back to Middlebury to speak with students who are in Guntram Herb’s class and talk about the importance of the subject and how it inspired me to work in this field was amazing on a number of different levels.
Prior to the presentation I conducted some person-on-the-street interviews asking students for their thoughts on how they view digital tools and social media impacting social and political change. The whole exercise was designed to not only promote my presentation, but also demonstrate how easy it is to create and self-publish your own work, spread it through different networks online, and solicit increased participation from people in generating conversation about a particular topic. The video was shot using a Flip video camera and edited on iMovie.