Efforts to build peace after political crisis or armed violence have become increasingly digitalised. Today, conflict parties and stakeholders widely use digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) to further their interests and agendas. Organisations that aim to contribute to building peace similarly employ a range of technologies, for both specialised tasks, such as conflict analysis or strategic communication, and in more ubiquitous ways. This growing role of digital technologies is paralleled by a change in the global political environment and the crisis of “liberal” peacebuilding approaches. Digital technologies intervene into these dynamics, by shaping how users make sense of armed conflict and options for its resolution, and by enabling some peacebuilding approaches but not others.
To make sense of these dynamics, the project draws on the concept of “apomediation”, to suggest that solutions to conflict are no longer simply supplied by human agents, but through a complex entanglement of human-machine networks. Apomediation arguably not only shapes the discussion about the “right” peacebuilding approach, but also the ability of actors to implement specific activities and influence peace processes, as well as popular perceptions of peacebuilding outcomes. The project will conduct a comparative study of contemporary peacebuilding cases, including through a mapping of the apomediation networks in which peacebuilding organisations are embedded, an analysis of the impact of technology on peacebuilding discourse and practice, and a study on the kind of peace that is constructed through the use of digital technologies.
The project will contribute to the systematic exploration of the effects of digitalisation on peacebuilding, through new conceptual perspectives and empirical insights. By producing critical reflections on the role of digital technologies in peacebuilding, the project will also be of relevance to international and national peacebuilding organisations, in their efforts to reflect on the impact of digitalisation on their work.
This project is funded through an AMBIZIONE grant of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).