As awareness of social media increases, so do the implications for its use in communicating the atrocities of war and building global peace.
The University of Idaho’s 2010 Borah Symposium, entitled “@Peace @War – Global Action through Social Media,” will explore the connections between information technology, social media, war and building peace. The event, scheduled for April 5-7, is free and open to the public.
“The explosion of social media applications in the past few years has not just affected how people communicate with their friends – it has also changed what happens in a war or conflict situation,” said Jodie Nicotra, assistant professor of English and co-chair of the Borah Symposium.
“Putting tools for collaborative action in the hands of ordinary citizens can actually change the course of events, as we saw this past summer in Iran and Moldova, for example,” Nicotra said. “The 2010 Borah Symposium will look at the profound consequences of these new technologies.”
The symposium will open on April 5 with a screening of “Burma VJ,” which was shown at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. The documentary follows a tenacious band of Burmese reporters who face down death to expose the repressive regime controlling their country. Foreign news crews were banned, the Internet was shut down and Burma was closed to the outside world, so the group used clandestine video smuggled across the border to raise international awareness of a cruel dictatorship.
On April 6, a global panel of social media scholars and practitioners will address issues of theory, history and technology. The panel will be moderated by Daljit Dhaliwal, anchor of Worldfocus. Dhaliwal is a seasoned broadcaster who has worked for some of the world’s most respected news organizations, including CNN International and BBC News. She has covered many of the major news stories of the last 10 years, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the conflicts in the Middle East and the Balkans, just to name a few. Most recently, Dhaliwal has been host of Foreign Exchange, a weekly half-hour international affairs series on PBS that examines America’s role in an increasingly complex and interdependent world. The series probes the global questions of the moment through conversations with international newsmakers, politicians, diplomats and journalists.
The panel will include Sheldon Himelfarb, associate vice president of The U.S. Institute of Peace. He has served as foreign policy adviser to a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the head of North American Documentary Development for Yorkshire TV, and the CEO/executive producer for Common Ground Productions, the media division of Search for Common Ground. He is an award-winning filmmaker, former commentator for National Public Radio’s Sunday Morning Edition and author of numerous articles on politics, popular culture and conflict. He has managed peace-building programs in numerous conflicts, including Bosnia, Iraq, Angola, Liberia, Macedonia and Burundi, and received the Capitol Area Peace Maker award from American University.
The symposium concludes on April 7 with a panel discussion about grassroots efforts and field experience of those who have used social media in the war zone. Among others, the panel will include Nico Pitney, national editor of the Huffington Post.
Additional details about the 2010 Borah Symposium will be available at a later date.
The Borah Symposium is sponsored by the university’s William Edgar Borah Outlawry of War Foundation, a separately endowed foundation at the University of Idaho established in 1929 to honor and continue the work of Idaho Sen. William Borah on behalf of peace. Supported by the university’s Martin Institute, the Borah Foundation was created to advance research and teaching about the causes of conflict and peaceful resolution. For more than 50 years, the Borah Foundation has sponsored an annual program on the general theme of the causes of war and the conditions necessary for a lasting peace. The topics of these programs are chosen by a University of Idaho faculty-student committee.