Bridging the void: social media's potential to transform intergroup relations in fractured societies
Crane, Elise S.
- Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Abstract: When physical contact between divergent groups is either impossible or socially unacceptable, mainstream media may exacerbate stereotypes of "the other" and detract from any progress toward intergroup reconciliation. In this context, certain social media tools ... read moreseem poised to positively influence social processes. Here I examine the potential for moderated discussion fora to improve intergroup relations, particularly in post-conflict societies afflicted by an intergroup contact void. I apply tenets of conflict resolution literature and technology theory to measure attitude transformation in a case study of Caucasus Edition, a fully moderated website dedicated to generating discussion on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. The site invites participants (primarily Armenians and Azerbaijanis) to post original content and to comment on postings. Its key attribute is arguably the sense of trust fostered through strong moderation; vitriol and ad hominen attacks are not tolerated. Although it is difficult to satisfactorily measure attitude transformation, and social media are no silver bullet, such moderated websites may be capable of eroding enduring stereotypes and exposing human commonalities to help transcend monolithic perceptions of "the other."read less