Critical Perspectives on Digital Peacebuilding

Led by Kristian Hoelscher

Oct 2020 – Jun 2021

How does the use of technology shape how we build more peaceful societies?

How does the use of technology shape how we build more peaceful societies?

Digital technologies are rapidly being employed as solutions to complex social challenges. As digital penetration has grown exponentially over the past two decades, considerable excitement surrounds the application of digital technologies to build peace and ameliorate conflict. Enthusiasm surounds the potential of digital peacebuilding and 'peacetech' to analyse, understand and respond to root causes of conflict and empower and challenge existing structures of power. Yet there are also there are legitimate concerns regarding how technology in the pursuit of peace may have little tangible benefits, and instead can exacerbate existing inequalities in knowledge and agency, and give rise to new forms of governmentality, discipline and surveillance.

Given this, this project seeks to critically reflect on and study the digitalization of peacebuilding as a social practice, and its discursive, systemic and institutional dimensions. We examine :

  • The construction of the concept of digital peacebuilding and the intentions, purposes, practices and effects that this entails.

  • The power relations and politics of technology in the peacebuilding space and how new of existing power relations emerge or are challenges through digital peacebuilding.

  • What types of peacebuilding practices emerge from an increased focus on the digital, how this shapes the production of knowledge and what consequences this leads to.

In doing so we aim to engage with and combine both positivist and critical perspectives on digital peacebuilding to develop a more nuanced understanding of the real-world implications of the application of digital technologies to build peace and reduce violence.

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