What are the determinants that a social media campaign during a period of political unrest will be effective?

After watching a video debate (which started off talking about cyber war, then ventured into broader discussions around the use and viability of social media during a political emergency), between Ethan Zuckerman and Evgeny Morozov, it made me think of the current book I’m reading (Wars, Guns & Votes by Paul Collier). In it Collier talks about the inverse relationship between democracy in the bottom billion and democracy in the developed world. Basically, democracy is counterproductive in most countries where people live on less than $7/day.

GDP and Government Media Censorship

This raise a question to me. Has anyone done qualitative research following the same lines of thinking within the blogging and social media space? Where they contrast the social media use, and results of that use, relative to the GDP of the country where the blogging is being done.

In particular, of course, this relates to when blogging and social media is used during an emergency where politics are at play.

GDP chart of China, Russia, Georgia, Honduras and IranThe reason I ask is because of the comparisons that are brought up by Ethan and Evgeny, with Honduras, Iran, Xinjiang (China), Russian and South Ossetia parading through the conversation. It’s an interesting contrast listening to the takeaways by each of them, in relation to the outcomes (some of which are still unfolding). I wound up Wolfram Alpha to take a quick look at the GDP of these countries, knowing well and good that more sound research would have to be done to do this properly.

What other factors would seem to play an overly effective part in this space? The first ones that jumps out at me are:

  • GDP
  • Technology penetration
  • Democracy rating
  • Openness of society
  • Government censorship (media/internet/mobile)

F1b5c80a-593d-11de-ab52-000255111976I’m guessing that GDP alone isn’t enough to make an educated prediction on the impact of the use of social media in politically charged societies. It probably has as much to do with the proclivity of government media censorship within a country as well. What is the past history of the government to censor media, and which channels do they block?

If you look at China (16), Iran (16), Russia (12), Georgia (8) and Honduras (6) – as compared in the CIRI Human Rights Database of Government Media Censorship 2000-2007, this is what you find. It seems that there might be some correlation in the numbers, but deeper research would have to be done to truly determine if that is true or not.

Searching for information

I’ve just begun exploring this question, so if someone has done any work in studying this area, please let me know. If not, I’d be interested in seeing some basic research into any of the sub-categories mentioned.

I’m quite interested in finding out what determines an effective (or failed) social media campaign during a period of political unrest.