The Digital Activism Research Project (DARP) was founded in the fall of 2012 in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. Since its founding, DARP has been committed to taking a rigorously empirical, social science approach to the study of global digital activism, civic engagement, non-violent conflict and citizen journalism. Its approach is open and collaborative, and the project has engaged students both at UW and at other universities in its work, as well as making all its work accessible to the public through Creative Commons licensing. We believe that the study of global digital activism can and must be accomplished through open access and cooperation.
Digital media has transformed the ways in which many citizens around the world engage in politics, and there are a growing number of occasions where the internet, social media, and information infrastructure seems to play an important role in the evolution of non-violent conflicts. Some argue that the new media environment supports democratization and peace-building efforts, while others argue the opposite. Either way, foreign policy analysts have no systematic way of “adding it all up.”
Our central project is to construct the first large-N event database of incidents of in which digital media has been used for civic engagement, non-violent conflict, and political activism. The project has been successfully run as pilot project, and USIP support will allow us to complete the coding, build online analysis and visualization tools, and launch a public release of both raw data and key findings for use by foreign policy analysts, journalists, and the interested public.
We seek to raise the level of foreign policy expertise with the evolving dynamics of international relations in a digital era. We hope to improve public understanding of the potential and pitfalls of civic engagement using digital media, and to make this USIP supported project a resource for journalists investigating contemporary trends in social media and political change. This project will address the need for broad perspective and cross-case comparison of how digital media has had an impact on non-violent outcomes.
This project will produce a comprehensive database of international incidents of civic activism and non-violent conflict in which digital media had some role in the evolution of events. The product will be hosted online, offer dynamic visualization tools, and the project includes an active dissemination strategy that will get these tools into the hands of key thinkers and strategists.
This project is unique, and pioneering research into digital media, civic engagement, and non-violent conflict. There are some scholarly efforts at tracking civic activism that arises online-only. But our contention is that the distinction between online and offline politics is no longer meaningful, that contemporary international relations and non-violent conflict increasingly has causes or consequences in digital media. And unlike other scholarly research efforts, we believe we must have a deliberate dissemination strategy to reach out to policy makers.