This project responded to the increasing role of religious institutions and networks in addressing social unrest, conflict, extremism, and discord through arbitration and/or humanitarian assistance. The project tried to unravel the interplay between the governance and conflict resolution work of these organizations and the growing use of digital technologies. The dialogues organized as part of this project brought together policymakers, scholars, and the media to specifically examine the role of Muslim institutions in the aforementioned aspects of international affairs.
The project was funded by the British Council USA's Bridging Voices scheme. It was run by Shawn Powers and Abbas Barzegar at Georgia State University and Ben O'Loughlin and Akil Awan at the New Political Communication Unit, Royal Holloway. Workshops too place in November 2013 in London and May 2014 in Atlanta.
Powers and O'Loughlin published a commentary article in Media, War & Conflict entitled The Syrian data glut: Rethinking the role of information in conflict. Based on their discussions during this project, they argue that the free flow of information can in some cases decrease the chances of peace. This contradicts centuries of thought concerning the role of information as leading to cooperation, trust and shared understanding. One potential avenue to improve the prospects of peace may be to map areas where people are getting on - where social relations are stable and markets and infrastructure are functioning. Instead of crisis mapping, why not look through the other end of the telescope and map peace? If we can explain why social relations do continue to function, it may be possible to build out from those areas.
Read the article for free here.