Monday, November 19, 2012

Israel, Gaza, and Intercultural Communication in a Networked Society

This week, we have seen an escalation of conflict in the Middle East specifically centered in the Gaza strip in Israel. In a recent CNN video, “Twitter as a Weapon in Gaza," the news outlet focused on the  emerging role of Twitter in this conflict.

The report states that, in addition to traditional conflict, the “war is also fought online” as a battle for “public opinion” between Israeli forces and Hamas. Currently, the opposing forces are strategic in their use of social networking. For instance, the Israeli Defense Force is using #pillarofdefense and Hamas using #Gazaunderattack  on their Twitter accounts as a method for allowing a global audience to follow the events from these oppositional perspectives. In addition to using these Twitter accounts to shape public (i.e., international opinion) and, at times, dialogue with each other, an unintentional outcome of the online nature of this conflict is that it allows for the global audience to become more engaged in the dialogue as individuals across the world respond to these messages in affirming or critical ways and, in doing so, often dialogue with others about these specific event and the ongoing tension in Israel, in general.  Much like many of the event in recent years in the MidEast, Twitter and other social networking sites have changed, not only the nature of interactions between the groups directly involved in the conflicts, but also the global engagement and discourse surrounding international events.

Dr. Damien Smith Pfister and Dr. Jordan Soliz addressed this in their essay, “(Re)conceptualizing Intercultural Communication in a Networked Society” in the Journal of International and Intercultural Communication. Framing their ideas within the events and aftermath of the 2009 Iranian election protests, Drs. Pfister and Soliz argue that digital media (e.g., Twitter, YouTube) are changing the nature of how people are informed, persuaded, and, at times, become involved in the dialogue of intercultural and international events. As evidenced in this CNN video, this is no longer the exception but the norm as our networked society is bringing global events to our home offices, laptops, and mobile devices allowing everyone to be engaged in what, in times past, would be considered something happening in a “far-off place.” 

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