Communication for Peace: How Digital Technologies can Enhance Empathy and Dialogue
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Communication for Peace: How Digital Technologies can Enhance Empathy and Dialogue

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This presentation explores how digital communication tools can contribute to dialogue and deeper understanding. It was presented at the Religion Communicators Congress 2010 in Chicago,......

This presentation explores how digital communication tools can contribute to dialogue and deeper understanding. It was presented at the Religion Communicators Congress 2010 in Chicago, USA.
At all levels – from interpersonal and organizational, to community, country and world – human relationships experience conflict and need an infusion of deeper understanding and peace.

This workshop will explore ways that digital communication tools can contribute to peace building by enhancing our ability to empathize with each other more deeply, map conflict areas, or refocus dialogues around facts. Concrete case studies will ground this exploration in modern technical tools that can contribute to peace building, such as multimedia storytelling, Ushahidi conflict mapping software, and Web 2.0 tools.

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  • -let me share some of my recent projects so you understand where I’m coming from -one of the most personally fulfilling moments was sharing the video in Rwanda last year
  • “I do not want…”Today’s workshop is about Communication for peace-as this quote says, deep understanding is the path to peace-very challenging-very necessary-exciting developments in technology that enable richer communications from a broader base-I will share some examples from the field-lot of wisdom/experience in the room; a chance to share your own experience & questions
  • -I am convinced, from my experience & research, that we can build empathy & understanding through technologies-the technologies are enablers; people use them powerfully-most exciting developments is how inexpensive & easy to use technologies are becoming-as simple as cell phones, in SMS/voice only mode, as well as multimedia features-when you harness these technologies and combine them in specific ways, very powerful outcomesConflict mapping/interventionsCitizen reporting/communication
  • How easy do you imagine empathy is between people from:America & IraqPakistan and IndiaIsrael and the Palestinian territoriesSuicide bombers and their victims You and a person you imagine having the most difficulty respecting
  • -what we don’t even notice as assumptions can be huge barriers to understanding, and ultimately peace -even openly discussed, consensus & mutual respect is very hard to nurture -very important to reveal, discuss, & respect each others’ differences
  • -the “other” is so inaccessible to us -beyond our experience -behind so many ‘walls’ of barriersDigital stories allow outsiders a unique invitation behind the usual walls that obscure “the other”
  • -in conflict situations, often the “enemy” speaks for each other, and imputes the most negative portrayals and intentions to them-states pretend to speak for all people-words are imputed to the “other”Digital stories & new media empower speakers to speak their own truth, not have words imputed to them-goes beyond words & facts, to the emotions
  • -as simple as voice recorder on your cell phone, or free software & a microphone on the computer-that’s how I captured Amos’ storyAudio offers a great deal of creativity-sound-voice-surroundings-plays-interviews
  • -about murmur-especially for geographically located stories
  • Jean Paul Samputu – survivor, peacebuilder, friend-peace is impossible without forgiveness
  • -building bridges across conflict zones is the topic of this piece-simple technology; photographs/voiceover-great as a positive examples – celebrate them
  • Multiple channels, repurposing, viral marketing expands new media’s reach– exploding online channels-enabled community building that is not possible in person, even traditional communications (phones)-strangers, “enemies”-imprisoned; new media enabled transparency & pressure on authorities(Quote, Timecode 1:50)
  • Encourage you to read more later
  • How many of you use Twitter personally?Organizationally?Experience?
  • One of strongest peace-specific digital tools-free, open source-demonstrate live
  • Very good online reports that share more-top link is a 5 minute overview by the founder, Patrick Meier-important to note the Haiti work was done almost exclusively by students in Boston-offsite, volunteers, coordinating with on-the-ground professionals-invaluable
  • Peace & conflict are complex & controversialPresenting all sides of the issues, in response to each other, is a good step at clarity & consensus on the issues
  • -live online demo


  • 1. Communication for Peace: How Digital Technologies can Enhance Empathy and Dialogue
    Carole St. Laurent
  • 2. Websites, multimedia, capacity building
    Cellular-based storytelling in Australia
    Capacity building in Uganda
    eGovernment collaboration in Canada
    Peace work inspired by Rwandan filmmaker
    Pilot project,
  • 3. I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.
    Helen Keller
  • 4. Communication for Peace
    Digital technologies enhance empathy and dialogue
    Digital storytelling
    Social media
    Interventions and Action
    Conflict & incident mapping
    Mobile reporting
  • 5. The Challenge
    True understanding is hard enough when you share:
    Common language
    Common culture
    Common standard of living
    Similar life experiences
  • 6. The Challenge
    Sometimes even the people closest to us seem like they’re from different planets!
  • 7. The Challenge
    Even sharing genetic material doesn’tguarantee communication!
    Daddy’s HomeTony Rubino and Gary MarksteinJuly 8, 2009
  • 8. Peace Communications
    True understanding is even more difficult when you must overcome:
    Language differences
    Socio-economic differences
    Religious differences
    Values differences
    Generations or even centuries of conflict
  • 9. “Truth”
    How much of our “given” truth is universal?
  • 10. “Truth”
  • 11. Enabling Empathy
    How can we enable deeper understanding and empathy?
    See the world through their eyes – a world that outsiders cannot usually see
    Hear sounds from their world
    Hear their voice
    Empathize with their emotions
  • 12. Digital Storytelling
    Empowers people to speak their own truth
    Transcend geography, time
    Rich mediums – sights, sounds
    Multiple speakers
    Complete, unfiltered messages
    Uninterrupted messages
  • 13. Digital Storytelling
    Invites audiences behind the walls which usually obscure “the other”
    Into homes
    Into sacred spaces and events
    Into the speaker’s thoughts and emotions
  • 14. Visual Storytelling
    Waris Ali Chaudhry’s photographs
  • 15. Visual Storytelling
    Isis-WICCE’s annual report in images
  • 16. “Pray for Healing of the World”
    Painting by David Chapman
  • 17. Homem na Molduraby Humberto Pateguana
    ARMS into ART
    a virtual exhibition in cooperation with Núcleo de Arte in Maputo, Mozambique
  • 18. Reflection
    How do images impact your empathy for the other?
  • 19. Oral Storytelling
    Amos, “If I were in their shoes”
    U2, Peace on Earth
  • 20. Alternative Access
    Cell-based stories/reports
    [murmur] (global)
    Freedom Fone, Zimbabwe
  • 21. Reflection
    How does audio impact your empathy for the other?
  • 22. Power of Forgiveness
    Jean Paul Samputu,
    “Forgiveness is a powerful weapon against terrorism and atrocities”
  • 23. Positive Examples
    Audio slideshow
  • 24. Reflection
    How do audiovisuals impact your empathy for the other?
  • 25. Social Media
    Amazing new media project,
  • Challenging Assumptions
    “Armenians, please come back and claim your church”AdnanHajizade, Azeri Video Blogger
    “For Armenian Facebook users, this was their first exposure to an image of the “enemy” at odds with that usually portrayed in local media.”Twitter Diplomacy, Onnik Krikorian 2 February 2010
  • 30. Blogs
    “Twitter Diplomacy” – Web 2.0 tools bridge closed borders
    between Armenia and Azerbaijan
    “It was a virtual hand of friendship extended across a closed border and a 15-year-old cease-fire line.”
  • 31. Twitter
    Share or read real-time news
    • Search #hashtags or keywords
    • 32. Follow organizations or people
    • 33. Create or follow lists
  • Ushahidi
    Online crisis mapping system
  • Ushahidi
    Deployed in Kenya, DRC, Gaza, etc.
    Saved lives in Haiti earthquake, 2010
    Thousands of life-and-death text messages
    Skype with Search and Rescue (SAR)
    Emails from the World Food Program
    SOUTHCOM’s video footage from military drones
  • 37. Ushahidi Haiti
    Crowdsourcing the Impossible: Ushahidi Haiti
    Tufts map steered action amid chaosBoston Globe, April 5, 2010
  • 38. Debate & Dialogue
    Conflicts are complex, controversial
    Graphicaltool to buildclarity,consensus
  • 39. DebateGraph
    Content/context such as:
    Arguments for/against
  • 40. Reflection
    What does social media add to the picture?
    What else is possible?
  • 41. Resources
    Global Voices (
    Aggregates & translates blogs, podcasts, video
    FastStone Image Viewer,
  • 42. Resources
    Peace and Collaborative Development Network
    MiroslavVolf, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World
    Remembrance vs forgiving/forgetting
    Reconciliation vs justice