Hello Connectivism & Connected Learning 2009,
I took the course last year. I just finished reading an article by Andrew Sullivan on memetics and how it applies to strategic communications to counter terrorism ideologies (his article). I immediately thought of how to relate this to Connectivism. The Sullivan talks about how the broadcast medium and the internet are the focus of counter-terrorism message sending, however, among the Islamic community, people do not listen to the message because the counter ideology to Islamic ideology is a head-on attack to the teaching of the Koran. Thus, no one listens to Voice of America etc for their counter-terrorism ideological message. Sullivan argues, that to be effective, strategic communications needs to occur at the grass roots levels.
In many cultures, our values, beliefs, and ideology is formed through those we have close contact with. Therefore, to be successful in Iraq and Afghanistan, NATO must take its message directly to the people. And counter terrorism message cannot be a direct assault on Islam. Instead it must be what he calls “oblique” or what the English Interwar period military strategist, JFC Fuller calls, the indirect approach to defeat your enemy.
So what does this talk of strategic communications and counterterrorism mean to connectivism? Well connectivism is partly about how the social web allows many disparate people from all over the word connect with those of similar interests. Sullivan argues that technology will have little impact, instead you have to get the “oblique ideas” into peoples heads through verbal and personal discussions. (I guess that is why the Provincial Reconstruction Teams are so important.) So, Connectivsm and connected learning do not appear to be valid in this case. Read Little Boxes, Glocalization and Networked Individualism for another viewpoint that may support Sullivan’s thesis.
However, in support of connectivism and connected learning, I would argue that the broadcast and internet communications have to be more subtle. Rather than be a “bulldozer” you have to be a “gardener” to cultivate change in ideas. This is a principle of Facebook and Twitter. Companies that try to force their message out there, do not do well. It is better to have a conversation. So NATO and the US would be well advised to take advantage of the social aspects of the web to counter terrorist ideology.
In Afghanistan, the context of communication is the personal dialog. Therefore, the message must be carried by real people. In Afghanistan, maybe Connected Learning is the personal. So the trick is to get the message out to as many areas as possible and that it be consistent, but local. Perhaps NATO’s use of information technology allows the messengers (the PRT team) to be rapidly responsive to changes and to disseminate that information to all the military forces, to the Afghan government and ultimately onto the Afghan people.