Tunisia, Egypt: Digitally Driven Asymmetric Conflict

self-assembling dynamic networks enabled via digital means are increasingly leaving their indelible mark across the globe.

DK Matai writes:

“As events are now making it painfully clear, traditional confrontation is being transformed from a closed, state-sponsored affair to one where the means and the know-how to mount an insurrection are readily found on the world wide web.

Self-assembling dynamic man-power can be galvanised via digital mobile telephones and social media networks including Blogs, Facebook (590 million users), Twitter (125 million users) and Youtube. This unprecedented global access to increasingly powerful digital technology and tools is, in effect, allowing “small groups” to confront large barricades of police and army battalions in an asymmetric and agile way. Knowingly or unknowingly, almost all sovereign nations are drifting towards asymmetric conflict.

We call this new type of confrontation “Digitally Driven Asymmetric Conflict” manifest via “Self-Assembling Dynamic Networks” because the manner in which insurgent groups organise themselves, share information, and adapt their strategies relies heavily on digitally driven technologies as catalysts and accelerants.

Insurgent groups, like software hackers, tend to form loose and non-hierarchical networks to pursue a common vision. That common vision is the invisible glue that bonds the protesting citizens and the digital networks provide the framework to do so. United by that common vision, they exchange information and work collaboratively on tasks of mutual interest. Upon achieving their objective, they disband automatically leaving limited traces of their existence.

We are NOT looking at a polarity between the state and individuals as witnessed in the 18th, 19th and 20th century ideological confrontations and radicalism. Digitally empowered human beings retain, even more than before, the desire to combine and to work in groups — in short, to ‘belong’! The new feature of digitally driven societies is that they can now do so with amazing speed and effectiveness in defiance of flawed yet established authority.

In an age where the internet may seem to have caused ties to the local community to weaken, the digitally- driven society allows individuals a non-duality where they can be part of their local community and at the same time reach out regionally, nationally, and globally to find other groups with which they share common ground.

In fact, the love-of-Earth is emerging, the love-of-nation or responsible nationalism is not obsolete; love-of-group, faith-based or otherwise, is proliferating; and love of family and neighbourhood is amplifying. All these different levels of love have all become magnified by the internet age and the communications revolution. This is not just taking place at a local or national level, but at a trans-national level, making all of us more global citizens with shared values with every passing day.”

The author adds that the above dynamics do not only lead to governments gone in a flash, but to a new kind of sociality, digital tribalism:

“Predominant characteristic of tribes throughout time is the need to share and to communicate ideas, thoughts, observations and views. Digital networks achieve this objective by connecting like-minded members of such new tribes across continents! As the principal players move around the arena, a self-assembled dynamic network structure emerges that no single player can control. Digital networks have taken tribal behaviour to a whole new level of collective consciousness: dynamic self-assembling tribes that come into existence almost instantaneously. Human civilisation has gone from local to national and from national to trans-national tribal behaviour and congregation enabled by digital catalysts.

With the growth of the Internet and with its capacity to communicate any and every idea or thought to anyone on the planet 24/7, we have created the ultimate platform for tribal behaviour. Human beings are social animals and need some form of community. Since the time our ancestors gathered together in caves for protection and food we have formed tribes and exhibit tribal behaviour. As civilisation has advanced our tribes have become more numerous and specific. They have developed into institutions, communities and sovereign nations. Now they are manifest as digital tribes, which can be created instantaneously as self-assembling dynamic networks.

The rise of modern civilisation with its secularism and isolationism has done much to break down the traditional tribal bonds. Social observers underscore our weakening traditional tribal influences, noting that young people’s lack of enthusiasm to join community groups today can be translated as a lack of social responsibility. However, the conclusion that young people don’t want to participate in tribal behaviour does not hold true. They do! It’s just that the format and structure of 21st century trans-national tribal networks is somewhat different from local community participation. It can be described as social networking at one level and a vigorous digital market for the exchange of ideas at another level.”