Cell Phones and Conflict Intensity: Overcoming Collective Action Problems
Violence is pervasive. So, now, are cell phones. This study investigates the possible relation between the two. Social scientists have long argued that new technologies, such as cell phones, can make it easier for people to coordinate their activities. So cell phones may make conflicts worse by making it easier for people to fight. I use country-level data on cell phones and compare that with data on deaths from within-country conflicts. Specifically, I focus on the time periods when cell phones became prevalent in each country and test whether the this change in communication technology was associated with more or less people dying. I present the results from several comparisons. The findings are mixed: there are some countries where increases in violence happened at the same time that cell phones were becoming popular, but also others where there was no pattern or even a negative relationship. I discuss the limitations of the data and some of the things that I learned and that other scholars could build on to better understand the connections between technology and violence.