05 October 2020
4:00 pm
Tech&Society: “Time-critical social mobilization”
Conference, Debate

Tech&Society: “Time-critical social mobilization”


Aspen Institute España and Fundación Telefónica celebrated the third Tech&Society session last Monday 5th of October of 2020 at 16:00h on “Time-critical social mobilization” with Manuel Cebrián, Chief Researcher at The Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the IV Edition participants of the Program. The session was moderated by Isabel Cruz-Conde, Program Director at Aspen Institute España.


Introduction to the session (by Manuel Cebrián)

It is the year 2030, and the world is starting to enter a new era after collectively overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. On a given uneventful day, a terrorist organization makes a threat to the world. If EUR1 trillion is not deposited in a cryptocurrency account by the end of the week, ten biological bombs containing heated-up smallpox – a viral vector much more transmissible and lethal than COVID-19 – will be detonated in 10 metropolia around the world. A few years earlier, it would have been considered an empty threat, but after the 2020s pandemic, the government and society alike take the threat very seriously. National Security Agencies manage to retrieve some details of the attackers: a fuzzy photo of the attackers, some clues about their whereabouts, and intimations about the shape of the bombs. The world an, in particular, the social media universe mobilizes to collective hunt for the attackers: Will they find them and avert the attack? What could go wrong? In this talk, I reviewed several social media-fueled time-critical manhunts in which I have taken part over the last decade, where I describe the complex societal, informational, and ethical trade-off of this powerful technology.


After the session, an interview was broadcast live between Manuel Cebrián and Blas Moreno, co-founder and co-director of El Orden Mundial and Alumni of this same Program, on the processes of social mobilization through social networks and other technologies.



Recommended Readings

Manuel Cebrián, “Searching for someone. From the ‘Small World Experiment’ to the ‘Red Balloon Challenge’, and beyond “, MIT Media Lab, 18 de febrero, 2016.

Manuel Cebrián, “Becoming someone. How the Internet turned inwards”, MIT Media Lab, 3 de mayo de 2017

Manuel Cebrián, Iyad Rahwan, Alex “Sandy” Pentland, “Beyond Viral”, Communications of the ACM, abril de 2016 Vol. 59 No. 4, Pages 36-39



Manuel Cebrián is a Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Institute for Human Development, where he directs the Social Mobilization Research Group. He was previously a Research Scientist Manager at the MIT Media Lab. Manuel’s research examines computational methods to create incentives that mobilize large groups of people to collaborate in extreme circumstances, such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and pandemics. His empirical work uses network science modeling and observational studies. His published papers appear in Science, Nature, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, the Journal of the Royal Society, and other peer-reviewed journals and proceedings in computer science and computational social science.


Isabel Cruz-Conde  joined Aspen Institute España in September 2013. She holds a Degree in Journalism from Universidad CEU San Pablo and an Executive Media MBA from Universidad de Navarra. She has worked for two years as a writer and editor for the gastronomical magazine Club de Gourmets, coordinating the Press Department of Grupo Gourmets (first publishing company in Spain specialized in gastronomy) and Salon de Gourmets (the major European international fine food and beverage fair), where she was also responsible for the website and the Social Networks of the group. Isabel has previously worked at Christie’s and LVMH Watches and Jewelry. She speaks Spanish, English and Portuguese.


Blás Moreno (Madrid, 1994), Co-founder and Co-Director of El Orden Mundial, the first digital magazine on international politics in Spanish and based on the subscription model, where he is editor-in-chief. He has also participated in the book El libro es no como crees, by El Orden Mundial, recently published by the Ariel publishing house, and collaborates weekly with Julia en la Onda (Onda Cero) and “It is not an ordinary day” (RNE). He is an Alumni of the Tech & Society program, organized by Aspen Institute España and Fundación Telefónica, in which he participated in 2019.



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