This is a third paper in a cycle on distributed swarms, OODA loops and stigmergy co-authored with a PhD student of mine. The paper is titled Distributed Swarming and Stigmergic Effects on ISIS Networks: OODA Loop Model, and was published in the Journal of Media and Information Warfare. This is probably the densest and most interesting paper in the series, as we analyse information warfare waged by distributed swarms in the context of network-centric warfare theory, stigmergic adaptation, and John Boyd’s work on the OODA loop concept. For me the most interesting elements of the paper involve our discussion of Von Moltke’s concept of auftragstactic in the context of maneuver warfare in the information domain.
Tag: communication networks
This is a paper I co-wrote with a PhD student of mine, titled Black-boxing the Black Flag: Anonymous Sharing Platforms and ISIS Content Distribution Tactics, currently in peer review. We analyse ISIS’ use of anonymous sharing portals in its content distribution operations as part of a broader information warfare strategy focused on withstanding degrading attacks by popular social media portals. What is interesting about this paper is that we use a key notion from actor network theory – the black box – to conceptualise the role of anonymous sharing portals in the propaganda operations of distributed terrorist networks.
These are the slides for what was perhaps my favorite lecture so far in BCM112. The lecture has three distinct parts, presented by myself and my PhD students Doug Simkin and Travis Wall. I opened by building on the previous lecture which focused on the dynamics of networked participation, and expanded on the shift from passive consumption to produsage. The modalities of this shift are elegantly illustrated by the event-frame-story structure I developed to formalize the process of news production [it applies to any content production]. The event stage is where the original footage appears – it often is user generated, raw, messy, and with indeterminate context. The frame stage provides the filter for interpreting the raw data. The story stage is what is produced after the frame has done its work. In the legacy media paradigm the event and frame stages are closed to everyone except the authority figures responsible for story production – governments, institutions, journalists, academics, intellectuals, corporate content producers. This generates an environment where authority is dominant, and authenticity is whatever authority decides – the audience is passive and in a state of pure consumption. In the distributed media paradigm the entire process is open and can be entered by anyone at any point – event, frame, or story. This generates an environment where multiple event versions, frames, and stories compete for produser attention on an equal footing.
These dynamics have profound effects on information as a tool for persuasion and frame shifting, or in other words – propaganda. In legacy media propaganda is a function of the dynamics of the paradigm: high cost of entry, high cost of failure, minimum experimentation, inherent quality filter, limited competition, cartelization with limited variation, and an inevitable stagnation.
In distributed media propaganda is memes. Here too propaganda is a function of the dynamics of the paradigm, but those are characterized by collective intelligence as the default form of participation in distributed networks. In this configuration users act as a self-coordinating swarm towards an emergent aggregate goal. The swarm has an orders of magnitude faster production time than the legacy media. This results in orders of magnitude faster feedback loops and information dissemination.
The next part of the lecture, delivered by Doug Simkin, focused on a case study of the /SG/ threads on 4chan’s /pol/ board as an illustration of an emergent distributed swarm in action. This is an excellent case study as it focuses on real-world change produced with astonishing speed in a fully distributed manner.
The final part of the lecture, delivered by Travis Wall, focused on a case study of the #draftourdaughters memetic warfare campaign, which occurred on 4chan’s /pol/ board in the days preceding the 2016 US presidential election. This case study is a potent illustration of the ability of networked swarms to leverage fast feedback loops, rapid prototyping, error discovery, and distributed coordination in highly scalable content production.
Prezi from a lecture examining the influence of information networks on organisations and labour practices. To illustrate both dynamic, I am using notions such as network coordination and transaction costs, Mard Deuze’s notion of liquid labour, Norbert Wiener’s description of the feedback loop, and more importantly John Boyd’s OODA loop as a visualization of the way networks maintain themselves and coordinate the flow of information. The argument of course is that to understand the changes of organisational and labour practices one needs to understand the way networks deal with adversity (coordination and transaction costs); similarly, one has to understand how the length of the feedback loop inevitably leads to decentralization and decision making at the nodal level (Boyd). Crucially, references to sociological favorites such as ‘capitalism’, ‘power’, ‘the social’ are rendered irrelevant.
Prezi from a lecture on utopian narratives of global communication, tracing the roots of cyber-utopianism from the revolutionary influence of the telegraph, to personal computers and the technical architecture of the internet. The telegraph brought the metaphor of communication networks as nervous system, a metaphor also linking the separation of information from carrier to the separation of mind from body. These tropes are still with us more than 150 years later.
Well, the time for leisure, travel, reading, and research is over – back to lectures, tutorials, and endless admin. Below are the slides for my first lecture for this session, tracing an outline of the history of communication networks over the last 150 years. A hasty trip from telegraphy to the internet, with an emphasis on the notion of information networks as a nervous system spanning space.