Information Influence in Hybrid Environment: Reflexive Control as an Analytical Tool for Understanding Warfare in Social Media

Information Influence in Hybrid Environment: Reflexive Control as an Analytical Tool for Understanding Warfare in Social Media

Aki-Mauri Huhtinen (Department of Leadership and Military Pedagogy, Finnish National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland), Noora Kotilainen (University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland), Saara Särmä (Finnish National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland) and Mikko Streng (Finnish National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJCWT.2019070101

Abstract

The traditional government-military-public relationship to the public driver's relationship is moving to the government and military. Conflicts are increasingly asymmetrical, networked, urbanized and open to the global publicities because of internet global connections and especially global access to the social media. The public-driven network-based global possibility to online communication means threats and the nature of conflict to become “hybrid.” “Hybrid warfare” challenges the standard way of waging military operations. Military and security organizations have to combat new technologies of their adversaries. This article sets out to discuss the phenomena of hybrid warfare in contemporary rhizomatic society and a hybrid media environment. Furthermore, this research considers how reflexive control functions can provide a historical perspective to ahistorical accounts of hybrid warfare and thus help us to better understand the contemporary challenges and threats of hybrid warfare, particularly coming from Russia.
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Introduction

According to Mangat (2018), the securitization of the networked information society and publicity has increasingly become a competition to win the hearts and minds of citizens and to shape public opinion online, especially through the use of social media. This trend also changes both national and global security. Information technology facilitates the weaponization of societies, traversing political, economic, security and state boundaries. Information technology is also an integral part of how hybrid threats are created and circulated. As Singer and Brooking argue, “as the [social media] feed became more personal, it became more political” (Singer & Brooking, 2018). Broadly speaking, we can see that the West is waging a new kind of war, fought with the rustle of money, the mantras of propagandists and the invisible leakers and information spies (Galeotti 2019).

Hybrid is a buzzword much used in academia of late. It appears in various social-scientific disciplines from media studies to military studies, and from organization studies to feminist peace research, so much so that it can even be seen as an interdisciplinary trend (Benkrel et al., 2018). While the term hybrid has its origins in the animal kingdom and in biology, in contemporary use it refers to culture, the media, warfare, organizations, and leadership, among others. Formulating a systematic definition or concept of hybridity in this context would be an undertaking beyond the scope of this article. During the last five years, the inability to define and understand the Kremlin’s perspectives regarding the concept has led to academic confusion and wasted efforts and has produced a misinformed policy debate in the West (Galeotti, 2019). Fridman (2018) provides a critical assessment of the concept, explaining that today’s “obsession” with “hybrid warfare” is more to do with politics and international power than conceptual novelty. In this article, we focus on two of the contemporary usages, namely the hybrid media environment and hybrid warfare, and the ways in which the two intertwine.

Hybrid points to a mixing of things of different origins, a coming together of distinct entities, in a way that creates something new and rhizome-like, which nevertheless has continuity with the old (Chadwick, 2013; Sumiala et al., 2018). Despite the extensive contemporary references to “hybrid”, the term is problematic in many ways; it may well be elusive and nebulous, and calling things hybrid may even be misleading, as it presupposes the existence of clear, clean and non-mixed forms. According to Wigell (2019), if we adapt this term to describe the transformation of threats, we involuntarily base our argument on the idea of pure and harmonized zero-points, which in the new chaotic information age are now mutating and polluting our self-understanding of a paradisiacal world. Suggesting that hybrid is something completely new is a historically deluded argument when it comes to both media technology and warfare. War has always been hybrid in nature, foggy and chaotic, and the media and communication have always relied on mixed forms throughout history. Moreover, the hybridity of (new) media technology and the waging of war are not new phenomena. Ten years ago, James Der Derian used the term “hybrid” as a military-industrial-media-entertainment network (MIMENET) to describe how human history, experience, intuition and all other human traits are addicted to and contaminated by technology-scripted strategies (Der Derian 2009).

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