Targeting Ontological Security: Information Warfare in the Modern Age

Derek Bolton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (SciVal)


Recent studies have made great strides looking at the implications that the human need for ontological security has for politics and International Relations. However, less attention has been paid to how actors might target this need. While Steele and Mattern both examine the possible manipulation of subjectivity, this article turns to the concept of information warfare (IW) to broaden the view of how, and to what end, this is pursued. Congruently, by elaborating upon how the digitalization of society has increased the potential to influence and manipulate cognition and emotion, OS strengthens current literature on IW. It argues that by covertly perverting the information landscape, IW can alter how events are connected to national narratives, influencing policy by making certain options appear more/less shameful, or it can unravel the bonds of society by polarizing domestic narrative debates, purposely sowing ontological insecurity. This provides a firmer understanding of the strategic implications interference can have generally and of Russia's interference into the 2016 U.S. election specifically. Therefore, by viewing facets of IW as part of a range of tactics employed to manipulate/undermine subjectivity, a more nuanced understanding of interstate relations subsequently emerges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-142
Number of pages16
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date1 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2021


  • Cyber
  • information warfare
  • ontological security
  • Russia
  • U.S.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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