Contemporary Conflict and the Online Information Environment
: An examination of American military engagement with Web 2.0

  • Roy Revie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis examines developments in American military thought, organisation and practice in response to the conditions of Digital Age conflict – the contemporaneous rise of Web 2.0 and of forms of conflict (counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism) associated with the ‘Global War on Terror’ (GWOT). The research focuses on areas of military activity under the categories of special operations, information operations and intelligence. These are identified as those most effected by new Web technology and GWOT-era warfare, and significant developments of interest are identified and examined. I explore how Digital Age conflict is conceived of as a ‘problem field’ from the military perspective; and then examine how developments in areas from discourse to practice cohere to form an ‘apparatus’ through which this ‘problem’ is addressed. The research area is one in which access is a challenge, as such the research relies primarily on open source documentary data, collated and analysed in a way which provides significant insight to an opaque area of military practice. The thesis includes an analysis of military doctrine, propaganda websites, psychological operations practice, and cutting-edge R&D programmes. It is demonstrated that as well as being challenged by Digital Age conflict, the US military is empowered in the areas of strategy, intelligence and communication to develop new practices which enhance their ability to operate in the contemporary environment. Ultimately, the thesis argues, developments in the US military response to Web 2.0 mean that traditional understanding of military communication in terms of linear ‘propaganda’ messages must be augmented with an approach which understands military communication power through a holistic examination of the multiplicity of practices which collect, process, and distribute information within the Web 2.0 information environment. This form of emerging “CY-OPS” activity has wide-ranging consequences for our understanding of the Web as a social space.
Date of Award27 Apr 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDavid Miller (Supervisor)

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