Networks and Netwars Notes V2

Perception Management: “Given the importance of knowledge and soft power to the conduct of netwar, it is not surprising that networked terrorists have already begun to leverage IT for perception management and propaganda to influence public opinion, recruit new members, and generate funding.” Rethink running around yelling we are for communism when most of the world thinks communists murder oppressed people. A comrade was telling me that what is important is to communicate the message we want as quickly and effectively as possible is key. If saying you are communist does not do that, why be stuck to it. Other people might think that is opportunistic… I am not sure.  I see the point about conveying the accuracy of the message.

How Plastic are the organizations we build: “These characteristics—their pervasiveness, their capacity to coexist both within and outside hierarchies, their ability to make markets more efficient by facilitating directed flows of information and commodities—give networks an elusive quality. In some respects, they appear little more than plastic organizations that can be molded in many different ways.”

How much Shock can organizations take? “Networks are highly resilient, partly because of what might be termed loose coupling. Charles Perrow distinguishes between tightly coupled and loosely coupled systems. He contends that tightly coupled systems are the least stable because disturbances involve a chain reaction or, at the very least, serious knock-on effects. In contrast, “loose coupling gives time, resources, and alternative paths to cope with the disturbance and limits its impact.”25 Criminal networks—apart from the core—are based largely on loose coupling. Even if some parts of the network are destroyed, the effects are limited since other parts are left intact. In a loosely coupled network, knock-on or cascading effects are limited and damage to one part of the network does not undermine the network as a whole. Loose coupling also preserves more diversity, in response offering considerable latitude in the decision of which parts of the network should respond, in what manner and in what location”

The Power of the Internet is no Joke: “We offer evidence that the Internet was crucially influential in enabling civil-society actors to force the passage of a series of laws regarding business and political dealings with Burma. The Internet was also used to sway international public opinion and pique the interest of more-traditional news media. ”

At the same time the Internet is not the answer to everything : “While the role of the Internet is important, it is not a replacement for other forms of interaction and communication. But it is a powerful supplement. Traditional face-to-face lobbying is still more effective than computers. In addition, using the Internet has inherent limita- tions for grassroots activists. Its use is limited to those who have ac- cess to the technology, and its openness allows information to be ma- nipulated by those holding opposing points of view.”

What RAND is getting is how to use different resources against your opponent to your advantage. What constellation of tools use your strengths and exploit your enemies weaknesses the most. Being small is not always bad. Having few resources can be an advantage. There are no eternal values/ claims to these ‘things’. It is the ability to position them against the opponent in ways that can make them deadly which reveals your own strength and the opponents weaknesses. However our model of building revolutionary organization is more along the lines of a standing army in an era which has moved well beyond that.

Advanced Information Flows: “The past decade is replete with examples of how advanced- information flows have played a central role in helping grassroots ac- tivists, who seek democratic rule, to counter dictatorial regimes.  ”

Computers, Universities and Student activism: “The advent of computers on university campuses linking student groups into national and international networks seems to have invig- orated social activism and has transformed the character of student protests. It has also opened up the world to these students, shrinking the globe into a local community that provides a great number of is- sues on which to campaign. “We are beginning to see the formation of a generic human rights lobby at the grassroots level (on the Internet). People care even though they don’t have a personal connection to the country,” explained cyberactivist Simon Billenness.47

Computers have become so integrated into university life that they are a virtual appendage of scholars at study. ”

Here is a concrete example of NN at the university level: “There were no Burmese undergraduate students at Harvard. There was one native Burmese graduate student and a few students who had either visited Burma or lived there as foreigners. For this reason, the three Harvard students who initiated the Burma group felt their first order of business should be to raise awareness. They set up a ta- ble at the political action fair at the start of the fall semester. They tested students who came by on their geographical prowess by asking them where Burma was on a map and which countries bordered it. Those who stopped to play the game were asked to leave their email addresses. Between 40 and 50 addresses were collected that day.

Simons describes the culture on campus as one that is virtually inter- active. The only “real mail” (i.e., postal mail) he gets is from the uni- versity administration, he says. “Our internal organizing was done through email meetings,” Simons said. The group communicated al- most exclusively by email. As the campaign developed to include lob- bying the student government on resolutions regarding Burma, Simons said, the activists communicated with the student govern- ment via email also. Thus, they combined the traditional avenues for social activism with the technology that the university setting made available. ”

This was particularly insightful. While I might not like the fact that Harvard has clout. Using Harvard’s clout to achieve a goal is exactly what was done. We can say that Harvard is one of the central nodes in the networks of universities, corporations, and power in the world. What happens at Harvard, has powerful consequences in many places. “Some of the resolutions passed by Harvard’s student government re- quired that the university send letters to companies operating in Bur- ma, calling for corporate withdrawal. Simons says the students be- lieved Harvard’s name carried a lot of clout in corporate circles.  ”

The most striking situation I see is that NN is already 15 years old. So to what extent it is outdated is not clear to me. NN is a pioneering work. In some cases visionary… It’s eyes are to the future.

The second problem is that most of the people I know–myself included–are not even close to be in a mind-set to build and live along the lines of NN. What NN demands is altering your world view. Altering your senses to see in different spatial, temporal, and subjective frameworks. This is not easy. This will require a radical restructuring of everything. This will be the most difficult aspect. Many will try to implement this form of life/ this type of machinery and no doubt fail. Instantly it will be blamed on the mechanics of the machinery. But if you give a tool to someone who does not know how to use it, they are likely to blame the tool, instead of their own subjectivity/ lack of skills in using it. The subject itself must change in order to use this advanced machinery. Otherwise, it will just result in an all too quick dismissal when failure is likely to happen. This says it very well, “Much appears to depend on the level of sophistication of the Internet user. ” It is not simply about the technology. It is the brains, ability etc of the user which are critical in how it is used. NN certainly discusses at length, the limitations and weaknesses of the internet. I am focusing on the strengths for the time being…