SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Matthew Ford (University of Sussex) as a part of its SMA IIJO Speaker Series.
Dr. Ford began his presentation by emphasizing that a changing information environment (IE) has affected how governments and their civilians participate in radical warfare (RW), or the interaction between media, technologies, and the politics of violence. He stated that three factors relating to RW have changed the ecology of war: 1) data collection and storage, 2) control of information, and 3) audience attention. Furthermore, many institutions have been accused of not learning from past communication errors or mishandling of data due to their poor data storage, the overwhelming amount of data that needs to be processed, and/or biases held by in individuals within the institution. While the overwhelming amount of digitized information does allow information on historical events to be more accessible and easily stored, it also enables historical data to be used out of context and then easily thrown away. This process of misusing history is resulting in a new phenomenon: “memory decay.”
Dr. Ford argued that memory decay and its effect on RW has geopolitical implications because countries are constantly in a state of competition with each other. Also, due to the widespread availability of smartphones, everyday citizens can be active participants in RW by sharing or spreading information. It is important to note that countries’ RW capabilities are not advancing evenly across the globe because some regions still have limited access to the internet. However, those that do are preoccupied with increasing the speed at which information is collected and shared among their institutions so that these institutions can counter threats and increase their influence on the media cycle.
Note: We are aware that many government IT providers have blocked access to YouTube from government machines during the pandemic in response to bandwidth limitations. We recommend viewing the recording on YouTube from a non-government computer or listening to the audio file (below), if you are in this position.