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 Networks and Netwars (Our Future)

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PostSubject: Networks and Netwars (Our Future)   Wed 28 Jul 2010, 4:30 pm

Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy
by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt
RAND Corporation; 1 edition (January 25, 2002)

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Product Description
Netwar-like cyberwar-describes a new spectrum of conflict that is emerging in the wake of the information revolution. Netwar includes conflicts waged, on the one hand, by terrorists, criminals, gangs, and ethnic extremists; and by civil-society activists (such as cyber activists or WTO protestors) on the other. What distinguishes netwar is the networked organizational structure of its practitioners-with many groups actually being leaderless-and their quickness in coming together in swarming attacks. To confront this new type of conflict, it is crucial for governments, military, and law enforcement to begin networking themselves.

Excellent network theory
Mark Mills
(Glen Rose, TX USA)
This is the best 'network theory' book I've read. The book is a collection, and the 'field work' is more enthusiastic than thought provoking. Binding together the fieldwork, at front and back, is the analysis of Arquilla and Ronfeldt. Though only 20% of the text, their comments make the reading exceptionally rewarding.

The deep dynamic guiding Arquilla and Ronfeldt's analysis is that the information revolution favors the rise of network forms of organization and thus redefines cooperation and conflict. According to their terminology, the really bad side is 'cyberwar', an earlier book. 'Netwar' is a more ambiguous form of network conflict, one that can be used by social activists for the benefit of all. While I find their scholarship excellent, I'm less than sanguine regarding our ability to distinguish enthusiasm from cohersion.

The term netwar calls attention to the prospect of network-based conflict becoming pervasive at all levels of social interaction. Just as romance is now streamlined by online match-makers, so too will the new technologies enhance and focus aggression, both the good and bad kind. According to the authors, 'Netwar' is a form of 'just warfare.' Most of the book covers examples of non-violent, democratic netwar-warriors.There is a brief review of traditional crime going online for drug distribution efficiencies, but most is devoted to friendly political activists ranging from Zapatistas to anti-globalists.

Fortunately, the authors forget their preoccupation with Zapatistas when trying to make sense of the field work. In particular, they focus on the remarkably vague notions we attach to the term 'networks'. It seems everyone knows what it means, but no one has the same concept in mind.

Wisely, the authors point out our need to define 'network organization' itself. To this end, they offer a very thoughtful survey of network organization theory. Avoiding easy answers, they list some provocative, but contradictory theories. The reader is left to piece together their own conclusions

They provide 3 perspectives: 1) 'actor and link,' 2) 'methodological' and 3) 'Naturalist'. In more familiar domains, there are the perspectives of the physicist, sociologist and botanist.

Probably most of the literature defines networks in terms of 'actors' (nodes) and 'links' (ties) whose relationships have a patterned structure. Using this scheme, one can draw a set of basic shapes for networks: chain or line networks, hub/star/wheel networks, all channel and hybrid networks.

An alternative 'actor' framework is the notion of 'friendship cliques' and 'interlocking memberships.' This suggests the notion of networks of networks. One 'actor' can belong to a variety of 'cliques', thus interlocking a variety of networks. One's personal power relates to their network assets, not personal attributes. In this case, the 'unit of analysis' is not the individual 'actor', but the network as a distinct identity. The network functions to create opportunities for both it's members and for it's 'network self. '

Another 'actor' framework stresses the importance of specific 'actor' roles. In this view, small group dynamics rely on a natural self-organization process that sorts out specific roles, and creates roles for outsiders to play. Here the focus is on the tight/loose connectedness of individuals to their network and the network to other networks. In this scheme, degrees of reciprocity characterize exchanges between parties (both individual and group). This 'flow' between actors is colored by the roles each accepts and the diversity is great. Equality is only one of many ways to order relationships.

An entirely different focus is upon measurement of 'network' units. One measure is the individual's recognition of the network as an entity. For example, network analysts might ask whether the actors recognize that they are participating in a particular network, and whether they are committed to operating as a network. 'Who do you work for?' represents the archetypical question/issue. An even deeper issue is the notion of 'self' and the ability of a 'network' to allow 'selfhood' to emerge. Though somewhat distant from mainstream terminology, almost everyone will understand the notion that organizations have a 'mind of their own' and that it implies the network has a 'selfhood' it will strive to protect.

Finally, the authors include the 'naturalist' view of Fukuyama that networks are nothing new, that networks are nothing more than 'trust' communities. Trust communities are nothing new. Along the same lines are 'small world' network theories, a body of thought that suggests networks and 'life' itself are inextricably woven together.

While the networking form of social organization has existed in other times and spaces, the new information technology paradigm provides the material basis for its pervasive expansion throughout a global social domain. Along these lines, they quote Keck and Sikkink's notion that networks are defined as "forms of organization characterized by voluntary, reciprocal, and horizontal patterns of communication and exchange. This seems addressed at one of the most universally recognized phenomena of networks, resiliency to shock unless a key hub (if there is one) is taken down. This interest in survival is a key part of the naturalist perspective.

In what I find the most illuminating discussion, the authors encompass the wide diversity in network theory by suggesting a multi-level theory of organization to account for network dynamics and resilience. In their scheme, there are 5 levels;
1. organizational design.
2. the narrative story about the network's genesis and powers.
3. The doctrinal habits used for producing desired outcomes, initiating newcomers and developing seniority.
4. Technological tools
5. Personal ties of loyalty and trust.

Personally, I suspect networks, like the Internet, evolve without a plan. They emerge and persist in spite of their plans and desires of those that give them concrete reality. Thus, I somewhat disagree with the 'title' of level #1, if not the concept.

Their focus on level #2, the network's organizational story, is probably the most original and insightful. Though the authors seem hopeful that 'netwar' has a bright side, consider how the 'bright side' is entirely defined by the organizational narrative. How is the network's bright side described in a Wahabi madrasas? Behind the walls of the Vatican?

David Ronfeldt,
In Search of How Societies Work: Tribes -- the First and Forever Form,
RAND Corporation, 2007

"For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root."
David Thoreau (1817-1862)
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Ben Steigmann


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PostSubject: Re: Networks and Netwars (Our Future)   Mon 02 Aug 2010, 4:34 pm

Also see,

In Athena’s Camp
Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age: http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR880/
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