Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Net-centricity v. Social Networking

Danger Room Editor, Noah Schachtman, has a rather interesting article on this topic in the Dec. 2007 print issue of Wired, 15-12. The main theme is the juxtaposition between net-centricity and social networking (although not exactly the social networking we know through Web 2.0 popular culture). The message about net-centricity is that it is highly effective as a destructive, lethal capability while social networking is better at stability operations and counter-insurgency. Some of the most advanced social networking groups in Afghanistan are just starting to step it up with computer hardware and software, I reckon to enable things like social bookmarking, collaborative placemarking, network analysis, pattern matching, and the like. But the focus in Iraq and in general is on personal interaction, almost eschewing technology. The irony of ironies is that our military has an excellent solution to a problem it does not currently have (fighting big wars with nations and dictators), while the terrorists and insurgents have swiftly mastered the technology domain of modern social networking - email, cell phones, text messages, chat, forums - and the military is reportedly now most successful resorting back to low-tech, human/psychological solutions. Not coincidentally or surprisingly, there is some heated debate about the role of social science in military operations. My interest is in the heart of the matter...the balance between communication technology and human interaction, particularly when technology gets in the way or solves the wrong problem. The insight in the Wired article is that, technically speaking, a better application of IT to the military's current and future challenges related to stability ops and counter-insurgency, as previously inferred, is closer to Web 2.0 social networking and collaborative read/write web technologies, web services, pub/sub and the like. I would go so far as to project the need onto the whole of government and civic life - federal, state, and local.

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