This grant studies digital narrative warfare, which is the dissemination on social media of narratives by states to influence foreign populations and foreign states. The research performs comparative analysis of narratives disseminated by online news sources like RT on platforms like Youtube.
Digitally-mediated narratives offer new possibilities for the art of war. States use digitally-mediated narratives to influence or even defeat rival states. Currently Russia claims that at the US National Endowment for Democracy disseminated narratives that tipped Ukraine into civil war, while the US claims that Russia’s RT news platform disseminated narratives that may have changed our political leadership. Today, countries around the world are racing to understand digital narrative warfare.
The PI is already working in this area and has given presentations (Princeton University, 2018), organized conference panels (International Studies Association, 2019), and published two articles in peer-reviewed outlets.
The PI will identify paired series of Russian and American news clips that offer competing narratives on current events, analyze each narrative on its own terms, and then compare the series to identify their differences of content, rhetoric, and logic.
• Archive of digital narrative warfare. This will consist of video clips of US and Russian news narratives of contentious events, such as the Ukrainian revolution/coup of 2014, the Syrian civil war/invasion of 2011, and the hack/expose of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Video clips will be taken from RT’s Youtube archives and from the TV News Archive at archive.org.
• “The Persuasion Machine”. This will be user interface to view archived news clips with a consistent narrative on a particular topic. After viewing videos with one narrative, users will be asked a series of questions to assess their attitudes. Then they will view videos with a competing narrative and will re-assess their attitudes. In this way, users will experience first-hand the power of narrative to influence their attitudes.
• Workshop on Political Warfare. Georgia Tech will host a one-day workshop to explore states’ use of social media and narrative. Today the PI does not know of any university that has hosted such a workshop with a scholarly focus (as opposed to a “how to” approach.) This should raise GT’s profile in the field.
• Research (1 article). To date the PI has researched material produced by Russia’s RT. This proposed project will allow for comparative research, that contrasts Russian and US narratives.
• Research Diffusion (2 conferences). The PI will present at two conferences to diffuse findings. Targeted venues include: USENIX Workshop on Free and Open Communications on the Internet (FOCI) (August 2019), the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (November 2019), the Annual Symposium of Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet) (November 2019) and the International Studies Association (May 2020).
Each year Prof. Klein teaches 350 students in his two sessions of PHIL3127 “Science Technology & Human Values/The Contemporary Enlightenment.” The Persuasion Machine will be integrated into that class, so 350 students will use it. Hopefully, The Persuasion Machine will be sufficiently interesting to also attract additional users outside of the classroom
“Digital Narrative Warfare”. Research Showcase, Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center (DILAC). Georgia Tech. 23 April 2020.
“The Structural Alliance Between Domestic Civil Society and Foreign Rival States”. Special Operations Research Crossflow Workshop. Joint Special Operations University. MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL. 10-11 March 2020
“Information-based Governance and Cross-border Information Flows”. Ostrom Workshop Colloquium. Indiana University. 9 March 2020.
Workshop organizer. “Internet Freedom, Democracy Promotion, and Political Warfare.” Georgia Tech. 16-17 December 2019.
Session Organizer: “Separating Human Rights and Regime Change.” RightsCon 2019. Tunisia. June 13, 2019.
“Information-based Governance and Cross-border Information Flows”
“The Structural Alliance Between Domestic Civil Society and Foreign Rival States”