“Bullets and Blogs” — new media and warfare [recommended reading]



Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter” (2.7mb PDF) is a very new agey text. The report emerged from the finding of a workshop tasked with the question: How must battlefield communication change to adapt to this twitterin’ bloggin media-rich battlespace? The report is fascinating, and focuses on the Iraq/Afghanistan-relevant idea that rapidly broadcasting a media-rich ‘version of the truth’ to enemies and allies alike must be synchronized with conventional military strategy. At its root however is the rapid production of history across all mediums, and faster than the enemy:

“This report is rich with soundbites and recommendations supported by examples, including operations where the insurgents were the first to write the first draft of history, the draft that usually sticks especially when a factual challenge is not made within days or weeks.” (via Mountainrunner)

A comment by Cliff W. Gilmore, a US public military affairs officer speaks to speed vs. timeliness:

…the need to push information out quickly (speed) is a primary learning point highlighted in Bullets & Blogs. This is a media-focused learning point that differs significantly from the concept of timeliness, which has to do with who needs what information when. It’s easy to get distracted by the “wiz-bang!” of the communication environment and forget that a message doesn’t have to get there FAST — it just needs to arrive on time.

This is not to suggest that speed is not a factor in the new battlespace, just that it should not be a primary focus. There are several things we should be better at than speed. Credibility, trust, accuracy, timeliness, unified voice, privacy, intentional communication, delegation, security — and balancing them against one another — come to mind.

Findings in the Executive Summary

In summary, to achieve strategic agility in the information age, DOD should consider the following priority issues:
• Recognize that the winning strategy is “information engagement,” not “information control;”
• Embrace new media as a significant enabler of “that element of combat power called information;”
• Prioritize research and development, and organizational change, to exploit new media as a warfighting capability;
• Educate digital immigrants to begin the process of cultural change;
• Exploit digital natives – encourage, educate, empower, and equip;
• Enhance DOD’s capacity for commanding the attention and trust of key audiences through improved capacities for appropriate messaging, achieving a distributed global presence on relevant media, and finding and leveraging suitable messengers (third- party validators);
• Prioritize agility in the information environment, by:

» Enhancing speed of communication through: proactive information engagement; more refined classification efforts; in-field declassification authorities and capabilities; and, the removal of barriers to inter-agency and inter-service declassification;
» Moving towards decentralized authority and decentralized execution by setting the information rules of engagement;
» Identifying and mitigating risk, through a more sophisticated risk assessment process; » Ensuring commanders have non-lethal options commensurate with traditional lethal
» Requiring commanders to define the desired information endstate; » Exploiting new media for better measures of effectiveness; Streamline DOD policies and guidance; Synchronize, synchronize, synchronize — across all-of-government; Pursue a holistic approach; Engage the legal debate.

Now if only the DOD could control what information gets back to the US from Iraq

‘Will California become America’s first failed state?’

First time I’ve ever heard ‘Failed state’ as a way to put the economic crisis in California in perspective:

In order to pass its state budget, California’s government has had to agree to a deal that cuts billions of dollars from education and sacks 60,000 state employees. Some teachers have launched a hunger strike in protest. California’s education system has become so poor so quickly that it is now effectively failing its future workforce. The percentage of 19-year-olds at college in the state dropped from 43% to 30% between 1996 and 2004, one of the highest falls ever recorded for any developed world economy. California’s schools are ranked 47th out of 50 in the nation. Its government-issued bonds have been ranked just above “junk”.

via The Guardian

Is there a peak to user-generated content? Wikipedia contributions are on the decline in an age of decline

The ecosystem of Wikipedia, and probably other wikis in the Wikimedia group, appear to be suffering from an over-vigilant team of editors who are increasingly quick to revert changes from less-active contributors. The newness and community-driven aspect of Wikipedia is suffering, in tandem with a decrease in fresh registrations. Let’s not be rash here, but the research presented below (by Ed Chi and colleagues at the Palo Alto Research Center) points out a freaky decline in distributed knowledge-creation—a decline that we just don’t need in this age of, well, decline.

Jim Giles in New Scientist writes:

“Occasional” editors, those who make just a single edit a month, have 25 per cent of their changes erased, or reverted, by other editors, a proportion that in 2003 was 10 per cent. The revert rate for editors who make between two and nine changes a month grew from 5 to 15 per cent over the same period.”This is evidence of growing resistance from the Wikipedia community to new content,” say the Palo Alto team. Chi told New Scientist that the changes could harm Wikipedia in the longer term by deterring new editors from taking part and so reducing the number of people available to spot and correct the vandalism that constantly threatens the encyclopaedia. “Over time the quality may degrade,” he warns.

Chi thinks that Wikipedia now includes so much information that some editors have turned from creating new articles to improving existing ones, resulting in more disputes about edits. Such disputes are not a level playing field because established editors sometimes draw on extensive knowledge of Wikipedia’s guidelines to overwhelm opposition in a practice dubbed “wikilawyering”.

via: New Scientist

Iran, Revolution, Sexuality

Picture 11
via rosa_roshan
On the surface, the revolution of 79 and now the ‘Green Revolution’ are governance-based uprisings. Look a little deeper, and we see previously veiled women removing their veils for the first time, older women taking an active role in marches, and women gathering in coffee shops, bars, and public spaces to discuss politics where normally only men would gather. Below are some snippets and suggested reading from recent articles I’ve encountered dealing with Iranian sexuality:

On one side, is an all-male cabal of gun-totting, club-wielding men — the Army, the Revolutionary Guard and the volunteer militia — supported by the pantheon of the highest government offices in the land — the Supreme Leadership, the Presidency, and membership in the Guardian Council — all monopolized by men.

…On the other side, is a sea of lawfully demonstrating men and women marching side by side and shoulder to shoulder. Holding hands, green in color, hopeful in outlook, vibrant and non-violent, they fight bullets and batons with open hands and support Mir Hossein Moussavi, who is often accompanied by his wife, Zahra Rahnavard.

A synonym for the word “woman” in the Persian language is Pardeh Neshin: “She who sits behind the curtain / the veil / the screen.” The expression perpetuates, even linguistically, the cultural ideal of woman’s absence in public. Pardeh Neshin implies enclosure, invisibility, and controlled mobility, all associations that are inseparable from conventional definitions of femininity in Iran.

via Tehran Bureau

The regime’s failure to allow women into public life has made transexuality in Iran a unique window through which one can observe the hypocrisy of gender. In the documentary film Be Like Others by Tanaz Eshaghian, we learn the surprising social politics of transexuality in Iran in this interview:

What do you remember from the preliminary phone conversations with these people before you went to Iran?
Cleric Kariminiya, who had written his “PhD”—the Islamic version of a PhD that a cleric gets—on applying Islamic law and thinking to transsexual identity, really gave me a sense of another world. He was fantastic. He had also explored such topics as what happens to the inheritance of a male that becomes a female (Under Islam a woman gets half of what a man gets for inheritance). He let me know that because of a sex change, the person is now female—and gets half!

Trailer below:

Also see:

Sex in Iran” – Playboy and “Stolen Kisses: Iran’s Sexual Revolutions” at the Nation.

Announcing whatsonyourthing.com


I started whatsonyourthing.com for a number of reasons

  • I find it disturbing when people unwittingly carve out a huge chunk of their day to interact on a small screen, whether it be for text messaging, web browsing, or for playing games. This is a lo-fi behavior in a hi-fi world. We can do better than this.
  • We often communicate with people geographically close to us at great volumes through small devices, though we can more genuinely, accurately, and more humanely communicate face to face.
  • Cellphones, especially those with the internet enabled, drown out what should be a natural process of questioning one’s surroundings. When a Google search can answer most questions, what’s the point of being mindfully engaged with the world around you?
  • We must consider our ability to be mindful, attentive, and engaged in an age of ubiquitous technology.
  • I believe these questions can be asked most powerfully through images and photography. There will, however, be infrequent pull quotes from relevant articles such as this:

An acquaintance of mine has a teenage daughter. Like most teens in this century she spends her day texting her friends, abbreviating her life into 140 character hints, flinging these haikus out to an invisible clan of mutual texters. It’s an always-on job, this endless encapsulation of the moment. During dinner, while walking, on the toilet, lounging in bed, or in any state of wakefulness, to chat is to live. Like all teens, my friend’s daughter tested the limits of her parents’ restrictions. For some infraction or another, they grounded her. And to reinforce the seriousness of her misconduct, they took away her mobile phone. Immediately the girl became physically sick. Faint, nauseous, and so ill she couldn’t get out of bed. It was if her parents had amputated a limb. And in a way they had. Our creations are now inseparable from us. Our identity with technology runs deep, to our core. via Kevin Kelly @ technium

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‘Infinite Summer’ – Read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace


Join a community of committed bibliophiles in their noble journey to complete David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece Infinite Jest this summer. David Foster Wallace was genius, and I’m glad he’s being honored in this way. For a taste of Wallace, here’s a few words from his May 21, 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio:

As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. (full text)

I wish he was still creating.

‘We love you so’ is the idea-blog for “Where the wild things are”

Like any boy or girl who grew up in the 80s, I’m excited about the release of Spike Jonze’s rendition of Where the Wild Things Are. My homey Rubin (of Rubin Recommends) recently flipped the switch on “We love you so”… a running compendium of what inspired the “…hundreds of different artists, writers, photographers, musicians, actors, and creators of all degrees” who worked on the film. Check. It. Out.


So what’s an example of an inspiring Wild Things-like piece o’ work? Jeanne Detallante‘s work:

Picture 5
via Rubin Recommends

May Updates + Stuff to read in a phatty linkdump


Still from "Which way home"... a must see documentary about migrant children who travel hundreds of miles to enter the U.S. via trains.

Wise ink spilled over the death of newspapers

When the dust is settled, who will be proud that newspapers were unable to support themselves? What will take their place? Clay Shirky thinks we’re asking the wrong questions:

…When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

Strong words… Via edge

Party Emails – a short history

Since the caveman cookout, mankind has found the need to invite fellow humans to events. Engraved stones, carrier pigeons, and now Facebook and email carry our messages. Without human contact, there would be no invitations–and vice versa. For some reason I saved all the party emails I’ve received for the past couple years. Here’s some screenshots from my favorites:

Continue reading “Party Emails – a short history”