Posted: 09/04/2017
Hi, my name is Casper Stevens andbrand new to this forum. I am looking forward to being a member and contributor over the coming months. I work for NCIA andsoon I will begin researching for my Information Capability Management MSc dissertation at the Cranfield School of Defence and Security. So far, I have written an issues paper on an area that interests me regarding social media and if NATO can use it as a means to detect and manage crises. From what I read in this forum the subject is also of interest to ACT. Please disseminate as you see fit as feedback is most welcome from all levels in this early stage of my research. I can also send the .PDF to anyone who wants it. Can NATO use social media monitoring as a means to detect and manage crises? Issues Report Introduction The aim of this short issues report is to present findings related to research into open source information collection, specifically Social Media Monitoring (SMM). The paper looks at how analysts working for NATO might use SMM to generate insight and intelligence for decision makers in the detection, sense-making and management of crises. Particular lines of interest were to discover if SMM could be used to provide decision makers with an early warning of a crisis developing and to determine which effects might be reducing the impact of an established crisis. To achieve this aim, the paper looks at the electronic information domain in broad terms with a view to understanding its value as a communication and information-sharing medium, thus an intelligence resource to be exploited. It does this by briefly reviewing literature from Castells (2011) and Bell (1976) who together provide confirmation of the global proliferation of information. Then, the report turns to the work of Dervin (1998) and Hemmingway (2006) to understand the potential of social media information in the context of sense-making and decision quality in a crisis. Finally, this understanding is used to determine if, given the rate in which information is being produced on the internet, pertinent social media should be made available to the analyst. The Open Source Information Domain The internet has transformed how data is shared around the world with information and knowledge derived from data becoming vital commodities of the modern age (Bell, 1976; Castells, 2011). Undeniably, the extent of publicly available (open source) information is directly linked to the growth of the internet, where since the 1980s, society has witnessed a transformation of cultural, social and economic values and the rise of the information society (Bell, 1976; Drucker, 1994). The impact of the information society to humanity argues Castells in an interview with Kreisler (2001), is the situation where old social networks are now able to process and manage information using micro-electronic based technologies. Moreover, due to the internet"s unique technical characteristics such as universal network coverage, very low variable costs and the ability to handle both real-time and delayed activity, two-way communication has been revolutionised (Bohn and Short, 2009). What this means is that the internet provides an accessible platform for the creation of information and the means to share that information quickly. The ease with which internet users can create content is a point shared by Best (2008), who suggests that the internet is "the" facilitating technology for global collaboration and the rapid spread of news and personal commentary. With thisinformation explosion in mind, one can argue with a high degree of probability that the internet contains some very useful information for NATO"s activities in crisis detection and management. Indeed, Best (2008) confirms this view, arguing that NGs and NGOs have an unconditional requirement to be aware of, and respond to, public opinion, news and events in its areas of interest and in order to do so, must remain alert to internet mediated information for insight. One of the more recent developments in information sharing over the internet has been the development of social media, specifically micro blogging. Micro blogs are small public, text-based messages. Due to low latency and ease of rebroadcasting, these messages can scale vary rapidly resulting in a high velocity of information becoming active at any given moment. However, it is precisely this volume and velocity of social media information, which hampers the analyst"s efforts to monitor social media for a majority of crisis-related use cases. Effective Social Media Monitoring Facilitated by a micro blogging tool called Twitter, the last six years has seen the global number of short textual messages ortweets grow from 5000 tweets per day in 2007 to 50 million per day in 2013 with a current average of 600 tweets per second (Evan, 2013). To understand and assess the impact of this phenomenon one must look to a fifty year period where, concurrent to globalisation and the growth of the internet as a communications medium, the English language has become commoditised (Nevalainen and Traugott, 2012). They argue that this period of commoditisation has seen informal English being used to transform global communication and has led to a situation where informal writing has transformed into a medium for recording informal speech. Further, recent internet technologies have re-enforced and amplified this trend in English language. Thus, one can see that both Castells (Kreisler, 2001) and Nevalainen and Traugott (2012) support the idea that both the cultural change in the use of English language and the saturation of personal internet-connected electronic devices within the old social networks, have contributed to the rapid increase in volume and velocity (the real time flow rate of the data) of open source information. To put this volume and velocity into perspective, this report turns to the definition of information provided by Bohn and Short (2009) who view it in the context of data that is used by a single person. This is useful, as it provides a unit of "person" as a measurement of the quantity of live and stored information consumed by people at the point where devices convert digital data to analogue sensory content. Bohn and Short (2009) found that Americans, on average, spend 50 minutes per day emailing and social networking. This activity produces 79 percent of the bytes used in internet mediated two-way communication. This is equivalent to 0.06 Gigabytes of information per American person per day, which equates to 19 million Gigabytes per day (Bohn and Short, 2009). Managing such a large volume of static data is a problem that is relatively easy to solve using modern relational database systems. However, once data velocity is increased, the effective monitoring of information on platforms such as social media networks becomes non-trivial. Companies such as Twitter have leveraged the power of the internet and the evolution of language and commercialised it by investing and developing novel technologies to control the volume and velocity of micro blogging data. Twitter provides free access to its raw public data streams in the form of an Application Programming Interface (API) or endpoints. Developers can pull data from the endpoint, stream it into their own application for further processing while utilising Tweet metadata such as geospatial and keywords. This activity is known as accessing the Twitterfire hose. For the analyst, afire hose of random unordered and unfiltered information is next to useless. Confirming this view Omitola et al. (2010) argue that when sense-making vast quantities of information, the searcher must be delivered back information that is contextually, organisationally and structurally relevant. As Twitter does for its tweeting customers, the NATO analysts must be able to exert control of the raw data feed in order to derive insight. Moreover, control of the data is important, because the human"s ability to process large amounts of information is limited. Indeed, according to Hemingway (2006) information overload is the case more often than not, due to the poor design of information systems. Thus, one could argue that effective SMM is dependent on tools that can provide situational awareness and sense-making in real time, at the scale and velocity of social media data creation. Twitter as a sense-making tool Dervin (1998) suggests that there is requirement to explain the human experience of decision making in stressful and complex situations, and the degree of resolution in these experiences can be described as making sense of the situation. To see how SMM tools and techniques such as Twitter can assist NATO detect and manage crises through real-time sense-making, one must look to the literature. When thought of in the context of social media, Dervin"s (1999) metaphor Figure 1. could indicate a reality such that, as the use of social media expands, in aggregate it can bridge the cognitive gap by providing access to critical open source information at the speed of thought, thus determining effect outcomes. In other words, Dervin"s metaphor is useful for framing crisis detection and management in terms of filling a gap with information and knowledge sourced from social media. Figure 1- The sense-making Metaphor 1999 Yet, in practice Hemingway"s (2006) view that while information and knowledge might fill the cognitive gap, information overload will not lead to better decision quality. This is because information in large quantities can merely serve to reduce the mental effort to make decisions and not improve decision quality (Hemingway, 2006). In order to address Hemingway"s concerns, one can look to tools such as Twitter, thefire hose and filtering tools to build an adaptive cognitive bridge for complex crisis situations. Just-in-time knowledge, argues Rudolf (2000) can alleviate information overload by supplying relevant information at the time when it is required. Thus, just-in-time knowledge facilitated by high-velocity open source information, could attend to one of sense-making"s core assumptions thatknowledge made today is rarely perfectly suited to application tomorrow (Dervin, 1998). NATO like other NGs and NGOs have an unconditional requirement to have up to date knowledge of public opinion, news and events, ideas, cognitions, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, values, feelings, emotions, institutions, memories, stories and narratives (Dervin, 1998). It is observable that there are issues with the current requirement solution space and that theCNN Effect has been superseded by theTwiter Phenomenon. Indeed, there is substantial evidence that NGs and NGOs need to improve their crisis capability and effects in terms of speed of delivery (Moroney et al., 2013; Chivvis, 2010). It seems that current NATO intelligence capability is under-utilising social media and has not invested in architecture to deal with the scale and velocity of social media to provide just-in-time knowledge in order to deliver in-time effects. Further study It"s clear that the detail of processing open source information from the Twitterfire hose to provide just-in-time knowledge in an economical and legal manner requires further study. Indeed, the technology to automate and scale SMM intelligence processes is worthy of a project in its own right and is only one perspective. A future study could involve an action-oriented soft systems approach to understanding the NATO social media worldviews. Indeed, a study of purposeful social-media activity systems within NATO could be a way to discover how these systems are evolving, how they interact with existing systems, what problematical social media situations exist and what action can be taken. 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