Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 19, 2009

Homeland security and the new media

Filed under: Strategy — by Christopher Bellavita on June 19, 2009

Iran is not the only place where social media challenges professional entrainment (a word which, in this context, refers to expert certainty about the right way to do something).

Clay Shirky’s 17 minute video on TED (available here) illustrates how the loose collaboration enabled by new media applications (collectively known — at least for a few more days — as Web 2.0 ) can change the way homeland security strategy evolves.

The video is not directly about homeland security.  Instead, you get a quick tour of how collaborative media undercuts top down control of strategic communication.  The implication for homeland security (not just for DHS, but for all of homeland security) is related to what I wrote about in “Stakeholders in the process of our protection”

Now, how to find a way to encourage that “loose collaboration” …

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3 Comments »

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 20, 2009 @ 5:21 am

Some potential factors in crafting loose collaboration using social media:

1. Shared problem or interest,
2. Risk-taking personality and/or
3. Humble personality

Shirky’s examples all involve a shared problem: electoral integrity, Chinese earthquake, Presidential campaign. Without some sense of sharing the problem-set, there is no engagement… or at least not enough to contribute to the conversation. Conversation is fundamental to collaboration. No sharing of information, no sharing of work.

Traditionally our public conversations have been dominated by risk-takers. This continues to be the case in social media. The risk-takers are bullies, prophets, explorers, or whatever. These individuals are willing (even anxious)to assert and insert their opinion, experience, judgment… I certainly fit in this camp. You and others can offer which neurosis motivates me.

The new media is(sometimes)transformative when the humble substantively contribute to — and even drive — the conversation. Social media reduces the risk involved in joining the conversation. The bully may flame a humble comment, but that is much less a risk than a punch in the face (or worse)off-line. And as in in all our favorite movies, an online bully is likely to be overwhelmed by a rising up of the humble.

But even in and with social media it is tough to welcome, facilitate, and motivate self-aware, other-aware, self-correcting, selfless (humble) communications. The risk-takers can actively drive away the humble. And the humble — precisely because they are humble — are not inclined to participate in the conversation until the problem-set strikes them as critical. And often the problem has reached a critical state because of a combination of neglect and the mucking about of risk-takers.

Yet as Shirkey and various events demonstrate, once the humble do become involved reality can shift very quickly. Evidently, the humble will inherit the earth… if and when they decide to speak(text)up.

Comment by William R. Cumming

June 20, 2009 @ 5:31 am

Great post and good comment. So the humble may be the siltent majority?

Not sure yet where 2.0 is going on HS or other crisis information and Emergency Public Information (this is not Public Affairs) but fascinating to watch it play out in IRAN.

By the way, looks as though the INTEL world missed another big one! Let’s see, Soviet Economy, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, 9/11, Iraq and AF-Pak ethnic problems, and now IRAN street protests which continue. Implications–nothing fixed in the INTEL world yet. Am I wrong? Hoping so!

Comment by John Bilotta

June 24, 2009 @ 8:24 am

I enjoyed the Shirkey video. From my perspective, the communication universe just continues to evolve and become more and more challenging. The idea of “managing” the message is pretty well gone.

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