On influencing people.

Three interesting references this week:
1. an article by Vaughan Bell on the military use of influence.
2. Bell helpfull refers to a survey of the field by Sara Bell.
3. Plos has published a report by Covialle et al of an investigation into “Detecting Emotional Contagion in Massive Social Networks”.

Bell concludes: “The fact that a behavioural change programme, a public relations campaign, computer hacking and an air strike to take out an enemy radio station would all be considered legitimate information operations is perhaps the best reflection of how warfare has changed in the 21st century. Critics argue that the whole process is anti-democratic, but it could also be argued that it is simply a reflection of how belligerent forces are having to adapt to an age where, for the first time in history, information is sent across the globe in seconds and public opinion is the final arbiter of success.”

King says “Many military strategists are now convinced that modern warfare is centered on a battle for public opinion, rather than a battle for physical terrain….The article concludes by considering questions that modern military information operations raise about the intersection of social science, democracy, and war.” King asks whether PSYOPs work, and concludes: “U.S. Tactical PSYOP has documented success in recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, facilitating high rates of enemy troop surrender during the initial phases of invasion and reducing civilian casualties both during and after initial combat operations.”

However, King says, “U.S. military perception management specialists are convinced that modern enemy information campaigns have been so successful that they have tipped the balance in recent conflict, successfully frustrating U.S. and allied forces. For instance, it has been argued that optimal management of satellite television, Internet-based media, and journalist access to information thwarted Israeli Defense Force (IDF) activity in Lebanon in 2006. And Al Qaeda, many believe, continues to be a formidable foe, not because of military resources, but as a result of their highly coordinated global media campaign.”

Coviello et al simply record evidence not only that rainfall in a city causes more emotionally negative posts on Facebook, but that the emotional attitude spreads to readers elsewhere: “For example, we estimate that a rainy day in New York City directly yields an additional 1500 (95% CI 1100 to 2100) negative posts by users in New York City and about 700 (95% CI 600 to 800) negative posts by their friends elsewhere.”

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