The Information Environment of War

Kevin Gillan, Jenny Pickerill, Frank Webster

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This article observes high levels of anxiety about war in the present era, although wars are in decline. It addresses this paradox by distinguishing ideal-typical features of Industrial and Information War. Industrial War is fought predominantly between states over territory, harnesses industry and the military, and requires mass mobilisation of people as well as resources. Information War is the prerogative of a few advanced societies and has emerged in a context that has enabled the extension of market practices on a global scale (with America as a unipolar power). Information War transcends frontiers, is asymmetrical, and its hard side is manifest in digitalised technologies and small professional forces. However, its soft side evokes the expanded and fast-changing information environment of globalised media, trans-national networks and the Internet. Through these, media wars can be experienced intensely by civilians who are otherwise untouched: at once close up and far away. This contributes to heightened consciousness of war, although such spectators are removed from danger. Although interests try to control information flows from and about war, the information environment is huge, shifting and unpredictable. As such, it is impossible to control fully, thereby presenting opportunities for vigorous symbolic struggles involving anti-war campaigners and others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1833-1847
Number of pages15
JournalSociology Compass
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Media
  • war and peace


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