Christoph Engemann: Human Terrain System
Human Terrain System
(S. 193 – 218)

The Media of Military Anthropology

Christoph Engemann

Human Terrain System
Social Networks and the Media of Military Anthropology

PDF, 26 Seiten

The United States began its attack on Iraq in the evening of March 19, 2003. Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense at the time, had already announced his doctrine of “shock and awe,” according to which the American military would quickly demonstrate its superiority to the Iraqi troops and leadership with a show of force both in the air and on the ground. According to the military discourse at the time,1 the enemy was supposed to be promptly defeated by a networked operation consisting of unprecedented intelligence, situational agility, and overwhelming firepower. American dominance of Iraqi airspace was in fact established within six hours. Stealth bombers flew undetected by Iraqi radar, and thus the Iraqi air defense was forced to shoot blindly into the dark sky – shots that appeared like fireworks on television screens being watched around the world. Only a single Iraqi fighter jet, moreover, was able to get off the ground. After it was shot down, the personnel stationed at Iraqi air force bases received the radio message “You Fly – You Die,” which was also distributed on pamphlets throughout the country. From this point on, the American military was theoretically capable of controlling every location in Iraq with whatever firepower would be necessary.

Despite such capacities for locational positioning, the anticipated control was never established in Iraq, nor was any order whatsoever. My intention here is to conduct a media-theoretical analysis of the military discourses and media technologies that were current at the time; the goal will be to demonstrate how the American military reacted to this problem. I hope to show that, in the military debates and projects of the time, the problem of establishing local control and order shifted from metaphors of occupying territory to possible formats for ordering and governing social ensembles. New wars – or so the argument went – require social media and are to take place with and within such media. In what follows, the concept of social networks will thus not be sought in the usual places – Xing, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook – but rather where its logic has been implemented in an especially urgent manner, namely in contemporary international conflicts. A media-theoretical investigation of publicly accessible documents and projects will demonstrate that the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan has aimed to make the populations of these countries, even those segments that are on the other side of the digital divide, legible as social networks. It is on the basis of the data gathered with such methods, moreover, that the United States distinguished between enemies and allies. With its concept of “human terrain,” the American military discourse managed to topologize the social in a rather peculiar manner. Human terrain is supposed to represent a novel and, according to several prominent war theorists, crucial area of operation for the military. As will be shown, the medial production of this area has simultaneously mobilized anthropologists (who in the case of colonialism and Vietnam had been concerned with “social media” well before the term was coined), networks, and the cultural techniques of social graphs. This has also entailed that societies be understood as quantities of relatable data – relations that can be represented as graphs, in terms of the frequency and intensity of their contact, and can thus serve the military as an operational means of establishing local control and order. My final questions will concern the relevance of social media and social graphs to the issue of sovereignty.

I. New Wars and the Transformation of the Network Concept

In 2003, Iraq was militarily defeated within two weeks. Along with the “coalition of the willing,” the United States enforced a change in the Iraqi political system and in Iraqi institutions. At the end of 2003, after a brief period of relative peace, the Sunnis and Shiites recommenced their ongoing civil war, and northern Iraq became a Kurdish enclave. This civil war quickly nullified whatever success the American military had achieved. The operation known as “Enduring Freedom,” which was not officially concluded until 2012, promptly began, as did the guerrilla war between the United States and various factions of the Iraqi population. Because their goal of liberalizing and democratizing the Middle East turned out to be mere fantasy, the neoconservative protagonists of the war went on the defensive and ultimately lost their positions during George W. Bush’s second term in office. In the press, Rumsfeld’s doctrine of “shock and awe” was treated as an obsolete way of thinking dating from the Cold War, one that was fixated on technological superiority. Rumsfeld was ousted from office at the end of 2005. As his next Secretary of Defense, Bush appointed Robert M. Gates, who changed the priorities for equipping the American military and struck down or cut back a whole series of large-scale projects, including outstanding orders for helicopters, tanks, and fighter jets. In light of the military’s own recent losses and the general “collateral damage” from the war, a debate ensued at the time, both in public and within military circles, about neoconservative wars of occupation and their disregard for such things as insurgency warfare and nation building.

Over the course of these discussions, the concept of the network came to be perceived in an entirely different manner. During the first half of the last decade of the 20th century, networks were regarded as a condition of empowerment and as one of the particular advantages of the American military, which a number of publications characterized as a “network army” and discussed in terms of its advantageous network-based doctrine of swarming (such opinions were also expressed by German media theorists and in the books that caught their attention).2 This perception began to shift around the second half of the 2000s. Instead of the idea that sovereignty could be imposed by the American military onto its poorly networked opponents, the focus of the discussion shifted to the networks of the opponents themselves, especially those of al-Qaeda, as being superior and generally threatening to sovereignty.3 This shift in the understanding of networks was accompanied by an increased interest in anthropological discourses, whose reception began to dominate the doctrinal debates taking place within the American military. Digital infrastructures and technical media in general started to fade into the background. Instead, the concept of the network was derived from ethnological and sociological studies and the focus shifted to the necessity of understanding enemy cultures.4 In a military-sponsored study by the anthropologist Sheila Miyoshi Jager, this shift is expressed as follows:

In sharp contrast to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s heavy-handed approach to counterinsurgency, which emphasized aggressive military tactics, the post-Rumsfeld Pentagon has advocated a gentler approach, emphasizing cultural knowledge and ethnographic intelligence […]. This “cultural turn” within the [Department of Defense] highlights efforts to understand adversary societies and to recruit “practitioners” of culture, notably anthropologists, to help in the war effort in both Iraq and Afghanistan.5

The poster boy for this cultural turn was David Petraeus.6 A touted general since the time of the Bush administration, Petraeus was made Director of the CIA by Barack Obama in 2010, though he soon had to resign from this position on account of an extramarital affair. Petraeus’s prominence and ascent as a prototypical warrior-intellectual – he holds a doctoral degree in political science from Princeton and has taught at both West Point and Georgetown – were launched by his liberation of the city of Mosul, which had been a hotbed of the Iraqi civil war from 2003 to 2005. During these years, Petraeus was the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, which was stationed there:

Petraeus and the 101st employed classic counterinsurgency methods to build security and stability, including conducting targeted kinetic operations and using force judiciously, jump-starting the economy, building local security forces, staging elections for the city council within weeks of their arrival, overseeing a program of public works, reinvigorating the political process, and launching 4,500 reconstruction projects in Iraq.7

In the wake of these efforts, Gates entrusted Petraeus with the task of revising and reformulating the U.S. Army’s official Counterinsurgency Field Manual. The previous edition of this text, which had been prepared in 1982, largely reflected the experiences of the Vietnam War. The manual revised under Petraeus’s supervision, which was published in 2006 with the title U.S. Army Field Manual No. 3–24: Counterinsurgency (COIN), was treated as a public event by the American military and was accompanied by a large-scale media campaign. Unlike other documents of its sort, Petraeus’s was furnished with a preface by Sarah Sewall, who was then the director of the Center for Human Rights at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and it was published by the University of Chicago Press. The back of the book is adorned with enthusiastic quotations from the American media. The New York Times lauded it as a “landmark, paradigm-shattering,” the Chicago Tribune referred to it as “probably the most important piece of doctrine written over the last 20 years,” while Time Magazine gushed that it was “revolutionary” and “Zen-tinged.”8 Bookstores ordered it en masse and displayed it prominently by their cash registers. Shortly after its publication, a number of anthropologists criticized the extensive amount of plagiarism that could be identified in the manual, but these accusations hardly made any ripples in public opinion.9 Rather, a series of features in the press, not to mention talk shows and television interviews, presented Petraeus and his co-authors as the intellectual leaders of the reoriented doctrines that were guiding the U.S. Army. In light of the shift that had taken place away from large-scale and swift wars of conquest against symmetrical or semi-symmetrical adversaries toward long-term efforts to occupy and stabilize asymmetrical opponents, which were expected to define American military operations in the present and foreseeable future, the Field Manual No. 3–24 laid out strategies for engaging in “soft” forms of combating and pacifying insurgent groups.

II. The Counterinsurgency Field Manual and Human Terrain

In 2003 and 2004, the weapons preferred by such asymmetrical Iraqi insurgents were so-called “improvised explosive devices” (IEDs), which were self-made bombs set to detonate if American troops were on the streets or in public squares. Technological approaches to such devices, such as using strong radio signals to deactivate their detonation systems, proved to be more or less ineffective, and soon the number of casualties began to grow. In 2004, the U.S. Army’s “Joint Improvised Explosive Devices Task Force” discouraged such “technological fixes” and instead recommended that soldiers should study the socio-cultural structures of the areas under occupation. The Field Manual No. 3–24, which appeared two years later, elaborated upon this recommendation and explained the new paradigm of counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in the following terms: “U.S. forces must understand the people of the host nation, the insurgents, and the host-nation (HN) government. Commanders and planners require insight into the cultures, perceptions, values, beliefs, interests and decision-making processes of individuals and groups.”10 In the works on counterinsurgency written during the Petraeus era, the word “understanding” is one of the most often used but little understood. It dominates the rhetoric employed by the Joint Improvised Explosive Devices Task Force, which expanded the idea to encompass a peculiar range of phenomena.11 As far as counterinsurgency operations are concerned, the most important thing to control is the so-called human terrain.12 The concept itself goes back to the well-known Un-American Activities Committee from the McCarthy era, which issued a report in 1968 with the title “Guerrilla Warfare Advocates in the United States.” According to this report, militant groups within the Unites States, most notably the Black Panthers, had “the ability to seize and retain the initiative through a superior control of the human terrain.”13 In the year 2000, long after the idea of human terrain had been discussed in (obviously CIA-sponsored) publications concerning the 1970s revolutionary movements in Latin America,14 the former officer and conservative commentator Ralph Peters revived it yet again. In an article titled “The Human Terrain of Urban Operations,” he argued that, unlike conventional warfare, it is not of the utmost importance when fighting against urban insurgents to conquer and control the territory itself; rather, it is paramount to control the “human terrain.” It is these people, he goes on, “armed and dangerous, watching for exploitable opportunities, or begging to be protected, who will determine the success or failure of the intervention.”15 The article reads like a rather accurate prediction of the misunderstanding that would occur when, after Bagdad had been occupied and the statue of Saddam Hussein had been toppled in Firdos Square, the U.S. military declared the war to be over: “[T]he center of gravity in urban operations is never a presidential palace or a television studio or a bridge or a barracks. It is always human.”16

The war against the Iraqi army, which at the time of the confrontation was considered to be the fifth largest army in the world, was over in a mere twenty-one days. Around the year 2000, it was obvious that geographic terrain no longer represented a problem for the American military. It had become clear by the time of this conflict that the United States had the ability to locate anything within a given geographical area and that, by means of GPS and geographic information systems, it could potentially gain control over any place on the globe. Nevertheless, victory in Iraq was evasive, and the population continued to act inimically toward its invaders. In light of the human terrain discourse that had been taking place, the American military regarded these facts as a new terra incognita; from then on, human beings and the relations between them were reconceived as the principal operative area that needed to be evaluated, navigated, and controlled.17 From 2003 to 2006, a series of military reports were issued that, with reference to Peters’s article about human terrain, encouraged a transformation within the military and called for the development of cultural competencies.18 Although the term “human terrain” did not appear in the new Counterinsurgency Field Manual, Petraeus would nevertheless become one of its strongest proponents. From his various high-ranking positions in the military, and with the endorsement of Robert Gates and (later) Barack Obama, Petraeus promoted the development, systemization, and institutionalization of techniques and practices for managing the human terrain. In an often-repeated statement about his understanding of counterinsurgency and about the goals of the new field manual, he maintained the following: “You have to understand not just what we call the military terrain […], the high ground and low ground. It’s about understanding the human terrain, really understanding it. Navigating cultural and human terrain is just as important as navigating geographic terrain.”19

III. Anthropology and the Human Terrain System

It is rather difficult, for several reasons, to conduct a media-theoretical analysis of the discourses mentioned above. First, there is very little temporal distance between the present and the events under discussion, and second, it is possible only to cite the few sources that are currently available to the public. Even a superficial look at the material, moreover, reveals that the American military is not a monolithic entity. Within the army, between the various branches, and within the overall security apparatus of the United States, bitter disagreements exist regarding the methods and strategies that should be employed. This latter fact makes it especially difficult to develop a general overview of things because, just as there are proponents for the human-terrain approach, there are also alternative projects and competing interests – often economically motivated – that promote the implementation of entirely different systems. Like any attempt to formulate an “anthropology of the military,”20 it is only with caution and reservations that a media-theoretical investigation of contemporary military discourses and media technologies can be undertaken. The materials that I have examined for this essay come from technical military journals, field manuals, budget reports on military purchases, and from PR reports published by contracted firms or by the military itself.21 Moreover, numerous books and articles have since been published by anthropologists about the human terrain system and in response to the heated debates that this system has engendered.22 And so anthropology – a discipline that, having undergone the difficult process of coming to terms with its colonial legacy and imperial past, has been committed since the 1970s to a post-imperial, post-colonial, and socially-embedded understanding of the world – was suddenly and unexpectedly called upon in 2007 to elucidate the operations of an ongoing war. “Over the long term,” as Robert Gates observed in 2008, “we cannot kill or capture our way to victory.”23 In this light, the American military found itself needing and wanting to know, exactly, what a human being is, and subsequently realizing that any such generalization would be invalid. Rather, as the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan revealed, it was important to ascertain how local forms of producing knowledge, creating identity, and generating social cohesion come to define what humans are and how they interact with one another. In order to do this, Petraeus and his fellow military leaders looked to the field of anthropology for advice. As Gates stated in 2008:

Throughout the Cold War, universities were vital centers of new research – often funded by the government […]. [I]n the last few years, we have learned that the challenges facing the world require a much broader conception and application of national power than just military prowess. The government and the Department of Defense need to engage additional intellectual disciplines – such as history, anthropology, sociology, and evolutionary psychology.24

Although Robert Scales, a general, referred to the War on Terror as a “social science war,” anthropologists such as David H. Price were not especially fond of the association. In 2011, Price made the following statement:

[W]hile World War I was the Chemist’s War and World War II the Physicist’s War, the current wars with their heavy reliance on the cultural knowledge needed for counterinsurgency and occupation are envisioned by many Pentagon strategists as the Anthropologist’s Wars; yet many in Washington seemed truly surprised at the push-back from anthropologists upon news of the formation of Human Terrain Teams and other efforts to adapt anthropology for counterinsurgency and asymmetrical warfare.25

The “push-back” mentioned by Price is the debate about the relationship between anthropology and the military that ensued after the publication, in October of 2007, of a front-page article in the New York Times with the title “Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones.”26 The American Anthropological Association (AAA) issued an official reaction to this piece within four weeks. In a public statement, the association explained that the participation of anthropologists in the Human Terrain System (HTS) was incompatible with its ethical principles.27 Among other concerns, the authors of the statement noted that the military could not guarantee the “voluntary informed consent” of the people subjected to HTS research and that the information gathered from such research might be used in whatever way the Pentagon saw fit: “[I]nformation provided by HTS anthropologists could be used to make decisions about identifying and selecting specific populations as targets of U.S. military operations either in the short or long term.”28 Moreover, the AAA stated that the Human Terrain System could lead to the general suspicion that anthropologists are potential collaborators with military forces. A number of anthropologists had especially harsh words for the program. According to Hugh Gusterson, for instance, the Human Terrain System is a “form of hit-man anthropology where anthropologists, working on contract to organizations that often care nothing for the welfare of our anthropological subjects, prostitute their craft by deliberately earning the trust of our subjects with the intent of betraying it.”29 Gusterson is a board member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, an organization that formed in the wake of the HTS debates and joined the discussion by releasing a series of publications, including The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual.30 According to the AAA, participation in the Human Terrain program was not a viable option for any anthropologist with academic ambitions. Nevertheless, anthropologists remained, as of 2006, the military’s primary recruitment goal for the institutionalization of “cultural awareness” and “human terrain capacity,” the two main elements that the IED Task Force hoped would characterize the so-called Human Terrain System. The initiator and original director of this system was the anthropologist and lawyer Montgomery McFate. Toward the end of 2006, she began to recruit anthropologists and social scientists to participate in a sixteen-week training program at the Human Terrain System Office, which was located at the Fort Leavenworth army base in Kansas. Having completed the program, these specialists were then sent as part of Human Terrain Teams to Afghanistan and later to Iraq:

The Human Terrain System is a U.S. Army project intended to provide military decision makers in Iraq and Afghanistan with greater understanding of the local population’s cultures and perspectives. HTS deploys Human Terrain Teams (HTTs) of five to nine civilian and military personnel to support brigade, division, and theater-level staffs and commanders with operationally relevant information. The program also provides training for deploying personnel, reachback analysis, and software tools developed by HTS to support socio-cultural analysis. HTS emphasizes the use of tools and approaches commonly associated with the academic disciplines of anthropology and sociology in its efforts to collect and analyze data about local populations.31

This summary comes from an investigation that was commissioned by the U.S. Congress in response to various accusations that the Human Terrain System was inefficient and a waste of public resources. On the one hand, the authors of the investigation concluded that “the HTS program has been, in many ways, a success.”32 On the other hand, they pointed out that one of the program’s main problems has been the recruitment of qualified personnel. The number of HTS recruits who could speak a language spoken in Afghanistan, for instance, was in the single digits. Moreover, of the approximately five hundred HTS members who were active in 2009, only forty-two could speak Arabic. Even after the public had been made aware of sexual harassment charges within the Human Terrain program,33 and despite the persistent criticism of the program in general (which was even documented in a film),34 the U.S. Army nevertheless managed to develop it further and protect it from seemingly imminent budget cuts. Beyond the difficulties of establishing the Human Terrain System, the available documents indicate that the objective of the recruited anthropologists and social scientists has been to generate knowledge, data formats, and behavioral guidelines for counterinsurgency campaigns and to make such information available to the local units in which they are stationed. At the same time, the U.S. Army has used the program to give itself a humanitarian image and to change the prevailing culture within the armed forces. In the words of Robert Gates:

The Human Terrain program […] is leading to alternative thinking – coming up with job-training programs for widows, or inviting local power-brokers to bless a mosque restored with coalition funds. These kinds of actions are the key to long-term success, but they are not always intuitive in a military establishment that has long put a premium on firepower and technology.35

The military’s fixation on firepower was expressed even more clearly by a member of the Special Forces. In an interview with the Human Terrain Office, which was attempting to evaluate the program, he made the following remark: “Had we understood the cultural role of celebratory gunfire, more than one wedding party would have been spared from fires conducted in self-defense against a perceived threat.”36

Although documents of this sort are meant to legitimize the Human Terrain System to the public and thus have to be read with caution, it seems as though the program was first and foremost an instrument for providing the U.S. Army with modes of operation that do not involve violence. In the same text, an officer is quoted as saying that the Human Terrain Team stationed with his unit “has absolutely contributed to our operational mission. Some things we’ve looked at – solving problems in a lethal manner – we’ve changed to nonlethal options on the basis of the HTT information.”37

IV. The Network of Others

What does the navigation of human terrain really entail? What systems are used to manage this terrain of people, that is, to spatialize cultures into a topology that is meant to be measurable and controllable? According to the U.S. Army’s own description of the Human Terrain System, Human Terrain Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan were tasked with gathering

information about the physical security, economic security, ideology and belief systems, authority figures, and organizations relevant to major social groups in the area under study. This information comes from open source, unclassified collections and is referenced geospatially, relationally, and temporally to enable the creation of various “maps” of the human dynamics in areas where the U.S. has committed forces or other U.S. government officials.38

From the available sources, it is clear that there have been competing approaches within the military on how to carry out the geospatial and dynamic process of mapping socio-cultural information.39 Under the sustained pressure from political and military leaders to map human terrain, the specific cartographic procedures have remained in flux. Organizations such as the National Geospatial Agency, the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs Branch, the Human Terrain System itself, and various intelligence agencies are each committed to their own epistemic views and have accordingly used a variety of cultural techniques to represent what human terrain ought to be. For instance, the National Geospatial Agency, which is chiefly concerned with physical geography, has employed its technical media of “remote sensing” – satellites and airborne multispectral sensors – for gathering information about human dynamics and has developed mathematical procedures for integrating geospatial data with human-geographical and socio-cultural data.40 Within the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System, which is dominated by anthropologists, the chosen approach is oriented largely toward qualitative methods, while Petraeus’s counterinsurgency manual promotes the application of network analysis, as it has been used by intelligence services:

Units gather information on these ties by analyzing historical documents and records, interviewing individuals, and studying photos and books. It is painstaking work, but there is really no alternative when trying to piece together a network that does not want to be identified. Charts and diagrams lead to understanding the insurgents’ means of operation.41

The crucial point here, which is relevant both to the Human Terrain System as well as to the general relationship between social networks and statehood or sovereignty, is contained in one line: “… when trying to piece together a network that does not want to be identified.” Insurgencies, social movements, and terrorism are thus conceived as networks, and both the Counterinsurgency Manual and the Human Terrain System, which is derived from it, rely heavily on concepts of social networks: “It’s about human social networks and the way they operate,” or: “People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.”42 According to military anthropology, in other words, people are understood as networking beings who at the same time act according to the sanctioned activity of the networks to which they belong. Thus it is possible, either consciously or not, for certain networks to develop whose social activity can be recognized and for another type of network to develop that, in George Packer’s words, “does not want to be identified.” This latter type of network is typically more difficult to form because it requires conscious decisions to be made regarding its means and formats of communication in order to remain opaque and illegible to outsiders. Counterinsurgency is essentially an effort to make such networks legible; it is the continuation of an observation that the anthropologist and agriculturalist James C. Scott had made in his studies twentieth century colonialism: “Legibility [is] a central problem in statecraft.”43 In counterinsurgency campaigns, the distinction between friends and enemies thus hinges on the legibility of a given network’s sphere of activity. People who make themselves legible might not necessarily be friendly, but those who attempt to make themselves illegible are almost certainly enemies. For one political philosopher, at least, the distinction between friends and enemies was relatively easy to draw. In his Theory of the Partisan, Carl Schmitt noted that the central feature of a regular soldier – the feature that distinguishes him from partisans or irregular soldiers – is the ability to be identified as such by a uniform: “The regular fighter is identified by a soldier’s uniform, which is more of a professional garb, because it demonstrates the dominance of the public sphere. The weapon is displayed openly and demonstratively with the uniform.”44 Regular soldiers are legible. Their uniform is a sign that reveals them to be members of an army and thus representatives of a given state. In their case there is no need to gather and sort through documents, photographs, and interviews in order to establish, with the help of graphs and tables, the legibility of their networks. A major aspect of human terrain, namely the distinction between friends and enemies, is made instantly legible by uniforms. At the same time, however, Schmitt is quick to add that the symbolism of one’s uniform can become rather problematic under the conditions of irregular conflict:

In partisan warfare, a new, complicated, and structured sphere of action is created, because the partisan does not fight on an open battlefield, and does not fight on the same level of open fronts. He forces his enemy into another space. In other words, he displaces the space of regular, conventional theaters of war to a different, darker dimension – a dimension of the abyss, in which the proudly-worn uniform [of the conventional soldier] becomes a deadly target.45

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the American military, whose structures and organizations were still based on the doctrine of open confrontation, underwent this very experience and had to rely on forms of regular warfare, with its traditional distinctions between identification and surreptitiousness – uniforms and camouflage. In these new wars, however, the army’s uniforms made the distinction between friend and enemy very clear to its opponents, who for their part remained opaque by avoiding the traditional media arsenals of legibility. The Human Terrain System can be regarded as an attempt to reestablish such arsenals and should be read in light of Schmitt’s laconic assertion that the partisan “provokes nothing short of technocratic affect.”46 Even if the official representatives of the Human Terrain System never tired of stressing that their analyses and data were not used for “targeting,”47 this information was nevertheless made available to other divisions within the military.48 For the military as a whole, network analysis serves as an important tool for illuminating and topologizing the “darker dimension” referenced by Schmitt; it is thus also helpful for targeting: “However acephalous or Janus-faced netwar may be, there must still be an enemy to be targeted: which is to say, located and subdued, either by being killed, destroyed, or rendered dysfunctional or dependent.”49

V. Networks and Graphs in the Human Terrain System

In December of 2008, WikiLeaks published an internal training document that had been issued by the Human Terrain System.50 The so-called Human Terrain Team Handbook, which became publicly accessible in September of the same year, explains what sort of data ought to be presented during briefings with military commanders. In addition to descriptions and images of local populations, their affiliations, religious convictions, socio-economic conditions, and history, the information to be passed along should also include so-called ‘link charts’: “Link Charts presenting any significant persons of influence who may be affected by the mission should be presented. These link charts should illustrate the relationship of the entity to the mission and his/her position within society (including ties to key political figures, threat organizations, etc.”51 Link charts are diagrams for representing social networks; they consist of the following sort of information, which has to be gathered in the field by means of semi-structured interviews:

– What 5 people here have you known the longest?
– What 5 people here were you most recently in contact with?
– Who are the most important people here?
– Who are the most important people in Logar [a province in eastern Afghanistan]?
– What other provincial officials do you work with?
– What DSGs [district sub-governors] do you know best? How long have you known them?
– We heard that one can only become the DC [district commissioner] if he knows some governmental official. Is that true?
– We heard that one of Logar’s DCs is the most powerful. Can you tell us who he is?52

Whereas the Human Terrain Team Handbook constantly reminds its readers that the information to be gathered will not be used for “targeting” and that the teams should avoid any sort of “direct involvement with tactical questioning,” the Counterinsurgency Field Manual treats network analysis simply as a cultural technique of entrapment. There, according to Erhard Schüttpelz, “it remains a net for capturing prey.”53 In the appendix to the Counterinsurgency Field Manual, a section titled “Social Network Analysis and Other Analytical Tools” contains the following unequivocal comment: “Social network analysis (SNA) is a tool for understanding the organizational dynamics of an insurgency and how best to attack or exploit it.” Here it is also mentioned that: “For an insurgency, a social network is not just a description of who is in the insurgent organization; it is a picture of the population, how it is put together and how members interact with one another.”54

It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the authors immediately conclude that the “social network graph is the building block of social network analysis” and then go on to explain the essential concepts of graph theory, namely vertices, edges, weights, degree centrality, and betweenness.55 Counterinsurgency operations, according the doctrine set forth in Petraeus’s Field Manual, must first create an accurate representation of social networks in order to reduce the density of enemy networks and increase the density of friendly networks.56 Network density is considered to be an indicator of a group’s ability to undertake coordinated operations. The number of relations that a given individual has to others within a network provides information about his role and about the potential that, by removing this person from the network in question, it might begin to fragment. In counterinsurgency operations, the ability to change social graphs in accordance with one’s own objectives is measured in terms of an operation’s capacity for intervention:

Whereas the Counterinsurgency Field Manual makes only general statements about social graphs, the publications of West Point’s Network Science Center have presented concrete data sets drawn from the formalized methods that have been used to fragment and weaken al-Qaeda’s networks.57 The authors, who are themselves veterans of counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,58 present algorithms with which the “leadership re-generation ability” of networks can be influenced in a targeted manner.59 To do this, it is first necessary to determine, in mathematical terms, the extent of a given network’s centrality, that is, the degree to which it is centralized or decentralized. Then it is possible to calculate which vertices of the network should be deactivated or manipulated in order to increase the fragility of the network in question. Fragility is thus formally defined as a problem of determining those vertices or nodes “whose removal would maximize the network-wide centrality.”60 The goal, in other words, is to use targeted attacks to make certain networks more hierarchical. In the nomenclature of graph analysis, higher levels of centrality entail higher levels of hierarchization. In turn, the more hierarchical a network is, the more vulnerable it is to external interferences. To explain this, the authors cite a graph that was made in the context of the 1998 attack against the American embassy in Tanzania. (…)

VI. Producing Graphs in the Human Terrain System:
Map-HT and the Analyst’s Notebook

Social graphs are one of the main cultural techniques for topologizing socio-cultural relations and for converting a “social hieroglyph into a legible and administratively more convenient format.”61 They simultaneously produce both the legibility of social networks as well as a dynamic topology of spatial evidence and they represent human relations as navigable and manipulable quantities. In doing so, they are also able to scale up from small groups, like the al-Qaeda networks presented above, to entire national populations, and from there they can even scale up to represent transnational masses of people (think of the approximately one billion people represented by Facebook’s graphs). Whereas, in the case of Facebook, the users actualize themselves graphically with their every interaction, the anthropologists engaged in counterinsurgency operations have to generate such knowledge by means of interviews and observations before they are able to create graphs pertaining to a given group of people. These graphs can then be implemented in so-called “shaping operations,” which are targeted efforts to change a graph’s features in accordance with the army’s objectives.

Graphs are only able to fulfill their promise of being up-to-date and to preserve their dynamic quality, which is sensitive to events on the ground, if they are constantly being revised on the basis of thick descriptions. In the case of people who neglect to record and describe their own activity in writing – that is, in the case of people who avoid the internet and its social networks – constant and situationally flexible forms of data acquisition are needed to identify the main actors within a group and their relations and interactions with one another. Such information is of course a precondition for the creation and analysis of social graphs. In Iraq and Afghanistan classical media of authentication have been used to identify the roles of individuals; this has involved simple techniques such as creating databases of personal names and taking photographs to using more advanced technologies such as biometric instruments. This has also involved, whether secretly or not, marking pieces of clothing with radioactive dyes for purposes of tracking.62 Once gathered and evaluated, data of this sort were entered into a software program called Map-HT, which is a database system that allows social graphs and events to be superimposed over geographic terrain.

The aim of the program was to ensure that interventions and their documentation took place simultaneously; it was based on the belief that, with a constantly updated data record, it would be possible to make the dynamics of human terrain legible and therefore manageable. The intention of the Human Terrain System and the Map-HT program, in other words, was to record and establish the legibility of a social environment that had hitherto remained illegible to those who wanted to read it. Of course, Map-HT is not accessible to the public, not even as a demo-program. I am only able to comment about it here on the basis of product descriptions and first-hand accounts that are circulating online. From such sources it can be said that Map-HT is a database system with a three-tiered hierarchy. The hierarchy consists of the software that is used for data acquisition on the ground, a middleware program for evaluating this data at regional sub-centers, and a centralized database located at the Human Terrain System Reachback Center in Fort Leavenworth. It is there that all of the data entered into Map-HT is stored and made available to analysts, who write background reports and respond to urgent requests from the regional teams. It was not long, however, before the Map-HT program proved to be too difficult and problematic to operate, and the laptops assigned for its use were put back on the shelf.63 In the meantime, the Human Terrain Teams were networked to a different set of database systems, systems that had longer track records with the U.S. Army. Among these are the Tactical Ground Reporting System (TIGR), which is used by all active units for their daily reports, and the Software Analyst’s Notebook. The latter is a commercial tool developed by IBM for analyzing social graphs and it has been used, for instance, for evaluating the success of advertising campaigns on social media. In addition to these systems, the American military and intelligence agencies have also used a variety of other network analysis programs, such as Palantir and ORA,64 but there is no available information about how or whether they have been integrated into the Human Terrain System.

VII. Sovereignty and Opacity

The example of the Human Terrain System, which has been used to create and maintain the legibility of collectives, demonstrates that the ability to control legibility is an essential feature of sovereignty. During the Second World War, a perplexed British cryptographer is reported to have said the following to one of his colleagues at the Government Code and Cipher School in Bletchley Park: “You know, the Germans don’t mean you to read their stuff, and I don’t expect you ever will.”65 The Third Reich was sovereign because it could make itself illegible to its enemies, and the end of its sovereignty commenced as soon as the Turing machine at Bletchley Park began to rob it of its capacity to be opaque. It would be fitting to ask how and whether the participants in the “Facebook Revolutions” of the Arab Spring can be classified according to the distinction between legibility and illegibility, between regular and irregular soldiers. In this case, the relationship between legibility, friends, and enemies is certainly rather more complex, but several activists have nevertheless stressed that their global visibility on social media has served to protect them against repression. Of course, the actual role of social media in the Arab Spring remains a matter of dispute. German media theorists, for instance, have expressed their skepticism in this regard: “The assertion that Facebook played an essential role in the Arab Spring fails to pay due respect to the people who went out onto the streets and, for several weeks, risked their lives for democratic change. It suggests that the decisive capacity to act was made available by Western communication technologies.”66 The Egyptian author Essam Mansour, however, reached the opposite conclusion: “The Arab Revolutions, including the Egyptian Revolution, have largely been enabled by SNS.”67 This opinion was corroborated by the findings of the “Project on Information Technology and Political Islam,” which has attempted to evaluate the effects of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube: “Social media played a crucial role in the political uprising in Tunisia and Egypt. […] [B]y using digital technologies, democracy advocates created a freedom meme that took on a life of its own and spread ideas about liberty and revolution to a surprisingly large number of people.”68

From the perspective of states that are struggling for their sovereignty, however, perhaps it is of little importance whether social networks are able to conceal any potential or actual threats of mobilization and subversion – or whether cryptography will enable certain segments of the population to hide their activity behind a veil of digital secrecy.69 Perhaps they are more concerned with whether the legibility of social graphs should be one of their major objectives, that is, whether the improvement of such legibility will enhance their capacity to read and navigate through a given social terrain – whether social graphs, as this analysis of the Human Terrain System seems to indicate, number among the decisive media for establishing local order and thus represent a resource for preserving sovereignty, the control of which might ultimately serve to co-determine the survival of one state or another.70 Most recently in the case of the Arab Spring, social graphs and the control over their legibility or opacity have become concrete problems for agents of the state. Admittedly, Egyptian and Tunisian officials were able to shut down local internet servers and thereby hinder or prevent access to social networks, and yet in doing so they simultaneously made illegible the very segments of the population that they wanted to control, monitor, and inform the state’s decision-making processes. In the case of the states in North Africa, the social graph of large and influential segments of their populations was unavailable to them.71 The graph, after all, was being processed and stored on servers run by American internet companies and was ultimately accessible only to those with access to the servers in question. In addition to the obvious issue of militaries and security forces exploiting the social graphs that are created by Facebook, Twitter, and Google, the fact should not be ignored that, for more than six years, the American military has been using its Human Terrain System to graph the populations of countries in which Facebook and Twitter are hardly ever used. At least according to the army’s own description of the program, another component of the Human Terrain System is to maintain a constantly updated “socio-cultural database,” the contents of which are available both to the army and to other branches of the military.72

VIII. Anthropology and Social Media: Being Described and Describing Oneself

Historically, anthropology served as an ancillary science to the colonial powers by transferring the world, as experienced by illiterate and stateless collectives, into a legible form. Around the middle of the twentieth century, however, the field attempted to emancipate itself from its own state-sanctioned origins. At the same time, anthropology has nevertheless continued to study societies that other disciplines have deemed unworthy of description or whose activity has simply not yet been described in writing. In its attempts to fashion itself into a counterscience,73 anthropology regards itself as being in opposition to the wishes of the state, especially when it comes to governing societies that lie beyond writing or description – societies, in other words, that either cannot or simply do not want to be read. These are groups of people whose manner of life underscores the extent to which governments need to be able to address and document their populations and who thus shed a critical light on the governance of mediality and on the mediality of governance. The military discourses under consideration here attest to just such a situation of “governmediality,”74 a situation characterized by negotiations about the necessity and value of writing about or describing certain people. If nothing else, such negotiations about the proper use of media have created a field of tension between academic anthropologists, military institutions, the arms industry, and journalists. Media have perhaps become the main problem of government that needs to be included among the other objects of governmentality enumerated by Foucault.75 Of course, security, territory, and population remain essential areas of activity for governments, but they have been redefined by the emergence of digital media in such a way as to seem medially preconditioned. In this regard it is not only sovereignty that allows such phenomena to exist; as the case of the Human Terrain System has demonstrated, security, territory, and population can also be defined by ensembles of oppositional and conflicting agents who may or may not affiliate themselves with a given state. Conflicts of this sort raise questions about which media are needed to govern, how and whether media can be governed, and how the government of media should itself be governed. At the same time, the internet can be understood as a machine for governmedialization that enables oppositional ensembles to come together on a large scale, and these ensembles further underscore the reciprocal relationship between governance and mediality. This is especially true regarding the practices that states have employed to document people and events, practices that, with the rise of the internet, are now confronted with a paradoxical problem. If the early-modern and modern history of governmediality can be characterized by the enormous amount of effort that was devoted to recording and describing people and things – tasks that required throngs of bureaucrats, secretaries, anthropologists and other state-employed pencil pushers – so it is now that the internet serves as a medium for generating such writing, that is, as medium in which people essentially describe or write about themselves (and thus about things as well).76 It is no longer really necessary to record anything, and this is because the present transformation in media conditions has brought about a shift from modes of description to modes of self-description. In other words, that which is happening in the world no longer needs to be treated as something to write about because such happenings seemingly write about themselves. This situation is paradoxical because the paranoia about the chasm between the actual world and our administrative record of it, a sort of paranoia that had long accompanied the government of modern states,77 has largely been eliminated, and yet the possibility has nevertheless remained out of reach – despite the assiduous efforts of pirate parties, corporate consultants, IT companies, hackers, ministerial e-government initiatives, etc. – to govern and document sovereignty or statehood with and within the internet.

It was in 2006 that Facebook, which remains the most successful format of its kind, was first made available to the general public. Innocuous questions – about such things as the last five people someone has spoken to or the five most important people someone knows – no longer need to be asked because they have always already been answered on Facebook. This is not the case, however, with the Human Terrain System, which (coincidentally or not) was initiated during the same year that Facebook became generally available, and which is concerned with those people (and things) that have not yet been described and are perhaps unwilling to be described. Unlike industrialized nations, Iraq and especially Afghanistan have not been pervaded by the internet. For the most part, the populations of these countries live on the other side of the digital gap; they are offline, not connected, or are simply unconvinced by the alleged benefits of every child having a laptop. Here, in place of digital media, anthropologists working for the Human Terrain System act as social media and describe people in terms of networks. Again, the people in question either live in societies that are not (or not yet) familiar with the self-descriptive practices of the internet or, for cautionary measures, intentionally refrain from such practices. In the latter case, at least, the Human Terrain System seeks to enforce the legibility of certain circumstances that have been created precisely to remain illegible. The social graphs generated by the Human Terrain System, moreover, remain inaccessible to those who are represented in them. They are in the control of the military and function as resources for establishing local order during ongoing or future interventions.

Does all of this represent – and I ask this question with Carl Schmitt in mind – a sort of spatial revolution, a media-technologically conditioned revolution of telluric ideas? If one can momentarily set aside the fascistically motivated and pseudo-mythological undercurrents of Schmitt’s concept of the nomos and understand it instead as a media-historically indexable measure,78 one that is limited to a given society’s laws concerning the allocation of land and resources, then it ought to be asked whether graphs represent, as regards allocational laws of digital sovereignty, “the measure by which the land in a particular order is divided and situated.”79 Without having to endorse Schmitt’s fictional ideas about the genesis of the law, it is possible to maintain that, in the present situation, what is taking place is not the appropriation of territory or waterways but rather something that could be called the appropriation of graphs. For the moment, economics is the obvious driving force behind such appropriations and behind the acts of “division and distribution” that have been taking place in their wake.80

In Western societies, where the growth and consumption of the internet has already generated a governmediality of self-description and where people are busy recording their own activity quasi-synchronically and on a large scale, dynamic and constantly updated graphs of the relations between people and other people, between people and things, and between things and other things serve as the foundation of such businesses as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The media-materialistic infrastructures (server farms) that generate these graphs and keep them up-to-date are located predominantly in rural areas of the United States. Their steady migration to such locations began in 2006 with the success of Facebook and Twitter and with the smart-phone revolution brought about by Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. In 2005, only five percent of the world’s mobile phones were equipped with an operating system by an American company. This number reached eighty-eight percent by 2012, at which time a full eighty percent of the world’s most popular websites were also run by firms based in the United States.81 From the recent disclosures by Edward Snowden and others of the expansive surveillance efforts that have been undertaken around the globe, it has become clear that governmental institutions such as the American National Security Agency and the German Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst) have had access to these data-processing centers and thus to the graphs themselves. The military analyst John Robb has referred to such centers as “system points” – the network-topological equivalent to Clausewitz’s “centers of gravity” or “focal points”82 – and they remain inaccessible to the self-describing individuals who provide them with information. Instead, they are controlled by the companies named above and made accessible to certain national-security officials and intelligence services. It can be presumed that the latter, with the awareness and support of military units, are the impetus behind the appropriations of graphs that are currently taking place and that their goal is to procure full access to up-to-date graphs of as many societies and social groups as possible.

A situation has thus arisen in which the generation and analysis of graphs is undergoing a process of generalization. At least from the perspective of American intelligence services, this process has two sides. Whereas graphs of the American population (and of the populations in many other countries) can be extrapolated from data collected from the internet and other forms of telecommunication, the social graphs of war zones, as discussed above, are ultimately generated by the military anthropology practiced by Human Terrain Teams. “Like buttons” and “friend requests” may be innocent enough in allowing users to recognize, “within a crowd of eight hundred million, a new society of people to adore them in a different but no less genuine manner,”83 but the media of social networks and the cultural technique of graph analysis have long since fallen, in Schmitt’s words, “within the sphere of the political: the intense friend-enemy distinction”84 – assuming, of course, that they were ever outside of this sphere. Although the division and distribution of social graphs have not yet been elevated into a pressing issue of international law, they have long been a part of governmedial negotiation processes. Struggles are well underway over access to social graphs and their legibility, over the control and representation of their “system points,” and over the ability to harness their potential for creating local order and thus for establishing or maintaining sovereignty.

1 See Stefan Kaufmann, “Network Centric Warfare: Den Krieg netzwerktechnisch denken,” in Politiken der Medien, ed. Daniel Gethmann and Markus Stauff (Berlin: Diaphanes, 2005), 245–64.

2 In addition to Kaufmann’s article cited in the previous note, see also Sebastian Vehlken, Zootechnologien: Eine Mediengeschichte der Schwarmforschung (Berlin: Diaphanes, 2012); Eva Horn, “Schwärme – Kollektive ohne Zentrum: Einleitung,” in Schwärme, Kollektive ohne Grenzen: Eine Wissensgeschichte zwischen Leben und Information, ed. Eva Horn and Lucas Marco Gisi (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2009), 7–26; Sebastian Gießmann, “Netzwerkprotokolle und Schwarm-Intelligenz: Zur Konstruktion von Komplexität und Selbstorganisation,” in ibid., 163–82; idem, “Netzwerk-Zeit, Zeit der Netzwerke: Fragmente zur Datenökonomie um 1960,” in Zeitkritische Medien, ed. Axel Volmar (Berlin: Kadmos, 2009), 239–53; and Stefan Kaufmann, “Netzwerk-Zeit, Zeit der Netzwerke: Fragmente zur Datenökonomie um 1960,” in Vernetzte Steuerung: Soziale Prozesse im Zeitalter technischer Netzwerke, ed. Stefan Kaufmann (Zurich: Chronos, 2007), 145–58. The latter works were influenced by John Arquilla and David F. Ronfeldt, Swarming and the Future of Conflict (Santa Monica: Rand, 2000); idem, Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy (Santa Monica: Rand, 2001); and Sean J. Edwards, Swarming and the Future of Warfare (Santa Monica: Rand, 2005).

3 See John Robb, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2007).

4 On the sociological origins of the network concept, see Irina Kaldrack and Theo Röhle’s contribution to this volume as well as Erhard Schüttpelz, “Ein absoluter Begriff: Zur Genealogie und Karriere des Netzwerkkonzepts,” in Vernetzte Steuerung: Soziale Prozesse im Zeitalter technischer Netzwerke, ed. Stefan Kaufmann (Zurich: Chronos, 2007), 25–46. Regarding the media-historical background of the concept, see Friedrich Kittler, “The City is a Medium,” trans. Matthew Griffin, New Literary History 27 (1996), 717–29, esp. 718–19; and Claus Pias, Computer Spiel Welten, 2nd ed. (Zurich: Diaphanes, 2010), 170–71.

5 Quoted from Roberto J. González, American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and the Human Terrain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 12.

6 For further discussion of this new approach, see Hugh Gusterson, “The Cultural Turn in the War on Terror,” in Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency, ed. John D. Kelley et al. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 279–98; and R. Brian Ferguson, “The Full Spectrum: The Military Invasion of Anthropology,” in Virtual War and Magical Death: Technologies and Imaginaries for Terror and Killing, ed. Neil L. Whitehead and Sverker Finnstrom (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 85–110.

7 Kirsten Lundberg, The Accidental Statesman: General Petraeus and the City of Mosul, Iraq (Cambridge, MA: Kennedy School of Government, 2006), (accessed on September 16, 2014; users must register to read the full text).

8 For an overview of the book’s reception, see González, American Counterinsurgency, 10.

9 See ibid., 10–11.

10 The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, Counterinsurgency Field Manual (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), § 3-1.

11 See Montgomery McFate et al., “What Do Commanders Really Want to Know? U.S. Army Human Terrain System Lessons Learned from Iraq and Afghanistan,” in The Oxford Handbook of Military Psychology, ed. Janice H. Laurence and Michael D. Matthews (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 92–113, at 94.

12 See González, American Counterinsurgency, 28.

13 Quoted from ibid.

14 See Roberto J. González, “‘Human Terrain’: Past, Present, and Future Applications,” Anthropology Today 24 (2008), 21–26, esp. 24; and idem, American Counterinsurgency, 29.

15 Ralph Peters, “The Human Terrain of Urban Operations,” Parameters 30 (2000), 4–12, at 4.

16 Ibid., 12.

17 See Fred Renzi, “Terra Incognita and the Case for Ethnographic Intelligence,” Military Review 86 (2006), 16–23.

18 For a summary of these reports, see González, American Counterinsurgency, 30–35.

19 Quoted from Babak Dehghanpisheh and Evan Thomas, “Scions of the Surge,” Newsweek (March 14, 2008).

20 See, for instance, Hugh Gusterson, Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

21 On the nature of conducting research of this sort, see Roberto J. González, “Anthropology and the Covert: Methodological Notes on Researching Military and Intelligence Programmes,” Anthropology Today 28 (2012), 11–25.

22 For a lengthy bibliography of such material (updated through 2010), see the website

23 Quoted from the Defense Science Board’s report Understanding Human Dynamics (Washington, DC: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, 2009), 1.

24 Quoted from Shannon D. Beebe and Mary H. Kaldor, The Ultimate Weapon Is No Weapon: Human Security and the New Rules of War and Peace (New York: Public Affairs, 2010), 113.

25 David H. Price, Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State (Oakland: Counterpunch, 2001), 2. See also Hugh Gusterson, “The U.S. Military’s Quest to Weaponize Culture,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (June 20, 2008), (accessed on September 18, 2014): “The Pentagon seems to have decided that anthropology is to the war on terror what physics was to the Cold War.”

26 David Rohde, “Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones,” The New York Times (October 5, 2007), (accessed on September 18, 2014).

27 See also the report that was issued two years later by the AAA Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the U.S. Security and Intelligence Communities (CEAUSSIC): “Final Report on the Army’s Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program” (October 14, 2009), upload/ceaussic_hts_final_report.pdf (accessed on September 18, 2014).

28 Ibid., 70

29 Quoted from Matthew B. Stannard, “Montgomery McFate’s Mission: Can One Anthropologist Possibly Steer the Course in Iraq?” San Francisco Chronicle (April 29, 2007), (accessed on September 18, 2014).

30 The Network of Concerned Anthropologists, The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual: Or, Notes on Demilitarizing American Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

31 Yvette Clinton et al., Congressionally Directed Assessment of the Human Terrain System (Alexandria, VA: Center for Naval Analyses, 2010), 1.

32 Ibid., 2.

33 See John E. Sterling, “Findings and Recommendations: AR 15-6 Investigation Concerning Human Terrain System (HTS) Project Inspector General Complaints” (May 12, 2010),; and Maximilian C. Forte, “Documents: Investigations into the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System,” Zero Anthropology (February 19, 2013), (both sites accessed on September 18, 2014).

34 James Der Derian et al., Human Terrain: War Becomes Academic (2010), (accessed on September 18, 2014).

35 Quoted from Beebe and Kaldor, The Ultimate Weapon Is No Weapon, 122.

36 Montgomery McFate and Steve Fondacaro, “Reflections on the Human Terrain System During the First 4 Years,” Prism 2 (2011), 63–82, at 66.

37 Ibid., 64.

38 Human Terrain System Concept of Operations (CONOP): Proof of Concept (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, 2007), 2.

39 See the Defense Science Board’s report Understanding Human Dynamics; and Michael L. Wood, Mapping Collective Identity: Territories and Boundaries of Human Terrain (Master’s Thesis: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2011).

40 See Richard Heimann, “The Future of Counterinsurgency: Altogether Quantitative, Scarcely Analytical …,” Imaging Notes 27 (2012), (accessed on September 19, 2014); and the National Geospatial Intelligence College’s Incorporating Human Geography into GEOINT: Student Guide (Fort Belvoir, VA: National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, 2011).

41 Counterinsurgency Field Manual, § B-15.

42 George Packer, “Knowing the Enemy: Can Social Scientists Redefine the ‘War on Terror’?” New Yorker (December 18, 2006), (accessed on September 22, 2014).

43 James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 2.

44 Carl Schmitt, Theory of the Partisan: Intermediate Commentary on the Concept of the Political, trans. G. L. Ulmen (New York: Telos, 2007), 14.

45 Ibid., 69–70.

46 Ibid., 76.

47 McFate et al., “What Do Commanders Really Want to Know?”; McFate and Fondacaro, “Reflections on the Human Terrain System,” 69–70. See also Nathan Finney, Human Terrain Team Handbook (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Human Terrain System, 2008), 56: “The results of our research provide non-target data that suggest Courses of Action to the commander and his staff.” The latter book also stresses the goal of “non-lethal targeting.”

48 See R. Brian Ferguson, “Plowing the Human Terrain: Toward Global Ethnographic Surveillance,” in Dangerous Liaisons: Anthropologists and the National Security State, ed. Laura A. McNamara and Robert A. Rubinstein (Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press, 2011), 121–22.

49 Samuel Weber, Targets of Opportunity: On the Militarization of Thinking (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), 101 (the emphasis is original).

50 See David Price, “The Leaky Ship of Human Terrain Systems,” Counterpunch (December 12–14, 2008), (accessed on September 22, 2014).

51 Finney, Human Terrain Team Handbook, 37.

52 Ibid., 114.

53 Schüttpelz, “Ein absoluter Begriff: Zur Genealogie und Karriere des Netzwerkkonzepts,” 44.

54 Counterinsurgency Field Manual, § B-10.

55 See also Irina Kaldrack and Theo Röhle’s contribution in this volume.

56 Counterinsurgency Field Manual, § B-10.

57 See Devon Callahan et al., “Shaping Operations to Attack Robust Terror Networks” (November 6, 2012), (accessed on September 22, 2014).

58 See Philip Ball, “Unmasking Organised Crime Networks with Data,” BBC Future (July 9, 2013),; and “How Military Counterinsurgency Software Is Being Adapted to Tackle Gang Violence in Mainland USA,” MIT Technology Review (July 4, 2013), (both websites were accessed on September 22, 2014).

59 Callahan et al., “Shaping Operations to Attack Robust Terror Networks,” 1.

60 Ibid.

61 Scott, Seeing Like a State, 3.

62 Members of al-Qaeda’s network are by now obviously aware of this practice, as is clear from documents that have been released by the Associated Press: “The Al-Qaida Papers – Drones” (2013), (accessed on September 23, 2014). For additional examples of tracking techniques, see David E. Sanger, Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power (New York: Crown, 2012), 70–71.

63 See John Allison, “The Leavenworth Diary: Double Agent Anthropologist Inside the Human Terrain System,” Zero Anthropology (December 5, 2010), (accessed on September 23, 2014).

64 See the paper issued by the Counter-IED Operations Intelligence Center (COIC): “Social Network Analysis (SNA) Tool Comparison: Working Paper” (November 28, 2011), (accessed on September 23, 2014).

65 Christopher Morris, “Navy Ultra’s Poor Relations,” in Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park, ed. Francis Harry Hinsley and Alan Stripp (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 231–46, at 242.

66 Oliver Leistert and Theo Röhle, “Identifizieren, Verbinden, Verkaufen: Einleitendes zur Maschine Facebook, ihren Konsequenzen und den Beiträgen in diesem Band,” in Generation Facebook: Über das Leben im Social Net, ed. Leistert and Röhle (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2011), 7–30, at 14.

67 Essam Mansour, “The Role of Social Networking Sites (SNS) in the January 25th Revolution in Egypt,” Library Review 61 (2012), 128–59, at 148.

68 Philip N. Howard et al., “Opening Closed Regimes: What Was the Role of Social Media During the Arab Spring?” Project on Information Technology and Political Islam (January 2011), 3: (accessed on September 23, 2014).

69 See Julian Assange, Cyberpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet (New York: OR Books, 2012).

70 On the history of generals being fascinated with graphs, see also Kittler, “The City is a Medium,” 719.

71 Regarding the North African groups who were using social media, see Howard et al., “Opening Closed Regimes,” 2: “[S]ocial media was used heavily to conduct political conversations by a key demographic group in the revolution – young, urban, relatively well-educated individuals, many of whom were women. Both before and during the revolutions, these individuals used Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to put pressure on their governments.”

72 See the website (accessed on September 23, 2014); and Ferguson, “Plowing the Human Terrain,” 117–22.

73 On the notion of counterscience, see Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Pantheon, 1970), 380. In this regard, structural anthropology found itself in a relatively comfortable position. It emerged as a discipline at the very moment of decolonization and thus evaded the suspicions of colonial complicity that were faced by other branches of anthropology. Of course, structural anthropology also relied extensively on the anthropological studies that had been conducted before its time.

74 See Christoph Engemann, “Write Me Down, Make Me Real: Zur Gouvernemedialität der digitalen Identität,” in Quoten, Kurven und Profile: Zur Vermessung der Gesellschaft, ed. Jan-Hendrik Passoth and Josef Wehner (Wiesbaden: Springer, 2012), 205–27.

75 Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–1978, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

76 See Christoph Engemann, “Verteiltes Überleben: Paul Barans Antwort auf die atomare Bedrohung,” in Überleben: Historische und aktuelle Konstellationen, ed. Falko Schmieder (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2010), 381–93.

77 See Bernhard Siegert, Passagiere und Papiere: Schreibakte auf der Schwelle zwischen Spanien und Amerika (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2006); and idem, Passage des Digitalen: Zeichenpraktiken der neuzeitlichen Wissenschaft, 1500–1900 (Berlin: Brinkmann & Bose, 2003).

78 For historical discussions of authoritative media, see Bernhard Siegert’s works on the genealogy of measuring instruments and Cornelia Vismann’s contributions on the mediality of the law: Siegert, Passage des Digitalen; idem, “The Map Is the Territory,” Radical Philosophy 169 (2011), 13–16; and Cornelia Vismann, Files: Law and Media Technology, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008).

79 Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, trans. G. L. Ulmen (New York: Telos, 2003), 70.

80 Ibid., 81.

81 Mary Meeker and Liang Wu, “Key Internet Trends” (May 2013), (accessed on September 23, 2014).

82 Robb, Brave New War, 95.

83 Alexander Pschera, 800 Millionen: Apologie der sozialen Medien (Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2011), 106.

84 Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth, 88.

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Deutsch, Englisch, Französisch

Christoph Engemann

studierte Psychologie an der Universität Bremen. 2005 nahm er am Doctoral Summer School of the Oxford Internet Institute teil, 2011 war er Mitglied der Weimar-Princeton Summer School for Media Studie. Derzeit promoviert er zum Thema »Der Citoyen des Electronic Government« an der Graduate School of Social Sciences Universität Bremen.

Weitere Texte von Christoph Engemann bei DIAPHANES
Inge Baxmann (Hg.), Timon Beyes (Hg.), ...: Social Media—New Masses

Mass gatherings and the positive or negative phantasms of the masses instigate various discourses and practices of social control, communication, and community formation. Yet the masses are not what they once were. In light of the algorithmic analysis of mass data, the diagnosis of dispersed public spheres in the age of digital media, and new conceptions of the masses such as swarms, flash mobs, and multitudes, the emergence, functions, and effects of today’s digital masses need to be examined and discussed anew. They provide us, moreover, with an opportunity to reevaluate the cultural and medial historiography of the masses. The present volume outlines the contours of this new field of research and brings together a collection of studies that analyze the differences between the new and former masses, their distinct media-technical conditions, and the political consequences of current mass phenomena.