profile picture

Hybrid warfare and a plan to safeguard societies

Work packages

WP1: Language of Threats (Gjørv, Janda, Fidler)

WP1 combines social science and linguistic scholarship. A detailed literature review in hybrid warfare will be carried out, examining the trajectory of threat posturing emanating from different national sources, assessing how the term “hybrid warfare” became popularized and in which literature, how hybrid warfare has been represented across different national contexts (including Russian and Norwegian), and providing an initial assessment of dominant terminology in the literature (Norwegian, Russian, and English). WP1 accesses the largest comparable reference corpora with linguistic tagging that supports Keyword/Keymorph analysis. The Aranea Family of Gigaword Web Corpora contains a Russian corpus, and Aranea leader Benko has constructed a Norwegian web corpus for the project with both bokmål and nynorsk varieties. UiT houses the KORP corpus of North Saami, with full automatic tagging. WP1 develops “seed” vocabularies of words and collocations that are symptomatic of news articles/broadcasts that highlight threats. Seed vocabularies for each language will be enhanced by computational means such as the use of semantic vectors and word embeddings, as well as search engines that extract collocations, cf. Araneum functions and Collocations Colligations Corpora for Russian. Threat vocabularies are enhanced by a feedback loop from text analysis in WP2.

WP2: Threat Text Analysis (Nesset & Cvrček)

Seed vocabularies for Russian, Norwegian, and North Saami developed in WP1 supply search terms for the extraction of target texts and ensure that THREAT-DEFUSER will collect substantial samples of news from online newspapers, TV broadcasts, and podcasts that comprehensively reflect the landscape of threat-related discourse in each language. Russian TV broadcasts are currently captured by the UCLA NewsScape Library and publicly available for research. NewsScape capture includes closed caption texts that can be harvested for input into R and other analytical software. This capture now includes Russian pro-government channels (Pervyj, NTV, TVC). A capture station for Norwegian TV news will be set up and maintained at UiT and archived in NewsScape; we will attempt to set up capture also for the Russian opposition TV channel Dožd’. Newspaper, radio and other Internet portals will include an extensive range of options, such as mainstream (Aftenposten, NRK) and right-wing (Resett, Document) in Norwegian and North Saami (Ávvir, NRK-Sápmi); and opposition (Novaja gazeta, Vedomosti, Èxo Moskvy) and foreign (Radio Liberty, BBC Russian) in Russian.

THREAT-DEFUSER will develop Keyword/Keymorph analysis for Russian, Norwegian and North Saami by significantly enhancing the existing KWords application hosted at the Czech National Corpus portal, improving robustness of the application, and adding language-specific settings. These improvements will consider copyright and other legislative restrictions in order to maintain free and unrestricted access to the tool for all users. With Keyword/Keymorph analysis for each language in place, we proceed to in-depth investigation of target text deviations from reference corpora in terms of both words and meaning-bearing grammatical categories. Here THREAT-DEFUSER reveals differential linguistic behavior that may be indicative of ideological slants and makes comparisons across media sources and languages.

WP3: Media Connectivity (Pötzsch & Šlerka)

WP3 will critically interrogate the interface between civilian and media agency, and devise concrete strategies for communication, verification, and de-escalation with regard to perceived threats. These communication strategies will be simultaneously shared and tested with the other WPs. The spectrum of media sources in Norway and Russia and their audiences are probed for connectivity, tracked in terms of social media likes of news posts and measured in terms of Normalized Social Distance (Šlerka & Šisler 2017); Šlerka provides knowledge transfer to apply also to Russian social media (VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, moj mir). Media maps for each country are constructed and groupings of media sources are classified. In addition, this WP addresses processes and practices of escalation and radicalization in an extended security paradigm by investigating the intersecting dynamics of new media technologies (in particular social media and digital networks) and the mediation of perceived threats through populism and extremism. WP3 investigates the relationships between increasing global trends in populism and various expressions of agency through extremism in response to perceived threats. Relying on intersectional analysis (closely connected to feminist/gender analysis) we can better contextualize and understand the technological, economic, cultural, societal, and political patterns of support and restraint predisposing civilians’ cognition and actions in encounters with perceptions of invisible threats. Addressing the role of civilians in contemporary media-fueled affective (emotional) politics in Western democracies, WP3 employs theories of trust and civilian capabilities/agency (informed by intersectional analysis) to understand the politicized roles of civilians in emerging crisis scenarios, with a particular focus on the role of media technologies, institutions, and practices in creating/maintaining/destabilizing environments that foster populism, and further various forms of extremism.

WP4: Synthesis (Gjørv & Trosterud)

Results from WP1-3 come together in comparisons across languages, countries, and media, exposing trends and differences. Political implications are identified, and strategies are developed to address gaps in knowledge. Discourse analyses of central texts addressing hybrid threats (in Russian, Norwegian/North Saami, and English) will be conducted and triangulated with results from WP2 and 3 which will result in a multiple trajectory (quantitative and qualitative) knowledge base of key threat-oriented language used in various media. This knowledge base will serve as the foundation for WP5 and creation of the NewsRadar plug-in. WP 4 will use qualitative methods (surveys, participant observation, interviews) to gather data on how individuals in Norway, Sápmi, and NW-Russia actually receive, negotiate, and potentially repurpose or subvert allegedly radicalizing content disseminated in and through digital networks. This shift of focus on media practices takes seriously the agency of individual citizens and will help identify various machinic agencies interacting and interfering with human users. The WP will produce qualitative data sets on actual behavior with which assembled quantitative data sets on abstracted aggregates can be correlated to control for validity and reduce biases caused by selection of sources and other factors.

WP5: Policy & Impact (Bast & Cullen)

Results from WP1-4 feed production of a webpage, podcast series, and policy advisories that disseminate results to the public and to policy makers. A component of WP5 will be to set up a sustainable model to assure that the website remains operative also beyond the end of the project. Additionally, the NewsRadar app/plug-in will be developed in Norwegian and Russian to break the “filter bubbles” by rating news media and offering alternative views classed according to results in WP4. This WP intertwines with the previous WPs, specifically targeting core stakeholders and potential end-users regarding current perceptions of invisible threats and how to manage these in a highly information-driven, digital-oriented/dependent society like Norway. In addition to connecting to stakeholders/end-users (business, NGOs/civil society organizations, unions, political parties, etc.) and establishing preliminary attitudes and perceptions amongst these actors, WP5 establishes an open debate/seminar forum for these and other relevant participants. The WP cooperates with UTSYN, an organization well connected to central, interested authorities (particularly within the foreign and defence policy communities), ensuring the visibility of THREAT-DEFUSER research and results to both policy actors and civil society. Debate/seminar results will be shared regularly with project partners, while WP5 will also ensure that academic publications will be regularly disseminated to general audiences through media outlets including editorials and commentaries. WP5 will manage all dissemination output, ensuring visibility as research is published. It will also manage inputs and responses, monitoring feedback by stakeholders and the general public to the ongoing research.