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

The Media of Military Anthropology

Christoph Engemann

Human Terrain System
Social Networks and the Media of Military Anthropology

PDF, 26 pages

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...

  • social media
  • sovereignty
  • government technologies
  • warfare
  • Facebook
  • media technique
  • social networks
  • anthropology

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Christoph Engemann

is a media theorist whose interests as a teacher and researcher include digital identity (and its history), e-government and e-health, the genealogy of transaction, rurality, and barns. After holding positions at the University of Bremen, Stanford, the University of Texas at Austin, and the International Research Institute for Cultural Technologies and Media Philosophy in Weimar, he was made an assistant director of the research group Media Cultures of Computer Simulation at the Leuphana University in Lüneburg.
Other texts by Christoph Engemann for DIAPHANES
Inge Baxmann (ed.), Timon Beyes (ed.), ...: 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.