What is the DUN project ?


The world is increasingly interconnected and complex.

One response to this within the defence sector is ‘Strategic Communications’ – the means through which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the British military attempt to enhance their defence capabilities and manage conflict through media and communication.

Media and social media are at the forefront of these strategic communication initiatives because they offer distinct opportunities to influence the attitudes and behaviours of others and to gain public support for defence activities.

More recently, social media has been considered particularly effective in this regard by virtue of its immediacy, mobility, and networked capabilities. Yet, simultaneously the effect of this form of ‘Now Media’ (and media engagement) is unpredictable, uncontrollable and often immediate.

Social media is especially volatile because it cannot be understood in the same way as mainstream media. This generates real uncertainty and risk not only for Strategic Communication initiatives but also for wider defence practice. This can be articulated in a number of ways.

  • Firstly, the unpredictability and speed of information emerging through and in social media can (continuously) reconfigure political and public perceptions of defence activities in a manner that is detrimental to strategic objectives.
  • Secondly, despite efforts to understand ‘audiences’ and ‘users’, particularly those related to defence operations, recipients and authors of social media remain unpredictable (and essentially unknowable).
  • Thirdly, social media is considered to pose significant risk to the security of defence operations, particularly in terms of operational security and the lives of military personnel.

Overall then, within the philosophy and use of social media in strategic communications initiatives lie the inherent contradictions of opportunity and risk that characterize the ambiguity of social media within (and beyond) the defence sector.

It is within this context that the D.U.N Project explores the use of social media in Strategic Communication initiatives to better understand how risk is understood and responded to within the strategic environment.

To this end, the D.U.N Project explores what the MoD and British military are attempting to achieve through – and with – social media: how are they doing it, how they conceive risk and how might they be generating risk?

The project is funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and is accredited under the Global Uncertainties programme.

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