When major events surprise the national security world, the first question that’s usually asked is why didn’t anyone see it coming? Whether it’s the terrorist attacks of the 9/11, or more recently, the Arab Spring, policymakers are often left to look for clues only after events have taken place.
In recent years, however, the Pentagon and intelligence community have begun turning to an emerging field of research that draws heavily on new sources of information, such as social media, and uses new computational tools, such as social network analysis.
Just as economists and computer scientists are turning to sites like Twitter and Facebook to help predict stock prices and movie ticket sales, the national security community is looking to social media – and social network analysis – to help forecast critical events, ranging from political protests to terrorist attacks.
This Medill National Security Journalism Initiative project is the result of six months of research and reporting on this field, which we call War 2.0. The final website presents a database of companies, agencies, and universities involved in War 2.0, as well as interviews, history, and explanations. It’s designed to provide journalists interested in this field background for further reporting.