I’ve been fascinated by the struggles with, and now the apparent embrace of, social media by the U.S. Armed Forces. When I first saw that the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs was tweeting, it signaled the military’s shift towards strategically harnessing new media to advance the Armed Forces public affairs goals and “compete in an evolving global messaging space”. And lest you assume that Admiral Mullen just tweets what he had for lunch, his social media strategy clearly outlines his goals to engage and expand audiences. (Incidentally, in addition to following who you’d expect, such as his wife and President Obama, Admiral Mullen also follows The Economist, Oprah, Thomas Friedman, Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulus, and UNHCR).
Below are a couple of examples of the military’s web presence in the 21st C. network. Of course, while providing useful information for servicemembers, their families, researchers, students, and the general public, they are also public relations outlets. But in our rich information landscape, that’s true of many “authoritative sources” (all the more reason for teaching critical thinking about information):
Department of Defense Social Media Hub
“Designed to help the DoD community use social media and other internet-based capabilities to share responsibly and effectively, both in official and unofficial capacities.” See especially their “How To” guides, which explain the basics of various 2.0 tools, and highlights examples of how servicemembers are using social media.
Head over the the ‘shows’ section to browse the wide range of video and audio broadcasting available online, including “This Week in the Pentagon” and the American Forces Press service weekly podcast for military news; “Battleground”, featuring historic films from past wars; and “Downrange”, a newscast from Iraq and Afghanistan. On the lighter side, check out “The Grill Sergeants“, a cooking show featuring top chefs in the military, and “Fit for Duty: Pilates” for a good workout.
Information as Power, U.S. Army War College
To learn more about these practices in the context of security issues, check out this electronic library of academic work by and for the U.S. Army related to information as an element of national power. You’ll find publications such as “Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter”, “Information Operations as a Deterrent to Armed Conflict”, and “War in the Information Age”.