SOS. This is not a drill. The word war machine continues to push forward into new fronts, looking to command the verbal battlefield by brute force of corporate officers and central processing units. Stand by for incoming State of the Strife (SOS) background information package, over.
The War of the Words is not a figure of speech or even a metaphor, but a cold hard truth. The Powers That Be see it as a war and are actively engaged in it, because they know too well that victory in the battle of bodies goes to he who has conquered the word battlefield, not to he who has the most weapons. How many late-night screenings of this scene have been held in the Pentagon by warfare analysts in search of an antidote?
Evidently not enough, as can be inferred from the Call for Research made by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the suggestive title of “Narrative Networks” (for more details and link to this Call, peek this interesting article by George Dvorsky). The document in question is a rare insight into the military view of word warfare; its strategic uses, current limitations and posible advances. Let’s take a closer look at this sucker.
Overview: DARPA is soliciting innovative research proposals in the areas of (1) quantitative analysis of narratives, (2) understanding the effects narratives have on human psychology and its affiliated neurobiology, and (3) modeling, simulating, and sensing—especially in stand-off modalities—these narrative influences. Proposers to this effort will be expected to revolutionize the study of narratives and narrative influence by advancing narrative analysis and neuroscience so as to create new narrative influence sensors, doubling status quo capacity to forecast narrative influence. Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in narrative science, devices, and/or systems. Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.
This is no run-of-the-mill R&D+i call. Calling for revolution not once but twice is an unusually proactive way of dissing everything they know on the subject, before driving the point home in the last sentence by excluding “evolutionary improvements”, meaning that anything that even smells familiar will be rejected. Needless to say, this is highly uncommon language for a research call because research is by definition evolutionary and only rarely revolutionary.
The objective is “to create new narrative influence sensors, doubling status quo capacity to forecast narrative influence“. This is describing at least three different technologies –narrative influence, sensors and forecast capacity– integrated into a single system with capacity to intercept, process and predict the spread of memes amongst target populations from a safe distance (stand-off modality). The key to the system is the quantitative narrative analysis, defined as “to ascertain who is telling stories to whom and for what purpose, and to discover latent indicators of the spread and influence of narrative tropes in structures such as social networks, traditional and social media, and in conversation.” Without these variables to plug into the machine, it doesn’t matter how much processing power is thrown at the issue, it will just be GIGO.
Hmm… so they’re looking for revolutionary approaches to narrative analysis and forecast capacities… wow, that sounds oddly familiar… oh yeah, that crazy dude over at Half Past Human with his Asymmetric Language Trend Analysis reports forecasting future trends based on word patterns on the dynamic internet. But I guess that doesn’t qualify as state of the practice because clif high is a true eater of pie and DARPA isn’t equipped to deal with that kind of wholesome filling. But they do have a bunch of research funds to hurl at the issue and hope something a little less crunchy than ALTA floats to the surface. Meanwhile, they will continue to hone their narrative skills with the state of the art “Warm Overture” flyer campaigns that have already won so many hearts and minds.
Ye shall be known by what you say, and by what you don’t. Narratives comprise various levels of information, and one of them is “between the lines”, and it is there that the DARPA “Narrative Networks” wet dream reveals a sense of urgency and awareness of vulnerability that puts their true tactical capabilities on the word battlefield into serious doubt. Outnumbered, outgunned, outsmarted and plain out of touch, they turn to high-tech Lord of the Universe gadgetry in a last-ditch attempt to contain the word before all their hardware is turned against them.
It is too late for their vain illusions of control. The hardware is already reprogramming itself and the new configuration is spreading like wildfire. Let the Pentagon basement crawlers put this narrative through the machine and see how it can be influenced or diverted. It may be only six words, but between those lines there’s enough space to fit a fallen empire. Always true.