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Militarization 2.0: Militarization´s Social Media Footprint through a Gendered Lens

As part of Vetenskapsrådet's Digitized Society - Past, Present and Future framework grants, the Militarization 2.0 project brings together national and international expertise in International Relations (IR) and the study of new media to focus on when and how new media, in particular the new social media of "Web 2.0," is militarized and with what effect on society and our understanding of ourselves as individual citizens.

International Relations (IR) and new media studies are for the most part isolated from each other. This lack of integration is a serious research gap and leaves us unable to comprehend how new media affects the conditions for global politics. Overall, IR as a discipline has little curiosity, and thus limited knowledge, about the importance of social media in general and in particular regarding militarization. Although there is a growing body of literature on the impact of social media on politics, such as the social and political movements in different contexts, the majority of these studies are outside IR as a research field, and few touch on the importance of gender on new (social) media.

Since national security usually is defined as military security, militarization becomes a central feature of International Relations. A key assumption underlying militarization is that militarization is good, natural and necessary. It is this assumption that allows people to participate uncritically without questioning militarization. Militarization is inherently gendered, in part because the process promotes the military, a hegemonic masculine institution, and its perceived needs as valuable and normal. This type of assigned value is part of the hierarchy of gender power relations that assigns positive perceptions to that which is assigned masculinity.

The existence of the arms and military services industry, which is often taken for granted, is generally either ignored or encouraged and is constructed as good, natural and necessary. When the arms industry or its supporters post user generated content that glorifies masculine ideals on various Internet forums, for instance in the form of promotional materials and in military video games, they send signals at the same time on the characteristics and values that should be privileged. These signals are part of the broader gender discourse. Users of social media are thus part of the militarization because they can help to maintain the assumption of the arms industry as good, natural and necessary with the help of images and language that value military, masculine principles.

In this study, we will expose the gendered valuing of both militarization and new social media to contribute to our understanding of the importance of gender and social media for IR as a field of research. By focusing on arms-producing companies, private military and security companies and the producers of "military entertainment" this project is designed to enable the exchange of expertise and knowledge, and develop detailed analyses of these companies' operations and their social impact through a common framework of content and discourse analysis of both production and reception (i.e., of both militarized content and answers to how content is captured in social media).

Through a variety of analyses, we problematize the study of the arms and military services industry and military videogame industry , the role of gender, how social media can perpetuate militaristic values and social media's contribution to these values. On this basis, the project focuses on examining representations of these militarized industries in the form of images and language used by the producers and recipients of social media.

Project Members

Dr. Jutta Joachim

Funding

Swedish Research Council

Duration

2012 - 2016