Information friction : information technology and military performance
Author(s)Lindsay, Jon Randall
Information technology and military performance
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Barry R. Posen.
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Militaries have long been eager to adopt the latest technology (IT) in a quest to improve knowledge of and control over the battlefield. At the same time, uncertainty and confusion have remained prominent in actual experience of war. IT usage sometimes improves knowledge, but it sometimes contributes to tactical blunders and misplaced hubris. As militaries invest intensively in IT, they also tend to develop larger headquarters staffs, depend more heavily on planning and intelligence, and employ a larger percentage of personnel in knowledge work rather than physical combat. Both optimists and pessimists about the so-called "revolution in military affairs" have tended to overlook the ways in which IT is profoundly and ambiguously embedded in everyday organizational life. Technocrats embrace IT to "lift the fog of war," but IT often becomes a source of breakdowns, misperception, and politicization. To describe the conditions under which IT usage improves or degrades organizational performance, this dissertation develops the notion of information friction, an aggregate measure of the intensity of organizational struggle to coordinate IT with the operational environment. It articulates hypotheses about how the structure of the external battlefield, internal bureaucratic politics, and patterns of human-computer interaction can either exacerbate or relieve friction, which thus degrades or improves performance. Technological determinism alone cannot account for the increasing complexity and variable performances of information phenomena. Information friction theory is empirically grounded in a participant-observation study of U.S. special operations in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. To test the external validity of insights gained through fieldwork in Iraq, an historical study of the 1940 Battle of Britain examines IT usage in a totally different structural, organizational, and technological context.(cont.) These paired cases show that high information friction, and thus degraded performance, can arise with sophisticated IT, while lower friction and impressive performance can occur with far less sophisticated networks. The social context, not just the quality of technology, makes all the difference. Many shorter examples from recent military history are included to illustrate concepts. This project should be of broad interest to students of organizational knowledge, IT, and military effectiveness.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Political Science, 2011.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. 519-544).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology