The University of UtahU of U Campus Organization

The Project

Funded by a grant from the College of Humanities at the University of Utah, Project CyW-D is dedicated to monitoring and documenting the shifting public policy discourses associated with “cyberwar” in the United States. Though problems associated with web security date back to the 1980s, in the last three years, several high-profile “cyber attack” incidents have focused media and policymaker attention on “cybersecurity” even more sharply than before. Prospective cyber-threats include threats to critical infrastructures via deliberate acts of “cyberwar” or “cyberterror,” as well as terrorist use of the Internet for fundraising, recruiting, and organizing. Though debates are still raging over the subjects, objects, methods, and potential impacts of cyber-threats — who threatens what, how, and with what impact? — “cybersecurity” has nonetheless become a billion dollar industry.

Thus, the overall goal of Project CyW-D is to monitor and document shifts in U.S. cyberwar discourse, in particular shifts in prospective subjects, objects, methods, and impacts of the cyber-threats identified by prominent policymakers, national security professionals, scholars, and journalists. By doing so, we intend

  1. to provide policy makers, journalists, and citizens with a reliable record of the evolution of the cyberwar discourse;
  2. to provide other researchers with finished essays and primary research materials; and
  3. to explore the development of digital workflows that will allow scholars in the humanities to monitor and engage public discourse online by using the web as a platform for collaboratively collecting and analyzing data, creating both traditional and digital research products, and disseminating those products among fellow scholars and the public

The People

Sean Lawson is Assistant Professor of New Media in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2008 with a dissertation titled, “ Nonlinear Science and the Emergence of Information Age Warfare in the United States Military.” His research focuses on the relationships among science, technology, and the development of military theory and discourse, in particular the intersections of national security and military thought with new media, information, and communication technologies. Specific research topics include the use of nonlinear science-based metaphors in the construction of theories and doctrines of information-age warfare; “milblogging” and military use of social media; and discourses of “cybersecurity” and “cyberwar.” He has three articles forthcoming on these subjects, one each in the journals Social Studies of Science, Cold War History, and Security Dialogue, as well as a forthcoming Working Paper on cybersecurity discourse for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. In addition to academic work on these subjects, he is a contributor to the security blog, “The Firewall.”

Robert W. Gehl is Assistant Professor of New Media in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. He completed his doctoral work in May of 2010, receiving a PhD in Cultural Studies at George Mason University. His dissertation, chaired by Hugh Gusterson (Anthropology and Cultural Studies), combined science and technology studies and political economy to examine “Web 2.0” as a discursive and material object. Gehl has published a critical study of YouTube in the International Journal of Cultural Studies, and has forthcoming articles in New Media and Society and Television and New Media, both drawn from his dissertation. He has revised his dissertation into a book manuscript, which is currently under review at the University of Minnesota Press. Besides this research, he is interested in the cultural politics of computers and software, as well as Digital Humanities.

Gina Bacon is a Master’s student in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. Her Master’s project involves creating a web resource of materials related to public discourse about cybersecurity, including a timeline of cyberattack incidents, that can be used by educators, researchers, policy makers, and interested individuals to bring themselves up to speed on these important issues.

George F. McHendry, Jr. is a doctoral student in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. He received his M.A. in Speech Communication from Colorado State University in 2008. His research bridges contemporary rhetorical theory and cultural studies to explore the performative and discursive aspects of contemporary resistance movements. McHendry’s current research looks at the negotiation of bodies and policies in TSA screening procedures at airport checkpoints.