Georgia State University

Georgia State University



Protecting the Bazaar: The Ecology of Cybersecurity in Weakly Fortified Networks

Cyber-security While policy interest and empirical research on cyber-attacks have both increased substantially in recent years, very little of this attention has been focused on the local ecology of actively operating computer systems and virtually no research has involved active collaboration between computer security experts and social and behavioral scientists. An ecological perspective provides an ideal framework for conceptualizing an interdisciplinary problem like cybercrime because it begins with the assumption that security solutions may be affected by the interconnected behavior of users, offenders and IT managers operating within computer environments.

Here, we contrast computer fortresses—those having controlled access and sometimes elaborate security systems—with computer bazaars—weakly fortified systems where a wide variety of users engage in a range of activities with minimal security in largely unregulated settings. Focusing on a bazaar computing environment, the proposed research represents a collaboration between criminologists, psychologists, and computer security experts that evaluates criminological theories within cyberspace using, in addition to survey data and experimental design, detailed network and target computer data drawn from the real time operation of an organization network

The overarching goal of this research is to study the ecology of cyber security in a bazaar computing environment and to derive from the study human-based security solutions. Our efforts to understand the ecology of cybercrime will in turn be informed by three influential crime theories: we will rely especially on rational choice theories for understanding offender-hackers; routine activities theories for understanding victim-users; and situational theories for understanding the computing environment in which these two agents interact. A major strength of this proposal is the unique support we have from the Information Technology office of a major research university computing system. This program of research is supported by the National Science Foundation (David Maimon, PI at University of Maryland). (2012-2014)

Advanced Weapons Usage and Their Potential Differential Impact on Trust, Influence, Public Opinion: A Critical Examination of Behavioral and Psychological Outcomes

Advanced Weapons Usage Advanced Weapons Usage How do the unique technological characteristics and media framings of advanced weaponry influence the actions of violent non-state actors (VNSAs) and public attitudes about their use? At present, we know very little about this issue. Most military literature argues that technologically advanced weapons not only provide increased accuracy and lethality, they also provide a psychological advantage against a less technologically sophisticated adversary’s armed forces. However, when it comes to intrastate conflicts or counterinsurgency operations, the predominant argument is that technologically advanced weapons contribute to greater increases in the adversary’s hostility levels than do low-tech weapons. Neither of these perspectives factors in the possible impact of advanced nonlethal weapons. Advanced weapons may present an increased perception of threat or cause the local population to feel humiliated, which may vary significantly across cultures. For example, the military's use of unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV) has been criticized as a tactic by the United States to develop technologies that respond to political grievances with overwhelming force while avoiding direct combat or engaging in meaningful political dialogues. Although these arguments exist in popular discussions, extant theoretically-informed empirical research has not addressed whether, and under what conditions, advanced weapons influence public attitudes and behaviors.

General (Corresponding) PI, Technical POC: Victor Asal
Co-PI (Experimental Team Lead): Anthony Lemieux
Co-PIs: Michal Findley, Amanda Murdie, James Walsh, Joseph Young, Michael Young, Shawn Powers, Carol Winkler
This proposal is currently under review. Anticipated start date, October 2013.

Analysis of Videos Found in Possession of Individual Prosecuted for Terrorism in the United States: 2001-2011

Analysis of Videos Recognizing that half of U.S. court cases reference videos in the possession of those prosecuted for terrorism since September 11, 2001, this study analyzes the videos identified in court documents or surrounding media coverage of U.S. court cases. It identifies textual, image, and audio strategies to determine recurrent communication patterns in the discourse. To date, the project has focused on the repeated use of the irreparable line of argument to characterize the ummah, the martyr, and the viewer of the video, as well as the identification of image forms that rise to the level of markers of social controversy, with the attendant implications for communication rules for their target audience. The project looks at the strategies targeted to potential recruits, as well as to examine the approaches aimed at the broader Muslim audience. To date, Carol Winkler presented one part of the study as the keynote address at the Alta Argumentation Conference that will be published in Disturbing Argument, edited by Catherine Palczewski in early 2014. Houda Abadi presented another piece as a paper at the same conference which is under review for inclusion in the same volume.

The Civic Approaches to Conflict Resolution Initiative (CACRI)

Civic Approaches Located within the University’s Transcultural Violence and Conflict Initiative, the civic approaches program focuses on developing a multi-stakeholder, public-private consortium, with participation from academic, policy, interfaith, law enforcement and business communities. The goal of the consortium is to investigate ways to foster robust conversations and implement innovative ideas for rebuilding and strengthening the civic institutions that hold communities together in difficult times.

Current research is supported by the British Council and U.S. Institute of Peace and focuses on how religious authorities, institutions and local networks provide solutions to the shared global challenges of social conflict and political violence. In April 2013, the group organized a high-profile discussion on civic approaches to religious radicalism with South African ambassador Ebrahim Rasool.

In 2013-2014, the Civic Approaches Initiative is working closely with the Carter Center, Royal Holloway-University of London, Oxford University and the World Affairs Council of Atlanta to host a pair of workshop-based dialogues between policy makers and academics on the nuanced role of Muslim institutions in international affairs in the age of ubiquitous, digital communications. The workshops, based in London and Atlanta, will connect thought leaders in policy, academia, and media in order to assess the diverse roles that Muslim institutions play in international affairs. Each workshop will produce papers that will be collected and published in an edited volume.

Investigators: Abbas Barzegar, Shawn Powers

Dilemmas of Transitional Justice in Colombia (with Jennifer McCoy, Georgia State University)

The Colombian government is currently negotiating with the FARC to end five decades of armed insurgency. As they do so, they must address the traditional peace versus justice issues within a new international context demanding higher standards for holding war crimes perpetrators accountable. The Colombian government approved in 2012 a constitutional amendment to provide the legal flexibility to meet its international obligations while also creating incentives for a peace accord: perpetrators could be tried and sentenced in court for war crimes, but then the sentences could be vacated. At the same time, domestically, Colombia faces its own public opinion pressures for retribution/accountability versus peace and reconciliation. Our project takes stock of the ongoing transitional justice debates in Colombia to ask to questions: first, how are stronger international accountability norms affecting attempted peace negotiations in the 21st century and, second, what is the impact of criminal trials and vacated sentences on political prospects for former combatants?

Inspire Magazine: A critical analysis of its significance and potential impact through the lens of the Information, Motivation, and Behavioral Skills model.

Inspire Magazine This project involved an analysis of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s English language publication Inspire that was conceptualized and conducted on the basis of the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills (IMB) framework. The IMB model has been widely tested, validated, and applied across a range of behavior change interventions, and provides both a conceptual and analytic framework to examine the range and quality of content featured across the 11 issues of Inspire that were published and distributed online starting in July of 2010. Inspire has been implicated in multiple instances of terrorism cases in the U.S. and its impact and potential can be analyzed on the extent to which it effectively targets core attitudes, perceptions of social normative support for violence, and its regular featuring of behavioral skills such as bomb making, weapons training, and emphasizing a creative and do-it-yourself ethos.

At present, the paper is in press at Terrorism and Political Violence. Anthony Lemieux is lead author, with TCV fellow Jason Levitt as co-author. (2012-2013)

Multi-City Study of Urban Debate Leagues

Multi-City Study Multi-City Study 2 This project uses propensity score matching to evaluate the impact of urban debate leagues on school engagement by youth living in at-risk communities. The goal of the research is to compare debaters with non-debaters based on matched demographic factors, socio-economic status, academic risk indicators, and academic achievement levels to determine if participation in debate improves cognitive (grade point average and standardized test scores) and behavioral (attendance, disciplinary incidents, suspensions) engagement. The research has been completed in Milwaukee, WI and is ongoing in Boston, MA and Atlanta GA. This research is supported by the Boston Urban Debate League, the Pelham Foundation and the Atlanta Housing Authority. (2011-2014)

Narrating Home and Homelessness in the Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian Refugee Camp

Based on fieldwork conducted in Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp located in the southern suburbs of Beirut during 2003-2006, as well as research conducted in the Red Cross archives in Geneva in 2007, this study examines the ways in which the nation-state hegemonically operates as the narrative frame in Palestinian camp refugee accounts of their home. The manuscript situates this hegemony in two historical processes: the global and local emergence of the nation-state as the sole guarantor of rights on the one hand, and the re-routing and projection of localized senses of belonging to place anchored in particular narratives and practices of kinship onto the abstract space of national territory. The principal investigator on this project is Nadia Latif.

Politics of Nation-Branding and Stigmatization (with Ayse Zarakol, University of Cambridge)

This project builds on our previous work to cast a critical eye on the increasingly popular sovereign practice of “nation-branding.” Although nation-branding has been around for at least a decade as an accepted and expected practice for states, as well as a multi-million dollar business worldwide, the implications of “nation-branding” for international relations have been relatively under analyzed. Our project identifies the origins of the concept of “nation-branding” and then explores political implications of this practice, revealing much about structural normative hierarchies in the international order. The project uses two case studies and the nation-branding database we have generated, and articulates agenda setting questions for future research.

Memento Mori: Practices of Self-Incrimination Online

In May 2013 a YouTube video of a Syrian rebel soldier mutilating the corpse of an opponent soldier went viral. Such self-incriminating documentations of violence are not unique to the Syrian war. Examples of such kinds of documentation include: postcards of lynching in the United States; the photographs taken by U.S. army reservist Lynndie England of the prisoners she tortured in the Abu Ghraib prison. What is different about the Syrian case is the medium though which the documented images were disseminated. A YouTube video can be accessed around the world by anyone with a computer or a smartphone and an internet connection. This paper seeks to examine the imagined and unimagined audiences for whom these violent videos are being produced and digitally disseminated, in order to explore the question of what intended and unintended consequences they may have.

The Long Shadow of Communist Crimes: The Mythologizing of Communist Violence

Yugoslav communism was unique in many ways, most significantly in its departure from Stalinist orthodoxy, its political semi-liberalization, and its profound ideological focus on the supranational Yugoslav identity. The communist regime, however, carried out numerous human rights violations, including political imprisonment and extrajudicial killing. In much of the rest of the post-communist region the decisions on how to properly deal with communist violence were made as part of the larger democratic “transition” and as a declared break with the communist past. In the former Yugoslavia, by contrast, the communist past morphed into ongoing nationalist debates over control of the federal state and the nature of post-Yugoslav succession. The post-communist “transition” in Yugoslavia, therefore, was not a transition to democracy, but a transition to nationalism, war, and violence. Because of this unique feature of Yugoslav post-communism, instead of dealing with legacies of communist crimes as part of a democratic lustration, these crimes became further mythologized, fueling further violence and injustice. This project analyzes this mythologizing process by looking at the way in which communist violence was used for nationalist mobilization in Serbia and Croatia after 1989.

Visual Propaganda and Online Extremism

Visual Propaganda and Online Extremism In 2012, the Transcultural Conflict and Violence Initiative in partnership with the Army War College hosted the Visual Propaganda and Online Extremism conference. The outcome of that meeting was a book-length study of the topic which will be published later this year by the Strategic Studies Institute. The volume, edited by Carol Winkler and Cori Dauber, addressed the following topics: the power of visual imagery, the history of images used in warfare, recurrent visual strategies employed by both foreign and domestic extremist groups, strategies of visual reconciliation in response to offending images circulating online, the impact of logo design in extremist videos, methods for semantic retrieval of images, and theories of audience loyalty. The work on visual images by extremist groups remains an ongoing project in the Transcultural Conflict and Violence group with leadership by Saeid Balkesim for image retrieval and Carol Winkler for image analysis.