Sending a Message: The Primacy of Action as Communication in Cybersecurity

Ben O'Loughlin, Alexi Drew

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Action is the primary form of communication in the domain of cybersecurity. Consider Russia attacking Georgia, Estonia, Ukraine; Stuxnet; US-China operations; even Islamic State until their recent defeats. All show actors acting first, legitimising through communication later. Despite much focus on actors using strategic narratives to articulate their vision of the past, present and future of international security, our analysis of a range of cases indicates that narratives are post-hoc and reactive to decisive actions. We propose research should address the aesthetics of these actions, the effectiveness of the persuasion or securitisation of those seeking to frame the internet as a space of war on elite and public opinion, and the need for a mapping of the global architecture of cybersecurity. Since communication is at the heart of these questions, scholars of digital politics are uniquely advantaged to build compelling explanations of interactions in the cybersecurity domain.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Research Agenda for Digital Politics
EditorsWilliam Dutton
PublisherEdward Elgar
ISBN (Electronic)978 1 78990 308 9
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2020

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