The Kalashnikovs of the information war: Mobile phones and communication rules of the Eastern Ukrainian frontline

Sat9  Apr02:10pm(10 mins)
Where:
Teaching Room 6
Presenter:

Authors

Roman Horbyk

Discussion

The annexation of Crimea and war in Donbas has sent ripples around Europe since 2014, leading to a new interest in information warfare. There has particularly been evidence of unconventional use of mobile phones by the combatants. But how exactly mobile communication becomes integrated with warfare? In this paper, I focus on patterns of mobile phone use on the frontline in Eastern Ukraine. Based on qualitative in-depth semi-structured interviews with Ukrainian soldiers, I present a typology for the frontline use of mobiles in the spirit of actor-network theory. A variety of personal purposes, such as private communication and entertainment, are combined in the same device with wiretapping, fire targeting, minefield mapping, and combat communication that surprisingly supplants old or unavailable equipment and fills gaps in military infrastructure. This suggests that mobile phones have become weaponised and at the same time contributed to the hybridisation of the military and the intimate, and of war and peace. These results imply the role of mobiles as a mediated extension of battlefield and a need to review the very definition of what constitutes weapon as a tool of combat.

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