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Biography

Alicia researches how we shape — and are shaped — by a changing information space. With more than a decade of experience in researching and analysing the information environment, focusing on propaganda and information warfare, Alicia conducts content and network analysis, and has developed original models for identifying and analysing digital propaganda campaigns. Alicia applies this learning to support government, military and major tech companies to develop policies and integrate information activities into training programs that better reflect how the information environment is manipulated.  She has shared her work and insights with senior government, military, industry leaders and academic experts at Wilton Park, the Munich Security Conference, the Hedayah Centre, NATO’s ARRC and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Alicia’s work has been featured in the CBC, Forbes, and The Strategy Bridge.

Research Interests 

Information warfare, information, propaganda

Thesis Title

Information Ecology: Using Physical Ecology to Understand Information Struggle

Abstract

This research explores the issue of information struggle or the competition between conflict actors to either control information or influence audiences within an information ecosystem. In so doing, this work borrows from biology, specifically physical ecology, to reconceptualize the information environment. The emerging concept of information ecology put forward by this work will then be tested through case studies to prove its merit. The research is based on a key hypothesis that different types of information ecosystems are more susceptible to different types of information disturbances that conflict actors use to their advantage as part of information struggle. This work draws on scientific approaches to understand the information environment in an attempt to encourage consilience, or the bridging of science and the humanities, specifically on the topic of information. Physical ecology is the study of “the relationships among organisms and the physical environment.” Similarly, an information ecology studies the relationships between organisms, manifest through exchanges of information, within a specific and complex environment shaped by various factors. In using case studies to test the concept of information ecology, this research will draw on analytical methods from physical ecology to categorise information ecosystems, identifying information disturbances, and exploring how conflict actors engage in information struggle. As a final layer of analysis this work will test the original hypothesis that different types of information ecosystems are more susceptible to different types of information disturbances that conflict actors use to their advantage as part of influence operations by looking for patterns in the data generated in the first steps. This work will ultimately answer the question of how physical ecology can be applied to better understand the information environment?

Supervisors:

Dr. David Betz (primary), Dr. Ofer Fridman (secondary)

Publications

  • Wanless A, Berk M (2019, In Press) The Audience is the Amplifier: Participatory Propaganda. In P Baines, N O’Shaughnessy & N Snow (Eds.),The SAGE Handbook of Propaganda. Sage: London
  • Berk M, Wanless A (2018) Preparing for Strategic Communication Blowback: A Case Study of the White Helmets. Shrivenham; Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, UK Ministry of Defence.
  • Briant E, Wanless A, (2018) A Digital Ménage à Trois: Strategic Leaks, Propaganda and Journalism. In. C Bjola & J Pamment (Eds.), Countering Online Propaganda and Violent Extremism: The Dark Side of Digital Diplomacy. Oxford: Routledge
  • Esteve Del Valle M, Wanless-Berk A, Gruzd A, Mai P, (2018) I Click, Therefore I am: Predicting Clicktivist-like Actions on Candidates’ Facebook Posts During the 2016 U.S. Primary Election. In Emerald Studies in Media and Communication. Vol 17
  • Esteve Del Valle M, Wanless-Berk A, Gruzd A, Mai P, (2018) Unpredictably Trump? Predicting Clicktivist-like Actions on Trump’s Facebook Posts During the 2016 U.S. Primary Election. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Social Media & Society (#SMSociety’18). ACM, New York, NY, USA