Twenty-first Century Diffusion Patterns: How Military Innovation Spreads Among Non-State Armed Groups
Abstract: The following study examines the changing nature of innovation
diffusion, specifically how military innovation used by non-state armed groups has diffused
in the Internet era. Innovation diffusion is the process by which innovation spreads from
one actor to the network of adopters. Remarkably, the pattern in which innovations diffuse
has remained constant, even as communications tech... read morenology rapidly advanced the speed at
which information travels over the last century. The question that this study addresses is
whether, in the Internet era, long-standing innovation diffusion patterns have now changed.
The crux of the question is whether innovations are transferred between actors that share
no social networks. To answer this question, a qualitative cross-case method was used to
compare a military innovation that took place before the Internet era and one that took
place in the Internet era. The spread of each innovation was traced to determine the
overall diffusion pattern. The two patterns were then compared to determine if diffusion
patterns in the Internet era are any different than longstanding pre-Internet era patterns.
The first case focused on an innovation that occurred in the pre-Internet era to confirm
that the diffusion pattern described in the literature also applies to non-state armed
group military innovations. The case found that the innovation, suicide bombing
(1981-2000), diffused between actors that shared a social network in 11/12 instances,
confirming that traditional diffusion patterns apply to non-state armed group military
innovation. The second case examined the diffusion of seven different improvised explosive
devices (IEDs) during the Iraq War (2003-2011). Each device is a separate non-state armed
group innovation. Mapping this proliferation revealed a surprising variation: the less
complex devices spread in a new pattern, jumping across both social networks and geography.
The more complex devices however diffused in a traditional pattern, staying within social
networks. The overall finding of this study is that in the Internet era, innovation
diffusion patterns have not been constant as they had been in previous eras. In the case of
non-state armed group military innovation, simple devices diffused in a new pattern,
transferring with less regard for social network.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2016.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisor: Robert Pfaltzgraff.
Committee: Richard Shultz, William Martel, and Rockford Weitz.
Keywords: International relations, and Political science.read less