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The Spatial Dynamics of COIN

With all the discussion of the "cultural turn" in U.S. counterinsurgency, I find it interesting that the geoscience of conflict and security continues apace. Two programs in particular caught my attention recently. One is at the Centre for Geospatial Science at the University of Nottingham in the UK. Its website notes several projects that can clearly be connected to the COIN challenge. "Learning and Predicting Spatial Behaviour" is the most intriguing of the Nottingham offerings, written up thus (image from the original site):

Learning and Predicting Spatial Behaviour
Researcher: Jenny Scapens
Supervisors: Mike Jackson

In recent years there has been an increasing demand for applications to enable near real-time or real-time PosTrackRouting_JS.gifdecisions on-the-ground. Additionally there has been an increase in the coverage of accurate and available positioning data, through GPS and other positioning devices. Together these changes have increased the need for movement prediction of individuals in order to ensure that the necessary action can be taken or information supplied at the appropriate time and location.

This research involves the ability to understand, learn and model the spatial behaviour of both groups and individuals. These individual models, together with information regarding the underlying geography and additional input parameters, can be used to predict future movements. The project will build upon existing techniques for learning, modelling and forecasting spatial behaviour, used in areas such as mobile phone networks and traffic volume prediction.

The development of these techniques could benefit a variety of additional situations such as prisoner tagging and intelligent distribution of information to an LBS device.

By far the most spectacular piece of research being done is something called ConflictSpace, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in the US. It's in its early stages of development, and I only just learned of it in a fortuitous discussion with colleague and ConflictSpace Principal Investigator Colin Flint, who's Associate Professor of Geography at UIUC and Director of the Program on Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security (ACDIS). There's a ConflictSpace write-up on a UIUC page for funded proposals. I've pasted it in here:

The Science of ConflictSpace: The Spatial Analysis of Conflict
Principal Investigator: Colin Flint, Geography
Co-Investigators:        Paul Diehl, Political Science
John Vasquez, Political Science
Jurgen Scheffran, ACDIS
Luc Anselin, Geography
Paul Schroeder, History

ConflictSpace will address the question of how conflicts spread from localized disputes to become regional or even global wars. Campus expertise in geography, political science, complexity science, and history will contribute to advancing the scientific study of the diffusion of conflict and will position UIUC as the global leader in this emerging field. ConflictSpace modeling will integrate the physical contiguity of states with the position of states within networks of economic, political, and cultural exchanges to explain when and why states choose to enter an ongoing conflict. A conference of scholars will be convened to discuss state-of-the-art spatial analysis of conflict and to provide feedback on the ConflicSpace model and associated data analysis techniques.

Geospliced social network analysis is methodologically cutting edge. The level of analysis here is still the state, but in principle and with some tweaking, this works for counterinsurgency.  

Posted on Monday, April 14, 2008 at 19:21 by Registered CommenterMichael A. Innes in | CommentsPost a Comment

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