In recent years, militaries have developed doctrine that no longer sees their traditional domains of operation (e.g. land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace) as separate but rather as integrated. Today, the USA, Australia, and the UK offer a vision of ‘Multi-Domain Operations1’ and ‘Multi-Domain Integration2’. What is notable in these attempts to grapple with war fought in digital ecologies is that the aims of achieving ‘control’ and ‘influence’ sit awkwardly together. Whereas the control of (or ‘supremacy’ in) a given domain or space appeared as a tangible and realistic military objective, at least in these examples, today, the principal attainable aim is influence. This is owing to the explosion of informational space into all other domains, which makes them difficult to control, but easy to weaponise.

It is through focusing on participation that we may begin to map the multiple ways in which influence is being exercised and contested in complex and continuous ways. This special issue of Digital War sets an agenda for exploring this emergent spectrum of participation in war from phones to memes and from drones to disinformation. In doing so, we illuminate the links connecting informational feeds that flow through our personalised smartphones and social networks to digital war ecologies.

The fall of control and the rise of influence

The 1976 movie Network depicted the breakdown of a fictional US television evening news anchor Howard Beale, whose sudden rage against the establishment found a cult following among his previously declining audience. Trust in the mainstream politics of the day had been exhausted by Vietnam, Watergate, and the depressed US economy. The character of Beale, previously an archetypal mainstream news anchor, turns on the same mainstream embodying a new wave of populism against the organisations that had for years suppressed voices they deemed marginal and extreme. From the Trump 2016 presidential campaign onwards, Network was placed as a template over the realisation that new media insurgents had, largely unnoticed and for some time, been dismembering the liberal mainstream media. It even left the screen for the stage in a new play at The National Theatre in London in 2017–2018.

But the era of Network’s original production is also significant in that it marked the popularizing of the term ‘The Media’ (Boyer 2007, p. 5) as a coherent body that reflected or shaped the world out there, interestingly, just as trust in news media began to slide. But somehow The Media held on to its centrifugal position in many Western societies for forty more years, despite scandal and the seething masses it disenfranchised from its mythical but dominant ‘centre’, and the corroding effects of the internet upending its business models.

Ideas and concepts about the representation, communication and perception of war have also been entangled with the notion of a monolithic media, a model of a simple, ‘broadcast ecology’ where governments and the military were able to control the flow of information around their operations, dominant in the late twentieth century (Merrin 2018). This idea of a relationship between a top-down control of the media and top-down control of the military has become unshackled in this new century, with writings on ‘diffused war’ (Hoskins and O’Loughlin 2010), ‘participative war’ (Merrin 2018), ‘battlefront assemblages’ (Boichak 2019) and ‘radical war’ (Ford and Hoskins 2022). These all point to a more complex digital ecology in which the relationship between war and the media environment of the day involves a wide range of actors (militaries, soldiers, journalists, states, NGOs, citizens and so on) all clicking, swiping, linking, liking, sharing messages, images, memes and videos. But this ecology is not separable from war. Rather, the pervasive use of everyday internet-connected devices, such as smartphones, social media apps, and platforms, in targeting, hacking, cyberattacks, propaganda, and disinformation, blurs the distinction between who is civilian and who is combatant.

The unleashing of digital connectivity, the explosion of information, and pervasive surveillance are the main mechanisms through which so many participants now have influence in war. Civilians and other non-military and non-state actors, once distinct from and/or competing for the mainstream media’s dominance of the production and distribution of information and news about war, are today inseparable from it. An astonishing array of individualised ideas, opinions, and experiences enters into shaping information about and in warfare. This may sound benign, distant, and disembodied, but the same digital networks, streams, and archives also facilitate individual locating and targeting, surveillance, psychological operations, trolling, disinformation, and the crowdsourced funding and supply of humanitarian aid and weapons alike.

As this piece is being written, Russia continues its merciless and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine. Since the early days in 2022 of the full-scale war, it has become clear that their original plan—a blitzkrieg to overtake the country—has been met with resistance of an unprecedented scale. While the Ukrainian military are engaged in direct combat with an enemy whose forces exceed their own, this war is crowded with an array of participants (Boichak and Asmolov 2021). As audiences and consumers have morphed into the digitally networked publics, mediatised contexts have opened new avenues for human geopolitics, linking people’s everyday practices to war efforts of states (Boichak 2021). Using a simple app, one can geotag a missile or a drone, sending the data straight to an air defence system. Starting at $500, one can have their message of revenge inscribed on a missile and receive a report once the message has been received. A screenshot of a smaller donation to the Ukrainian Armed Forces is a ticket to join #NAFO—the North Atlantic Fellas Organisation that uses satire and ridicule as a means to debunk Russian disinformation. Fellas hide behind creatively crafted shiba inu avatars to playfully ‘bonk’ harmful and misleading narratives with memes.

This war is my war: warfare shaped continuously through personalised and individualised informational feeds, but at an incredible scale, in terms of the billions of participants across multiple platforms. The Russian war against Ukraine is shaped through a ‘war feed’ (Hoskins and Shchelin 2022), an entire spectrum of conflict located in and through smartphones, messaging apps, and platforms, defined by participation. Participation necessitates a shift in focus to human geopolitics, from ‘everywhere’ to ‘everyone’ war, and there are clearly moments at which the digital multitude exercises a collective will of sorts, for instance, in the crowdsourcing of weapons and supplies (Boichak and Kumar 2022).

Yet, my war is also defined by a splintering of perception and participation. To return to our opening point about the popularizing of the term ‘The Media’, as a presumed coherent body or phenomenon in everyday talk. Today, the term ‘social media’ tends to smooth over the fact that what is seen and experienced of war is radically different within and across different apps, channels and platforms. Telegram and TikTok, for instance, are entirely different platforms in the kind of war that is accessible and representable, entire media ecologies in themselves in how they generate war, how they are moderated or not, how algorithms are used or not, and how they are plugged in to, or disconnected from, the battlefield. This special issue brings attention to the fact that participation, like most other social phenomena, is socially and historically constituted—as are the very mediums through which it happens.

How did war become participative?

Wars have always been mediated—perceived, experienced, and remembered through a medium whose features shaped wartime realities. From the rich traditions of oral storytelling depicting heroic battles in songs and prose, to the infamous ‘War of the Worlds’ radio broadcast and the ‘Living Room War’ coverage of Vietnam, media and communication technologies have had a profound impact both on the ways in which the wars were fought, as well as the discursive and material participatory practices surrounding them.

The distinction between the army and the people is a modern construct that emerged in parallel with ideas of Westphalian sovereignty, which grounds the territory-based foundations of contemporary statehood (Asmolov 2022). Many nations have rich oral traditions of representing wars—a famous example of epic battles that still animate collective memory of the people belongs to Homer, whose dactylic hexameter depicting the ten-year war between Troy and the coalition of Greek city-states has made it through at least 29 centuries. In Ukraine, oral traditions of epic storytelling have been associated with kobza—a string instrument that slightly resembles a lute. Kobza players, or kobzari, were often blind men who performed in public spaces—in city squares, street corners, markets, and pubs, singing long ballads about epic victories gained by Cossacks fighting the Ottomans. These traditions highlight two facts: first, that battles were being richly depicted and represented in art, and second, that historical accounts of war have long been a matter of public attention and entertainment, way before mechanical reproduction was possible.

News and information about wars have always been contingent upon communication infrastructure—they could only travel as fast as the means of transportation allowed and be distributed or circulated using the means available at the time. The first marathon in history was run by Pheidippides, rushing to deliver the news of victory over Persian army from Marathon to Athens, which led to his untimely demise (Singer and Brooking 2018). This highlights the importance of infrastructural underpinnings that afforded a certain conduct of war. The telegraph’s revolutionising of long-distance communication gave way to the first discourses hailing connectivity as a positive development that would ‘make the world a better place’ (Singer and Brooking 2018).

The speed with which information could travel had an almost immediate impact on the conduct of war—strategic military decisions could now be made by authorities located far from the battlefronts. By strengthening the vertical decision-making hierarchy in the armies around the world, this development in communication technology led to the rapid expansion of both the scale and the reach of war. Indeed, by mediating the transportation of news across distance, communication via telegraph led to the enforcement of stronger vertical hierarchies within the armies of the time (Singer and Brooking 2018).

Telegraph was a medium that allowed synchronous one-to-one communication, which was a game changer on the battlefield. However, it took another medium to radically transform public relationship to wars: photography. By the 1850s, photography emerged as a new way to capture and represent events, which ushered in new claims and counter-claims as to the accuracy and the objectivity of representation. Unlike the almost fictional narratives of ancient battles, photography was perceived as an impartial medium that turned the public into ‘direct witnesses of everything important that happens in this world’ (Keller 2001, p. ix). Photography was the first medium that collapsed contexts—compared to narrative, in which one had an opportunity to deliver information or frame an argument in a certain way, a photograph offered at least an apparent transparency, affording different audiences an opportunity to perceive information through their own reference frames and cultural schemas (Vaidhyanathan 2018). As such, photographs lack explanatory power, letting the seer to add their own hermeneutics. Through these features, photography introduced profound changes to not only how the wars were being represented, but also, consequently, how they were being fought, and how they were being remembered: not only were wars fought in ways that could be easily photographed, but the images of scenic battles could be subsequently more easily embedded in various narratives depicting the conflict.

Photography was also the first medium to make war (among other things) a matter of popular culture. Something formerly limited to a few civilian observers could now be circulated for public consumption in the form of mass entertainment. Quite unlike Homer’s epic adventures, which were perceived as fictional, war photographs contributed to the solidification of the documentary genre that gave rise to a whole industry of cultural production in the twentieth century: the film (Hammond 2007). Yet, this distinction between the ‘fictional’ narrative and the ‘objective’ footage is arbitrary (Haraway 1991); the amount of manipulation done behind, as well as in front of the photographer’s lens, challenges the notion of representativity in these contexts. In fact, Roger Fenton, who was commissioned by the British Crown to photograph the Crimean war, spent a great deal of his time in England recreating elaborate representations of Britain’s military might in gardens just outside of London (Keller 2001).

Powerful images of wars produced for public consumption in many ways preceded the perception of conflicts they came to represent (Hammond 2007; Keller 2001). This process, in which reality conforms to its representations, is known under different names: anti-mimesis (in opposition to Aristotelian mimesis), ‘precession of simulacra’ (Baudrillard (Hammond 2007)), or life imitating art (O. Wilde). These all point to the formative role of media, not only in shaping the representations of war, but also playing an important role in legitimating wars, constructing ideology that would help reconcile battlefield atrocities against fellow humans with the notions of justice and virtue of those in whose names they are fought (Keller 2001). Representing an existential threat to a nation, civilisation, or a way of life, wars lead to intense social and cultural production aimed at containing (and in many ways, interpreting) military violence (Keller 2001).

The history of warfare also gives rise to distinct genres being used to communicate military conflict. Essentially a modern division emerges between art and journalism, with a respective divergence in their audiences and distribution channels. This is evident, for example, as the Crimean War as paintings, wood-engravings, and panorama installations gave way to more ‘modern’ media such as photography and manual sketches (Keller 2001). It is also in the years of the Crimean War that these various ‘techniques of the observer’ (such as photography) have emerged and become accessible to the mass public, affording various social groups with genres and technological means to constitute and represent their histories—something that was formerly reserved to literature and art (Keller 2001). Digital media, which encapsulates nested assemblages that involve other media forms (such as news, photography, and video), will once again collapse these genres within the same ecosystem, with a series of consequences for representation of wars. But in the nineteenth century, photography was the primary medium that significantly accelerated the production and proliferation of the battlefront news.

In the early twentieth century, radio became a new mass medium that once again reconfigured the social production and perception of military conflicts. Unlike photography, which circulated among the public in asynchronous form, radio was the first synchronous mass medium, capable of carrying sounds in real time across an entire musical spectrum, allowing to transmit, among other things, the human voice (Singer and Brooking 2018). This feature turned radio into a means of mass entertainment, as well as a means of connecting publics, constituted by this medium, with the ‘militarized zones of world war’ (Orr 2006, p. 30). Synchronicity, enabled by the radio, made it possible to constitute crisis sociality among the geographically dispersed listeners—thus making them susceptible to mass manipulation that operates, among other things, through fear (Orr 2006). In the early 1940s, this was the time in which communication studies were born in the USA, partially driven by the goal of informing wartime policymakers on the instruments and channels of mass persuasion (Orr 2006). At this juncture, at least in the USA, the public was made responsible to resist foreign propaganda and practice civil defence in preparation for potential outbreak of war on home front. Simply put, the public were being militarised and held accountable for mitigating possible domestic encounters with the enemy and/or their weaponry through the use of radio (Orr 2006).

This genealogy of mass communications shows that radio and photography have not only changed the social production and representation of warfare. Military conflicts have also had a profound influence on the social construction of these media, including epistemological techniques of configuring their audiences as objects of state and corporate governmentality. Here, for the first time, public perception becomes a battlefield in itself, in which ‘the new strategic situation of total war reconfigures the intensities of military conflict away from the antagonisms of frontline battle towards the more complex organization of overlapping fields of militarized warfare’ (Orr 2006, p. 67). ‘Total war’—a mass-mediated effort to mobilise civilian resources on the ‘home front’ to strengthen the state’s military capabilities—was shaped by the infrastructural advancements in mass communication technologies (ibid.). At this point in history, the civilian population is (figuratively) constructed as active participants of a military conflict—a tendency that continues into the contemporary time. Yet, following a shift from modernity to postmodernity, constructing civilian participation in the military conflict will cease to be a function of grand narratives of ‘total war’ and instead will be replaced by dispersed, oftentimes grassroots calls to mobilisation on social media.

Unlike photography that presented neatly selected and sliced stills, television was comprised of a relentless flow of images, many of which represented real-time temporalities (Hoskins and O’Loughlin 2010). Not only did television invite the Vietnam war into the family living rooms, but the 24-hour news cycle had a profound impact on foreign policy through public perceptions of national security, including the idea of a ‘CNN effect’ (Gowing 1994).

This context created an alignment between the goals of the military (increased military funding), and the desires of the public to stay safe (by increasing military funding), thus creating an intimate connection between the wars and the audience via news broadcasts (Hoskins and O’Loughlin 2010). This connection had the power to reflexively shape the trajectories of military conflicts: it influenced public attitudes by immersing the audiences into a flow of battlefront events (Hoskins and O’Loughlin 2010).

After radio, television turned war into the subject of public fears and imaginaries, which gave rise to a cultural industry in Hollywood representing the military (which also happened to be funded and co-produced by the military in what Mirrlees (2016) calls the ‘DOD-Hollywood complex’). The film industry is still effective in shaping the public perceptions of wars—to the point where actual war started to borrow amply from film. For example, the World Trade Centre attacks in 2001 were one of the instances where the simulacra of reality got to represent reality: the hijacked planes hitting the Twin Towers looked too much like a Hollywood movie come alive (Hammond 2007; Mirrlees 2016). Through mass entertainment, analogue media opened some avenues for the public to engage with the war, although indirectly through means of democratic representation (by voting and advocacy), and also as audiences and consumers of the cultural industry.

In the early 2000s, mass media were largely seen as constrained by political elites who got to shape the discourse around reporting war (McQuail 2006). Although media did play a more prominent role in forming the public perceptions of wartime realities, McQuail emphasised that neither political elites nor the media had played the dominant role of shaping public opinion—it was often the case that small, yet credible items of contrary information could sway the pendulum of public opinion despite months of state propaganda and/or mass deception efforts. Although online media (such as independent ‘war blogs’) are only mentioned in passing, McQuail foresaw the potential for ‘non-elites’ to rise on waves of popular support, having the ability to rapidly influence the dynamics of military conflicts. Digital media not only opened new avenues for battlefront reporting, but also forged new relationships among those who produce and witness them and distant others.

My war: platforms and participatory modalities

Platforms and data-based representations shape and contest geopolitical outcomes, neccessitating a shift in epistemological paradigms of warfare. ‘New techniques and technologies of communicative power, from radar and radio to television, computers, satellite technologies, and military weaponry, usher in new modes of social reality, as well as the necessity of new languages and methods for understanding those realities (Orr 2006, p. 27). XX century media practices no longer make sense when applied to XXI century media ecologies. This special issue of Digital War brings visual, textual, sonic, and affective modalities to the fore of participatory construction and co-constitution of wars. It offers a rich critical investigation of the blurred boundaries between military and civilian, public and private, physical and virtual, personal and geopolitical, domestic and foreign, strategic and vernacular.

Horbyk (2022) draws attention to civilian communication devices that enable frontline connectivity in Ukraine. Highlighting the ubiquitous use of mobile telephony by the soldiers on the frontlines, he questions the definition of weapons that may be used for killing and dying in war. Horbyk shines light on creativity, innovation, and improvisation surrounding mobile participatory modalities, concluding that ‘mobile is the hardware on which the participatory war runs’. At the same time, in its role of a ‘mediated extension of battlefield’, a mobile phone not only connects the military to their friends and family—but also exposes a spectrum of data-based risks and vulnerabilities.

Asmolov (2022) links participatory warfare to social resilience, situating it within the structures of digitally mediated mobilisation. Analysing the historical developments that predicated the modern distinction between combatants and non-combatants, he questions the role of digital platforms in mediating relationships between state institutions and the public in the face of an external threat. Asmolov makes propositions regarding the connective role of platforms in wartime Ukraine: not only structuring information flows, but also affording new forms of civilian involvement that extends beyond the information realm. From content-related practices such as fact-checking, to participatory open-source intelligence (OSINT) and cyberattacks, to military crowdfunding and logistics, the structure of mobilisation often follows a trajectory; civilians may choose to organise to achieve a particular conflict-related goal or become integrated into state institutions.

While the scope of participatory modalities is necessarily broad, not all wars are marked by participation. Richardson (2022) highlights that, in the Middle East, both the infrastructure and the consequences of remote warfare remain largely invisible. ‘By removing soldiers from the field of battle, it also removes publics and even policymakers from intimate relations to martial violence’. If so, witnessing a drone strike requires a radical re-thinking of established media theories and practices of human rights testimony. See, for example, the vital work of Amin and Downey (2020) and Amin (ed. Downey 2020) on the geopolitics and history of aerial surveillance in the Middle East.

Bringing images of distant suffering into the everyday life, spectatorship creates a responsibility among those who can no longer claim ignorance of the wartime violence. Richardson presents a framework which extends beyond the aesthetic modes of testimony and foregrounds the ‘distributed architectures of violence’ making these violent mediations possible. He calls for the networked publics to ‘not simply note the existence of such war but reckon with their own participation in its brutalities’.

In her original essay in this special issue, Bettina Gräf (2022) explores the naming of military drone technology by different actors and speaks to the theme of participation through highlighting the ‘cross-regional complexity’ in the naming of drones by different sides in digital aerial war. She argues for consideration of the overlapping perspectives of, the victims of drone warfare, drone pilots and also spectators, to reveal how drone war is shaped and experienced. This includes exploring wider languages, histories, and experiences, in the naming of drones, to highlight details of the effects of the current drone wars and also their entanglement in imaginaries of and about Europe.

Participation in warfare is not limited to citizens and domestic audiences of the countries at war. Situating her inquiry in Syria—the ‘first social media war’ (Doucet 2018, 142 cited in Hall, 2022), Hall foregrounds the role foreign citizens play in shaping strategic narratives about wars through their interaction with international news on social media. She reveals the predominantly localised nature of the mechanisms through which information warfare narratives are disseminated among foreign publics, aptly appealing to their disaffection with domestic media and politics. Hall argues that our understanding of participatory war would be incomplete without accounting for the digitally mediated participation of global audiences. Her paper identifies another blurred boundary—that between reality and fiction—that allows nefarious actors such as Russia to strategically manipulate popular representations of military conflicts.

In the ‘Circuits of Truth’, Engelhardt (2022) deconstructs the self-referential distinction between ‘truth’ and ‘fake’ in the ‘post-truth’ digital economies. Investigating the algorithmic processes of verification, or the production of truth, she questions the meaning of online authenticity by situating herself—the artist—in the cyberwar landscape. Engelhardt’s project is in itself an infrastructure that reverse-engineers the ‘digital assembly line’ that manufactures truth, exposing the junctures at which information becomes weaponised. At the time of heated discussions surrounding platforms and identity verification badges, her project adds a critical lens to understanding the role verification plays in generating user engagement with content regardless of its intrinsic qualities.

Peacock (2022) extends our understanding of the use of memes to represent (and wage) wars by exploring the discourses surrounding viral meme videos on YouTube. Memetic warfare is an emerging participatory modality, which may involve a concerted effort with clear strategic objectives, as well as a vernacular reflection and commentary on war in general. Through their use of cultural references and common cinematic tropes, meme videos provide an opportunity to frame historical, as well as contemporary wars. Just like in the case with RT, comments underneath the viral meme videos inadvertently influence public understanding and representation of wars, helping shape virtual battlespaces in which the networked publics get ‘recruited’ to engage in memetic wars. Peacock challenges the ‘no casualties’ narrative: drawing attention to the multiple ways in which they can manipulate users’ perception of reality, memes are not to be dismissed as harmless humour.

Lu (2022) illuminates China’s strategies of manipulating representations of conflicts, in which the art of excellent warfare lies in avoiding combat altogether. Disinformation broadens the notion of warfare beyond nation-states, transforming participatory architectures: half-lies can be used to silence enemies while mobilising citizens to participate in state-building projects. Lu revisits Sun Tzu’s classical war philosophies to see how participatory features expand the nature of warfare from kinetic and economic means to battles for perception. Similar to those originating in Russia, Chinese state-sponsored disinformation campaigns aim to ‘re-engineer epistemology’, constructing an alternative reality in favour of the state institutions.

Poon (2022) investigates ‘Sino-Cal’ (‘cynical’) realism by scrutinising TikTok’s role as a participatory medium for political expression. The tension between TikTok’s complex geopolitical location and its profit-oriented goals adds to the platform’s ambiguous status in the West: while some perceive it as an entertainment app, others see it as a vehicle of Chinese ‘soft power’ or as a security threat. In her commentary, Poon draws attention to the economy-driven logics underpinning TikTok’s participatory dimension, which largely drives the virality of political content on the platform. These incentives undermine the platform’s role as a space for political activism as the content recommendation algorithms are engineered for virality and do not rely on social networks to the same extent as their Californian counterparts, producing ‘random, compulsive encounters with the content on the platform’.

Glybchenko (2022) offers another intervention at the war/peace boundary by investigating the relationship between images and security. Exploring the role of visuals in collective construction of social imaginaries, she presents a creative intervention in peace aesthetics. In Yemen, images become tools for building and performing utopias which may be presented in an archaeological, ontological, or architectural modes. If so, sustaining quality peace would require re-thinking of what the images could represent—a ‘security constellation of many states of being and experiences’, which expands participatory modalities into visual and performative realms.

Walker and Towner present a comparative analysis of geographical differences in framing images of terror attacks among American, European, and Middle Eastern/African news sources (2022). They find that western media use feminine frames more frequently when reporting events in Africa compared to the events in the U.S. or ISIL attacks. This work draws attention to the policy implications of framing and language bias in the media, specifically surrounding public perceptions of conflicts and their victims in the digital age.

Sievers’s participatory installation, Über Cyber, draws attention to cyberspace as the new domain of military operations (2022). In an age where information security is subject to adversarial attacks, users are finding it progressively harder to safely navigate increasingly surveilled and weaponised platforms. This special issue also features two art reviews. Ash Bird (2022) offers readers a glimpse of I Saw the World End—a digital collaboration between Es Devlin and Machiko Weston—representing Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors’ first-hand accounts. Maxine Carlisle (2022) writes about Bow Echo—a multimedia installation by Aziz Hazara presented at Nirin, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, in 2020. In it, Hazara highlights the ‘affectual perspective of Kabul and the memories of lives that were lost there and is a harrowing reminder of the forces that continue to threaten the people there today’.

A number of contributors to Digital War draw attention to the fusion of state and corporate power around drones (Weber 2020) including in how they enter into and are used in contemporary discourses about war (Jackman 2020). The artist Joseph DeLappe (2020) for instance, visually intervenes in the media stream of US military power in his Cowardly Drone (2013) project through adjusting US military UAV images so that they appear in Google searches with the marking ‘COWARDLY’ on their fuselage3.


Digital media have precipitated the emergence of diverse participatory modalities; by challenging the outcome of wars, they also challenge the means through which we construct our knowledge about them. In complex digital ecologies the relationship between war and the media environment of the day involves a wide range of actors, connected in new, immediate, and sometimes continuous ways. How this changes the relationship between perception and action in war, for these actors, seems to be in rapid evolution4. In this special issue, we have showcased emergent work that tackles what, how and why war in this century is seen and experienced, is being radically revised. While some participation is still heavily focussed on generating resources, playful, vernacular participatory modalities such as TikToks, memes, drawings, and comments should not be overlooked in their ability to shape (and manipulate) narratives of war.

The contributors to this special issue of Digital War highlight how technologies and media’s entanglement with perceptions of and participation in war has entered a new phase in the twenty-first century. The breakdown of the established and relatively contained mainstream media ecologies of a previous era have given way to the digital’s connecting, networking and feeding of warfare, gathering, implicating, and targeting participants on a new scale. Each user may choose or be drawn into participating in wars in a myriad of ways, yet this participation does not make them equally positioned with regard to the devastation and suffering brought about by warfare. Otherwise, we risk falling into the false equivalency trap that can taint the analysis of wars today. As the digital war ecologies in which these practices are embedded continue to evolve, it is important to remember that participation in wars, no matter its form and intention, is never a neutral act.  


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    See for example, Hoskins (2021) on why digital media haven’t transformed responses to human suffering in contemporary conflict.