My PhD research examines how state and military actors in Israel embrace digital media technologies to activate citizens and soldiers as mediators between civil society and state authority. Based on materials gathered from social media platforms and military archives in Israel, the dissertation documents and conceptualises the role of media practices and images in shaping governance. The study gives particular attention to the technological and social circumstances that led the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to incorporate and utilise vernacular media in its day-to-day and tactical military activities.
I argue that the threat of hyper-visibility introduced by mobile phone cameras and social media applications have had a profound impact on military policy; and that the spread of new media persuaded the IDF that ubiquitous personal use of social media technologies by citizens and soldiers presented new possibilities for shaping state sovereignty in the complex set of challenges faced by the Israeli military and civil society. Starting in the early 1990s policy makers in the Israeli army began to sense that with the rise of social media the army was losing control of the circulation of still photographs and moving images. This phenomenon fits into a larger global picture of structural changes in information circulation. Media scholars have argued that the permeation of distribution networks and digital media into mundane patterns of life destabilises vertical structures of power. For the Israeli military, by 2017 the omnipresence of social media changed the relationship between the military command and the individual, generating new configurations of power and influence. The hierarchical exercise of authority predicated upon official media outlets was upended, creating a decentralised, diffused ‘soft power’. In this new dynamic, the modes of suppressing individuality within an institutionalised military collective were adjusted significantly, actively taking advantage of decentralised use of digital media. Against the backdrop of what has been described as technological determinism, my study contends that the overwhelming influence of militarism on civilian life has been significantly reorganised by media practices and online image circulation.