Research Summaries

Back Soldier Narrative Analysis as Part of a Rapid Fielding Process and Other Follow-On Applications

Fiscal Year 2013
Division Graduate School of Operational & Information Sciences
Department Defense Analysis
Investigator(s) Jaye, Michael J.
Sponsor Army Research, Development, & Engineering Command (Army)
Summary This effort is part of informing the Warrior Technology Tradespace Methodology, an integrated model assessing technology and system investments based on technological performance, logistic implications, and user acceptance.
According to Walter Fisher's "Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument," we humans are in our essence story tellers, Homo Narrans. Fisher claims that the production and practice of "good reasons" is ruled by culture, among other things. He defines rationality in terms of narrative probability and narrative fidelity, and that good reason follows. David Snowden agrees with Fisher claiming, "The greatest part of our evolutionary history has been spent in an oral tradition and it is at least arguable that the modern environment … is a return to that." As part of the WTTM process, I have applied Snowden's proprietary software to develop a means of collecting and analyzing soldier narratives. The soldiers will have been involved with fielding new equipment, and the analysis of their stories should inform the overall WTTM process. Soldiers will recount their experience with new equipment during Umbrella Week activities by accessing a website, entering their stories, and then amplifying their experiences. This is a novel approach: rather than answering surveys that might demonstrate investigator bias, the soldier narratives will constitute a form of pre-hypothesis data gathering. Soldier signification of their narratives will afford in-depth analysis that should inform the WTTM process. Identifying soldiers who have used particular newly fielded equipment remains a pressing challenge to this work. Nonetheless, the ability to capture and analyze narratives as part of the WTTM process is viable, and it will provide feedback on the rapid fielding process.
The collection and subsequent analysis of soldier narratives, with self-signification, could have application at other levels. For instance, a major SOCOM research topic for 2013 has to do with analyzing narratives. The pertinent topic is:
A2. Cultural narratives: What is important and what is not? Every culture and relevant population has many narratives through which they indoctrinate their members, institutionalize behavior and accommodate change. How can USSOCOM identify those narratives that are useful for the influence campaigns necessary for irregular warfare (IW)? How can SOF use and influence these narratives? What organizational barriers and perceptions must SOF overcome in order to more fully leverage such narratives? Who within SOCOM or the SOF community should be responsible for dissecting cultural narratives and leveraging those narratives to support command objectives?
To address this research topic, I have formed a research team consisting of an anthropologist and a computational social scientist. We are in the process of writing a statement of work to address a program directed toward providing solutions in this research area. Presently, I envision a long-term endeavor resulting in the Center for Narrative Analysis that would be directed toward supporting narrative analysis for SOCOM. Another research area resulting from narrative capture could support Army historians, among others. Some historians are particularly intrigued by the notion of having these narratives made available in "digit" format (rather than, say, photo copies). In addition to supporting his and other historian's research endeavors, being able to analyze soldier self-signified combat narratives might support other research areas. Gathering the narratives might be accomplished via a common portal such as AKO for active soldiers; some other mechanism might be necessary in order to obtain narratives from soldiers no longer on active duty.
Keywords Narrative Analysis Rapid Fielding
Publications Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal
Data Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal