Rhizomatic Target Audiences of the Cyber Domain


Target Audience Analysis (TAA) is a process of finding suitable target audiences for psychological operations (PSYOPS). Typically, a TAA is a one-way process with some kind of a feedback system. The cyber domain presents a challenge to this type of sequential, linear process by refusing to stay still while the process is being executed, possibly leading to results from yesterday’s data in an environment that no longer exists today. Another challenge is that identifiable human beings—the traditional targets of PSYOPS—are not the only inhabitants of the cyber domain. Physical devices, nicknames, IP addresses, networks, and a vast amount of data populate this environment, in which there are no human beings, only their presentations and behavioural residue in a multitude of forms. The authors argue that while the psychological theories behind influence operations still form the basis for PSYOPS as a whole, a re-thinking of methods is necessary for the cyber domain. To conceptualize the cyber domain as a platform for influence operations, the authors suggest a five-layer structure based on Martin C. Libicki’s model. In each of these five layers, the target audiences are present in different forms. Thus, all information between humans is filtered through all of the layers with their own rules and causalities. In order to be successful in any influence attempt, one must understand and utilize the characteristics of each layer. The authors also propose that the rhizome theory is the most effective theoretical approach for understanding the complex interactions within the cyber domain.


Photo of Miika Sartonen

Concepts and Doctrine Division Finnish Defence Research Agency Riihimäki,

Miika Sartonen is a specialist researcher at Finnish Defence Research Agency, Concepts and Doctrine Division He is pursuing a PhD at the Finnish Defence University. He has authored and co-authored articles on military influence.

Photo of Aki-Mauri Huhtinen

Finnish National Defence University Helsinki

Dr. Aki-Mauri Huhtinen, (LTC [GS]) is a military professor in the Department of Leadership and Military Pedagogy at the Finnish National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland. His areas of expertise are military leadership, command and control, the philosophy of science in military organisational research, and the philosophy of war. He has published peer-reviewed journal articles, a book chapter, and books on information warfare and non-kinetic influence in the battle space. He has also organised and led several research and development projects in the Finnish Defence Forces from 2005 to 2015.


Photo of Dr. Martti Lehto

University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä

Dr. Martti Lehto, (Military Sciences), Col (GS) (ret.) works as a Professor (Cyber Security) in the University of Jyväskylä. He has over 40 years’ experience in C4ISR Systems in Finnish Defence Forces. Now, he is a cyber security and cyber defence researcher and teacher and the Pedagogical Director of the Cyber Security MSc. program. He is also adjunct professor in National Defence University in Air and Cyber Warfare. He has over 130 publications on the areas of C4ISR systems, cyber security and defence, information warfare, artificial intelligence, air power, and defence policy.


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