Research Portfolio Post #8: Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research

I am studying the ever-changing cyberstrategy of the United States from 1990 to present because I want to find out what explains the changing public discourses regarding the usage of cyber weaponry and tactics. The goal is to explain to my reader how the modern iteration of cyberwarfare being conducted by the United States has come to fruition.[1]

The discourse surrounding cyberwarfare has always been directly tied to that of the conversation surrounding the rights of man and the just war doctrine.[2] The NSA’s General Counsel, Glenn Gerstell, revealed that the United States relies on the fact that an offensive action must connotate imminent danger, and Cyber Command can only respond if this condition is met.[3] Within the military apparatus, this theory is unpopular as it permanently places the United States on the defensive which Paul Nakasone, Commander of US Cyber Command, says is a route to defeat.[4] By ignoring the Just War Doctrine, Nakasone argues that the United States must defend forward through offensive cyber action in order to maintain supremacy.[5] These interviews directly tie into each other and show the discourse existing within the military and United States cyber infrastructure.

This same discourse exists in the political realm with Representative Mike Rogers arguing that the cyber infrastructure of the United States is too separated and focused on defensive action.[6] He argues that while the role of independent cybersecurity departments are critical, they need to all be branched under the United States Cybercommand in order to triangulate targets for elimination.[7] Conversely, Representative Jim Langevin argues that the power of the United States Cyber infrastructure should be split across multiple institutions in order to promote stability and oversight.[8] Similarly, the United States must not resort to offensive action in cyberspace as that will create a precedence of instability.[9]

[1]Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. Fitzgerald, The Craft of Research (4th ed.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, (2016): 54.

[2]Colonel James Cook, “‘Cyberation’ and Just War Doctrine: A Response to Randall Dipert,” Journal of Military Ethics 9, no. 4 (December 2010): 413.

[3]Glenn Gerstell, “Confronting the Cybersecurity Challenge” Duke Law School: Law, Ethics and National Security Conference 2017, (2017): 2-3.

[4]Col William T Eliason, “An Interview with Paul Nakasone,” Joint Force Quarterly 92, no. 1 (January 2019): 6.


[6]Representative Mike Rogers, “Stovepiped Cybersecurity,” Keynote at Scoops News Group Cybersecurity Conference, (2017): 1-5.


[8]Representative Jim Langevin, “Langevin Statement on Trump Administration’s Refusal to Provide Congress with Cyberspace Operations Directive,” Media Office of Jim Langevin, (July 2017).


One thought on “Research Portfolio Post #8: Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research

  1. Tristan — you discuss some data sources that seem quite relevant for your project. What is not entirely clear, though, is what the object of inquiry is (the “X”) for this project. Remember that the object of inquiry is not a search for the discourses themselves or the search for reasons why they changed (that is a very neopositivist idea); the object of inquiry is the issue/group/phenomenon that is given meaning by the discourse (just as Carabine’s object of inquiry was lone mothers and she studied the discourses that constructed lone mothers in certain way). Who or what is it that is being represented in these texts that you are proposing to study? What are those specific representations of “X” for your project? That object of inquiry then becomes the central part of your question (the “how possible…?” question as per Dunn & Neumann, such as “How was it possible that lone mothers came to be represented as immoral and greedy in 1830s Britain?” to use the Carabine example). Once you’ve defined that object of inquiry then you can read the texts you identify more closely to start to trace out how that “X” is represented in different ways in the texts. Much of your post is still lodged in a neopositivist mindset. Make sure to work on reframing the question and the problem statement so it aligns with the focus of this methodology (studying how shared meanings are constructed, reproduced, and challenged) and then think about what that means for how you read sources in this methodology as well!

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