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'The Distribution of Power in Cyberspace: adjusting to the new seam of power competition' by Professor Richard Harknett (Cincinnatti) 

  • Wharton Room All Soul's College Oxford (map)

Week 3: New Warfare Seminars 

The Distribution of Power in Cyberspace: adjusting to the new seam of power competition

Professor Richard Harknett

What is the distribution of power in cyberspace? What defines it, shapes it and stabilizes it?  In examining these subset questions, this paper concludes that cyberspace should be understood as a new seam in global power competition. The manner in which cyber power is distributed will be a crucial variable in explaining the dynamics of 21st Century war, peace, and, most importantly, strategic behavior that sits between those two traditional categories.

This paper examines the anchoring structural construct of a distribution of global power to understand where cyber power fits? Is cyber power simply an additional capacity that affects the overall distribution of power among states or is theoretical explanatory advantage found in exploring the notion of a distribution of cyber power as a subset of global dynamics that is increasingly shaping world politics? When the president of Russia suggests that the actor who dominates in leveraging Artificial Intelligence in the 21st Century will dominate international politics, he is hinting at the latter. What role will large corporate entities play in the overall distribution of state power? Can we talk about a distribution of cyber power without considering the capacity and strategic intent of Alphabet? In examining this new seam, the paper will also discuss the implications for current strategic, norm-based and legal frameworks if cyber operations can have strategic effect below the level of direct contest (war).

Dr. Richard J. Harknett is Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati (UC). He is the author of over fifty publications in the area of international relations theory and international security studies. In 2017, he served as the inaugural US-UK Fulbright Scholar in Cybersecurity, University of Oxford, United Kingdom and in 2016 as the first scholar-in-residence at US Cyber Command and National Security Agency. He has provided invited lectures in seven countries and numerous presentations to government agencies, including the US Defense and State Departments and provided briefings to Congressional offices on Capitol Hill. He has testified on cybersecurity to the Ohio State Legislature and served as the Governor’s appointee on the State of Ohio’s Cybersecurity, Education, and Economic Development Council while contributing to the writing of Ohio’s Cybersecurity Strategy.

He was selected in 2001 as Fulbright Professor of International Relations at the Diplomatic Academy, Vienna, Austria where he continues to hold a professorial lectureship. Prof. Harknett has been named the Boyd-Lubker Visiting Scholar at Western Kentucky University, the Edith C. Alexander Distinguished Teaching Professor and the Distinguished Service Professor in McMicken College, UC, the Faculty Awardee for Exemplary Contributions in Service to the University, UC, and was the recipient of the State of Ohio Faculty Innovator award. He has served as Chair of the University Faculty and Chair of the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center at UC. He earned his PhD from The Johns Hopkins University and BA from Villanova University. He is an avid fan of Liverpool F.C.

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