Phobic Cartography: a Human-Centred, Communicative Analysis of the Cyber Threat Landscape




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Peer reviewed



This paper outlines the first stages of a research project mapping the cyber threat landscape. The proliferation and interconnection of networked devices and the ever-growing numbers of users able to damage (accidentally or deliberately) the integrity of this system of systems leads to cyber security adopting a reactive and defensive stance, in which we devise policy on the basis of what has happened, rather than what may happen, or what we pray will never happen. Simultaneously, the growth of the domain leads to silo thinking, and a lack of communication between public and private, civilian and military sectors; there is a need for a synoptic examination of the field, pooling the knowledge of practitioners from across the discipline.

This paper will present the development of the initial proof of concept study, outlining:

a. use of a blended methodology, combining automated quantitative analysis (via Corpus Linguistics tools) with qualitative study (via Critical Discourse Analysis); b. ethical issues involved in obtaining, storing, and handling of the data; c. a discussion of initial hypotheses; d. the intended plan of campaign for moving the project from pilot stage to its full scope; e. proposals as to how this project may act as a driver for innovation and greater resilience in devising effective cyber security policy.

Mediaeval maps often contained blank space, labelled 'Terra Incognita' and 'Here Be Monsters'; this project will develop a more detailed cartography of the threat landscape of the cyber domain, filling in the blanks and identifying the 'monsters' we fear.

This is an innovative project, examining empirical data drawn from respondents across the discipline, and offers a new way of examining the challenges we face. It allows us to develop a more accurate picture of the threat landscape, and to evaluate what risks we may be ignoring.



Linguistics, Corpus Linguistics, Critical Discourse Analysis, Cyber Security


Scott, K. (2017). Phobic Cartography: a Human-Centred, Communicative Analysis of the Cyber Threat Landscape, in Proceedings of The International Conference on Cyber Warfare and Security, ICCWS2017. paper delivered at ICCWS2017, Wright State University, Dayton Ohio, March 2-3 2017.


Research Institute

Media and Communication Research Centre (MCRC)