Everyone recognizes the salience of cyberspace in the world today – the threats, challenges, and opportunities – but there is limited understanding of how cyberspace influences international relations and how power and politics in international relations influence the conduct and management of cyberspace. Cyber threats to national security are apparent after the fact, and little anticipatory capability has been developed to help shape policy responses under different contingencies. For the most part everyone tends to be operating under the dominant assumptions of the 20th century politics and policy in an increasingly uncertain world of the 21st century whose parameters are still in the making. We are now deeply rooted in the cyber age, and its rapidly changing configurations.

The research problem is this: distinct features of cyberspace—such as time, scope, space, permeation, ubiquity, participation and attribution—challenge traditional modes of inquiry in international relations and limit their utility. The interdisciplinary MIT-Harvard ECIR research project explores various facets of cyber international relations, including its implications for power and politics, conflict and war.

Our primary mission and principal goal is to increase the capacity of the nation to address the policy challenges of the cyber domain. Our research is intended to influence today’s policy makers with the best thinking about issues and opportunities, and to train tomorrow’s policy makers to be effective in understanding choice and consequence in cyber matters.

Accordingly, the ECIR vision is to create an integrated knowledge domain of international relations in the cyber age. This knowledge domain  is to be (a) multidisciplinary, theory-driven, and empirically based; (b) help clarify threats and opportunities in cyberspace for national security, welfare, and influence;(c) provide analytical tools for understanding and managing transformation and change; and (d) attract and educate generations of researchers, scholars, and analysts for international relations in the new cyber age. The ECIR Research Agenda is organized around five major research challenges and serves as a guide for the results presented in the individual sections below.

1. FrameworkFoundations for Theory and Policy: Constructing the overarching framework essential for capturing interactions between the cyber and the physical arenas, and for clarifying how the “pieces” generate a view of the “whole.” The framework is the anchor for the ECIR investigations, i.e. the reference for, and convergence of, all research projects.
2. Cyber Power and Cyber Security: Control Point Analysis: Exploring cyber power and control, people and messaging, key features of cyber security threats to security and impacts of social media on power relations.
3. Cyber Governance: How the Cyber System is Structured and Disciplined?: Mapping and analyzing diverse modes of private and public authority managing the cyber domain, emergent cyber norms, and resilient mechanism design.
4. Alternative Futures: Drivers of Change: Designing potential futures for cyberspace and international relations, potential structure and process, and the underlying governance principle.
5. Cross Cutting Themes: Three cross cutting themes help anchor ECIR contributions to the Minerva Program.
  • Foundation for 21st International Relations theory: Systems of Interaction.
  • Key features of 21st International Relations theory: Elements New Model.
  • Connecting Cyberspace and International Relations: Levels and Layers.