Greyhound Literary

War in the Age of the Smartphone

Adult •
Non-Fiction War Writing
  • Hurst & Co (World English)

On the train home, we sit riveted, scrolling through images that bomb into our feed to compel us – soldiers dancing on charred tanks; a drone-guided missile arriving in some narrow trench as if piloted by Luke Skywalker; grey, thousand-yard-stare teenagers in uniform being executed at close quarters by pistol; a distant file of marooned army trucks popping ablaze in series like a firework run; houses in ruins, flags everywhere. We doomscroll, we barely linger to process what we’re seeing, let alone stop to consider how and why these images are arriving on our phone, from thousands of miles away, and what purpose they are serving in the conflict itself.

War has been radically remade. The past decade has seen a greater change in the conduct and coverage of warfare than any since the 1940s and the invention of the atomic bomb. From Libya to Tigray, from Myanmar to Yemen, and from Gaza to Ukraine, war suddenly looks very different. And the principal innovation, the most important new weapon of war is… the smartphone. Every soldier has one, every citizen has one: they are supremely accessible and portable, globally meshed, and instantaneous in their recording and relaying of events, positions, movements. But what does this newly essential, pivotal weapon of war, the smartphone, do to the soldiers, generals and politicians prosecuting the wars, and the citizens, refugees, injured and families observing and suffering through them? And now that Meta, Telegram, Twitter et al possess and control most of the world’s archives of war footage, how, to take just one consequence, will war crimes trials be prosecuted in future? These questions and more are addressed by Matthew Ford in what will be the first essential explanatory guide to the new world of warcraft in which we all now play.