SPIDER – an indicator model for impact analysis and early crisis detection


Information and communication are two central terms that are not only important for the German Army in this highly networked world. SPIDER is an indicator model which quantitavely displays relevant system elements in a highly complex information environment to create a better understanding for the effect of information.


Conflicts that the Bundeswehr has to expect are of a complex nature. Collapsing states, asymmetrical threats, governmental and non-governmental actors as well as a global increasing network have an impact on the security situation. The information environment in which people absorb information, exchange them among each other and use them as the basic of their own actions is an element that moves more and more in the spotlight. For the German Army as an actor in the information environment it is important to understand that every word and every action has an effect in information environment that can contribute to the achievement or the failure of their own goals. To create an understanding of how information works it is important to reduce and to recondition systematical the complex relation within the information environment. And yet facts only are not enough. They have to be put in context with soft, social dynamic factors.


A behavioral change of the population in an operation area depends on countless reasons and cannot be displayed with simple quotes. The behavior depends also on the perception and the attitude of a population. To estimate the impacts of information, changes in the information environment have to be measured. A central goal of each military-civilian activity in a holistically approach is to accomplish a behavioral change of the actors in the operation area.

 In a military-academically cooperation the Bundeswehr Operational Communication Centre (BwOCC) and the Universität of the Bundeswehr Munich (UniBW) are working on an indicator model called SPIDER (Social Perception and Intercultural Dynamic Evaluation Reference System). It is supposed to create a holistically system of all elements of the modern conflict scenarios which should lead to a better understanding in the context of the information environment.


In SPIDER multiple social indicators are defined and put together to systematical gather and judge the situation in an information environment. The focus of the gathering along the impact chain (Input-Output-Outcome-Impact) is put on the impact of a military-civilian mission and its individual actions.


Beside the summative (ex-post) impact analysis SPIDER has more options to offer. Stabilization operations are usually undertaken for a longer period. Thereby SPIDER offers the possibility of a formative (accompany) valuation of the operation and can give hints if there is a need for action SPIDER can also support the operational planning if critical developments in the information environment can be better identified.


SPIDER is constructed in five hierarchical levels: topic areas, topics, clusters, factors and measurable variables. The top level covers the topic areas: local security, social relations, governance and landscape. The system works on the one hand with socio dynamic indicators that are scalable and can be aggregated. On the other hand it uses structural indicators that characteristics are not ratable but serve for a better interpretation of the data collected.

By using socio dynamic and structural information raised by different methods of collecting (e.g. open source intelligence, surveys or observation) as well as quantitative and qualitative analysis, SPIDER allows reducing the complexity of the information environment. The systematical approach offers the possibility of a resilient impact analysis of already realized activities considering the status quo antes and its changes over time. Besides it can also give evidence for crisis detection in the information environment.