The Complex Terrain Laboratory

I founded the Complex Terrain Laboratory (or “CTLab”) in late 2007, while I was still working in an applied research setting and thinking more and more about pursuing doctoral research.  CTlab ran for two years. It was primarily a web-based project, with its own funky domain, “terraplexic”, a neologism that fused “terrain” and “complexity”. It hosted online symposia and one real world event, and generally served as a vehicle for a few like minds to explore problems that we thought we’d spotted in contemporary expressions of geopolitics. It produced quite a bit of output for an entity that had no funding, wasn’t a professional media outlet, and built its corpus of thought and debate from the hypercaffeinated grey cells of unpaid academics and researchers.

The distinguished geographer Derek Gregory called what we were doing the work of “lone rangers on the planetary frontierlands” – rightly pointing out that  our engagement with the issues was in turn perpetuating them. Gregory made the point in a 2010 issue of the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, a publication of the Royal Geographical Society and one of the leading journals in its field.* When I came across the reference, I was quietly thrilled that he’d noticed, and that our little project had become part of the discourse in its own right. Now that I’m writing an historical account of the political communications of that period, I’m more bothered by the fact that I have to find a convincing way to artificially separate it out from the larger story.

The irony in this is that most of the CTLab output  – web content – hasn’t been effectively preserved anywhere. Bits and pieces of it evolved into other projects, so it’s findable on the web if you know what you’re looking for and don’t mind digging deep. I’ll be correcting the situation right here on this page, linking to material hosted elsewhere and uploading files as and when I convert them into updated formats. Scroll down for the archive.

*See Derek Gregory, “War and Peace,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35:2 (2010): 154-186. URL:  The quote appears on page 170.



  • Proceedings [PDF Download]
    • Social Science in War: Defending Hamdan (22 Sep-5 Oct 2008)
    • Cities and the Scientific Way of Warfare (5-9 Dec 2008)
    • Urbicide: The Politics of Urban Destruction (10-15 Mar 2009)
    • Wired For War: Robotics & 21st Century Conflict (22 Mar-6 Apr 2009)

Public Lecture


  • Blog: The Agenda
  • Journal: Current Intelligence