The focus of the research is on revealing the deep self-perceptions of the analysed group and their needs to construct negative perceptions of "the other".
Equipped with this understanding, AI tools help human teams to generate a range of viable "alternative identity pathways" - expressive options designed to compete with the conflict-causing narratives in circulation.
These are then strategically inserted into the relevant information and cultural spaces in order to regenerate healthy (non-divisive or conflict-causing) self-concepts and expressions.
The EMIC method is built for researching, analyzing and engaging identities in the real world. EMIC is the result of two decades of interdisciplinary research.
The Importance of an Accurate Identity Model
Identity is a complex psychological and social system. Accurately modelling its functioning is vital to the success of any identity-based approach.
Two decades of academic research has focused on extracting the most salient findings from across the Human, Social and Neurobiological Sciences, and building the "Generative Narrative Model" of identity at the heart of EMIC.
Led by Human Research
Ethnographic, Netnographic, and traditional research techniques such as interviewing are used by teams trained in these techniques. The OICD trains individuals and teams from across relevant sectors in identity-based research techniques.
Team members will use EMIC Identity Insight software to collate and code multiple research findings - e.g. discourse samples, social media posts, interview transcripts etc.
The result is an "identity map" which represents the complex networked structure of a given identity position - the "Us" and "Them" concepts and images that are the building blocks of any social identity.
Supported and Scaled by Data Analysis and AI
- The human research effort is supported by LLMs, machine learning tools and human-machine analytical techniques. The result is a living - close to "real-time" - visual representation of the way in which "self" and "other" are being positioned.
- In order to build intervention strategies, algorithms are applied to the identity map. Software is designed to essentially emulate a functioning identity system and reveal a variety of possible alternative "identity pathways" that the team then reviews and refines to create coherent, applicable and ethical strategies.
- More complex data processing then deepens the strategy-building process. An algorithm designed to overlay an "extreme" identity map (e.g. one that results in hatred or persecution of the "other") with "moderate" ones (from the same community) can reveal cultural ideas and images that have the potential to act as points of departure for new non-conflict-causing self-concepts.
What Can EMIC Do?
Counter Conflict Causing Identities - Understanding how and why individuals build themselves into identity structures is the first step in effectively countering identity-based persecution and violence. Once accurately modeled, constructing nuanced and intelligent alternative narratives that have a high chance of resonating with conflict-causing identities is the goal. Once built, these pathways are introduced to social/cultural/information spaces using a wide variety of potential messaging tools and platforms (crafted online/offline messaging campaigns, theater and arts performances, exhibitions, social media bots, radio-plays, information leaflets, etc.). Well-placed alternative narratives can adapt according to responses by utilizing human monitoring, machine-learning and narrative optimization. Once placed they act as ever-present competitors, working against the conflict-causing elements of the identity structures which occupy the space.
Monitor, Respond and Alert - A living representation of an identity position is a window into likely actions that those who inhabit it may take. As perceptions of "self" and "other" change, so do the risks of violence or other projective actions. This window allows for predictive capacities useful in early warning system development, as well as conflict analysis more broadly. EMIC outputs include regular insights and alerts arising from the changing nature of threats and risks.
Prevent and Protect - Getting ahead of conflict-causing identity configurations is by far the most efficient approach to preventing identity weaponization from taking root. As a matter of course, EMIC projects conduct risk assessments focusing on identifying areas of the identity structure vulnerable to manipulation, opening the way to preventative strategy building.
- Impact Measurement - If it is possible to define a window into how a group of people construct their senses of self and other, comparing these windows over time becomes an evidence-based way of demonstrating the impact of programs and interventions designed to bring about transformation. In a world where evidence-based approaches to demonstrating impact are underdeveloped, EMIC is a reliable tool with the ability to scale across projects and regions, helping organizations and donors alike to demonstrate the value of their contributions.
Does it Work?
EMIC is an identity-based strategy building and intervention tool. Its core functionality rests upon multiple decades of research in conflict studies and related fields which shows the importance and efficacy of countering identity-based conflict. In addition to the research in conflict studies, EMIC's core approach is supported by the neuroscience findings in the field of memory reconsolidation and the efficacy of its therapeutic application. EMIC's unique properties lie in the degree of sophistication, precision, and scalability it brings to identity-based approaches.
These benefits can be combined to bring a new level of competition to the sophisticated negative propaganda influencers of an information age suffering mass disinformation and manipulation.
To-date, EMIC has and is being applied to increase the effectiveness of practitioner work in education, social-work, deradicalization, conflict transformation and polarization contexts.
Going forward we believe EMIC has the potential to operate as a powerful force for protecting identities from divisive manipulation and opening the way for sustainable and consistent outcompeting of existing attempts to weaponize and polarize societies at large.
EMIC Can Be Used to:
- Counter discrimination, prejudice and hatred
- Counter recruitment into criminal/terrorist communities and groups
- Counter hate crime and criminal violence
- Counter propaganda and the increased spread of disinformation
- Counter the erosion of public trust in public/democratic institutions
- Counter disenfranchisement of minority and marginalized communities
- Counter ethnic/racial/religious violence and persecution
- Counter root causes of human rights violations ranging from torture to atrocity crimes (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing)
- Solve social problems at their root allowing for "treating the cause not the symptom"
- Unearth and promote deep shared values within and between divided communities
- Promote broad based social, economic and political participation, inclusion and cohesion
- Provide a reliable approach to impact measurement
- Promote economic productivity (as a direct result of increased cohesion)
- Contribute to deradicalization and disincentivization of violence and communities of violence
- Decrease vulnerability to disinformation and divisive manipulation
- Interface with a variety of existing initiatives (e.g. from across law, technology, governance, development, education, peacebuilding sectors), compounding and maximizing their effectiveness
Identity is a core issue for peacebuilding work, but also a very complex one. What I found interesting and relevant about the OICD's approach is the way it combines a high level conceptual model with practical application.Phil Vernon, former Director of Programmes, International Alert, London, UK (2004-2017)