In recent years, migration has been a persistent topic of political discussions in Europe. But what are the relevant factors shaping migration? One answer are the constructed narratives and perceptions on a given country. PERCEPTIONS investigates the various perceptions and images of the EU to understand how they influence the migration process – and how they could lead to threats and security issues.
The project “PERCEPTIONS. Understand the Impact of Novel Technologies, Social Media, and Perceptions in Countries Abroad on Migration Flows and the Security of the EU & Provide Validated Counter Approaches, Tools and Practices” is a three-year research and innovation project funded by the European Commission’s H2020 Programme. Previous research suggests that perceptions on Europe are formed in the country of residence, and they are based on a multitude of sources; and factors influencing migration are on different levels – from the overall socio-economic situation in a country to perceptions on educational opportunities and gender equality. This is what the project intends to understand.
Perceptions and narratives as drivers of migration?
Narratives and perceptions of a specific country affect destination preferences because they have a powerful influence on how a country of destination is perceived. They transport social as well as individual experiences, hopes and expectations. In the context of migration, they often support collective sense-making of what it means to be a migrant, and they also create beliefs about the possibilities to integrate into a new society or the potential for return.
Therefore, the PERCEPTION project aims to identify the different narratives, images and perceptions of (life in) Europe, European countries and the EU, studying their role in individuals’ decision to migrate to Europe. Throughout the project, the consortium considers migration in the broadest sense (i.e., across all potential reasons and motivations) to obtain a better picture where stories about migration to the EU originate, how various types of stories (e.g., about forced vs. economic migration) interconnect, and how they transform over time and with experience.
The unknown role of social media
Social media and new communication networks have increased the scope and the intensity of distribution of a variety of narratives; so-called filter bubbles and echo chambers can lead to one-sided narratives that go uncorrected. Due to new communication technologies, claims can take on a life of their own, and might raise unrealistic expectations or disapproval. At the same time, however, technologies and communication networks might also provide a channel to avoid a mismatch of expectation and reality.
Therefore, PERCEPTIONS intends to identify the channels in which such narratives and images are spread, including traditional and social media, and the actors who tell these stories – and to whom, with what purpose and with what impact. The project will focus on the role of traditional mass media, as well as social media, in this process, and what kind of images and ideas are transported via different channels. The project also examines how the flow of information could be distorted and whether inaccurate information could lead to a threat to the security of migrants (e.g., through dangerous border crossings) or even national security (e.g., radicalisation).
The project’s objectives and outcomes
The project’s objectives can be defined as follows:
- RESEARCH the body of scientific literature on the creation and the distribution of place-related narratives with a particular emphasis on their creation and the distribution through social networks and media, as well as relevant project outcomes, models and measures.
- UNDERSTAND the relevance of positive and negative narratives in relation to the motivation for migration through conducting quantitative and qualitative empirical research, allowing transverse and transnational comparisons.
- ANALYSE social media data and mass media to understand how narratives, rumours and false images of Europe are spread, investigate novel technologies, as well as secondary data and scenarios, and conduct a network analysis to identify the impact of novel technologies.
- DESIGN dynamic new approaches and (counter-)measures in the form of intuitive toolkits for civil society organisations and development aid organisations in order to support their local activities to deconstruct false narratives and enhance the dissemination of right narratives.
- LEVERAGE a modular Web Platform including an Open Information Hub to spread knowledge and public materials, as well as public and professional service modules hosting digital solutions with a centralised dashboard.
- VALIDATE the outlined materials and measures to ensure the sustainability of the PERCEPTIONS solutions, allowing the flexible and individual adaptation of the toolkits to the specific local, regional or country-specific needs.
- DISSEMINATE the PERCEPTIONS solutions by raising awareness, dissemination results in the scientific community, and creating international networks of practitioners working in the field for supporting them with knowledge exchange, training approaches and resources.
Besides insights gained through the various research activities, PERCEPTIONS outcomes will include toolkits of creative and innovative measures to react or even counteract on them, considering social, societal and structural aspects. A series of policies responded to the so-called ‘migration crisis’, based on assumptions about the factors influencing migration. PERCEPTIONS will create evidence-based toolkits of creative and innovative measures for policymakers to react or counteract on different perceptions, considering social, societal and structural aspects. PERCEPTIONS also aims to support first-line practitioners, as well as migrants, and to protect (potential) migrants by creating trusted communication contents and communication channels and by counter-manding “false” and dangerous narratives that may lead to the exploitation of vulnerable groups.
To achieve its objectives, the project is structured in eight work packages, each with its own objectives and activities. After a phase of intense theoretical (desk-based) and empirical research, the partners will elaborate a framework model, tools and concepts, which are consequently tested and validated with the target groups. The created materials will be published on the PERCEPTIONS web platform.
The team behind PERCEPTIONS
PERCEPTIONS brings together an inter- and multidisciplinary consortium of 25 partners from twelve European and three non-European countries. The consortium is coordinated by SYNYO, who is also leading WP6 dedicated to the development of a web platform that implements the developed multi-dimensional framework model. The team includes nine university partners, who focus on academic research from various disciplines: the Centre of Excellence in Terrorism, Resilience, Intelligence and Organised Crime Research, Sheffield Hallam University (UK); the Department of Psychology and Department of Sociology and Business in Law, Alma Mater Studiorium – University of Bologna (Italy); the Faculty of Social and Legal Sciences and Faculty of Education and Sport Sciences, University of Granada (Spain); the University Rey Juan Carlos (Spain); the Northumbria Social Computing (NorSC) Group at the Department of Computer and Information Sciences (CIS), University of Northumbria at Newcastle (UK); the Centre for Migration Policy Research, Swansea University (UK); the Department of Methods and Models for Economics, Territory and Finance, Sapienza University of Rome (Italy); the Erasmus University Rotterdam (the Netherlands); and the Centre for Migration and Intercultural Studies, University of Antwerp (Belgium). Further included are the International Centre For Migration Policy Development (Austria); Kentro Meleton Asfaleias – Center for Security Studies (Greece); the Center for the Study of Democracy (Bulgaria); SINUS Markt- und Sozialforschung GmbH (Germany); the Centre de Recherche en Economie Appliquée pour le Developpement (Algeria); the Egyptian Center for Innovation and Technology Development (Egypt); Additess Advanced IntegratedTechnology Solutions & Services LtD (Cyprusthe Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (Kosovo); the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies (Spain & Morocco); and Fondazione Bruno Kessler (Italy), acting as research and/or development partners in the project. Dissemination activities are led by the European Association for Local Democracy (France). Finally, PERCEPTIONS also includes practitioner partners, namely Caritas Cyprus (Cyprus); the Hellenic Police (Greece); the Ministry of Public Security – Israel National Police (Israel); and the Chief Directorate Border Police (Bulgaria).
PERCEPTIONS Project Website: https://project.perceptions.eu/
PERCEPTIONS Twitter Channel: https://twitter.com/PERCEPTIONS_EU
PERCEPTIONS Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/perceptionsproject/
Migration, perceptions, narratives, social media, push and pull factors, social network analysis, ICT, security