Narratives are structures through which we order and understand reality. They are central to the spreading of ideas. Therefore, building a narrative observatory that can analyse and monitor the emergence and spread of disinformation and come up with concrete and practical solutions and recommendations to help combat disinformation can be a key building block to strengthen our public spheres and democracies.
The role of narratives in shaping people’s minds has become an important area of research and debate, particularly in recent years when entire societies have made choices that seem “rationally” counterintuitive. One of the most important findings of modern psychology is that the process of understanding is inherently constructive. Although the human brain is a complex and powerful computational tool, it requires simplifying structures to process the large amount of information it receives. Social reality is constructed in interactions between individuals and co-created through debate and conversation. Narratives are structures that our minds and cultures use as a shared means to understand and organise reality.
Building on the insights developed and presented in the report “Mechanisms that Shape Social Media and their Impact on Society” (SMART 2017/0090) and the pilot observatory developed for that project, the Narratives Observatory combatting Disinformation in Europe Systemically (NODES) has been designed to build a comprehensive and multidimensional observatory able to reflect on the state-of-the-art in research and bring together leading expertise from a diverse, interdisciplinary and intersectoral consortium to develop and test a practical methodology that can be both replicable and transferable.