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Documenting the Virtual Caliphate

PI: Mia Bloom - Georgia State University

Year selected for award: 2016

Documenting the Virtual Caliphate

Principal Investigator: Mia Bloom, Georgia State University

Years of Award: 2016-2019

Managing Service Agency: Office of Naval Research

Project Description

The so-called Islamic State, ISIS, or Daesh has a compelling story, coupled with a sophisticated ability to deliver it. But often overlooked are the underlying strategic elements that enable the group to land its propaganda messages so effectively. This narrative combines both positive and negative themes appealing to ideological and political supporters inside the areas it controls in addition to outside supporters. On a daily basis, the group posts and publishes images of civilian life, expands upon the concept of Islamic forgiveness and mercy, and highlights the camaraderie allegedly felt among its members. Crucially, ISIS does not just do this online—propaganda is equally as important in person in the Islamic State’s heartlands as it is on its members’ laptops and smartphones. 

ISIS propaganda, which was produced at an ever-increasing level of sophistication, has not yet been systematically logged and archived, either by governments, academia, or other think tanks. Distinct from all other studies of ISIS media, this project will produce an updated, searchable database for future research. Furthermore, the project bridges existing Minerva-sponsored research in that it takes current projects beyond their scope and provides a measure of evaluation, validation, and verification of other projects’ findings. The result will be a living archive of the entirety of ISIS’ official multimedia content, including a searchable database of ISIS propaganda that contains news bulletins, photo-reports, videos, and documents. The project will analyze ISIS’ propaganda, tactics and long-term strategies, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

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