The Civic Media Observatory is a method to investigate and decode how people understand information and create knowledge in complex and seemingly chaotic media ecosystems.
Global Voices’ Civic Media Observatory research identifies and tracks key themes and narrative frames that emerge around events, trends and other phenomena, and explains the context and subtext of local, vernacular, and multilingual media. Researchers use an expansive definition of “media” that includes items appearing in mass media, social media platforms, open internet sources, and offline sources.
Observatory research explores the civic impact of media items, offering insight into the effect of narratives on audiences’ understanding of events and social phenomena, and identifies themes of urgent public interest. A key feature of the method is the assigning to media items a civic impact score based on international human rights standards. Using this score, we make claims about the potential effects of narratives on audience behavior and on civic discourse.
Follow our work in Undertones, our weekly newsletter. In each edition we’ll analyze an event, emerging trend, or a complex story, identifying key narratives of urgent public interest, and delving deep into the context and subtext of local, vernacular and multilingual media. Undertones also offers an entry point into the public datasets that underpin our Observatory work.
The Observatory method also suggests actions to be taken on the basis of civic impact scores. Project teams work as trusted partners with organizations such as media and tech companies and nonprofit advocacy organizations, to identify and recommend actions for certain categories of content, including recommendations for monitoring of narratives, keywords and phrases that have the potential to cause harm.
Observatory work is focused in part on questions of misinformation, disinformation, disruption and confusion, but goes beyond fact-checking. Our larger goal is to identify information that has civic value in given contexts, and around specific events and trends. The Observatory is also deployable as a method for rapid identification, sorting and analyzing of media items and their effects.
Researchers work in Airtable, a relational database, which allows for rich interlinking of media sources, themes, narrative frames, media items, and languages, as well as granular analysis of dozens of metadata fields we use to analyze media items. This approach helps us to build consistent responses to questions about the accuracy, truthfulness, verifiability, and ideological leaning underlying media items, as well as deeper analysis of context and subtext, when warranted.
Observatory research feeds into our editorial work as well, helping us to tell stories about underlying narratives, perspectives, and claims.
Since the launch of the Observatory in the middle of 2019, we have run large transnational investigations on the topics of EU Accession, COVID-19, Taiwan’s presidential election, conflict in Ethiopia, and China’s Belt & Road Initiative, as well as focused investigations into elections in Myanmar, Brazil, Bolivia, and Venezuela and country monitoring projects in India, Myanmar, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela, Haiti, Ethiopia, Russia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mali, and Nicaragua.
Slide presentation on the Civic Media Observatory methodology.
Monitoring of emerging themes and narratives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh, Turkey, Russia, Mali, and Nicaragua in 2020-2021.
As China expands and advances its interests as a global power, we explore its influence in other countries.
Long-standing conflicts over the contours of the Ethiopian state have once more exploded into violence. Unreconciled disagreements between the state and regional powers in Oromia and Tigray threaten to tear Ethiopia apart.
Monitoring of emerging themes and narratives in Myanmar, India, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela, and Haiti in 2020-2021.
Global Voices decodes narratives of COVID-19 in 10 countries as it spreads around the world in 2020.
Taiwan held presidential elections on January 11th, 2020 to determine the course of its political and economic orientation for the next four years.
North Macedonia and Albania have long sought to become members of the EU. The debate over their application pitted ideas of nationalism, corruption, EU reform and future relations with regional powers.
Stories from the Observatory
Stories about Civic Media Observatory
Venezuelan authorities claim that the strategic partnership with China remains as strong as ever, but they have reaped little economic benefits from it since 2016.
The willingness of corrupt Chinese businesspeople to bribe equally fraudulent Nigerian government officials is rarely captured by the simplistic mutual understanding narrative pushed by Chinese diplomats.
Turkey procured vaccines from China in December 2020, but delivery delays and negative perceptions of China-made vaccines are now making other sources more attractive.
The Hunutlu coal-fired power plant is part of China's Belt and Road Initiative in Turkey, an economic and political cooperation program that Ankara joined in November 2015.
Is anti-Chinese sentiment in Kyrgyzstan strong enough to freeze a key Belt and Road Initiative project?
A logistics project in Kyrgyzstan, part of China's BRI infrastructure program, was poised to become a commercial hub in the heart of Eurasia. Despite the hype, it now seems stalled.
China’s Belt and Road megaproject in the Mediterranean: Was it the Greek shipping tycoons who sealed the deal?
In Sino-Greek relations, the dominant narrative runs that China is taking the lead by investing in Greece. But a more layered account of the events is often overlooked.
In Kazakhstan, Sinophobia is often a tool instrumentalized by protest organizers to mobilize people as a form of criticism of governmental policies
"We tried to reach the mayor, arguing that the plant is harmful to the environment...We tried our best but nobody was listening to us."
The BRI initiative enjoys a favourable perception because Nigeria has an infrastructure deficit that China is correcting. This programme will endure for some time in Nigeria.
A coalition of non-governmental and indigenous organizations came together to hold their government and companies accountable
Journalists Marcelo Ninio and Talita Fernandes discuss Brazilian perspectives on China.
Despite its two-decade history in Brazil, the Chinese tech giant's chance to compete for 5G development contracts was at one point vehemently opposed by the Bolsonaro government.
Expansion of the Piraeus port will create a "subaquatic toxic landfill” at the expense of the area’s fragile ecosystems.
The Indian National Congress (INC) ruled Assam's legislative assembly from 1951 to 2016 when control switched to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"The problem is Brazil's current development model that turns it into a large farm," said Evandro Menezes de Carvalho, a specialist in Chinese law and international trade.
Global Voices talked to five people of Chinese descent in Brazil. All said intolerance increased with the COVID-19 pandemic.
While governments around the world scrambled to secure vials of the COVID-19 vaccine, Bolsonaro refused to negotiate with drug companies, especially the Chinese ones.
“Throughout the history of Peru, investments are located wherever they want, as long as they bring money, and the state or government allows this to happen”
Only three weeks have passed since the coup but protesters have already used various creative methods to express dissent.
'Editing a Google Doc in support of farmers is an act of sedition in this country now,' a writer said.
"Today the people of Myanmar are rising up against the military regime, demanding democracy. This is no longer a protest. It's an uprising."