NARRATIVE A collection or system of related stories that are articulated and refined over time to represent a central idea or belief. (Narrative Initiative)
STORY A particular series of events that occur in a particular place and time and often contain structural archetypes such as a protagonist, a problem, a path and a payoff. Stories bring deeper narratives to life by making them relatable, accessible and even personal.
VALUES Commonly held beliefs. They are not always partisan. Values can inform ideology and narrative, and vice versa.
COUNTER-NARRATIVE A collection or system of related stories that are articulated and refined over time to represent a central idea or belief that acts opposition to another narrative.
CONVERSATIONS Categories of keywords related to a particular topic that are monitored in real time and when using big listening technology. We track conversations to analyze the exchange of content, including messages, stories, information, ideas and opinions.
MOOD The emotional response an author or creator’s content evokes in their audience. Emotional responses allow audiences to connect with a story, making it meaningful and memorable. Emotional responses vary depending on the audience.
TONE The attitude an author or creator conveys in a story, its subject matter or its audience. An author's tone may reflect their personal attitude or opinion about a story. Different audiences read and respond to tone differently.
NETWORK A way of describing and visualizing social relationships. Networks describe how different people are connected, how strong their ties are and how different networks are connected to each other. Networks are NOT just how people are connected online. They include relationships and connections that bridge people together in real life.
INFLUENCER An individual in the narrative ecosystem that shapes conversations on and offline. While some influencers may have public name recognition, follower counts can vary. They are individuals who are seen as trustworthy representatives of their community, with a robust offline network to match their online presence.
MISINFORMATION Information that is false or inaccurate, spread unknowingly and without intent to harm.
DISINFORMATION Information that is deliberately false or misleading, often spread for political gain, profit, or to discredit an individual, group, movement, political party or foreign government.
We conduct narrative research on established, emerging, dominant and trending narratives, both at large and inside specific networks. We also track for narrative voids — places where there is an absence of coherent stories that add up to a clear narrative. Our research tracks volume and velocity trends, conversational patterns, stories, content and messages, and network influencers across time, platforms and channels. We meticulously dissect content (news articles, social media content, websites, broadcast news and entertainment, podcasts, forums, and more) to identify embedded messages, story and character archetypes, and their underlying ideas, values and beliefs. We use a combination of CrowdTangle analytics; Zignal Labs; and detailed, individual on and offline analysis of keywords and conversations.
We do this work in partnership with other leaders and organizations, refining our narrative research and content analysis through bidirectional learning loops. Navigating narrative space is never an easy task — for this report, we examined conversation trends, volume and velocity over the course of one year in both English and Spanish. Our general research window was from November 2021 – December 2022, though sometimes we looked back further to understand volume and velocity over a longer period of time. The findings of this report represent significant trends and patterns we identified over the course of our analysis.
how to read our charts
There are several kinds of charts in this report that represent volume of conversations over time. The data visualized is static and does not update in real time. These charts are time-bound snapshots of data compiled of single keywords, curated keyword sets and/or issue filters. This data supports interpreting, comparing and forecasting how conversations, and the narratives that undergird them, move over time.
Charts with a white background are interactive. You can turn the issues on and off to understand the volume trajectory of a single conversation or compare them to one another. These charts also pull from a broad set of data sources across the digital landscape, including Twitter, Reddit, broadcast and news media, public Facebook pages and more.
Charts with a navy blue background are not interactive and only represent data pulled from Twitter. They help us to see and understand emergent conversations.
Some terms to know
- Volume refers to the number of mentions of a given issue over time. Volume analysis provides insight into which conversations have the greatest volume, when volume is consistent, or when and how it varies. We compare volume across conversations to better understand their salience and how they interact with each other.
- Spikes refer to the peaks on a given chart where volume increases rapidly. Spikes are typically influenced by a dominant story or flashpoint moment that we can identify.
- Keyword refers to a single word, phrase, or hashtag that can be used to search and find content related to a given story or conversation.
- Keyword sets are a group of keywords compiled to search, find and aggregate content related to a given conversation. Keyword sets can be simple (ex: Defund the police, #DefundThePolice) or complex (ex: including hundreds of people, places, words, and hashtags related to policing, abolition, and reform). We typically use simple keyword sets to understand emerging issues or specific conversations; we use complex keyword sets to listen to conversations broadly and at scale.
- Issue Filter refers to a set of keywords designed to capture a particular conversation or story trend (ex: Inflation) that can be applied to a broader conversation.
- Quiet refers to conversations and/or stories operating at a lower volume relative to other conversations in the narrative ecosystem.
- Loud refers to conversations and/or stories operating at a higher volume relative to other conversations in the narrative ecosystem.
ReFrame uses Zignal Labs, alongside other big listening tools to support our narrative research and action. The charts in this report represent data parameters built by ReFrame’s narrative research and action team within this tool.
Signals is a visionary project fueled by wit, imagination, fortitude, and caffeine. We ingest, digest, and dissect social, cultural, and political conversations of the moment and across time and space. We use the hard skills of grassroots organizing and strategic communications, the thinking of designers and futurists, the technology of big listening, and the wisdom of our ancestors. Signals is brought to you by ReFrame.
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