Mining the Chans: Exposing the Visual and Linguistic Dynamics of Radicalisation in Far-right Image-boards (MineChans)

The MineChans project seeks to expose and analyse the visual and linguistic practices of two image-boards (4Chan/pol, 8Chan) that play a central role in the emergence, and cementing of, a new transnational far-right subculture linked to several recent instances of terrorism. Combining cutting-edge computer-assisted content analysis of the full textual and visual content of these forums with in-depth interpretive examination of sampled threads, this project will enhance the understanding how these websites relate to extremism and unlock new possibilities of counter-extremism/terrorism interventions for governments.

The project is therefore anchored in – and will further strengthen – two fields of analysis. First, the project is situated in a growing scholarship concerned with the impact of images on dynamics of political communication, affiliation, militancy, and extremism. Second, MineChans connects with the well-established (yet in some respects fragmented) literature on radicalisation, specifically scholarship focusing on the role played by visual communication in these processes.

The team, based at Exeter’s Q-STEP and CAIS centres, will ask three main questions. First, what are the main patterns of interaction in 4chan/pol and 8chan? Second, what are the characteristics of 4chan/pol’s and 8chan’s visual landscapes, and how do these characteristics relate to known dynamics of radicalisation? Finally, what are the recurring patterns of text-image relationship in 4chan/pol and 8chan, and how do these patterns relate to known dynamics of radicalisation?

Addressing these three questions will allow our team to offer a fine-grained analysis of the two forums’ interactions, practices, and culture, updating theories of political iconography and radicalisation in the age of image-boards and unlocking new paths for sound interventions by security, intelligence, and law enforcement practitioners (monitoring, participation, and counter-messaging). It will also push the boundaries of computer vision by adapting its techniques to the specificities of extremist iconography.

Principal Investigator

Stephane Baele

Institution

University of Exeter

People

Travis Coan

Lewys Brace