Contemporary Challenges in Migration: An Interactive Discussion on the MIRROR Platform

Contemporary Challenges in Migration: An Interactive Discussion on the MIRROR Platform

The online workshop “Contemporary Challenges in Migration: An Interactive Discussion on the MIRROR Platform” took place November 26th, 2020. The event, organized by the MIRROR consortium, saw the participation of high-level national and European policy-makers and security practitioners, civil society representatives, members of national and international humanitarian agencies.

After a warm welcome to the workshop delivered by Dr. Aitana Radu (University of Malta), the project coordinator Dr. Claudia Niederee (L3s research center) gave a general introduction to the MIRROR project. The European-funded H2020-research project MIRROR, aims at developing an integrated platform and tools for media and social media analysis focusing on the perception of Europe as a potential destination for migration.

The rich program included the presentation of the various technologies incorporated in the MIRROR platform, a review of the legal, ethical and societal framework of the project and platform as well as a brief description of the theoretical basis and information model on EU perception underpinning the technology development. The event also included a guided presentation of the MIRROR mock-up for the benefit of the participating stakeholders, who took this opportunity to share their feedback and suggestions.

The first topic to be addressed was the human rights and societal acceptance aspects of the MIRROR project. Prof. Jeanne Mifsud Bonnici from University of Groningen provided a comprehensive overview of the work in terms of ethical, legal and societal aspects with regards to the project. Jeanne also shared the human rights mechanisms developed by the consortium to review the technologies produced, ensuring that the above principles are respected and that the necessary safeguards are put into place. Among the items presented were the ethics traffic lights system, the human rights implications checklist and some of the initial findings produced by the societal taskforce.

The next presentation was delivered by Prof. Hajo Boomgaarden (University of Vienna) who introduced their work on an information model regarding migrants’ perceptions of Europe. Hajo presented the field work which has been carried out by his team of researchers and the research activities which are still going on. One highlighted aspect was the migration-communication theoretical model, which has been developed by analyzing multi-disciplinary literature on the role of media and information in migration decision-making processes. The presentation also touched upon the role of migration networks, different types of feedback communication as well as media and information literacy in the contemporary migration processes.

The first part of the workshop concluded with a guided presentation of the MIRROR mock-up was introduced and a guided presentation delivered by Dr. Francesco Gallo (EURIX). Francesco used a MIRROR scenario to explain the functionalities of the system, the technologies already integrated and the way they can be used by different stakeholders. This was then followed by a more in-depth presentation of the search functionalities of the platform (e.g., search by MRSCs -Migration Related Semantic Concepts, free text, time, country, etc.) and the platform dashboard. The presentation also touched upon the type of online sources exploited by the platform.

The second part of the event included a presentation of the individual technologies used by the MIRROR platform. First, multilingualism and speech recognition technologies of the platform were presented.

Dr. Gerhard Backfried (SAIL LABS Technology) gave an overview of textual and audio analysis methods and the sources and technologies integrated into the MIRROR system. His presentation covered opportunities and limitations of language identification, entity detection, sentiment analysis, topic detection, computer-generated content detection and multi-linguality.

Then, Dr. Vasileios Mezaris (CERTH) provided a short description of the image analysis technologies, which enable the MIRROR system to understand images and videos and makes them easily searchable. He explained how these technologies help in annotating visual concepts, MRSCs (Migration Related Semantic Concepts), sentiment labels, and in summarizing and creating compact representations of large media collections.

Finally, Dr. Aitana Radu (University of Malta) introduced the threat and risk analysis models based on analysing misperceptions. The presentation included the preliminary work on developing a methodology for extracting threats from misperceptions as well as a brief description of proposed ways in which to improve exiting risk analysis frameworks (e.g., by also examining the risks to migrants). Aitana also mentioned that it is important to understand how the methodologies developed in MIRROR could be linked to the risk analysis needs of end-users, which is also one of the aims of the project.

The workshop concluded with an interactive discussion where participants were encouraged to share their feedback and recommendations. The discussion touched upon the challenge of including all possible groups of migrants in the research design (e.g., interviews taken by University of Vienna) and how different migrant communities could be reached by looking at different communication channels. Another important discussion point was the added value of the MIRROR system to existing technologies. In this respect, the MIRROR partners emphasized two key aspects: (a) the creation of a database of Migration Related Semantic Concepts and the development of the platform around these concepts, which is a novel approach underpinning all search functionalities and further analysis; (b) the careful consideration given to human rights and the implementation of a privacy by design and privacy by default approach to technological development, which is again a novel and useful feature of the platform.

The MIRROR project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement № 832921.