The Center for Modeling Social Systems at NORCE has just received funding from The Research Council of Norway for a project on “Emotional Contagion: Predicting and Preventing the Spread of Misinformation, Stigma, and Fear during a Pandemic” (EmotiCon).

I’ll be functioning as principal investigator, joined by Roger Normann, Ivan Puga-Gonzalez and Justin Lane as work package leaders.

The outputs of the project will include user-friendly artificial intelligence tools that will enable municipalities and other governmental agencies (1) to analyze and forecast the societal effects of their public health responses and social countermeasures to pandemics, and (2) to experiment with alternative intervention strategies for “flattening the curve” of psychologically and politically debilitating social contagion within an empirically validated “digital twin” (artificial society) before trying them out in the real world. We’ll be using new technological tools developed at Prospectus Solutions.

EmotiCon will utilize survey and other data to analyze the role of social media in fostering anxiety and explore the cultural dimensions of the societal reaction to the disease by running simulation experiments that can reveal the mechanisms and forecast the patterns in which individuals and communities (including vulnerable groups such as the elderly) understand and react to COVID-19.

Once calibrated using quantitative and qualitative data, and validated in dialogue with the municipality reference group and other subject matter experts, the multi-agent artificial intelligence EmotiCon model will also inform stakeholder discussions and decisions in relation to public health and risk communication in reaction to COVID-19 and future pandemic threats.