Inaugural National Security Summit

The National Center for Narrative Intelligence (NCNI) hosted an invite-only summit on national security February 20-21, 2024 at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi. The inaugural event featured, Senator Roger Wicker, William Crowell (former Deputy Director of NSA), Chancellor Glenn Boyce, and others.

The inaugural summit shared the National Center's mission and vision on narrative intelligence and national security, particularly its focus on how to scale national resilience in the information environment and beyond. It introduced the center’s mandate, leadership, and current industry partners.

National Center for Narrative Intelligence

Approved in August 2023 by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), NCNI, the first center of its kind, is focused on contributing applied interdisciplinary research, workforce development and new analytic approaches to our dynamic digital information environment.

NCNI brings together academics with wide-ranging expertise in areas such as AI, communication, criminal justice, public policy, psychology, and international relations, together with leading industry and governmental partners.

About The Center

The formation of the National Center for Narrative Intelligence was a cooperative effort between government, academia, and private enterprise.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker is the highest-ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services and oversaw the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (FY 24 NDAA). The bill, which was signed into law, included the relevant section that explained the need for such a center. Senator Wicker was instrumental in that success. He is a longtime supporter of America's national defense and servicemembers.

Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Glenn Boyce was an early champion and recognized the value of the NCNI. He continues to contribute both his extraordinary vision and steadfast support for the center’s mission.

EdgeTheory, LLC co-founders Joe Stradinger and Greg Griffith have made significant investments on behalf of their company toward the center's formation and growth, creating a highly successful internship program at the university, establishing the EdgeTheory Lab on campus at Insight Park, and donating the use of their technology systems to faculty members and students to further their research efforts and their preparations to enter the workforce.

National Call to Action

In today's evolving information environment, the exponential growth of online narrative content challenges individuals, organizations, and governments to rapidly consume, comprehend, and engage with narratives circulating on global digital media. It necessitates “narrative intelligence.”

Narrative intelligence refers to the combined use of human intelligence and artificial intelligence to analyze the origins, motivations, intentions, evolution, and outcomes of narratives.

Narratives have the power to influence wars and elections, affect the global economy, and sway public opinion and policy. They also have the potential to improve the lives of millions, by strengthening the understanding and circulation of accurate information on everything from business and foreign affairs to healthcare and election integrity.

P.L. 118-31, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024” expresses concern that the United States is lagging globally in narrative intelligence and calls for a national center to study narrative origins, effects, and responses. The law as signed by the president calls for an assessment of need for a national center to study narrative origins, effects and responses, and directs the Department of Defense to dedicate resources to developing artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to better monitor and assess information campaigns by delivering comprehensive analyses of narrative themes, language and information patterns, and disinformation networks.

Why Ole Miss?

The University of Mississippi ("Ole Miss") and the Oxford community are renowned for their literary excellence. They are the setting for a long line of iconic American writers such as William Faulkner, Larry Brown, Barry Hannah, and John Grisham, among many others. Nestled in the heart of the American South, Ole Miss not only boasts a rich tapestry of stories and histories but also excels in literature, creative writing, journalism, and Southern studies. 

With state-of-the-art facilities and a tradition of fostering community engagement and innovation, Ole Miss is rightfully well-positioned as host of the new National Center for Narrative Intelligence, continuing its legacy as a leader in the exploration of narratives and storytelling.

The Impact of Narrative Intelligence on National Security

NCNI’s initial projects will focus heavily on the relationship between narrative intelligence and national security. The ease with which narrative campaigns can be executed online, combined with the rise of generative AI, has amplified the importance of narrative intelligence. Both state and nonstate actors now utilize advanced tools to influence and disrupt on a global scale. Discerning an adversary's intent and understanding their strategies in information operations allows interested parties, including the government and journalists, to better evaluate information and counter disinformation. Some specific ways narrative intelligence plays a crucial role in enhancing the national security of the United States include: 
  • Understanding Adversaries. Analyzing the narratives and stories that shape beliefs and motivations can inform diplomatic efforts, counter-terrorism strategies, and military planning.
  • Promoting Cultural Sensitivity. Developing a deeper understanding of the cultural, historical, and social contexts of different regions can augment diplomatic missions, military deployments, and intelligence operations to avoid cultural missteps and build trust with local populations.
  • Offering Predictive Analysis. Studying emerging narratives in various regions, such as potential flashpoints, social unrest, or shifts in political alliances, can guide proactive policy decisions and interventions.
  • Enhancing Cybersecurity. Understanding the dynamics of online narratives can help identify misinformation campaigns, cyber propaganda, and potential cyber threats.
  • Building Narrative Alliances. Coordinating narratives with allies and potential partners can strengthen diplomatic ties, foster collaboration, and build coalitions.
  • Supporting Post-Conflict Reconstruction. Understanding local narratives after a military conflict can promote reconstruction, reconciliation, and the establishment of stable governance structures.
Narrative intelligence is predicated on a holistic understanding of the complex web of stories, beliefs, and motivations that drive individual and collective actions. In the realm of national security, this understanding is invaluable for both proactive and reactive strategies, ensuring that the U.S. remains agile, informed, and effective in its efforts to safeguard its interests and its citizens. It must also be explicitly said that NCNI’s approach to narrative intelligence includes serving as a steadfast defender of the rights protected by the First Amendment and assuring none of those are infringed upon in data analysis and/or management or proposed efforts to counter misinformation.

Narrative Intelligence Beyond National Security

Narrative intelligence is pivotal to many public and private actors outside of national security. In this vein, three key areas where NCNI will focus its research and development are public safety, public health, and private industry. 

In the realm of public safety, narrative intelligence aids in deciphering the motives and methods of criminal networks. Analyzing communication patterns, propaganda, and online narratives, can preemptively help identify threats, disrupt criminal activities, and better understand the communities they serve.

For public health, health care providers and experts benefit from understanding how their recommendations are interpreted and acted upon by the public. The circulation of accurate and compelling narratives has the potential to improve individual and community health outcomes.

Finally, in the private sector, narrative intelligence can provide a competitive edge. Companies can harness it to understand market narratives, anticipate consumer trends, and counter misinformation about products and services. This not only safeguards a company's reputation but also positions it for growth and innovation in a rapidly changing business landscape.


The Co-Directors of the NCNI are Andrea Hickerson, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Journalism and New Media, and Wes Jennings, Ph.D., Gillespie Distinguished Scholar, Chair, and Professor of Criminal Justice & Legal Studies.
Andrea Hickerson
Dean Hickerson’s work focuses on the synergy between journalism and computing. She has worked with an interdisciplinary team on deepfake detection for over 5 years.
Wesley Jennings
Professor Jennings’s research and expertise centers around issues relevant to law enforcement, public safety, and criminal justice, and in how technology, innovation, and evidence-based practices inform these areas.
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