Harnessing the power of digital animation to counter extremism

Monday 11 Jun 2018

* Two CSU academics are combining their information science and creative skills in 3D virtual reality to counter extremism through theatrical animation.

* The research has attracted international attention when presented at a conference of information science professionals and researcher in Washington DC.

* The work uses the latest advances in digital character animation.

* The project draws on global resource of previously published accounts of extremist views.

A digital animation to assist in the ongoing efforts to counter extremism around the globe is being developed in a new project at Charles Sturt University (CSU).

It draws on the expertise of two CSU academics – information scientist Dr Waseem Afzal and animation and visual effects expert Mr Andrew Hagan.

A research partnership that began in 2016 will see Dr Afzal from the University’s School of Information Studies and Mr Hagan from the CSU School of Communication and Creative Industries create an animated production that aims to a powerful communication tool to counter extremist views in society.

Supported by two CSU lecturers in acting who will perform the play, the performance focuses on the tension between a character with extremist views who tries to create a sense of confusion and hatred in a young person who counters the extremist views.

Dr Afzal said, “The project draws on my earlier research for the Australian Army which looked at the informational properties of extremist propaganda in news bulletins, magazines and on social media and what kinds of information the extremists’ used in their messages.

“Using some of the informational cues used in the extremist propaganda I studied, and combining it with Andrew’s expertise in animation, we are trying to develop an animation that we hope will inform counter radicalisation research.”

Mr Hagan said, “On the basis of Waseem’s work, we have developed a scripted performance using the latest advances in digital character animation to engage with audiences in new methods of 3D, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

“One of the challenges is being able to future-proof our project by looking at where animation will be next year or in 2025 so that our project is relevant on a variety of platforms, some of which may not be developed yet,” Mr Hagan concluded.


Dr Waseem and Mr Hagan outlined their project, Using virtual reality to counter extremism to the annual conference in Washington DC in 2017 of the Association for Information Science and Technology, the peak association in the information science discipline.

Dr Waseem Afzal is a senior lecturer in the CSU School of Information Studies - the only school at an Australian university devoted to library and information science education and research. Read more about the programs offered here.

In 2015, Dr Afzal received an Australian Army research grant Research Scheme understanding and countering information strategies of extremists: What can the Australian Army learn from the distributional properties of information?

Mr Andrew Hagan is a lecturer in the University’s School of Communication and Creative Industries which offers programs in advertising and public relations: animation; digital media, journalism and media; sound and radio; stage and screen; visual arts and design. Read more here.


Media contact: Kate Fotheringham, 63386251

Media Note:

CSU academics Dr Waseem Afzal and Mr Andrew Hagan are based at CSU in Wagga Wagga.

For further information contact CSU Media.