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Teaching the Conspiracies - Mainz


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Renee Hobbs joins with students and faculty of the Maria Ward Schule in Mainz to explore and analyze conspiracy theories.

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Teaching the Conspiracies - Mainz

  1. 1. Renee Hobbs Professor of Communication Studies Director, Media Education Lab University of Rhode Island USA Twitter: @reneehobbs A Workshop: Critically Analyzing Conspiracy Theories Maria-Ward-Schule Mainz, GERMANY November 20, 2017
  2. 2. Can learning about conspiracy theories advance the media literacy competencies of adolescents?
  3. 3.
  4. 4. LOVE HATE CONSPIRACY THEORIES We love them and we hate them JFK Birther Chemtrails Flouride Mary Magdalene Illuminati CIA Experiments Tuskegee Elvis Ebola Vaccines Global Warming Which Ones Are You Familiar With?
  5. 5. 7% of Americans believe the moon landings were faked
  6. 6. 15% believe that the media or government adds mind control technology to TV broadcast signals
  7. 7. 42% of Republicans and 14% of Democrats believe that President Obama was not born in the United States --Economist survey, December 2016
  8. 8. Conspiracy theory: a type of belief in which the ultimate cause of an event is believed to be due to a plot by multiple actors working together with a clear goal in mind, often unlawfully and in secret
  9. 9. Conspiracy Theories as Propaganda
  10. 10. Time for Reflection • What did you learn? • What do you want to learn more about? • What questions do you have?
  11. 11. TERMS FOR UNDERSTANDING CONSPIRACY THEORIES disillusionment anxiety hoax paranoia ambiguity open-mindedness closure cynicism
  12. 12. Government commission concludes: Peace is not in the interest of a stable society. Even if lasting peace "could be achieved, it would almost certainly not be in the best interests of society to achieve it.”
  13. 13. Becomes a best selling book, translated into 15 languages 1972: Leonard Lewin admits he is the author & explains its purpose as dark political satire
  14. 14. 1990: Liberty Lobby publishes the report as a public domain document Right-wing websites re- distribute it online
  15. 15. Conspiracy Theories are Resilient
  16. 16. THINKING FAST AND SLOW Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking Fast and Slow. NY: Farrar Straus & Giroux SYSTEM 1 SYSTEM 2 intuitive emotional immediate creative logical linear analytical detail-oriented
  17. 17. Media Literacy: A Pedagogy of Inquiry
  18. 18. Should you discuss conspiracy theories in the classroom? Why or why not? TIME TO REFLECT
  19. 19. Critical Thinking Diminishes the Power of Conspiracy Theories Swami, V. et al. (2013). Analytical thinking reduces belief in conspiracy theories. Cognition 133(3), 572 – 585.
  20. 20. Familiarity Equals Believability THE POWER OF A SINGLE EXPOSURE Participants who were exposed to a conspiracy video were significantly less likely to : • think that there is widespread scientific agreement on human-caused climate change • sign a petition to help reduce global warming • donate or volunteer for a charity in the next six months. --Daniel Jolley and Karen Douglas, 2013
  21. 21. Media literacy educators can explore conspiracy theories to strengthen critical thinking skills
  22. 22.  Understand differences in the quality of information sources  Distinguish between anecdote and authoritative evidence  Recognize how disinformation and propaganda uses mystery to capture our imagination  Apply critical questions to analyze YouTube video  Appreciate the importance of source verification of online information  Participate in online dialogue by composing responses that demonstrate independent thinking and respect for others’ views
  23. 23. Screening conspiracy theory videos in the classroom risks validating them  There may not be enough time in class to examine evidence in depth  There’s too much junk information online on these topics  It’s too easy to trivialize conspiracy theories, reinforcing “us” and “them” thinking
  24. 24. re Conspiracy theories are alarm systems that help people deal with threat. They resonate most among groups suffering from loss, weakness, or disunity. --Uscinski & Parent, 2014 Responding Critically & Sympathetically
  25. 25. Conspiracy theories are resilient: they cannot be easily disproved They resonate in an age of anxiety by offering simple explanations for complex and ambiguous realities Although even brief exposures to conspiracy theories increases their believability, analytical thinking can lower belief in conspiracy theories Video annotation tools “slow down” people’s response to video and promotes analytic & reflective thinking Teachers must wrestle with important paradoxes when deciding whether, when & how to teach about conspiracy theories
  26. 26. Renee Hobbs Professor of Communication Studies Director, Media Education Lab University of Rhode Island USA Twitter: @reneehobbs SEPT/OCT 2017 Knowledge Quest A publication of the American Association for School Librarians (AASL)