Reframe to Reclaim
EDITORS INTRODUCTION — This workshop is one of six that emerged from the 2019 Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change. An international group of students was tasked, over the course of three weeks engaging in seminars, workshops and other learning experiences, to devise an interactive learning experience for their peers that responds to the crisis of distrust. Please read the project overview to learn more, and see the people behind this work.
The world is suffering acute information overload. At the same time, information is meant to liberate and empower. This is causing friction. We need information — not least news journalism — to provide context and direction in an increasingly complex, interconnected world. The current, fragmented and constantly evolving media landscape fails to provide that.
So what’s the big deal with context and direction?
We depend on reliable, trustworthy news content to make informed decisions when interacting with our immediate social and political environment. It also helps us understand communities all over the world. The current media landscape — traditional as well as social media — is struggling to provide that. Allow us to share a few frustrations the group members feel:
“If I want to learn about something that is not considered breaking news, like if I wanted to learn more about an issue that affects me but isn’t “breaking news anymore”, it’s not very easy to find archived pieces of reporting on it. No matter how important that issue is.”
“I hate the fact that everything is either exaggerated or sensationalized. This has kind of caused me to become desensitized.”
What is needed is a new model of news creation and dissemination which provides factual information and cross-cultural understanding. It needs to be grounded in the values we want to uphold in our news and information ecosystem. Unfortunately, the most fundamental values are also the ones that have declined most rapidly, namely trust and empathy.
But before we talk about rebuilding trust and empathy, we will briefly touch on why it is critical to develop and maintain these two values together.
First, it is important to realize that one can be empathetic and see the world through others’ eyes, and still maintain a status of power imbalance. Empathy can be full of preconceptions, assumptions and biases.
During the last three weeks of learning and working together as a group of people from different cultural, educational and political backgrounds, we have learned and experienced that we need empathy to be accompanied by trust. However, with disinformation and fake news, populist politicians and companies breaching our data and privacy, trust in institutions is being eroded, and we no longer know which news sources to rely on. This also means that our ‘empathy sensors’ no longer work correctly.
To address these two problems together, we have designed a learning experience that helps students focus first on building a foundation of trust between the participants, and only then move to stimulating empathy. We have placed trust at the center of the design process while creating this framework.
To redevelop and rebuild fragmented societies and damaged social capital, we have to redefine who we are and how we want to define our relationships with others in the world.
To achieve this as part of our learning experience, we’re proposing a methodology and technology that empowers students to better understand one another. To improve media and civic literacy in order to move toward a less polarized world; in this world, news journalism will be the medium through which to celebrate commonalities and honor differences.
Are you onboard?