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Media Literacy, Civic Engagement, and Democracy

Understanding the Power of Memes

April 12th at 4:00. Make Memes. Eat Pizza

Join us in Glendenning Annex on Tuesday, April 12th from 4:00-6:00! We'll be discussing how memes can function as propaganda, the four keys to crafting a message that spreads, and how what's old is new in the world of virality and propaganda. Participants will then take what they've learned to create their own memes designed to spread a message of their own choosing.

Most importantly, we will have pizza for all attendees!!

Dr. Cathy Buerger of the Dangerous Speech Project

On March 1st, Dr. Cathy Buerger delivered a lecture in the Blackistone Room entitled  "Dangerous Disinformation: The Rhetoric of January 6th and Where We Go From Here". In addition, Dr. Buerger held a workshop entitled "Countering Hateful Speech Online:  An Introduction to Counterspeech". 

Dr. Buerger is the Director of Research for the Dangerous Speech Project, a non-profit organization that studies speech that inspires violence between groups of people and investigates ways to mitigate this violence without suppressing freedom of speech. The organization works primarily in four avenues:

1. Tracking and studying dangerous speech in many countries
2. Researching effective responses to dangerous speech and other forms of harmful expression
3. Advising social media and other tech companies on their policies, and encouraging them to engage in transparent research
4. Teaching dangerous speech ideas to a variety of people who use them to study and counter dangerous speech

You can find a recording of the lecture below, as well as recordings of several other lectures Dr. Buerger has given. 

 

  • Dr. Buerger's lecture on the fallout from January 6th and next steps to combat disinformation can be viewed above.

 

 

 

  • In May of 2020, Dr. Buerger delivered a lecture on countering hate speech for the Network for Responsible Public Policy.

 

 

 

  • In February 2022, just a month before her lecture and workshop at SMCM, Dr. Buerger delivered a lecture on the link between dangerous speech and violence with Susan Benesch (also of the Dangerous Speech Project) at Bard College's Center for the Study of Hate. 

 

 

 

Lunch and Learn

On February 8th, 2022, The Center for the study of Democracy and the Library presented a Lunch and Learn program titled "Reflections on the Anniversary of January 6th."  Dr. Antonio Ugues presented the findings of the MLCED Survey Research Project on public attitudes toward January 6th, 2021. This was followed by a community conversation about the study. 

Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

American Insurrection: Film Screening and Discussion

On January 25th at 7:00 pm, The Center for the Study of Democracy and The Library hosted a virtual screening of the PBS Frontline Documentary American Insurrection. This film follows a Pro Publica investigative reporting project on far-right and white-supremacist groups in the United States and the increasingly bolder tactics they've used from the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA to the January 6th attack and beyond. 

Dr. Renee DiResta

On October 14th, 2021 the Center for the Study of Democracy and the Library hosted Dr. Rene DiResta of the Stanford Internet Observatory. Dr. Diresta is the Technical Research manager at the Observatory, a regular contributor to Wired and The Atlantic, and has advised The United States Congress and State Departments on the Russian Internet Agency's attempts to interfere with U.S. democracy. 

DiResta studies the way that narratives, including potentially harmful misinformation, spread across traditional, digital, and social media, taking into account factors like crowd dynamics and platform algorithms. She is particularly interested in the way that users from domestic activists to foreign governments, can coordinate efforts to influence dominant media narratives, and this was the focus of her talk. 

 

 

 

Testimony Before the Senate Intelligence Committee - August 1st, 2018

 

  • In 2018, Dr. DiResta testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian interference in U.S. elections

 

 

Keynote Address: Black Hat USA 2020

  • At the 2020 Black Hat USA conference, a meeting of information security and cybersecurity experts, DiResta delivered an address about the techniques used by bad actors to influence public opinion for their own ends.

 

 

Renee DiResta on The Open Mind: Ethical and Societal Implications of Technology

  • On the PBS weekly program "The Open Mind" DiResta spoke with host Alexander Heffner about the impact of social media and other technology on our society.

 

 

Essays and Research Reports

Dr. Joan Donovan

On April 19th, 2021, The Media Literacy and Democracy Project hosted it's inaugural speaker, Dr. Joan Donovan. Dr. Donovan is the Research Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, where she leads the Technology and Social Change Project. Dr. Donovan specializes in media manipulation and disinformation campaigns, as well as online extremism and adversarial media movements. She is the creator of the Media Manipulation Casebook, an online platform for research into media manipulation and disinformation  campaigns, as well the author of the Meme War Weekly newsletter, and the host of the Big, If True webinar series.

Her lecture covered misinformation and disinformation in our media ecosystem, the role of political and media elites in disinformation campaigns both online and offline, the origin and spread of conspiracy theories, and the impact of media manipulation campaigns on American Democracy.

 

 

What is Media Manipulation?

  • In this lecture, Dr. Donovan discusses the tactic of "media manipulation," in which a variety of bad actors can accelerate the spread of hoaxes by seeding false stories to journalists, and the features of our information ecosystem that make it possible.

 

 

The True Costs of Misinformation: Producing Moral and Technical Order in a Time of Pandemonium

  • This lecture by Dr. Donovan surveys the wide range of bad actors spreading misinformation online and discusses the features of our networked information ecosystem they exploit to do so.

 

 

Research Reports