Reflections on the “infodemic”
Cross-Current Media & Journalism Group Meeting #5, online May 2021
Reflections written by Mathias Lauter
This year’s Cross-Current Media & Journalism Online-gathering handled topics of integrity, trust around information, public communication within modern technology, and our responsibility as professionals in conveying information to the public. In this already long period of well-known terms like “Fake News” the discussions were filled with many concerns as well as a motivation to find solutions to the “infodemic” we live in.
One thing that helped was to learn about the spectrum of indications to classify disinformation. For example, the difference between mis-information – unintentional mistakes, as in translation statistics – and mal-information – purposeful wrong, or harmful information for specific interests. I think this helps us not only to classify but also to express the problems we encounter in everyday life. It also challenges us to communicate in an empathic way, which is so vital in today’s virtual communication culture.
This helps us to react to the information that’s already out there – but the question remains; how can this help us in our professional life?
Last year, we highlighted the importance of storytelling and extended it to truth-telling. Although stories have the ability to be engaging and to open up a world of new information to the reader or to the user – the question about truth still matters. As an example, we heard about Peter, in Acts 4.20, standing in front of the judge mentioning that he is “unable to not speak about the truth he has seen and heard”. Another example is Jesus himself in John 18, standing up, being bold for the ultimate existence of truth, while he is asked by the Roman authority about what truth is in first place.
The underlying reference to the Greek here is through the word “Parrhesia“ – speaking with courage, boldness, and frankness. This thought was revisited by the French philosopher Michel Foucault in the late 20th Century, with his call to speak out with truth and courage.
Our Inspirer Iwan Russell-Jones led us on a tour of the meaning of the word “parrhesia” as well as contemporary applications and understandings, of speaking with frankness in our societies.
Altogether it was a very encouraging event and motivated me to get involved in building spaces of truth and trustworthiness in our virtual public world and work environment – on the one hand by speaking with courage, but also by acting and living with integrity.
Cover photos: Visuals on Unsplash.com