SOAS University of London

Centre for Global Media and Communications

Prejudice, Conspiracy and Misinformation: Understanding Media in a Post-Truth Environment

Module Code:
15PMSH038
Credits:
15
FHEQ Level:
7
Taught in:
Term 1

The emerging debate on the conceptual definition of misinformation/disinformation is becoming increasingly topical, particularly at a time of many-to-many communication, increasing digital media access and use, the rise of populism and othering politics, the emergence of digital silos, hate crime and the increasing use of information warfare to summon people behind particular ideologies. Today, concerns over misinformation and the resurgence of information warfare are arguably affecting media ecologies across the Global South. This interdisciplinary module will critically engage with contemporary academic debates around post-truth media environments, definitions of misinformation, conspiracy and information warfare. It will introduce key theoretical approaches around the role of media in the construction of prejudice and conspiracy while drawing on diverse approaches in critical media studies, social psychology, gender studies, sociology, politics and cultural studies. The module will help students acquire the necessary theoretical and methodological approaches to critically engage with, and understand, the role of media as well as the role of media users in the construction of post-truth societies, inter-group conflict, prejudice and discrimination. The course will start by introducing conceptual frameworks around post-truth and examine how the definition of the term has evolved over time and across disciplines. It will then explore different perspectives from the field of social psychology, looking at the literature on psychology of crowds, which have been central to the scholarship of media studies and political communication (e.g. the mass psychology of fascism, public opinion). Another set of lectures will then comment on contemporary academic debates around misinformation, conspiracy theories, rumours and filter-bubbles. The last part of the course will expand on these questions to study media representations of minorities and stereotypical gender norms in the media. It will also analyse how the practices of public diplomacy is evolving in response to growing concerns over misinformation and information warfare.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

• To provide students with an informed insight into the relationship between media, prejudice and inter-group conflict
• To understand the relationship between academic and contemporary political debates around misinformation/disinformation and information warfare. Being able to reflect critically about this terminology and question/challenge its conceptual validity.
• To develop the skills needed for further independent research, writing and thinking about the relationship between media and prejudice/stereotype/discrimination.
• To develop the ability to think critically, with reference to theoretical and empirical (historical and/or contemporary) content about media and prejudice.

Workload

The module will be taught over 10 weeks with one 2 hour seminar per week

Scope and syllabus

• Post-truth in contemporary digital environments
• Stereotype and the Psychology of Prejudice
• Psychology of crowds
• Conspiracy theories
• Misinformation
• Filter bubbles
• Minorities in the Media
• Misogyny and gender norms in the media: a historical and cross-cultural perspective (with contributions from the Centre for Gender Studies)
• Network affects/network subjectivity
• International relations and the resurgence of information warfare (with contributions from the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy)

Method of assessment

Assignment one – Book Review (600-800 words); 20%
Assignment two -Essay (3000 words); 80%

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules