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Conspiracies Conference: U of Miami

March 19 - March 22

“This conference intendeds to bring together scholars studying conspiracy theories, fake news, and misinformation from across disciplinary and geographic boundaries.

The goals of the conference are (1) to gain a comparative perspective in the study of conspiracy theories, fake news, and misinformation by bringing together researchers from across continents and from across disciplinary boundaries, and (2) to formulate solutions to the current problems of conspiracy theories, fake news, and misinformation.

Conspiracy theories are not confined to parlor games about who really shot Kennedy or who probed whom near Roswell, New Mexico. Conspiracy theorizing (or what Richard Hofstadter famously called the paranoid style) is an enduring part of politics. While often caricatured as a fringe demographic composed of middle-aged white male Internet enthusiasts, polls tell us a different story. Conspiracy theories permeate all parts of society and cut across gender, age, race, income, political affiliation, educational level and occupational status. Conspiracy theories are ubiquitous, absorbing, and substantial; they reveal the darkest recesses of a nation’s psyche. They have also been given new life due to the prevalence of fake news, state sponsored disinformation campaigns, and elite-driven misinformation.

There are persuasive reasons to study conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories have ushered in revolutions, undercut the ability of governments to lead, perverted democracy, and provoked witch-hunts. Current evidence suggests that conspiracy thinking can decrease participation and voter turnout, but also add fire to political polarization and populist movements.

There is a debate to be had regarding the benefits or harms of conspiracy theories. On one hand, their negative consequences are varied and many. Imagine a world without conspiracy theories targeting religious and ethnic minorities or immigrants. Or, a world where conspiracy theories do not take priority over scientific and medical consensuses. Whether the issue is climate change, vaccination rates, violence, fake news, or international cooperation, solving many of the world’s major challenges involve addressing conspiracy theories. On the other hand, conspiracies actually do happen, powerful people do abuse their power from time to time, and some level of public skepticism is a necessary part of a healthy democracy.

For such a common feature of the political landscape, there is little consensus on why conspiratorial beliefs blossom, or how to stop them in the age of social media. This is not for want of attention; authors from many disciplines – particularly in the last ten years – have addressed the phenomenon. But despite the broad and growing interest, scholars have yet to adequately integrate findings from disparate disciplines into coherent theoretical frameworks, or to propose meaningful policy solutions. The problem lies in a lack of comparative cross-cultural research and a dearth of interdisciplinary work.

This conference intends to bridge the gap between the great works currently being undertaken across disciplines. It also seeks to bring together researchers studying conspiracy theorizing across the globe. We intend to build broad interdisciplinary networks, share disparate findings, and move the study forward.”

Details

Start:
March 19
End:
March 22
Event Tags:
Conspiracy TheoryDisinformationInternet StudiesMedia StudiesMisinformation
Event Category:
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Venue

University of Miami
Miami, FL United States