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Salzburg Academy students develop DIY playbook for building a better world

Students from around the world take part in the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change to reflect on the media’s coverage of global populism and create new tools to combat misinformation

Students and faculty from the 2017 Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change

Aceel Kibbi | 09.08.2017

More than 80 students have come together as part of a three-week program to create a series of interactive exercises to educate others about global populism and extremism.

Participants at this year’s Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change – entitled Voices Against Extremism: Media Responses to Global Populism – included students from Argentina, Austria, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Egypt, Finland, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Palestine, Singapore, Slovakia, Syria, the UK, the United States, and Venezuela. Together they produced projects for an online DIY playbook: reaction.community.

The online publication aims to identify how populism and extremism operates and affects people of different ages, backgrounds and ethnicities around the world. Students were organized into groups where they brainstormed, conducted research, and identified case studies related to populism and extremism. The ideas were then transformed into “playable problems.”

Some of the themes explored in this year’s publication are children’s rights, climate change, reporting on extremism, the protection of journalists, the power of photo manipulation, the history and future of populism, violence against women, and freedom of information. The projects aim to facilitate dialogue and promote engagement through a product-based approach. They also invite the audience to develop a sense of solidarity and harness the right tools to stand in the face of oppression in all of its forms. Multimedia elements including videos, infographics, music playlists, interactive maps, text-based games, e-zines, comics, and data visualizations make up a number of the projects.

Paul Mihailidis, program director of the Salzburg Academy and associate professor at Emerson College, Boston, USA, said: “The 83 students, 13 faculty and 15 visiting experts came together to create a meaningful civic media intervention that provides creative media solutions for responding to harmful populist rhetoric. Their work emerged out of a commitment to themselves, and each other, to be open, honest, and creative, and open to new ideas. Only then can they create creative media that is by them, for their peers, and focused on social impact at local and global levels.”

Students’ ideas were inspired by conversations which took place throughout the Academy. Throughout the three weeks, students explored how media are framed by design choices, algorithmic bias, data manipulation, and commoditized content. To expand their international outlook on media and politics, they took part in plenary sessions, workshops, reading groups and hands-on exercises that challenged their creativity and transformed their thoughts into action. Topics covered included critical media making, the intersection of civic imagination and civic media, bridging cultural divides, challenging social gaps, journalism ethics and media literacy. Guest speakers at this year’s Academy included US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and acclaimed journalist Robin Wright, a contributing writer for The New Yorker.

This year’s students, who hailed from five different continents, put their differences aside to discuss one of the world’s most pressing problems. Not only did the Salzburg Academy serve as a safe space for healthy debate and dialogue, it also acted as a “brave space” – where participants reaped the benefits of challenging their perspectives and beliefs.

In among the discussions and work, students were taken on cultural and poignant trips into the Alps and to the Mauthausen Memorial Site. Students also took part in a “Seeing Media” image contest, which provided a mosaic of visual art which shows how the Academy visualized global issues today.

Connor Bean from Bournemouth University, UK, said: “Seeing how people from different parts of the world can come together and allow their perceptions to collide rather than clash has been the highlight of my time at the Salzburg Academy. The motivation and drive in certain people inspired me to make a change in my community and allowed me to have a whole new view on the world.”

Rachel Hanebutt, a graduate student at Emerson College, Boston, USA, said: “Making connections on multiple continents, I left the Salzburg Academy feeling re-energized and ready to use my media and communication skills to make positive change in not only my community, but in the world. Before Salzburg, I didn’t realize how truly powerful media can be in shaping societies and changing perspectives; whether it is populism or climate change, I now know that I want to be a part in creating more just and equitable political systems, through media. More than anything, this Academy allowed me the time and space to focus in on what is truly important to me, which inadvertently helped me to more deeply understand I want to accomplish in the short term, as well as in my long term goals.”

The Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change was launched by the international non-profit organization, Salzburg Global Seminar in 2007 in partnership with leading universities on five continents. Over its 11 years, more than 700 alumni have taken part in the three-week program at its home, the palace Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria. The Academy has taken a pioneering lead in media education, tackling issues of global concern with a focus on media literacy and civic engagement. Academy alumni have been inspired to become change-makers and leaders, taking pro-active positions in education, media, technology and politics.


Voices Against Extremism: Media Responses to Global Populism is part of Salzburg Global Seminar’s long-running multi-year program, the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change. More information on the session can be found here: www.SalzburgGlobal.org/go/sac11.

09.08.2017 Category: FACES OF LEADERSHIP, MEDIA ACADEMY, IMAGINATION, SALZBURG UPDATES, SOCIAL COMPACT, SUSTAINABILITY, JUSTICE
Aceel Kibbi