By Renee Hobbs
When we created Mind Over Media: Analyzing Contemporary Propaganda in 2015, we were inspired by the changing media landscape and the need to help students and teachers access and analyze the new forms of propaganda that were emerging online as a result of the rise of social media. By using crowdsourcing that enables anyone to upload examples of propaganda, we have been able to create a website with an ever-changing array of current examples from all over the world.
Through the use of political campaign ads, activist viral videos, advertising and social media posts, website users gain practice in interpreting and critically evaluating the potential benefits and harms of propaganda, learning to spot techniques that bypass critical thinking.
Overall, though, the biggest “aha” people experience when using the Mind Over Media platform is the simple discovery that propaganda is not always negative. Some of it is actually powerfully beneficial for society, helping reaffirm core cultural values and inspire people to action. The sheer emotional power of propaganda also activates intellectual curiosity and inspires people to want to learn more about topics that they encounter. Through online sharing of interpretations, people come to respect the multiperspectival nature of interpretation and meaning-making.
Today, with the rise of disinformation and so-called “fake news,” we have re-designed Mind Over Media to be a more global platform that enables users to share interpretations of both beneficial and harmful propaganda. Here are some of the new and improved features of the platform:
- Rate examples of contemporary propaganda by reflecting on the question, “Is this example of propaganda beneficial or harmful?” Consider your own judgments in relation to others and reflect more deeply on how you make value judgments about media messages.
- Use a searchable index of over 2,000 examples from more than 25 countries to find contemporary propaganda on topics including immigration, race relations, climate change, gun violence, democracy and human rights, global politics and many more. You can sort by country, keyword, propaganda technique or time to find examples.
- Access the original source of examples, including websites and videos, in order to more carefully identify the author, purpose and context of the propaganda you find on the platform.
- Read professional translations of content into six languages, including French, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Croatian, Romanian and Polish. Plus, through Google Translate, the dynamic content of the website can be translated into any language.
- Improved commenting function enables people to share interpretations of propaganda examples, rate the quality of comments, and notice similarities and differences among user reactions.
- New lesson plans and activities, including localized curriculum from six countries and asynchronous video dialogue opportunities to discuss propaganda with learners from around the world.
- Improved Classroom Gallery lets educators create custom galleries by selecting a sample of examples from the Mind Over Media website which feature specific examples of propaganda. Check out the Terrorism Gallery and the Parody Gallery to see examples of how Custom Galleries work. Teachers can create Custom Galleries for their classes which enable rich online conversations about propaganda.
- Share examples of propaganda on social media to encourage wider dialogue and discussion. The website now makes it easier to embed and share content on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
- Listen to the Planet of Propaganda podcast featuring European project partners who share their insight on the opportunities and challenges of teaching about contemporary propaganda in their countriies
- Learn more about teaching about propaganda at the Propaganda blog, where we document what we are learning about the the pedagogy of teaching propaganda, as we implement train-the-trainer programs and other learning experiences with populations across Europe.
We’ll look forward to hearing from global users as they explore the website and implement the lesson plans and curriculum materials. Today, more than ever before, every learner must gain knowledge and skills to understand, analyze and evaluate contemporary propaganda in all its many forms.