A case study on the discourses of flat earth believers’ online community
The Web 2.0 has fundamentally changed the nature of the public sphere and the construction of reality, as well as the behaviour of communication actors. It has also had an effect on how both scientific and seemingly scientific but in fact invalid and non-credible contents appear and then spread very rapidly on the internet. This paper presents a case study of the Flat Earth Believers by analysing the discourse of a Hungarian Facebook group. The Flat Earth Believers disseminate a scientifically refuted and rejected theory, and are therefore a good example of online participatory culture: they cultivate their own, alternative “science” on the internet. The research asks the questions of what lingual, rhetorical and other discursive tools are involved in constructing the identity of this group. The analysis focuses on two elements of their identity construction: how they oppose other groups, and how they create their own scientific credibility. Based on these, the paper investigates 1) how polarisation plays a role in the construction of their identity and their credibility; and 2) how they use elements of scientific communication in their discourse. The investigation shows that in the group’s discourse, anti-scientific attitude is equally representative to the recognition of the authority, credibility and reliability of science they themselves wish to possess. The aim of this research is to draw attention to the need for new approaches in science communication in a changing world ever more defined by information technology and the internet, and to demonstrate that online communication may provide new contexts for studying the public understanding of science (PUS).
Keywords: conspiracy theory, critical skills, digital communication, digital and media competence, media awareness, participatory culture, pseudo-science, public understanding of science, science communication, social media
Médiakutató Winter 2019 pp. 65-82
A (self-)critique of participatory culture
The name of Henry Jenkins has a prominent place in the study of media culture, especially in that of popular culture. In addition to his research, which has set out the main lines of research on fan culture, he is also credited with creating the concept of participatory culture. Participatory culture is closely related to fan practices but encompasses a wider range of activities. The acquisition of the skills associated with it plays an important role in developing users’ media literacy. However, Jenkins’ original ideas about participatory culture have been subject to a number of criticisms. Although studies focusing on participatory culture have been published in the field of media research in Hungary, there are no texts available that focus specifically on Jenkins’ reflections on the critiques and the concept of participatory culture as further elaborated by him. This article attempts to fill this gap. It presents the (fan) participation possibilities that he has further developed in the meantime. Participatory politics in the context of civic engagement, while drawing heavily on it, goes to some extent beyond the boundaries of the phenomenon of participatory culture.
Médiakutató Summer 2023 pp. 79-90 https://doi.org/10.55395/MK.2023.2.5