Want to Study in Vienna? A Glimpse into Trial Class 'Meme-ing a Pandemic: Conspiracy Theories in the Time of COVID-19'
January 04, 2022
Whether you’re looking to start an undergraduate or graduate program, your global learning experience begins at Webster Vienna Private University. When you choose Webster Vienna, you choose to immerse yourself in an unforgettable setting with an unparalleled academic adventure. With our expansive student services, our tight-knit community of international students, and our experienced instructors, you will receive an enhanced educational experience.
One of our instructors at WVPU, Dr. Bradley Wiggins, came to our university in 2015 from the United States to share his extensive academic and research experience with our student body. Inspired by current events, Dr. Wiggins has set out to inform others of the impact that conspiracy theories have had so far on the pandemic, and the role social media platforms have played in the current climate. Continue reading to learn more about his unique virtual lecture, “Meme-ing a Pandemic: Conspiracy Theories in the Time of COVID-19.”
A Look into Conspiracy Theories and the Role Social Media Plays
At Webster, we pride ourselves on our ability to dive into unique perspectives as we prepare students to become lifelong global learners. The most recent virtual lecture presented by Dr. Wiggins is no different, exposing students who study in Austria to important global movements.
For those unfamiliar with the subject, one COVID-related conspiracy theory Dr. Wiggins mentioned is that “the pandemic is a hoax.” While this is a broad claim, it quickly splits off into “several sub-conspiracy theories linked to new and old fears,” Dr. Wiggins expressed. He explained that some of those include the idea “that the vaccine is a method of social control, as are masks,” and notes that many of these conspiracy theorists resort to insulting those who follow social distancing initiatives.
When asked about the impact that social media has had on the spread and adoption of these conspiracy theories, he stated that “often people blame social media platforms for the apparent problems like fake news and conspiracy theories. However, while there is an urgent need to hold social platforms accountable, social media only reflects what and how people express themselves. It’s an unpopular opinion.”
Biggest Takeaways From This Unique Trial Course
As an instructor at WVPU, Dr. Wiggins upholds our university’s commitment to introducing students to the many lines of inquiry, modes of thought, and forms of individual and collective action essential to contributing to greater scientific advancement and advancing positive social change. An education at WVPU ensures the promotion of diverse, global perspectives through innovative educational approaches, as shown by this virtual lecture.
Dr. Wiggins discussed the three major takeaways that he expects will impact students the most in his class. The first that he touched on is that “online far-right activism and/or conspiracy theorizing can often be hiding in plain sight, as with the use of certain vernaculars on a site like 4chan, such as the triple parentheses to mark an anti-Semitic reference.”
“Another,” Dr. Wiggins noted, “is that the tools we often praise for connecting people and getting a movement like the Women’s March or Black Lives Matter to gain members can just as easily attract conspiracy theory-minded individuals.” Finally, Dr. Wiggins stated that a third takeaway “is the reality of the pandemic as having a serious impact on streaming consumption, especially YouTube.” With suggested videos based on consumption, YouTube viewers can quickly find themselves in an echo chamber of biased content.
Learn More About Digital Age Culture and Social Media Messaging When You Study in Vienna
Dr. Wiggins noted that one of the most important aspects of these current social issues is the “difference between old and new conspiracism”. Whereas old conspiracism provided possible explanations for theories, for new conspiracism, “you just make a claim, you don't need to provide any evidence,” he says.
For students interested in learning more, Dr. Wiggins told us about a few other exciting courses that may present students with topics on conspiracy theories and social media, memes, fake news, COVID-19, social media, etc:
- PBRL 1010 Fundamentals of Strategic Communication and Public Relations
- PBRL 2400 New Media Messaging
- MDST 2100 Media Literacy
- MDST 4110 Media & Digital Culture
- MDST 4500 Political Communication
When you choose to study in Vienna, you will have the unique opportunity to dive into a curriculum that gives you the practical competencies essential to engaging with some of the most pressing social and scientific problems of our time.
Do you want to study abroad in Vienna? Contact Webster Vienna Private University for more information.