Media Communications Research News

Dr. Bradley E. Wiggins, associate professor and department head of media communications, spoke with science and technology editor Karin Krichmayr from Der Standard about his research on internet memes and fake news.

Krichmayr was especially interested in discussing what effects, if any, memes have such as the ones disseminated on the ÖVP-leader Sebastian Kurz’s Facebook page. Dr. Wiggins also discussed how fake news and political campaign work by emphasizing that if an event or story highly polarizes people, the tendency is to stick to their assumptions and not to question one’s world view.

Wiggins emphasized the role of the algorithm in the news feed of social media, especially Facebook, as a determining factor for what a person may know or be able to talk about on a particular issue, contingent upon a constructed media narrative. In response to questions about the role of memes and fake news in the Trump campaign, Wiggins highlighted that while we may assume that the internet connects us through communication technologies, it is also very good at fragmenting audiences.

Trump and his campaign exploited this by emphasizing emotional appeals, forgetting about facts and evidence especially if they conflict with the Trump message. His presidency is not about “post-truth”. Rather, it shows that truth is malleable, flexible, depending on what details the audience in particular knows or is willing to accept. Read the full Der Standard article here.

Photo credit: Der Standard - Forschung Spezial Oktober 4, 2017 pg. 12