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Vinita Srivastava is the senior editor of culture and society for The Conversation Canada, and host of the podcast Don’t Call Me Resilient, as well as a research associate with the Global Journalism Innovation Lab. This episode, Vinita and Elizabeth chat about post-truth politics and the idea that how people feel about information is sometimes more influential than the actual facts. They discuss differences between the facts contained in a story versus the perspective of who is telling a story, as well as the question of which stories get told, who gets to decide that, and the idea of truth as a product of power. Additional ResourcesElizabeth notes that “post-truth” was Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2016. This Washington Post story explains why (and also gives a good overview of the term). Elizabeth mentions that a key feature of a post-truth world is that there are no longer “universally recognized arbiters or referees of fact.” This idea comes from David Roberts’ 2013 post on Grist. There is also general consensus that Roberts coined the term “post-truth politics” in this earlier post.For a more academic take, philosopher Lee McIntyre wrote a book called Post-Truth. Here’s a 2020 interview with him.Also, this article by Matt Carlson looks at how the concept of post-truth politics affects journalism specifically.Elizabeth brings up the concept of the “relativization of facts.” Learn more about that in this article by Sebastien Schindler.Vinita gives an example of how India’s press is being muzzled by its government. Reporters Without Borders generates an annual World Press Freedom Index to track where press freedoms are being violated and how. (India ranked 142 of 180 in 2020; Canada was 14th and the U.S. was 44th).Vinita brings up the old adage that journalism is “the first draft of history.” Here’s the backstory of that saying.Elizabeth talks about how emotion is a big part of mis and dis information. Check out this study that showed how anger contributes to the spread of misinformation. This was also something Claire Wardle talked about in her episode earlier this season on information disorder. Listen here.Check out for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.
Taylor Owen is a professor of public policy at the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill university, and his research focuses mainly on tech regulation. This episode, he and Elizabeth define and categorize types of regulation. They discuss what tech regulation looks like, how lobbying impacts tech regulation, why regulation of tech is difficult, and the balance governments (both in Canada and internationally) must grapple with between regulation options and public good. This episode, recorded in January 2022, does not explore current legislation or the nitty gritty of the regulatory options. However, Elizabeth and Taylor provide the background  for understanding what the options are and why regulation and self-regulation happen.Additional ResourcesElizabeth draws on this article to form her list of types of regulationTaylor mentions how many of these big tech companies are so many things, making them difficult to regulate. He uses the example of facebook launching a digital currency and Amazon launching health care services.  Taylor and Elizabeth discuss Canada’s tech lobby. Here is an article (from former Wonks and War Rooms guest Megan Beretta) that further delves into how tech lobbying shapes federal policy.Elizabeth and Taylor address Canada’s online harms bill. This article gives an overview of the status of that bill. This page also gives an overview of the steps the government is taking to address online harms (including the creation of the advisory committee which Taylor was recently appointed to).Taylor mentions the EU’s Digital Service Act as a model that focuses on risk assessment. This article gives an overview of that legislation. Want to hear more from Taylor? Check out his podcast Big Tech.Check out for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.
This episode is an audio version of a special live taping of Wonks and War Rooms, in partnership with uOttawa’s Centre for Law, Technology and Society, where Elizabeth is joined by a panel of journalists to tackle a tough topic: online harassment of journalists and what it means for our democracy. Rosemary Barton is the Chief Political Correspondent for CBC News; Fatima Syed is a reporter for the Narwhal and host of Canadaland podcast The Backbench; and Mark Blackburn is the social media and online producer at APTN. Elizabeth and the panel look at different types of online negativity, the motivations behind harassment and attacks, and the impacts of weaponizing media. They also talk about different ways of managing online harassment, and how to balance their responsibilities as journalists with protecting themselves as individuals.Additional ResourcesOff the top, Rosemary and Elizabeth mention the day of the live event was not exactly a slow news day. Here’s why. This topic brings a bunch of terms that get jumbled together: harassment, abuse, toxicity, negativity, incivility, hate speech, intolerance. This Public Policy Forum report provides a framework for thinking about harmful communication online.Fatima talks about “chilling effects” that online harassment can have on journalists. Here’s a report from earlier this year about these kinds of impacts, published by The Canadian Journalism Foundation and the Canadian Association of Journalists.Also, last fall IPSOS ran the first Canadian survey on online harassment against journalists and media professionals, which showed it is “prevalent and pervasive.” Here are the results.Rosemary and Elizabeth discuss trolling and how it has changed over time. This article by Silvio Waisbord looks at the specific impact trolls have on journalism.Rosemary mentions that the pandemic has been a turning point for journalism. This special issue of Digital Journalism has a collection of articles on all the ways that COVID-19 has impacted the work of journalists over the past few years.Check out for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.
Riyadh Nazerally is the Director of Communications for the Hon. Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, and is the former Director of Communications for Capital Pride in Ottawa. This week he and Elizabeth discuss the backfire effect and its three types: familiarity, overkill and worldview. They talk about how to understand and handle the backfire effect when it happens. Riyadh explains how comms and policy teams figure out how much information to send, who to send it to, and when. Additional resources:Elizabeth uses this article from Lewandowsky and this article from Peter & Koch for  academic definition of backfire effect Early in the episode Riyadh mentions the book Weapons of Math Disruption by Cathy O’Neil — here is a review that summarizes what it’s all about.Elizabeth also mentions last week’s rebroadcast episode about Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles with Adi Rao.The term “information overload” is used in this episode. Here is an interesting article with simple tips on how to deal with information overload. Riyadh discusses the benefits of use of infographics to make information more accessible. Linking to the theme of the season, however, this post shows how infographics can easily be used to spread misinformation.Riyadh leaves us with this useful tip for communication strategies: “Would your mother understand this and are you pissing off a stakeholder?”Check out for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.
Adi, a lawyer and campaigner, explains how campaigns are often thinking about how they can crack into people's filter bubbles in order to raise awareness and find new supporters. During the  conversation Elizabeth and Adi tease apart the difference between algorithmically driven filter bubbles and echo chambers which come about as a result of individuals choices in their media environment.Additional Resources:Eli Pariser has a helpful Ted Talk about his notion of the Filter Bubble: Beware online “filter bubbles”.This academic article by Dubois (yes, your host) and Blank breaks down the theory of echo chambers and talks about how people's media diets might help them avoid echo chambers: The echo chamber is overstated: the moderating effect of political interest and diverse media.This Knight Foundation report is a great, accessible, overview of academic research related to echo chambers: Avoiding the Echo Chamber about Echo Chambers.Early in the episode Elizabeth mentions homophily which is basically the idea of "birds of a feather flock together." The Wikipedia article on homophily is a great place to start.Check out for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.
Sean Speer is the Editor-At-Large at The Hub, a Senior Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, and previously served as Senior Advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He and Elizabeth chat about political polarization and dig into the different theories of polarization including elite polarization and mass polarization, as well as ideological versus affective polarization. They discuss the idea of politics as a left-to-right spectrum, polarization causing artificial divides, the rise of populism, and the idea that polarization can be used as a tool for meaningful progress.Additional ResourcesInterested in learning more about political polarization from an academic perspective? This systematic review by Kubin & von Sikorski is a good place to start.Elizabeth mentions two past episodes of Wonks and War Rooms: this episode about issue ownership with Tiffany Gooch and this episode about the high-choice media environment with Jane Lytvynenko.Sean speaks about how Canadian campaign finance regimes might contribute to political polarization. This article gives a brief overview of how political parties are financed in Canada.  Sean and Elizabeth spend some time discussing the link between populism and polarization. This video shows what the rise of modern populism is all about.Check out for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.
Shuvaloy Majumdar is the Foreign Policy Director and Munk Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and this week he and Elizabeth tackle propaganda, government communication and mis/disinformation. They discuss the blurry line between government messaging and propaganda, and what they can look like in authoritarian versus democratic regimes. Shuvaloy also speaks to his experiences of government communications as a former policy director to foreign ministers.Additional Resources Elizabeth draws on this article by Aaron Hyzen for her definition of propaganda.Elizabeth mentions this episode from season one about the high choice media environment with Jane Lytvynenko In this episode, which was recorded in early February, Shuvloy uses examples of propaganda from the Russian government. This CBC article discusses some examples of how disinformation and propaganda are being used in the context of the current invasion of Ukraine.Elizabeth discusses the concept of computational propaganda towards the end of the episode. This article from Woolley and Howard tackles how political communication is impacted by algorithms and automation.Check out for annotated transcripts of this episode in English and French.
Claire Wardle is a professor at Brown University and the co-founder of First Draft, a non-profit that focuses on misinformation and the tools needed to fight it. She and Elizabeth chat about information disorder, a term Claire helped coin. The term helps us think about issues related to mis- and dis- information as bigger than being about fact or not. Claire explains how it is actually much more important to think about the information environments people find themselves in, how they might be different from other people’s information environments, and how things like emotion and sense of community come into play.  They also talk about the idea of inoculation against mis- and dis-information.Additional resources:Claire and her colleague Hossein Derakhshan coined the term ‘information disorder’ in this 2017 report where they break down different types, phases and elements of mis- and disinformation.The hypodermic needle theory also comes up, which is an early idea about how media messages affect audiences. This video primer explains what it is (and why it definitely  isn’t accepted anymore). Claire reminds us that humans are hardwired “to be really bad at this stuff” and talks about the role that emotions play in spreading mis- and disinformation. Claire explains the connection in this First Draft video. This article by Linda Monsees looks more closely at the emotional reasons that people share mis/disinformation, and some of the weaknesses of relying only on media literacy as a solution. Elizabeth brings up the idea of inoculation theory as a promising way to deal with mis/disinformation, and Claire introduces the notion of pre-bunking. This First Draft guide explains what pre-bunking is and how it can help fight mis/disinformation. At the end of the show, Claire also brings up algorithmic amplification, which sometimes gets lost in the mix of conspiracy theories and ‘fake news’ – this CJR post includes examples and a bunch of resources to learn more.
To kick-off our season on mis- and dis- info we are rebroadcasting this great conversation with Nasma Ahmed who is the Director of the Digital Justice Lab. In this episode, recorded in 2019, Nasma helps Elizabeth unpack what exactly mis- and dis- information are, why we need to question content we see online, and how a lack of trust in larger political systems plays in. Additional Resources:First Draft has a number of very useful resources. Find some key definitions in Wardel's Fake news: It's complicated and check out this three part series on The Psychology of Misinformation.Marwick and Lewis with Data & Society also have a helpful report: Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online.
This season of Wonks and War Rooms is going to focus on mis- and dis- information. We'll talk about information disorder, political polarization, post-truth politics, and more! Tune in to hear from political strategists, journalists, public policy folks, and academics.Get caught up on past episodes and find fully annotated transcripts in English and French at 
This week Elizabeth wraps up season 3! This season was focused on Media and Digital Literacy, and Elizabeth runs through all the concepts we covered to help you gain a greater understanding of how these concepts are interrelated. Elizabeth also takes a look back at some concepts and episodes from previous seasons, and looks to the future for our next season on mis and dis-information.Additional Resources: Remember Season 3, Episode 1 with Matthew from Media Smarts? This excellent resource from Media Smarts provides an overview of digital literacy fundamentals.Check out this report to understand more about the Digital Media Ecosystem.Elizabeth mentions this video on hybridity.Many of the theories discussed on the show are media effects theories. Check out this article that gives an overview of media effects theories.Curious about any of the other theories or episodes mentioned? You can find all Wonks and War Rooms episodes here.Do you have guest ideas? Political communication theories you need explained? Any other feedback for the show? Make sure to reach out to @polcommtech on Twitter and Instagram or @lizdubois on Twitter.
Elizabeth chats with public policy expert Vass Bednar about surveillance capitalism. Taking a few Canadian examples, they talk about how tech companies collect and use data about their users, how privacy policy might be a red herring and how incentive structures in the tech industry contribute to the system of surveillance capitalism.Additional Resources:Shoshana Zuboff's The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is the key text. There are also a lot of summaries of the book in blog posts, podcasts, and videos. One of my favourite short reviews of the concept comes from the Fortune Magazine YouTube channel, found here.Check out Vass's newsletter, Regs to Riches - of particular interest to this conversation are her pieces on Laying down the Loblaw and Loblaw media.Vass also wrote a piece in the Globe and Mail: Loblaw’s points economy for private-health data follows Big Tech’s playbook.In the episode Vass mentioned a weather app - check out The Weather Network's description of their "precise location forecast" which includes information about user privacy.Vass also mentions that Facebook offers information about why you might see certain ads. Find out more here.Not sure what the bread memories of 2017 Elizabeth is talking about? Here’s the wiki.Also, wondering about GDPR? It’s Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, which came into effect in May 2018. Find out more.Vass mentions the Shopify breakup with Mail Chimp, which happened in November 2019. Since this episode originally aired, the two have gotten back together.
This week Elizabeth chats about technological affordances with Rachel Aiello, an online politics producer for and a member of the parliamentary press gallery. They chat about how technology is changing how journalists report and how audiences receive information, from politicians on social media to journalists working from their phones. They also talk about technological determinism in order to highlight why it is important we think about affordances in the first place. Additional ResourcesElizabeth uses this article by Butcher & Helmond and this article by Nagy & Neff to build her definitions of the different types of affordances she discusses in this episode.Rachel discusses how phones have become a key tool for journalism, check out the Mobile Journalism Manual to learn more.Elizabeth mentions Authenticity with Kevin Parent from Season 1, Episode 7.Rachel and Elizabeth talk about the changes to the news cycle and how news is consumed. This study from Verizon shows how often people watch videos on mute. Elizabeth also discusses technological determinism. Here is an overview of the theory.
Former content moderator and current director of the Ada Lovelace Institute, Andrew Strait and Elizabeth chat about what content moderation is, why it is always flawed, and how the way in which platforms are constructed impact the flow of content. They talk about a bunch of related issues including how to (and how not to) regulate tech companies in order to minimize harms.Additional ResourcesAndrew recommended two great books that look at content moderation and content moderators: Behind the Screen by Sarah T. Roberts and Custodians of the Internet by Tarleton Gillespie. This interview with Sarah T. Roberts discusses the psychological impact of being a content moderator. After the interview Andrew also mentioned the work of Daphne Keller and Robyn Caplan.Andrew brings up the landmark “right to be forgotten” case from 2014.The German regulation mentioned in this episode is NetzDG. Here is a primer written by academics Heidi Tworek and Paddy Leerssen in April 2019, just over a year after the regulation came into effect.This episode Andrew mentions the idea of affordances. To learn more about this concept make sure to come back for next week’s episode where we will explore technological affordances!
Tim Fontaine is a former journalist who founded the satirical news website Walking Eagle News. He and Elizabeth chat about the role of political satire in peoples’ information diets. Political satire can provide an audience with a different perspective, help people understand the dominant narratives, and highlight gaps in dominant discourses. Elizabeth and Tim cover everything from the role of political satire, to critiques of political satire, to the difference between political satire and “fake news”.Additional ResourcesElizabeth uses this article from Hill to inform her definition of political satire.Tim uses Canadian Press Style at Walking Eagle News, check out this overview of the style guide to understand what that means.Tim mentions multiple examples and headlines from Walking Eagle News. Here is “man filmed murdering man found guilty” and here is the article “there is only race, the human race”. To see a little more about the difference between satire and fake news check out this short interview.Tim notes the importance of media literacy. To learn more about becoming media literate check out our episode on Critical Digital Literacy with Matthew Johnson.
Erin Gee is a policymaker, specialist in gender-based analysis, and Co-Founder of the Bad + Bitchy Podcast, and this week she discusses safe spaces with Elizabeth. Safe Spaces are online or physical spaces where historically marginalized groups might connect, share information and ideas, and mobilize. How does the idea of safe spaces connect to media and digital literacy? We consume information in social contexts, safe spaces can be one of those contexts. Erin and Elizabeth cover types of safe spaces, critiques of safe spaces, free speech, equity, and intersectionality.Additional ResourcesElizabeth draws on this article from Rosemary Clark-Parsons and this article from Anna Gibson for her academic definition of safe space.Erin uses LGBTQ spaces on campuses as an example of a safe space. This opinion article shows the importance of these kinds of spaces on campus, and the impact on students who lost them during the pandemic.Erin and Elizabeth discuss the tension between safe spaces and free speech, this article demonstrates the type of arguments that may be used against safe spaces.Erin uses this graphic about equity to highlight her point about privilege and free speech.
This week Elizabeth chats with Jen Gerson, a freelance journalist and co-founder of The Line, about selective avoidance. Whether it be blocking someone on Twitter, unfriending someone on Facebook, or just carefully choosing from which sources we get our news, selective avoidance is an everyday occurrence. They discuss topics like the role of emotion in selective avoidance, fragmented media environments, political polarization, and hyper engagement.Additional Resources:Elizabeth uses this article by Parmalee and colleagues to help define selective avoidance.Check out this article to learn more about the role of emotions can play in selective avoidance.Elizabeth mentions this previous episode about the High-Choice Media Environment with Jane Lytvynenko. 
Murad Hemmadi is a reporter for The Logic and this week he talks to Elizabeth about political information repertoires. From party campaign material to policy discussions to political memes, political information repertoires can be a mix of a lot of different things. They chat about what makes up a persons’ repertoire, the idea of Slacktivism, the lack of ‘backstory’ in the news, and Jagmeet Singh’s TikTok.Additional Resources:Elizabeth draws on this article by Wolfsfeld et al. to define political information repertoires.Elizabeth uses The Conversation Canada as an example to show how some outlets are trying to communicate better with the public.Murad and Elizabeth discuss whether they agree with this article by Oh et al. that finds high amounts of political information may actually overwhelm and negatively impact people.Elizabeth mentions the Reuters Digital News Report which breaks down how news is being consumed across a range of countries.If you liked this episode be sure to check out our episode on Echo Chambers and Filter Bubbles with Adi Rao and The High-Choice Media Environment with Jane Lytvynenko.**A quick note that in this episode Murad uses “repository” synonymously with “repertoires,” repertoires is the correct term.Want even more? Be sure to check out
Matthew Johnson is the Director of Education for MediaSmarts, and he chats with Elizabeth about critical digital literacy. From house hippos to authenticating information online, Elizabeth and Matthew discuss functional and critical aspects of media and digital literacy. They talk about the skills required to use digital and media tools, and the “key concept approach” to digital literacy, and digital literacy in the context of democratic systems.Additional Resources:Check out Media Smarts’ overview of digital literacy fundamentals here. Matthew also discusses the 5 key concepts for Media Literacy which can be found on this page.This article written by Gianfranco Polizzi addresses the importance of critical digital literacy for democracy.Matthew refers to the Break the Fake campaign which teaches us how to tell what information is true online. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to reminisce over the House Hippo.
This season we are doing things a little bit differently. We are going to spend this season looking at media and digital literacy and a bunch of political communication theories that are related. Next week we kick things off with a run down of what exactly media and digital literacy are. Then we will go week by week talking about things like political information repertoires, selective avoidance, political satire, safe spaces and more. Elizabeth will be chatting with journalists, political campaigners, and folks working in non-profits. Learn more about the podcast and Elizabeth's research team at Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @lizdubois or find the lab on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn @polcommtech.This season is funded in part by a Connections Grant from SSHRC and the Digital Citizen Initiative.
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