The SSRC’s Media & Democracy program has launched a series of workshops that put current controversies and debates into historical and cross-disciplinary perspectives. Here, Mike Miller and James Kirwan provide the key takeaways from a recent event on “A Modern History of the Disinformation Age.” Scholars at the workshop engaged the roots of our “epistemic crisis” regarding what counts as facts and as “reality.” Participants focused on actors who benefit from the questioning of truth claims, and how institutions that once served as gatekeepers for such claims have been weakened and unable to adjust to new media ecosystems.
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Related to Items’ recent series on “Just Environments,” Kasia Paprocki and her colleagues discuss how what they call critical social science can be engaged in the study of and the response to climate change. In practice, this means being attuned to the potential tensions and complementarities between social knowledge production about and social action on behalf of addressing climate change and the inequalities it can deepen or transform. Drawing on their own and others’ research, the authors call attention to the “entanglement” of environmental issues with a host of other ones, the deployment of climate-friendly language for self-interested political purposes, and the importance of context in imagining movements for climate justice.
Dimitris Xygalatas engages the problems of the generalizability and comparability of research results and their “ecological validity.” Xygalatas argues for the “methodological interaction between forms of participant-observation and experimentation,” combining the insights of approaches often seen as at odds with each other, to produce a collaborative and strong version of interdisciplinary research. Drawing from his own work on extreme religious rituals such as fire-walking and body piercing, the author demonstrates the benefits of research designs that include perspectives from the “field” and the “lab.”
A 1964 summer seminar hosted by the SSRC’s Committee on Sociolinguistics highlighted tensions between sociology and linguistics when scholars gathered to address how their disciplines can deepen research on language’s impact on society. For example, sociologists questioned linguistics’ lack of definition for language or dialect while linguists raised concerns about sociology’s reliance on large quantified data. However, by the end of the seminar, the scholars agreed the encounter had raised important questions and opened new paths of investigation through both sociological and linguistic approaches, including the study of language and social stratification, multilingualism, and language standardization.
In this conversation hosted by the Media & Democracy program, program officer Mike Miller discusses the trajectory of campaign financing in recent elections with Ciara Torres-Spelliscy (Stetson University) and Heath Brown (John Jay College of Criminal Justice). In particular, they address the impact of online fundraising and small-dollar contributions.
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In this contribution to “Sociolinguistic Frontiers,” Christopher Hutton discusses how states have historically taken an interest in, and funded, linguistics research. For a range of political purposes—including colonial rule and military strategy—knowing about and learning the language of “others” has been part of the projection and use of power. The specific purposes and forms of state support for research on language, argues Hutton, does vary depending on whether states have authoritarian or liberal democratic regimes.