Accepted paper:

'We Love (and Hate) GMOs and Vaccines': Conspiracy theories, epistemological resistance practices and knowledge activism in the social web

Authors:

Magdalena Goralska (University of Warsaw)

Paper short abstract:

Taking into account the modern information crisis, this paper investigates communication and collaboration strategies of pro-science and alternative knowledge activists in the US, inquiring into their resistance practices in social media, focusing on narrations of mistrust and conspiracy.

Paper long abstract:

Social networking sites have become an important source of knowledge for many, on both political news, as well as information on science, health, and nutrition. Taking into account the miscommunication issues of modern media, this paper investigates communicative strategies of American science advocates and alternative knowledge advocates, inquiring into their practices of resistive knowledge activism, focusing on narration of mistrust and conspiracy surrounding controversial topics of GMOs and vaccinations. This study inquires into collaboration and conflict between the two groups of activists, inside their own category and outside of it, when trying to resist misinformation by producing alternate knowledge discourses in social media environment. Pro-science activists resist what they refer to as pseudoscientific quackery, while alter-science activists mistrust the Big Pharma or Big Food industries, including mainstream science sources, such as governmental research centres or academic institutions. Referring to an ethnographic data on the case study, the paper answers following research questions: (1) How narrations of conspiracy theories are produced and used by the two groups that operate in different epistemologies, but are engaged in the same conflict?; (2) Why they have an ambiguous role? Being both a reason to ridicule the Other having them, and a way of these ridiculing to explain the conspired actions of the same other, conspiracy theories provide an excellent insight into the modern information and communication crisis.

panel P110
Things are not as they seem. Tracing the movements and immobility of conspiracy theories