Conspiracies Conference, U of Miami
Developing Solutions for Conspiracy Beliefs, Fake News, and Misinformation
University of Miami
March 19-22, 2020
This conference intendeds to bring together scholars studying conspiracy theories, fake news, and misinformation from across disciplinary and geographic boundaries.
The goals of the conference are (1) to gain a comparative perspective in the study of conspiracy theories, fake news, and misinformation by bringing together researchers from across continents and from across disciplinary boundaries, and (2) to formulate solutions to the current problems of conspiracy theories, fake news, and misinformation.
Conspiracy theories are not confined to parlor games about who really shot Kennedy or who probed whom near Roswell, New Mexico. Conspiracy theorizing (or what Richard Hofstadter famously called the paranoid style) is an enduring part of politics. While often caricatured as a fringe demographic composed of middle-aged white male Internet enthusiasts, polls tell us a different story. Conspiracy theories permeate all parts of society and cut across gender, age, race, income, political affiliation, educational level and occupational status. Conspiracy theories are ubiquitous, absorbing, and substantial; they reveal the darkest recesses of a nation’s psyche. They have also been given new life due to the prevalence of fake news, state sponsored disinformation campaigns, and elite-driven misinformation.
There are persuasive reasons to study conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories have ushered in revolutions, undercut the ability of governments to lead, perverted democracy, and provoked witch-hunts. Current evidence suggests that conspiracy thinking can decrease participation and voter turnout, but also add fire to political polarization and populist movements.
There is a debate to be had regarding the benefits or harms of conspiracy theories. On one hand, their negative consequences are varied and many. Imagine a world without conspiracy theories targeting religious and ethnic minorities or immigrants. Or, a world where conspiracy theories do not take priority over scientific and medical consensuses. Whether the issue is climate change, vaccination rates, violence, fake news, or international cooperation, solving many of the world’s major challenges involve addressing conspiracy theories. On the other hand, conspiracies actually do happen, powerful people do abuse their power from time to time, and some level of public skepticism is a necessary part of a healthy democracy.
For such a common feature of the political landscape, there is little consensus on why conspiratorial beliefs blossom, or how to stop them in the age of social media. This is not for want of attention; authors from many disciplines – particularly in the last ten years – have addressed the phenomenon. But despite the broad and growing interest, scholars have yet to adequately integrate findings from disparate disciplines into coherent theoretical frameworks, or to propose meaningful policy solutions. The problem lies in a lack of comparative cross-cultural research and a dearth of interdisciplinary work.
This conference intends to bridge the gap between the great works currently being undertaken across disciplines. It also seeks to bring together researchers studying conspiracy theorizing across the globe. We intend to build broad interdisciplinary networks, share disparate findings, and move the study forward.
Structure of the Meeting
Participants will be asked to submit abstracts by October 20th, 2019, and full papers by February 29th, 2020. Papers will be posted in advance of conference. Presenters are asked to present cutting edge research in ten minute presentations; discussants and audiences will provide feedback following panels of five or six papers. We expect 8-10 panels over three days. There will also be 2-3 keynote addresses. The conference is designed to keep smart people in a room together, so as to further the development of scholarly inquiry.