Media Meet 2020 International Virtual Conference: Don’t be used by the text to fulfill the intentions of the author

By Dimithri Wijesinghe

Media Meet 2020 International Virtual Conference took place over three days via YouTube live stream from 27-29 August.

The annual conference is held courtesy of the Department of Media Studies at CHRIST (Deemed to be University) Bangalore, India.

Hosting the 11th edition of the conference, this year’s theme was “Media Literacy” and the three day conferences were arranged with the motive of providing students some insights into and knowledge about media literacy from renowned academicians, researchers, and practitioners.

It also functions as a forum where audiences can share ideas and opinions on topics surrounding the field of media and are then given a platform to interact with renowned academicians and media professionals as well as experts in the industry.

One of the main topics of discussion throughout the conference and a subsidiary theme was the increased spread of misinformation through various media channels during this Covid-19 Pandemic. Such effects of the pandemic were woven throughout the discussions and it was referred back to on occasion, also addressing the need to abolish the concept of “infodemic” that is the wide and rapid spread of misinformation.

Each day carried out an afternoon time-slotted panel discussion, which included celebrities like well-known singer P.D. Pallavi, investigative journalist Sudipto Mondal, and former Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka Kinita Shenoy, a face most Sri Lankans recognise well.

All three days featured riveting discussions on how best to tackle this concept of “infodemic” by learning how to critically analyse the information that is being presented to us by questioning its credibility.

We took a special interest in the panel discussion held on 28 under the topic of “Critical Literacy through Social Media”, which featured Kinita and a host of other personalities including political satirist Akash Benerjee and Associate Professor of Media Studies at CHRIST (Deemed to be University) Dr. Naresh Rao.

Overall, the conference stressed the importance of listeners and readers being actively engaged in what they are consuming and to “not be used by the text to fulfil the intentions of the author”. Interestingly, they spoke of how although there are a lot of cheerleaders on social media agreeing with what is being said if it is sensational enough, there aren’t enough of those who try to find the truth behind the information.

Benerjee also spoke of how he himself does not have a formal training in journalism and how that has somehow served him well. “Understating is very basic and I try to operate in basic terms and not to complicate things,” he said, which is what is needed in this digital playing field we all operate in – a world where everything is so instant that one must be able to grasp it instantly as well.

He said that despite the need for simplicity, “in this digital media, which is becoming the sole Bastian of thoughts and processes, there is still space for probing questions”, adding that it is especially so that digital would be the way to go because when traditional media depends on ad revenue, it is less likely that they are to be critical, and therefore, this new media has been cultivated.

However, the panellist did collectively agree that society has fallen short of those who we would otherwise rely on to take forth the media industry and grow it into its potential, and there is a need for thought leaders to take on this challenge and provide guidance to better tackle this spread of mass misinformation, thereby optimising the use of the digital space.