Misinformation, conspiracy theories focus of OLLI fall symposium

· 3 min read

Misinformation, conspiracy theories focus of OLLI fall symposium

Aerial view of East Campus, home to Nebraska's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
Craig Chandler | University Communication

In a hyperconnected world, the prevalence and consequences of misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories are more significant than ever.

The constant flow of information from various sources, often unchecked, makes it difficult to discern what is based on fact, half-truths or lies. The ease with which misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories can spread can have profound and lasting effects on society.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Lecture Series of the Unitarian Church of Lincoln will explore these issues at a 2023 fall symposium, “Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories: Why People Believe Them and How to Address Them.” The symposium will be held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 14, on East Campus. This event is open to the public and will be held in-person and live-streamed on Zoom.

Registration is required in advance by Oct. 5. Register can be done online or by calling the OLLI office at 402-472-6265. Registration costs are $20 for in-person, which includes lunch, and $15 for participating via Zoom.

The symposium is a thought-provoking and informative event designed to shed light on the complex web of falsehoods that permeate our society and explore strategies to mitigate their impact. The lineup of scholars and experts presenting cutting-edge research and real-world examples will provide valuable insights into the mechanisms by which misinformation spreads and the effects it has on individuals, communities, and democratic processes. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the prevalence of misinformation and conspiracy theories, their impact on society, and strategies to address them. There will be a Q&A session following the presentations.

Featured speakers include:

- Eric Oliver is a professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He studies contemporary American politics, suburban and racial politics, political psychology, and the politics of science. He has conducted recent research examining why Americans believe in conspiracy theories, how credulous Americans are about misinformation, why 2016 was a populist election, and why liberals and conservatives name their children differently.

- Andy Norman directs the Humanism Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa. and is the founder of CIRCE, the Cognitive Immunology Research Collaborative. His research illuminates the evolutionary origins of human reasoning, the norms that make dialogue fruitful, and the workings of the mind’s immune system. He champions the emerging science of mental immunity as the antidote to disinformation, propaganda, hate, and division. He likes to help people develop immunity to bad ideas.

- Aaron Duncan is an associate professor of Practice for Communication Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is the director of the Speech and Debate Program as well as a lecturer. Dr. Duncan’s research focuses on sporting culture, public mythology, and political communication. He explores social media’s role in helping spread conspiracy theories from a technological perspective and through the fallacious logic it helps foster.

- Patrick Marley is a national reporter for the Washington Post. Based in Madison, Wisconsin, his writing focuses on voting issues in the upper Midwest, primarily in Wisconsin and Michigan. He previously covered the Wisconsin Capitol for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He has written about voting and democracy issues in other parts of the country, including Texas and North Caroline.

The event is sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Lecture Series of the Unitarian Church of Lincoln and Humanities Nebraska.

OLLI at UNL is committed to providing and promoting superior-quality learning experiences, events and travel opportunities designed for adults 50 years old and older who believe that “curiosity never retires.”

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