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International Seminar | 23-25 May 2022 | University of Amsterdam | Organized by Jeremy Hamers – University of Liège; Ingrid Mayeur – University of Liège; François Provenzano – University of Liège; Elise Schürgers – F.N.R.S/University of Liège; Jan Teurlings – University of Amsterdam

Event details of Truth, transparency and controversy. Critical perspectives on media ideologies
Start date 23 May 2022
End date 25 May 2022

In current discourses and representations, controversy is assumed to be the driver of media debates, whether these are professional or amateur, top-down structured or seemingly horizontally-participative. The tools of controversies that influence public debates are known as duel scenographies, rhetorical battles, polarizing opinion polling (see, e.g., Angenot 2008, Amossy 2014), and their cultural and organizational forms are troll factories, fake news, conspiracy theories and Twitter storms. To give but two examples: governments’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, and pro vs contra positions on climate change politics are mediated as controversial issues that generate heated political debates. In an environment of pervasive digitally mediated communication, digital media anticipate, in their editorial enunciation and escort discourses, the material writing of these controversies and predefine the roles allocated to its users. Some authors have even argued that the archiving of the Internet itself relies on building and moderating infrastructures that shape an agonistic public space (de Kosnick 2016, 57).

Latour (Latour 1987) famously argued in the 1980’s that truth was the result of the settlement of a controversy, not its cause. In our current situation we should ask what are the possible relationships between truth and controversy? This simple question raises new ones. Is the settlement of controversies the ideal of democratic citizenship (Mouffe 2016)? And, on a more pragmatic level, are fact-checking and procedural transparency appropriate tools for settling controversies, as almost all professional journalists and internet platforms, but also several media education organizations argue today? Or should we be “objecting to objective journalism” (Winston & Winston 2020)? What affective patterns (Lordon 2013) are used by, and generated through, controversies and their struggle for and around truth? And with the media being at the same time messenger and battlefield of controversies, what is the role of media critique in the current conjuncture? These are the questions this workshop wants to address by reflecting on the structuring notions of controversy, transparency or truth themselves, in order to identify the diverse and sometimes antagonistic axiological backgrounds these notions refer to.


All sessions take place in room 0.16 in BG1 (Turfdraagsterpad 9, 1012XT Amsterdam)


Day 1 // Monday, May 23

13.30   Welcome and Introduction

14.00   The politics of opacity

  • Toni Pape (UvA) - The “Stealth Virus” and Political Afterlives: On the Discursive Weaponization of Transparency and Opacity during the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Agustin Ferrari Braun (UvA) - Opacity and Dissensus in a Massachusetts GameStop

15.30   Coffee break

15.45   Platform transparencies

  • Jan Teurlings (UvA) - Platform transparency as ways of knowing the audience: data analytics on Youtube and Soundcloud
  • Artur de Matos Alves (Téluq) -  Online platforms’ transparency practices (2010-2021): genealogy, crisis, and redefinition
  • Jeremy Hamers (ULiège) - Beyond transparency? Youtube, epistemic algorithms and the heuristic montage

Day 2 // Tuesday, May 24

09.00   The Uses of Controversy

  • Markus Stauff (UvA) - Contested visibility: The Video Assistant Referee, Technological Controversies, and Forensic Fandom
  • Enzo D’Armenio (ULiège) - Controversial identities on Social Media. The clash between speaking the truth and community membership

10.30   Coffee break

10.45   The Construction and Scenography of Truth

  • Alexandre Goderniaux (ULiège) -  Fighting for truth or through truth? Construction and restriction of the truth in the polemics printed by zealous Catholics during French Wars of Religion (1585-1629)
  • Ingrid Mayeur (ULiège) - Building Transparency by Handling Polyphony. A Case Study of Three Media Devices.

12.15   Lunch

13.30   Discursive strategies

  • Lucie Donckier de Donceel (ULB – UniPa) - The one who exaggerates the truth. A rhetorical study of conspiracy theories.
  • Elise Schürgers (FNRS/FRESH – Uliège) - Requalifying Controversy through Factual Truth. A Discourse Analysis of Suspended Confrontation.

15.00 Roundtable Playing Politics: Media Platforms, Making Worlds

Day 3 // Wednesday, May 25

09.00   Strategies of controversy

  • Sébastien Chonavey (ULB) -  The New Climate Change Critics : Towards a Politically Correct Version of Climate Skeptic Discourse - A Rhetorical Analysis
  • François Provenzano (ULiège / Traverses) - The Blind Spot: Betting as Cultural Form and Media Mythology

10.30   Coffee break

10.45   Conclusions

Organizing comittee

  • Jeremy Hamers – University of Liège
  • Ingrid Mayeur – University of Liège
  • François Provenzano – University of Liège
  • Elise Schürgers – F.N.R.S/University of Liège
  • Jan Teurlings – University of Amsterdam