Taxpayers (sic) money to address fear and stigmatization

Posted by Shaun  In January I participated in the ESRC-led “Empathy and Trust In Communicating Online” (EMoTICON) Sandpit; sandpits are one of the more radical means by which RCUK allocate research funding and access to them is hugely competitive. At the end of the week I came away leading (as Principal Investigator) one funded project and participating as a partner on another. The project we are leading (in collaboration with some fab new partners at Bath, Newcastle, Aberdeen and Nottingham) is called “CuRAtOR: Challenging online feaR And OtheRing” and is about the interplay between broadcast media, the press, government and social media in the context of the active stigmatization (or Othering) of communities. During the sandpit, the formation of the project prodailystarheadlineposal was motivated by stuff I was reading (or hearing) by danah boyd, by the fact it was Simone de Beauvoir’s birthday and also by the furore caused by the initial broadcast, by Channel 4, of the Benefits Street TV series that week. The project will give us the opportunity to better understand the issues around the mediatization of socio-political discussion that can lead to the stigmatization – and subsequent fear and loathing – of particular communities. This kind of fear is routinely (and perhaps dangerously) propagated deliberately by political groups and the media for their own means. E.g. fear of migrant communities (or more recently addicts) and their”taking of taxpayers’ money” etc. This is why this coverage of the announcement of CuRAtOR by the Daily Star, together with a ‘furious’ soundbite from the so called “Taxpayers’ Alliance”, was particularly satisfying. I like to think that The Star and the Taxpayers’ Alliance both understand the irony of their proclaimed ‘fury’. Then again…

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