01 Mar

On 28 February 2024, Vera Tolz gave a public talk "Performing Disinformation: A Muddled History of the Concept and Its Consequences" at the University of Illinois Chicago. The lecture was part of the series of SEENEXT Working Group talks. The group brings together scholars who study history and culture of Eastern Europe and Northern Eurasia.

Abstract of the talk: Today ‘disinformation’ is one of the most used concepts in global public discourses. It is usually employed in mirroring accusations which political adversaries level against each other. In parallel, Disinformation Studies is now a rapidly growing academic field. It is dominated by different types of quantitative analysis which tends to reduce complex, manipulated narratives to measurable data. In this research, it is often assumed that ‘disinformation’ can be universally defined and identified through fact- checking. A historical perspective on the uses of the concept of disinformation demonstrates, however, that it has been applied to vastly different phenomena and its meaning has been changing over time, as well as across linguacultural and geopolitical divides. This lecture will discuss how the historically contingent and contested meanings of the polemical rhetoric of disinformation have been circulating and mutating from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day in Anglophone, German and Russophone cultural contexts. Through the analysis of the multi-lingual media coverage of one contentious issue, a model of studying what disinformation can mean in different settings will be offered.

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