SALZBURG, AUSTRIA, August 8, 2017 – More than 80 students, including eight from the University of Maryland – College Park, have come together as part of a three-week program to create a series of interactive exercises to educate others about global populism and extremism.

Participants at this year’s Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change – Voices Against Extremism: Media Responses to Global Populism – included students from UMD as well as from Argentina, Austria, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Egypt, Finland, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Palestine, Singapore, Slovakia, Syria, the UK, the United States, and Venezuela. Together they produced projects for an online DIY playbook: reaction.community.

Participants from the University of Maryland (UMD) included Harrison Cann, Young Chung, Ben Gonzalez, Pallavi Guha, Tyler Ruth, Jacqueline Hyman, Casey Noenickx and Doug Weitzel. They were accompanied by Susan Moeller, co-founder of the Salzburg Academy, director of the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda and professor at both the College of Journalism and the School of Public Policy.

The online publication aims to identify how populism and extremism operates and affects people of different ages, backgrounds and ethnicities around the world. Students were organized into groups where they brainstormed, conducted research, and identified case studies related to populism and extremism. The ideas were then transformed into “playable problems.”

Some of the themes explored in this year’s publication are children’s rights, climate change, reporting on extremism, the protection of journalists, the power of photo manipulation, the history and future of populism, violence against women, and freedom of information. The projects aim to facilitate dialogue and promote engagement through a product-based approach. They also invite the audience to develop a sense of solidarity and harness the right tools to stand in the face of oppression in all of its forms. Multimedia elements including videos, infographics, music playlists, interactive maps, text-based games, e-zines, comics, and data visualizations make up a number of the projects.

Paul Mihailidis, program director of the Salzburg Academy and associate professor at Emerson College, Boston, USA, said: “The 83 students, 13 faculty and 15 visiting experts came together to create a meaningful civic media intervention that provides creative media solutions for responding to harmful populist rhetoric. Their work emerged out of a commitment to themselves, and each other, to be open, honest, and creative, and open to new ideas. Only then can they create creative media that is by them, for their peers, and focused on social impact at local and global levels.”

Students’ ideas were inspired by conversations which took place throughout the Academy. Throughout the three weeks, students explored how media are framed by design choices, algorithmic bias, data manipulation, and commoditized content. To expand their international outlook on media and politics, they took part in plenary sessions, workshops, reading groups and hands-on exercises that challenged their creativity and transformed their thoughts into action. Topics covered included critical media making, the intersection of civic imagination and civic media, bridging cultural divides, challenging social gaps, journalism ethics and media literacy. Guest speakers at this year’s Academy included US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and acclaimed journalist Robin Wright, a contributing writer for The New Yorker.

This year’s students, who hailed from five different continents, put their differences aside to discuss one of the world’s most pressing problems. Not only did the Salzburg Academy serve as a safe space for healthy debate and dialogue, it also acted as a “brave space” – where participants reaped the benefits of challenging their perspectives and beliefs.

In among the discussions and work, students were taken on cultural and poignant trips into the Alps and to the Mauthausen Memorial Site. Students also took part in a “Seeing Media” image contest, which provided a mosaic of visual art which shows how the Academy visualized global issues today.

Jacqueline Hyman, who is pursuing a Bachelor’s in English and journalism, said, “The Salzburg Academy has been extremely life changing. I can’t believe I lived in such a beautiful place, studying important topics, and meeting such a diverse group of people. I’ve learned so much about the world just from these people and I know I’ve made some long-lasting friendships. The Academy is different than I expected; it’s not just a typical classroom experience with the same topics every day. It’s more than that; interactive, innovative, and inspirational. I’ll truly never forget these three weeks.”

The Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change was launched by the international non-profit organization, Salzburg Global Seminar in 2007 in partnership with leading universities on five continents. Over its 11 years, more than 700 alumni have taken part in the three-week program at its home, the palace Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria. The Academy has taken a pioneering lead in media education, tackling issues of global concern with a focus on media literacy and civic engagement. Academy alumni have been inspired to become change-makers and leaders, taking pro-active positions in education, media, technology and politics.