I contributed as Country Analyst – data and qualitative analysis – for Italy and France to the development of research research part of the Comms Hub, a project that aims to provide pro-democracy actors with cutting-edge research and training so they become strategic communicators at scale, able to impact the (social) media landscape to promote more empathetic, creative, inclusive, and open societies.

Coordination and research: komons Country analysts: Gabriella Riccio Maja Sawicka Marco Konopacki Marta Bescansa Editorial design and illustrations: Berenice Zambrano Nemegyei Commissioned by the Open Society Foundations.

“2. Introduction

This report was created during the first months of the COVID-19 crisis, a pandemic that made real the fears that were previously only theoretical. Suddenly we were all vulnerable, and we were all equal under this vulnerability.

The virus found us confused, unable to distinguish truth from falsehood, and reluctant to trust any institution. Fear and hatred began to spread. It found us isolated, divided by our beliefs and by the technology that was supposed to bring us together: platforms that base their economic model on our addictions and radicalization. The more extreme we are, the easier it is to segment and target us with advertising. It found us fearing a future of climatological, ecological, and economic collapse, and unable to agree on the actions needed to avoid it. And it burst in, disrupting the way we were used to live, everywhere, locking us all in.

We decided to map this new context, with the objective of learning what narratives—the stories we use to make sense of reality—were dominating the digital sphere. We found uncertainty, distrust, fear, and pessimism in most of the public spheres analyzed. Conspiracies, disinformation, and propaganda deepened these feelings. But we have also seen many stories of solidarity, care, critical hope, and compassion.

Historically, in times of great transformation such as these we are experiencing, the dominant stories in the collective imagination define the paths societies will take. We hope that this report will be a small contribution to support people and groups to imagine and create societies built upon empathy, awareness, love, inclusion, and creativity. We hope we do this together.”

Excerpt from Mapping the digital ecosystem in times of Covid-19