Explore the economics of the attention economy, where conflict is a powerful strategy in attracting and holding attention. Examine the various tricks and techniques that are used to amp up social conflict as a means for gaining profit and power. Reflect on the addictive and yet corrosive influence of conflict entrepreneurs in business, entertainment, politics, and news.
What do people need to know about social media economics and the
profit motives that underpin conflict?
Learn about how people exploit conflict for profit. Then:
Working together, generate 3 or more examples of conflict entrepreneurs who use media to exploit conflict for pleasure, power, and profit.
Discuss: When and why do the messages of conflict entrepreneurs become most harmful?
Discussion Support Tools
Bring this discussion program to your school or community
🍎 Conflict Entrepreneurs Lesson Plan. Learn how to offer an introduction to social media economics and the profit motives that underpin conflict. Access the Google Slide Deck that accompanies this lesson plan.
Reading and Discussion. Learn about specific, practical strategies you can use to neutralize conflict entrepreneurs.
Address RI state standards with curated curriculum resources
E.PC.1: Identify the individuals and communities involved in the production of any good or service, the materials needed for producing them, where and how the materials are obtained, and the various interrelationships among all of these elements.
E.PC.4: Argue whether the costs and benefits of an aspect of the means of production equitably serve all individuals and communities.
E.SA.2: Explain how scarcity affects the cost and availability of desired goods and services, and who has the power to influence the factors related to cost and availability and why.
E.SA.3: Analyze how decisions affecting access to goods and services are influenced by systems of power and cultural norms including how these effects of decisions create more equitable or inequitable outcomes.
🌈 Listening Matters. Learn about 7 types of listening and practice them in a real-life situation.
😎 Curated List of Resources. A collection of resources for supporting educators looking to teach about the the economics of social media and its
📌 Creative Expression Ideas. Engaging ideas for project-based learning and simple media production.
What You Can Do
Learn More About Conflict Entrepreneurs
Read the essay by Philipp Markolin called “Denounce, Deny, Deceive” where he describes the 6 types of conflict entrepreneurs that he observed during the COVID-19 crisis.
Explore How Communication Technology Shapes Us
Watch the video Time, Truth and Technology, a Braver Angels podcast conversation with Tristan Harris. He talks about how technology conditions people’s expectations and styles of communication and how social media distorts our information landscape.
Examine the History of Fox News
Learn about how news organizations have long monetized conflict for profit by learning more about the business strategy of Rupert Murdoch. Read "How Fox Chased Its Audience Down a Rabbit Hole" by Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times.
Beyond Bad Guys
It is easy to put the “bad guys” label on individuals whose actions offend or frighten us, and – by association – on all people who share their political position. It is also easy to feel moral superiority: my group would never do anything like that! “Bad guys” deserve contempt and punishment. And so the “bad guys vs. good guys” game goes on, this time on the level of the whole country.
Are You Desensitized?
It's natural to be overwhelmed with shock and grief after each mass shooting in this country. And it's been all-too easy to feel helpless to do anything to tackle the problem, to believe that our country is too divided around the issue of gun control vs Second Amendment rights. What does it mean to let go of passivity and strive to do something (small or large) that may make a difference?
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