At the begin­ning of the year, ACADEMIA SUPERIOR host­ed a full-day work­shop for stu­dents on the top­ic of the sym­po­sium. Many appli­cants from dif­fer­ent fields of study dis­cussed the ques­tion with Markus Hengstschläger whether there are devel­op­ments which are get­ting out of con­trol and how much con­trol is nec­es­sary in our world. Four stu­dents were select­ed for a schol­ar­ship to par­tic­i­pate as our YOUNG ACADEMIA at the SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM and to present their views and con­cerns: Arno Deutschbauer, BA, Dipl.-Ing. Andrea Eder, Katha­ri­na Fröh­lich und Dominik Har­rer, BA.

The stu­dents of YOUNG ACADEMIA already start­ed think­ing in the run-up to the sym­po­sium and intro­duced four major inter­re­lat­ed top­ics into the dis­cus­sions with the experts.

Parallel societies and the postfactual age

One of the great­est dan­gers of our time is the uncon­trolled increase of new ide­o­log­i­cal-rad­i­cal par­al­lel soci­eties. It is facil­i­tat­ed by new and social media in which atti­tudes and con­vic­tions are always mir­rored, inten­si­fied and dri­ven to extremes. Thus – far from any facts – “felt“ truths emerge, which divide soci­eties and shake a com­mon foun­da­tion of val­ues.

„We need cours­es on val­ues — not for oth­ers but for our­selves.”

It is there­fore all the more impor­tant to defend the fun­da­men­tal val­ues of the enlight­en­ment in the “post­fac­tu­al age“. We are obvi­ous­ly liv­ing in times when demo­c­ra­t­ic majori­ties actu­al­ly get enthu­si­as­tic about, objec­tive­ly speak­ing, wrong deci­sions. That is why we need to encour­age val­ue aware­ness at school and in fur­ther edu­ca­tion, for exam­ple via ethics and his­to­ry lessons. This is how foun­da­tions, con­cep­tions and visions for Upper Aus­tria are devel­oped – not for oth­ers, but for our­selves. We have to think about which val­ues we want to pre­serve in our soci­ety.

Training in critical judgement

Decent instru­ments for opin­ion mak­ing are the essence of demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­eties. That is why it is impor­tant to get to know and ana­lyze them from an ear­ly age. Why don’t chil­dren learn in kinder­garten how to use media, how to dis­cuss and how to pro­mote social jus­tice? How do you intro­duce the prin­ci­ple of judge­ment con­nect­ed with media com­pe­ten­cy in edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions? The world is becom­ing more and more com­plex, and that is why the pow­er of crit­i­cal judge­ment is essen­tial. We must learn to deal with com­plex­i­ty and new chal­lenges, dif­fer­en­ti­ate, assess and eval­u­ate things.

You can­not say “the media are the bad guys“. Like all instru­ments, you have to be able to use them prop­er­ly. It is not just about the fact that infor­ma­tion is avail­able, but also that peo­ple under­stand it. As stu­dents, we are trained to be able to choose what we read, whether it‘s Bild, Kro­nen Zeitung, Der Stan­dard, Die Presse or The New York Times. But many peo­ple are at a loss with the so-called “qual­i­ty media“, are not inter­est­ed in the top­ics and have dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties. These peo­ple also need high-qual­i­ty and truth­ful infor­ma­tion. How can we ensure that?

Solution journalism and storytelling

Per­haps we need more jour­nal­ism which does not only present the weak­ness­es and prob­lems but offers solu­tions. On the Inter­net you can find quite a bit of this in blogs and on video plat­forms, where peo­ple offer solu­tions to a vari­ety of prob­lems. And they are very suc­cess­ful. Per­haps it is also time for the tra­di­tion­al media to change direc­tion.

„Peo­ple are look­ing for solu­tions to their live, not for what is going wrong.”

It also depends on which sto­ries are told and how. Most news is neg­a­tive: prob­lems of immi­gra­tion, eco­nom­ic cri­sis, crime, acci­dents, polit­i­cal mis­con­duct. Lit­tle is report­ed about pos­i­tive devel­op­ments. This is pre­cise­ly the prob­lem. It cre­ates anx­i­ety and hatred because the media dis­tort real­i­ty and cast a shad­ow over the good that sur­rounds us. Per­haps we need new ideas on how sto­ry­telling should look in the future and how we could encour­age well-bal­anced jour­nal­ism – espe­cial­ly in tabloids.

New thoughts on democracy

The ques­tion may sound straight­for­ward, but it isn’t: What do we actu­al­ly mean by democ­ra­cy? It is time to rethink democ­ra­cy. We should tell new sto­ries about free­dom and resis­tance in demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­eties. It must be more than going to the polls every few years. We need more exam­ples and sto­ries to help us bring new demo­c­ra­t­ic ideas into our soci­ety and think dif­fer­ent­ly about them. That is how you can achieve some­thing from the inside.

You can also have more con­fi­dence in young peo­ple. They will learn what they real­ly need. The dig­i­tal world offers us many won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ties but we also need to feel our­selves. We have to give young peo­ple a sense of who they are and what effect their actions have in the world.