Power lies in the freedom to choose. People identify themselves through their choices - from the big life choices, down to the very little consumer ones. Companies - including social media platforms and news outlets - give us the feeling that by being part of their product, we are actively shaping our identity; they empower us to be who we want to be. The sense of freedom of identity is often just an illusion; most of what defines us cannot be purchased, clicked on or go viral. And as we have the feeling that there is so much more to choose from today, we find the offers are often more or less the same, that this vast diversity is naught but a mirage. In news as well; day in, day out, a plethora of outlets provide the same information, albeit in perhaps slightly different colors.
Diversity is sold as something virtuous, something politicians and corporations strive to attain. And as long as you're not too short, not too fat, not too old, not too effeminate, not too black, not too white, you'll get the job. Just so long as your virtual identity matches up with the corporate identity. Blurring boundaries between our professional, national, family, private identities are in fact impinging upon the very concept of freedom.
As the surface of society changes, becoming more diverse, more complex, there is a growing distrust of the unknown, of minority groups, and of refugees and foreigners. At a time when diversity should be celebrated, trends show increasing isolation and fear of the unknown. These fears are echoed in a wide range of media outlets, which in turn fuel more anxiety and polarization. This phenomenon threatens diversity, the very fabric which constitutes open societies. Where politics and the media have the responsibility to protect this fabric, they can also be detrimental. They must be careful how they spin their agendas to the public. In the age of post-truth-politics and populism, what role does journalism play if work based on basic fact-checking does not seem to sell? What moral responsibility do politics have in promoting diversity, even if it means a loss of votes? And how should governments address the complexities arising from globalization and digitalization? Is diversity the heart and driving force of every strong nation or is it only an illusion? Join us at the Global Media Forum 2017 to shape the discussion about the impact of identity and diversity on politics, society and media.