Case study: Chemtrails: just a sci-fi stuff or a real danger?
This case study is aimed at making the learner aware of the different issues related the construction and spreading of disinformation. The learner has to devise if one of the most famous conspiracy theories, chemtrails, is true or not. While searching for materials and opinions in favour or against chemtrails as a real aerial danger for people, the learner will face with both the history and the scientific foundations of the chemtrails theory, its diffusion trough social media, the ways in which it is possible to dismantle the theory itself, and the business opportunities of spreading false theories through the believers.
Recommended for: university students (especially in science/technology courses) highschool students
Tags: environment, pollution, conspiracy theories
Building block 1. What are the chemtrails - conspiracy and facts
Condensation trails are often defined as chemtrails that, according to the conspiracy theory of the same name, do not form part of the natural aerial trails but have apparently anomalous characteristics, as if they were trails of chemicals that can poison the air we breathe. The building block covers, scientific details about their formation. Particularly, when the chemical trails were born and who supported this conspiracy theory over time? Finally, the theory relies on confusing chemtrails with the technique called 'cloud seeding', which consists of spreading silver iodide on clouds to stimulate rainfall. As an example, a small unmanned plane can spread silver iodide into the atmosphere and help condense clouds.
1. What Are Chemtrails Made Of?
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-are-chemtrails-made-of/ [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
2. "Quantifying expert consensus against theexistence of a secret, large-scale atmosphericspraying program"
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084011/pdf [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]
1. Chemtrails: Conspiracy Or Fact?
The learning outcomes represent the competences which learners are expected to develop as a result of the training intervention:
1. The learner will be able to explain the nature of chemtrails
2. The learner will be able to comprehend the origin of the chemtrail conspiracy theory
3. The learner will know the meaning of the main terms related to chemtrails: disinformation, conspiracy theory, geoengineering, and so on
4. The learner will be able to explain the concept of cloud seeding
5. The learner will be able to assess between cloud seeding and chemtrail conspiracy theory
6. The learner will know the main arguments in favour of the conspiracy theory
7. The learner will be able to identify the disinformation types that are used in this particular topic
8. The learner will be able to differentiate between non-expert and expert competence needed to assess different arguments and claims.
Suggested teaching methods
> Form opinions and formulate arguments (Systemic causality, Motivated Cognition, Frames and framing)
> Discuss (Frames and framing)
> Apply source and fact checking to a set of resources (Systemic causality)
> Re-evaluate (Frames and framing)
> Brainstorming, mindmapping (Systemic causality, Motivated Cognition)
Suggested learning activities
> Be persuasive in your introduction; try to create a very sharp logical reasoning to induce learners thinking that chemical trails could be actually a conspiracy.
> Select materials with a possibly plain and objective style: start using sources no. 1, 4, and 8 to introduce both the science and thechnology related to the topic. Then you will show source no. 3 to create the doubt, and refer to the report contained in source no. 2. Leave the rest to students as a starting point for their searches.
> Splitting students in workgroups is up to you: avoid people which are already friends and/or classmates, which tend to influence each other thus biasing their personal opinions.
> Workgroup have to be not so large to allow each member to give a contribution
> Allow also groups with a unique opinion
> During the workgroup, students will be left free to arrange themselves in two parties inside each group. They will perform fact checking using the same material provided by the teacher, their previous knowledge about chemistry/physics basics, textbooks, and the internet.
> Each group will have to come up with a unique explanation of their point of view about chemtails that is if the group is either pro or counter the existence of chemtrails, and why.
> A brief wrap-up discussion will close the building block, where the teacher will summarize the learned lesson.
De Facto pillars
Introduce the building block (Systemic causality, Equivalence and Emphasis frame) Teamwork and group discussion (Systemic causality, Motivated Cognition, Frames and framing) Searching for information, and diversify information sources (Systemic causality) Debate (Systemic causality, Motivated Cognition, Frames and framing) Wrap-up discussion (Systemic causality)
You have selected a topic from the Disinformation Games area. Please be advised that this area hosts, or links to, resources that contain misinformation or disinformation. The presence of such materials is to assist in developing and sustaining skills for navigating and detecting disinformation. To achieve this goal – and with clear intent – none of the materials are explicitly marked as true or not true.