Students challenge perspectives in Facebook challenge

Stacey and Stephanie

Students challenge perspectives in Facebook challenge

Three Forth Valley College and University of Stirling integrated degree students are challenging perspectives on extremism with a truly innovative entry in a worldwide Facebook campaign challenge.

Stacey Lange (31) from Alva, Stephanie Reilly (21) from Sauchie and Joseph Elton (22) from Todmorden, West Yorkshire, are looking forward to travelling to Vienna for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation within Europe (OSCE) heat, in the Peer to Peer: Facebook Global Digital Challenge on 27 June. There they will present their #GenerationProud campaign – which aims to take a new look at how society can react positively to change the views of people who promote hate.

If they progress further in the competition they will fly to Washington DC on 15 July and on 17 July there is a special dinner with Facebook and members of the US Department of Homeland Security and on 19 July they would present their campaign directly to Facebook and other selected partners.

The BA Digital Media integrated degree students, who have dual student status with the college where they spent their first two years and now with the University of Stirling where they will complete their degrees, will be joined in their team by fellow University students Jake Cawthon (21) from Columbus, Ohio (but who like Joseph stays in Stirling in during term time) and Alex Jowett (20) Stirling, as they look to generate a large social media following for their campaign.

Forth Valley College and University of Stirling students and staff – as well as the Forth Valley General public - are asked to ‘Like’ #GenerationProud’s social media pages, share them and their posts… and get their friends to do it too. They are currently sitting at 300 likes and  are asking for as many people as possible to take their pledge and challenge three friends to do the same, and help them spread the word through

Stacey, said:

“The Challenge is a global competition that asks students to come up with a real campaign to fight extremism online.  There are different stages to the competition and many universities around the world are taking part with vastly different campaigns.  

“Our entry is #GenerationProud and we can be found on Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and we have a website. Our campaign differs from the others by the fact that we aren't just providing solutions to individual types of extremism - we are trying to change perspectives on what constitutes extremism.  

“Online extremism in Scotland isn't just ISIS - it's sectarianism, gender inequality, homophobia, Islamaphobia - we are such a melting pot of a country that a lot of different things can be called extremism here.  

“Our hypothesis at the start was that everybody believes they have good values and that these values are traditionally passed down from parent to child.  We did some primary research using questionaires and proved our theory.  We also narrowed down our target audience and where they saw online extremism the most.” 

Steph, added:

“So if everyone, including the toughest teen in the Ku Klux Klan, believes they are morally 'right' how do we combat that?  Negativity breeds negativity - there is no point in pointing at someone and yelling 'You are wrong!' - that won't get us anywhere.  

“Positivity is key - as is giving people permission to question their parents and their communities’ values.  People should think about why they hold the views they do and reflect on why others hold a differing opinion.  Maybe there is something to be learned both ways.  It's not about saying you are wrong to your parents or communities - it's about saying I respect that is your view, but this is mine and this is why.  Question, think, reflect is the soul of our campaign.”

Stacey added:

“We have a pledge on our website  that can be signed with Facebook and Twitter and it asks people to really think about things and pledge to act a certain considerate way.  If we can get everyone to pledge this, the world would just be a better place.

“The integrated degree helped prepare us for university by getting us used to deadlines and heavy end of year workloads. University is a very different experience with different expectations of students than the college, but the college was definitely a help in understanding the world of academia.  I think going straight into university is something I might have struggled with, as it's quite impersonal compared to college - it's harder to ask for advice and guidance.

“I'd say FVC contributed to helping us with this competition because they taught us about semiotics and communication.  Why people react the way they do to symbols and how easily a miscommunication can happen.  The college also taught us how to use produce engaging content which has proved invaluable.

“I would recommend anyone to do the integrated BA in Digital Media at FVC and University of Stirling, because it gives you the practical skills needed to work in the industry.  Other university might have other courses but they are likely to be more theory focused and what employers want is practical skills. If you want to work in factual programme making either audio or visual, or even journalism this is a great starting point.”

Steph Toms, Curriculum Manager in FVC’s Department of Creative Industries, said:

“The Creative Industries Department is extremely proud of the success of these students who started their journey with us on the first year of delivery of our BA Digital Media course. We are very much looking forward to hearing how the students get on and are wishing them the best of luck in the competition.”

Dr Chiara Bernardi, Lecturer in Digital Media at the University of Stirling, said:

“The #GenerationProud campaign is inviting us all to remember that we are not born with hate and we are not born divisive: we can still agree to disagree, online and offline, but we can do it peacefully, while showing our respect to others. Whether they make it to the final competition or not,  Stacey, Joseph, Stephanie, Jacob and Alexandra have done an amazing job and we are all very proud of them.”


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