"We want to bring people closer to reality of facts"
Antonio Gennarelli is a 27 years project manager originally from Italy. He moved to Greece couple of years ago to work in IDEC, a small educational - consulting company in Piraeus, the port of Athens. His background is in International cooperation and he is curious in projects funded by European Union. With IDEC we are colaborating in the two-year long project FIDO (from the English acronym: "Fighting Fake News and Disinformation"), funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus Plus programme.
While discussing with Gennarelli I wanted to know more about the development of manual for trainers - the task monitored by the IDEC. I also used the opportunity to ask Italian-born project manager and educator living in Greece about the comparisons between the sectors in the both countries
- Antonio, together with partners you started with the FIDO project last year in March 2021. How do you find it so far?
I am very happy to be on this project. I think we have come a long way, we have created something really nice and above average in terms of quality. Plus, with all the partners I think we have now a very good synergy. We don’t mind meeting every month!
- Your organisation was responsible for challenging tool: Intellectual output1 or IO1.
Please tell us more about it!
IO1 was one of my outputs to be delivered in general. I had to learn how to coordinate a team with lots of ideas. Thankfully, my organization, IDEC, has a lot of experience in this and they could guide me a bit at first. Then, it was much easier since all partners were very interested in doing a good work! But yes, I had an idea in mind after the first meeting and I tried to present it to the whole partnership. I wanted something practical, interesting but most importantly something that could be easly accepted by the seniors.
- What exactly is IO1?
First of all, let’s move beyond the terms IO – it’s very technical and it does not mean much to anyone. Our first result that we created in the FIDO partnership is the Training Methodology. Our idea was to create something that was ready for trainers to use with the students. We could say that the Methodology is a collection of exercises: we describe how the exercises can be put into place, what is their objective and their “solutions” if something is not clear. They all revolve fake news in social media, more or less. Just to give you some examples, our activities talk about conspiracy theories, how numbers can lead to half truths etc. However, the nice aspect is that we will learn to know these things together – trainer and students. I want to be specific about this, so you know what to expect when checking the Methodology on our website! We will talk about Deep Fake, Troll Farming, Language-based manipulation, Misinformation and data manipulation, Pseudoscience and conspiracy theories, and finally biased information. The methodology was first pilot-tested with our partners through the so-called "living labs".
- Living Labs (workshops for elderly) were kind of non-formal educational experiment. Were they successful? How was the feedback from the partners?
I believe that to really reach certain groups of people, you cannot expect them to sit down for 1 or 2 hours and simply listen. The idea of the workshops was to really engage them, building capacities. We saw participants very happy and eager to learn, try out the materials. It is also an occasion for them to be active and far from their daily routine.
- Manual acts as some kind of methodological educational tool for the trainers and educators. What kind of response do you expect from the users?
I think the strength of the Manual is in the vast amount of knowledge it holds – we could call it a body of knowledge in fact. I believe that it can become an interesting read even for people who are not trainers or teachers. However, it is not easy to approach – the content must be adapted first for communication and promotion, which I think it is very important. For trainers instead, I think this can be really a complete tool: it provides knowledge, both theorical and practical, examples and background. Everything in one place, simply.
- When will it be available to the public? How will the public access it?
We want it to be available online first. It is optimized for this format at the moment, so I will invite all our trainers to check out our website (fidoproject.eu), once it will be uploaded. However, a good idea might also be to have it printed with an ISBN code. I think it could be useful for the sustainability of the results.
- Will it be translated into other languages?
Yes! We believe that the content can be useful in English, for sure, but most of our trainings at IDEC for example take place in Greece. We will translate also the manual and this is the reason why I believe it could obtain an ISBN code as well as become a popular read in the country. Other languages will surely be Italian, Slovenian and Polish. However, it’s important to stress that the material will be free to access for everyone, so we will be happy to cooperate with anyone interested in our work.
- In general Antonio, what do you think is there a need to develop this type of content (on fake news, disinformation etc.) in the current digital information age?
I think this is a great topic to discuss. In FIDO, we did some good work on fake news and how these actually show up on the internet. However, from what I realize, there is more to be done on how social media actually work. I am not talking about how to post something or to share content, but the social dynamics that are now common on these platforms. We have scratched the surface with certain fake news, but other online dynamics may be sadly real and yet problematic. We spend so much time now online that many social dynamics have effectively split between the online and the offline world. I think this is the direction we will need to take.
- How do you interact with the partners? How does the cooperation work?
With partners we mostly work online, independently. Sometimes you can imagine a project like a room filled with people running back and forth, phones ringing etc. This can be part of the job, however in our case it works a bit differently. Usually we catch up once a month with an online call, but we communicate constantly via emails or messages. What I like about working with my colleagues in FIDO is that everybody comes off quite easily, so the discussion is honest and it’s never awkward.
- You bring the Greek and Italian experience to the project. When you look at adult classrooms at home or in Greece, what is the difference?
Truth is, I have gathered a lot of experiences in this field but all of it in Greece. My experience in education for what Italy is concerned is limited to my university years. It was very curious for me, for example, to cooperate with AFORISMA, an Italian organization giving me insights in this sense.
- What about the topic of fake news and disinformation? In preparing the manual you read feedback from Italy and Greece. What is the difference between the perception of misleading content among Greek older adults and Italian older adults?
Actually yes, this is a good point! I realized how Greece and Italy are very similar countries in terms of being exposed to fake news. The same theories can usually apply, and the rhetoric online of certain figures is quite alike as well. If anything, I could say that the debate in both countries is very much polarized, but in Greece ideologies are still somewhat stronger, while in Italy this difference has become more bland. In Greece traditional media are also a bit influential than Italy, like radio, but the dynamics of fake news are not so much different.
- What would for you be the biggest success at the end of the project? What do you hope the teachers, trainers and participants can take home?
For me, I think the biggest success would be to bring people closer to the reality of facts. I mean it in general: very frequently now we hear people that are demoralized, that prefer to stay away from current facts. People that are not interested in voting, for example. Well, what I’d be happy to see is that people can start trusting again what they hear and what they see.
- Would you like to add something?
Yes actually. I would like to take a minute to thank all my colleagues at FIDO. It has been a long journey and it’s now coming to an end. I will remember this project as one of my first, and I am grateful for how much we have learned from each other. Sometimes we do not realise how much we are also learners at the work we do! Maybe this is what working in Erasmus+ for 2 years now taught me.
Antonio Gennarelli was interviewed by Katja Lihtenvalner, PhD candidate in adult education, media analyst, journalist and producer. She works as a media content researcher, educational content design consultant, journalist and videographer in the FIDO project under the auspices of the Ljubljana-based video production company Rusaalka.