Georg Nöhrer

Dealing With Online Conspiracy Narratives in German Classes. Literature and Media Didactic Approaches


Online conspiracy narratives are a complex challenge for schools and teachers (Vajen & Wolf, 2021, p. 40).  Their reach and influence have greatly increased in recent years (Haas, 2020, p. 411; Lamberty & Imhoff, 2021, p. 202). When considering German didactics as an "eingreifende Kulturwissenschaft" (Kepser, 2013), then dealing with online conspiracy narratives falls into its area of responsibility. German classes can enable an examination on two different levels: on the level of media didactics and on the level of literature didactics.

The media didactics perspective on online conspiracy narratives is still little researched in school contexts. However, first studies show the necessity as well as the complexity of this undertaking (Leichtfried & Urban, 2021). There is a need to catch up here considering both schools and foundational research in German didactics (Antos & Ballod, 2019; Frederking, 2022; Frederking & Krommer, 2019; Krommer, 2020; Maik, 2021).

Besides a media didactic examination, online conspiracy narratives can also be dealt with on a literature didactic level (Leichtfried & Urban, 2021, p. 80). The narrativity of conspiracies is crucial for the "Verständnis und den Nachvollzug der verschwörungstheoretischen Argumentationen " (Niehr, 2021, p. 318). A literary didactic examination of these narratives, for example by naming and revealing plot structures, can show how and why they are convincing and seductive to recipients (Weixler, 2021, p. 127). It has not yet been clarified which approaches and methods of literary and narrative theory are most appropriate for dealing with conspiracy narratives in German classes. This will be investigated in the course of this project. 

The starting point of this project is an investigation of conspiracies currently popular online – such as narratives on The Great Reset, QAnon, the Flat Earth Society, Pizzagate, Chemtrails, and the 5G Conspiracy. For this investigation, the first step is establishing analytical categories based on German didactics research as well as on relevant publications in cultural studies, media studies, literature theory, and narrative theory. Following a design-based research approach, didactical implications will be discussed and teaching methods for German classes will be developed. These methods will then be tested, evaluated, and further adapted.