The project “50 Shades of Covid-19” was conceived as part of a MA university course about ‘Covid Narratives’ in the winter term 2020/2021 at the University of Vienna English Department. At the early stages of the course students conducted a (social) media analysis and identified a few prominent narratives concerning the pandemic. These narratives were grouped into categories with the intention to change them. The focus lay on the following topics and a different way of viewing them: Debunking the self-care myth (shifting away from an intense focus on the self as a way to care for oneself), respectful discourse (how can we have rational and thoughtful discussions in a culture of polarization and scape-goating), perspectives of blame (what can we do to transform narratives that seek to blame specific groups of people for the pandemic and the crisis management), and a vision for a post corona world (how can a different world after the pandemic look like and what can we do to help facilitate it).
Over the course of the semester the group of 10 MA students created an Instagram content strategy and designed templates for posts and investigated ideal publishing strategies (such as best time to post, frequency, etc.) to optimise engagement. By choosing Instagram, the project was also designed as a social media intervention. The platform is usually perceived to foster and encourage self-representation and self-marketing. Instead, the intervention aimed at using the platform to raise awareness not of the self but of a shared experience and how it impacts all of us and vice versa.
The project’s objective is to make people reflect on how we communicate about COVID-19 and change unhelpful and possibly destructive narratives. It further aims to build bridges, communicate in non-binary terms, open up dialogue.