On New Year's Eve in 2015 Vicky Schaubert, a journalist from Norwegian broadcaster NRK heard a story that was to stay with her for many years prompting her to research and write an article about a young man called Mats Steen from Oslo.
At the age of four he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a muscular disease which was to drastically shorten his life expectancy. His father, Robert introduced Mats to gaming hoping it would help substitute all the things he was not able to do. Mats spent the last ten years of his life before his death in 2014 rarely going out of the apartment he lived in. He spent the majority of his time gaming online. After Mats passed away his parents mourned what they thought was a very lonely and isolated life, that was until Robert decided he needed to reach out to the gaming community to tell them Mats would no longer be logging on.
Robert was not prepared for what happened next. He received many, many emails from people around the world shining a new light on the life of his son. Mats' story had a profound effect on Vicky Schaubert who reached out to Mats’ family to tell his story. After learning about Mats she apologised to her sons for her attitude towards the time they have spent gaming. Vicky attached no value to gamming and shamed them for wasting their time until she learned about Mats. Exploring Mats' story, Aleks discovers how easy it is to make assumptions about something you can't see - whether it’s inside the mind of another person, or inside the computer where connections and community offer a new opportunity for someone to find their people.
Produced by Kate Bissell
Researched by Laurence Cook
Aleks Krotoski takes a look at the way we use crutches, in both our offline and online lives.
We all use crutches - from dummies to cigarettes, from computer games and snapchat filters to people or food. It’s distraction from whatever it is lying beneath the surface.
But sometimes crutches stop being a short-term solution, and start being part of the problem.
From here, life can get complex.
How much do crutches help us, and how much does it hide the problems we need to tackle head-on?
Producer: Caitlin Smith
What is happening to us, now that we have access to all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips? If the headlines are to be believed, we are swimming upstream through relentless waves of alternative facts, drowning in an ocean of misinformation. And the internet? It’s the culprit.
But here’s the thing: we are enthralled by what we think is online wisdom - the words of the sage, and the learned. Unfortunately, as we’ve discovered through a lot of mishaps, a lot of the information that’s out there isn’t particularly wise. Aleks Krotoski looks to traditional sources of wisdom to give us advice on what we should do with our library of knowledge.
In November 2018 and LA based band Threatin landed in the UK to begin their first European tour. Their promoter had booked venues in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, new band members had been signed up with the promise of venues that could hold over 1000 people, the online audience was huge and passionately vocal on social media about their love of this brilliant upcoming band.
But when they took to the stage, there was no audience to greet them. The illusion of rockstardom burst when it crossed over from online into the offline world. The reality was that the agency, the managers, the fan club, the youtube interviews - all had been manufactured by the band’s frontman Jered Threatin.
When all was revealed the story went viral across the globe. Jered later claimed that the whole thing a deliberate performance that exposed the problems of fake news in the digital world, and that anyone who had participated was part of the ‘illusion’.
Aleks digs into the strange story of a fake tour that ended up with real fame, or at least infamy - asking why we trust what we see online, where the line is drawn between performance, trolling or lies, and finds out the real life consequences for people swept up in an online illusion.
The internet began as a way for academics and researchers to share information and collaborate on projects - it was a boon for scientific discovery.
But despite there being more scientific information online than ever, in the modern day the power of the internet has completely flipped. Verified science and medicine are crowded out by a plethora of misinformation and snake oil salesmen. From the relatively harmless quackery such as infrared light treatments or ‘wellness’ focused diets, to conspiracy theories around vaccinations that are influencing political policy, and have resulted in outbreaks of dangerous, preventable diseases across the world - what is happening online is having a tangible impact across the globe.
Aleks Krotoski explores how the infrastructure of the internet allows medical misinformation to thrive, finds out how people can be drawn into communities centred around medical misinformation and conspiracy theory, and how both scientists and every day internet users can redress the balance online.