Can social media change the world? promoting or demoting human rights

December 13, 2018

18:30 – 19:30

Followed by an informal networking apéro & exhibition viewing




Dr. Bradley E. Wiggins, Associate Professor and Head, Media Department of Media Communications, Webster Vienna Private University

Gisella Lomax, Head of Social Media, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency

Paula Dias Leite, Brazilian photographer, researcher and visual storyteller

Martina Castiglioni, Student President, Webster Humanitarian Association



“Augmented Democracy”: an interactive, innovative storytelling project using AR technology by Paula Dias Leite.


“Together as One”:  collaborative art created by Webster Humanitarian Association with the Venezuelan artist, and human rights activist, Rodrigo Hombre Radikal Figueredo.



Dr. Sarah Grosso, Media Communications Department, Webster University Geneva


A special edition of the Spotlight Seminar to celebrate International Human Rights Day and Webster Geneva’s 40th Anniversary. Co-hosted by the Webster Humanitarian Association.




This is a free event.  Advanced registration is requested here >


Spotlight Seminar Series

This event is part of the Spotlight Seminar Series organised by the Media Communications Department of Webster University Geneva. These seminars aim to shed light on contemporary issues in the media, communications and photography. This Special event to celebrate Webster Geneva’s 40th Anniversary and to honour International Human Rights Day is organised in collaboration with the WHA, Webster’s Humanitarian Association, an on-campus, student-led NGO.




“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights


70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, digital technologies make it easier than ever to access and share information across borders. On the one hand, social media has enabled campaigns like #MeToo, described as “transformative, liberating and empowering” for women’s rights. On the other hand, social media platforms have recently been implicated in inciting hatred, offline violence and human rights abuses, such Facebook in Myanmar. The impact of fake news and social media on politics has also been hotly debated in light of concerns over growing intolerance and the threat of human rights violations.


This Spotlight Seminar explores the potential and limitations of social media as tool to inspire change and to #StandUp4HumanRights.


Bradley E. Wiggins, associate professor and Head of the Media Communications Department, Webster Vienna Private University, discusses some of factors that shape the ability of social media to enact real-world change through activism and protest. Drawing on his research on internet memes and a discussion of online social movements including #metoo and #blacklivesmatter, he argues that memes are extensions of ideological practice; this means that they may help to reconfirm bias and may – or may not – act as a social good.


Gisella Lomax will share her experiences as the Head of Social Media for the UNHCR using social media to tackle misinformation and compassion fatigue, and build empathy and action to support people fleeing violence and persecution.


Paula Dias Leite will explore the role of social media in the recent Brazilian elections which inspired her to create “Augmented Democracy”, an interactive, innovative storytelling project using AR technology. Her work will be exhibited at the event for participants to experience.


Martina Castiglioni, President of Webster University Geneva’s Humanitarian Association will present a piece of collaborative art entitled “Together as One”. This painting is the result of a workshop hosted by Webster Humanitarian Association with the Venezuelan artist, and human rights activist, Rodrigo Hombre Radikal Figueredo. 




Gisella Lomax is a journalist turned strategic communicator specialising in social media, with a 15-year career in communications spanning news and digital media organizations, including UK newspaper ‘The Sun’ and the digital platforms MSN and Yahoo. In 2011 she joined the United Nations via the Young Professional’s Programme, working alternately as a public outreach, press, and social media officer, covering major UN events.


Gisella joined UNHCR in 2016 and leads the global social media team, which manages their multi-million strong online communities, engages media and influencers to share UNHCR messages and produces sparkling multimedia content that aims to keep refugee stories in newsfeeds and combat compassion fatigue among audiences across the world.


Bradley E. Wiggins is an associate professor and Head of the Media Communications Department at Webster Vienna Private University. His research interests include digital culture, new media, games and simulations, and intercultural communication. His work has been published in competitive journals, such as Simulation & Gaming, New Media & Society, International Journal of Communication, and International Journal of Game-Based Learning and he has presented his scholarship at the National Communication Association, International Communication Association, Popular Culture Association, and at conferences in Switzerland, Germany, and Turkey. He received his PhD in Communications Media and Instructional Technology from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in May 2011.


Paula Dias Leite is a Brazilian photographer, researcher and visual storyteller from Rio de Janeiro. In the past 15 years she has worked for Reuters, BBC Comic Relief, O Estado de Sao Paulo and several NGOs, publications and UN agencies either as a researcher, photographer or picture editor in contemporary storytelling. Paula has lived for many years in the UK, Brazil and for over five years between the Middle East and Northern Africa, where she had taken on assignments for, UNHCR in Syria, UNESCO in Brazil, FAO and Palestinian Embassy in Morocco. 


Recently, Paula has been devoting herself to explore mixed medias in order to produce a work that gives sensorial expression to the haunting images that pervade our lives. She is a PhD candidate in Finland, where she researchers the impact and implications of technology in storytelling in today's humanitarian communication practices such as VR/AR/MR and Gaming in the humanitarian context. Paula also holds an MA degree in Documentary Photography, University of Westminster and BA degree in Communication Science emphasis in Cinema Studies, Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro.


Paula is now living in Geneva, Switzerland where she has set up the “Augmented Democracy Project”, an innovative experiment in storytelling to explore engaging visual ways to make peoples' voices heard as part of the Brazil for Democracy Movement - CH.

Martina Castiglioni is studying for her BA in International Relations with an Emphasis in Migration & Refugee Studies at Webster University Geneva. Passionate about human rights, migration and refugees, she is the President of Webster Humanitarian Association. She has also worked as a volunteer at the Red Cross in Geneva and as an intern for Defence for Children International.


Sarah Grosso is an Adjunct Professor and researcher at Webster University Geneva’s Media Communications Department. She teaches Interpersonal Communication, Media Writing, Ethics in the Media and Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies. After her Master’s degree at ESCP-Europe business school, Sarah pursued her PhD in Anthropology at the London School of Economics. Her research interests focus on women’s rights and legal reform. Sarah convenes Webster University Geneva’s Spotlight Seminar Series, which engages a wide range of stakeholders to explore contemporary issues related to media and communications.

Sarah also works as a consultant advising international development and humanitarian organisations and NGOs, including the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Oxfam, and the International Labour Organisation.


The event will be followed by a question and answer session and a free networking cocktail during which guests can enjoy the Augmented Democracy and Together as One exhibition.


For more information about the event, please contact:



Thursday, December 13, 2018

Webster University Geneva, LLC Commons Room
Route de Collex 9 1293 Bellevue, Switzerland

Event Type

Global Campuses, Geneva


Divisions, School of Communications



Webster University Geneva
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