April 28, 2017
In Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age, Tiziana Terranova (2004) begins “this is a book about information overload in network societies and about how we might start to think our way through it.”
Here on #100hardtruths #99, coming finally to my end point, I reiterate “this is a digital primer about, within, and against information overload in network societies—in the guise of #fakenews and all it might bear—and about how we might start to think our way through it.”
In the 99 posts preceding, I have argued, shown, or succumbed to several findings about how to think our way through (and within) #fakenews. One of these came late, by way of my sister Antonia—read some good books—that is take advantage of the depth of understanding, commitment, and expressive intensity that hunkering down with a good book (and other long-forms) can emanate. (I have no interest in quibbling about what counts as long-form, and I have no investment in material vs digital production per se.) I do suggest, again and again, that one way to think through #fakenews is to commune with an artist, author, theorist, polemicist with time (and better yet in the company of others). Enjoy the insane potential of human production. Then attempt how to re-enliven and share this sustaining encounter with equal penetration and connection (again I have no investment in material vs digital production, per se.)
Terranova writes: “Proposition: Information is what stands out from noise.” She continues:
Corollary 1a: Within informational cultures, the struggle over meanings is subordinated to that over ‘media effects’
Corollary 1b: The cultural politics of information involves a return to the minimum conditions of communication (the relation of signal to noise and the problem of making contact)
This matters to me because in seeking or sharing clarity in the form of somewhat facetious, somewhat sincere “hardtruths,” I find I often, still, get mired in and produce noise against all my best efforts (i.e. writing short posts, relying on images, building a simple pretty interface, sharing via social networks in even more redacted forms). I find that even when I gain discrete moments of clarity across this project, this is quickly drowned out by the noise of its own escalating plentitude and the logics of its internet home.
The problems of “making contact” has also been central to the project. While I, or it, aligns with others with frequency and sometimes satisfying volume, given the painful truths of its internet home, I have found I am most fulfilled in my quest to better understand #fakenews when sharing #100hardtruths-#fakenews with people, in person, or one-on-one on the internet: my “people need people” superhardtruth #9.
Terranova explains that “contact” trumps “accuracy” in the information age, and this is what I have been resisting throughout: trump, his trumping of accuracy, and his (and #fakenews’) winning logic whereby a satisfyingly brief exchange is the coin of the realm, even as this proves superhardtruth #3, “short, fast and fun will be the death of us, or at least some.” She continues: “This is why the social management of communication favors the short slogan or even the iconic power of the logo.” (I go on and on against slogans in my earlier attack on short form in the form of another of my invented internet short (but huge) forms, Learning from YouTube).
a cultural politics of information opens up a heightened awareness of the importance of minute and apparently inconsequential decisions as they are implemented in architecture and design, on television and the internet, in medical research and news-making, in personal relationships and working practices … this dimension is concerned only with the successful transmission of messages.
This matters to me because I am not a machine, nor am I tyrant, a corporation, a nation-state or someone’s or something’s data or product. I am a person, and I want and need more than “the successful transmission of messages.” I want, with others, connection, goodness, honesty, reason, feeling, and change.
Terranova move on and gets righteous. She anticipates my sorrow, and then, counter-intuitively projects a place for my needs, for our human rights and power, in network cultures: “Corollary II: Information cultures challenge the coincidence of the real with the possible” because this place is as infinite as are people, especially people in connection.
Beyond the possible of the real is thus the openness of the virtual … Whether it is about the flash-like appearance or disappearance of the electronic commons … or the virtuality of another world perceived during a mass demonstration or a workshop or a camp, the cultural politics of information involves a stab at the fabric of possibility, an undoing of the coincidence of the real with the given.
Her thinking is hard, because this is hard. Go read it! That’s one of the other, final, takeaways of this project. Thinking about, being in, responding to, changing things, striving for social justice and ethical engagement in network culture is complicated. Superhardtruth #8: “people need time to ponder so they can be truly ethical and thoughtful.” No easy fixes. No quick studies. No simplistic strategies. No I get it from a slogan or an aphorism. Superhardtruth #10: “people need art and complexity.”
Yes: sitting together in the noise, being together in the clarifying beauty and intensity of our shared humanity and profound human production.
As much as this project has left me blue (through its blighted linkage to 99 days of destruction. Superhardtruth #5: “our tiny contributions cascade into the mother of all bombs”), I have been consistently and persistently saved by the grace of others (found sometimes, no often, on the internet). Superhardconclusion: “people make the internet. and bombs. and #fakenews. and poetry and song and community. Only we have the power to know and do better.”
The cultural politics of information is no radical alternative that springs out of a negativity to confront a monolithic social technology of power. It is rather a positive feedback effect of information cultures as such.
- Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age, Tiziana Terranova
- “Documentary on YouTube: The failure of the direct cinema of the slogan,” Alexandra Juhasz
April 27, 2017
President Donald Trump
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Secretary of Defense James Mattis
H.R. McMaster, National Security Council
April 26, 2017
Dear President Trump:
We are women leaders from over 40 countries, including the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and many from nations that fought in the Korean War. We are from academia, business, civil society and the military, and represent a diversity of ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and political views. We are united by our belief that diplomacy is the only way to resolve the nuclear crisis and threat of war now facing the Korean peninsula.
On July 27, 1953, leaders from the United States, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and China signed the Armistice Agreement to halt the Korean War. They promised to re-convene within three months to replace the ceasefire with a binding peace agreement. This never occurred and an entrenched state of war has ever since defined inter-Korean and U.S.-D.P.R.K. relations. This war must end.
Korea is the only nation to remain divided as a result of WWII. For three generations, millions of families have been separated by the world’s most militarized border. We urge you to do the following to avert war in Korea and bring about a long-desired peace on the peninsula:
1. Negotiate a freeze of North Korea’s nuclear and long-range ballistic program in exchange for a U.S. security guarantee that would include suspending U.S.-South Korea military exercises.
2. Initiate a peace process with North Korea, South Korea and China to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a binding peace treaty to end the Korean War. Women must be significantly represented in the peace process in accordance with the spirit of UNSCR 1325.
3. Support citizen diplomacy to heal the legacies of the Korean War by establishing a liaison office in Washington and Pyongyang to facilitate retrieval of U.S. Korean War servicemen’s remains and Korean-American family reunions.
Since 1950, the Korean peninsula has been threatened with nuclear weapons, missile tests, and military exercises that have only served to make 75 million Korean people less secure. In the United States and on both sides of the Korean De-Militarized Zone, the absence of a binding peace accord fuels fear and economic deprivation caused by diverting public resources in preparation for war, including deploying the controversial THAAD missile defense system in South Korea. This endless militarization must stop.
Peace is the most powerful deterrent of all. We urge you to take steps now to help formally end the Korean War with a peace treaty. Doing so would lead to greater peace and security for the Korean peninsula and region and halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We look to you to accomplish what successive U.S. Presidents have failed to do for seven decades: establish peace on the Korean peninsula.
1. Abigail Disney, USA, Filmmaker and Philanthropist
2. Aimee Alison, USA, President Democracy in Color
3. Aiyoung Choi, USA, Steering Committee Member, Women Cross DMZ
4. Alana Price, USA, Editor of Truthout
5. Alice Slater, USA, Coordinating Committee Member, World Beyond War
6. Alice Walker, USA, Author and Activist
7. Alicia Garza, USA, National Domestic Workers Alliance and Black Lives Matter
8. Amina Mama, Nigeria/USA, Professor, University of California, Davis
9. Amira Ali, Ethiopia, Author and Activist
10. Ana Oliveira, USA, Philanthropist
11. Anasuya Sengupta, India, Feminist author and activist, co-founder Whose Voices?
12. Angela Chung, USA, Attorney and Human Rights Activist
13. Angela Davis, USA, Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz
http://www.womencrossdmz.org P.O. Box 4025, San Francisco, CA 94140-0250 firstname.lastname@example.org
14. Ani DiFranco, USA, Singer, Songwriter, Poet, Multi-instrumentalist & Businesswoman
15. Annabel Park, USA, Filmmaker
16. Ann Frisch, USA, Professor Emerita University of Wisconsin Rotary Club of White Bear Lake, 5960
17. Anne Delaney, USA, Artist and Philanthropist
18. Anuradha Mittal, USA, Executive Director, Oakland Institute
19. Ann Patterson, Northern Ireland, Peace People
20. Ann Wright, USA, Retired US Army Colonel & Diplomat
21. Anne Beldo, Norway, Lawyer and Partner of Hegg & Co. Law Firm
22. Annette Groth, Germany, Member of Bundestag
23. Annie Isabel Fukushima, USA, Professor, University of Utah
24. Audrey McLaughlin, Canada, Former President, Socialist International Women
25. Becky Rafter, USA, Executive Director, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)
26. Betty Burkes, USA, Cambridge Insight Meditation Center
27. Betty Reardon, USA, Founding Director of the International Institute on Peace Education
28. Bridget Burns, Co-Director, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
29. Brinton Lykes, USA, Professor, Boston College
30. Caitlin Kee, USA, Attorney, Thomson-Reuters
31. Carrie Menkel-Meadow, USA, Chancellor’s Professor of Law, University of California Irvine Law School
32. Catherine Christie, Canada, United Church Canada
33. Catherine Hoffman, USA, Coordinator, Cambridge Restorative Justice Working Group
34. Carter McKenzie, USA, Springfield-Eugene Chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice
35. Charlotte Wiktorsson, Sweden, Swedish Physicians Against War
36. Christine Ahn, USA, International Coordinator, Women Cross DMZ
37. Christine Cordero, USA, Center for Story-based Strategy
38. Chung-Wha Hong, USA, Executive Director, Grassroots International
39. Cindy Wiesner, USA, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance National Coordinator
40. Clare Bayard, USA, Catalyst Project
41. Coleen Baik, USA, Twitter @Design Alumna
42. Cora Weiss, USA, President, Hague Appeal for Peace
43. Corazon Valdez Fabros, Philippines, Co-Vice President, International Peace Bureau
44. Cynda Collins Arsenault, USA, Philanthropist, Secure World Foundation
45. Cynthia Enloe, USA, Professor, Clark University
46. Darakshan Raja, USA, Executive Director, Washington Peace Center
47. Deann Borshay Liem, USA, Filmmaker
48. Don Mee Choi, USA, Poet & Translator, International Women’s Network Against Militarism
49. Dorchen A. Leidholdt, USA, Attorney, Professor, Feminist
50. Dorothy Ogle, USA, National Council of Churches
51. Dorothy J. Solinger, USA, Professor Emerita, University of California, Irvine
52. Ekaterina Zagladina, Russia, Permanent Secretariat, Nobel Peace Summit
53. Elaine H. Kim, USA, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
54. Eleana J. Kim, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
55. Eleanor Blomstrom, Co-Director, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
56. Ellen Carol DuBois, Professor, History and Gender Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
57. Ellen-Rae Cachola, USA, Women’s Voices Women Speak
58. Emilia Castro, Canada, Co-Representative of Intl. Committee, Americas Region, World March of Women
59. Eunice How, USA, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, Seattle chapter
60. Eve Ensler, USA, Playwright
61. Ewa Eriksson Fortier, Sweden, Humanitarian Aid Worker
62. Faye Leone, USA, Writer and Editor, International Institute for Sustainable Development
63. Fenna ten Berge, Netherlands, Director of Muslims for Progressive Values
64. Fiona Dove, Netherlands, Executive Director, Transnational Institute
65. Fragkiska Megaloudi, Greece, Journalist
66. Frances Kissling, USA, University of Pennsylvania; former President, Catholics for Choice
67. Francisca de Haan, Netherlands, Professor, Central European University
68. Gabriela Zapata Alvarez, Mexico, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor
69. Gay Dillingham, USA, Filmmaker, Former Advisor to Governor Bill Richardson
70. Gayle Wells, USA, Business owner
http://www.womencrossdmz.org P.O. Box 4025, San Francisco, CA 94140-0250 email@example.com
71. Glenda Paige, USA, Secretary, Governing Council, Center for Global Nonkilling
72. Gloria Steinem, USA, Writer and Activist, Presidential Medal of Freedom Awardee
73. Grace Cho, USA, Professor, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
74. Gwen Kim, USA, Ohana Koa, Nuclear Free and Independent Hawaii
75. Gwyn Kirk, USA, Women for Genuine Security
76. Haeyoung Yoon, USA, human rights lawyer
77. Hazel Smith, United Kingdom, Professor, University of Central Lancashire
78. Helen Caldicott, Australia, Founding President of Physicians for Social Responsibility
79. Helena Wong, USA, U.S. National Organizer, World March of Women
80. Hope A. Cristobal, Guam, Former Senator
81. Hye-Jung Park, USA, Filmmaker, Community Media Activist
82. Hyaeweol Choi, Australia, Professor, Australian National University
83. Hyunju Bae, Republic of Korea, Central and Executive Committee, World Council of Churches
84. Ingeborg Breines, Norway, Co-President, International Peace Bureau; former Director UNESCO
85. Isabella Sargsyan, Armenia, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly
86. Isabelle Geukens, Netherlands, Executive Director, Women Peacemakers Program
87. Jaana Rehnstrom, Finland, President, KOTA Alliance
88. Jackie Cabasso, USA, U.S. Mayors for Peace
89. Jacquelyn Wells, USA, Women Cross DMZ
90. Jacqui True, Australia, Professor, Monash University
91. Jane Chung-Do, Professor, University of Hawaii Manoa
92. Jane Jin Kaisen, Denmark, Artist and Filmmaker
93. Janis Alton, Canada, Co-Chair, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
94. Jasmine Galace, Philippines, The Center for Peace Education, Miriam College
95. Jean Chung, Republic of Korea/USA, Founder, Action for One Korea
96. Jennifer Kwon-Dobbs, USA, Professor, St. Olaf College
97. Ji-yeon Yuh, USA, Associate Professor of History, Northwestern University
98. Joanne Yoon Fukumoto, USA, Trinity United Methodist Church
99. Jodie Evans, USA, Co-founder, Code Pink
100. Joy Dunsheath, New Zealand, President, United Nations Association New Zealand
…. (and more)
International Women’s Organizations
Church Women United
International Women’s Network Against Militarism
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, UK Section
North Korean Women’s Organization
Korea Socialist Women’s Union
South Korean Women’s and Peace Organizations
1. Women Making Peace (평화여성회)
2. Korea Women’s Association United (한국여성단체연합/7개 지부, 30개 회원단체)
3. Korean Association of Women Theologians (한국여신학자협의회)
4. The Council of Churches in Korea, Women’s Committee (한국기독교교회협의회 여성위원회)
5. The Association of Major Superiors of Women Religious in Korea (한국천주교여자수도회 장상연합회)
http://www.womencrossdmz.org P.O. Box 4025, San Francisco, CA 94140-0250 firstname.lastname@example.org
6. The Righteous People for Korean Unification (새로운 백년을 여는 통일의병)
7. The Gongju Women Human Rights Center (공주 여성인권)
8. The World Council of Churches (세계교회협의회)
9. The Christian Network for Peace and Unification (평화와통일을위한기독인연대)
10. beyondit (너머서)
11. Okedongmu Children in Korea (어린이 어깨동무)
12. Women History Forum (여성역사포럼)
13. Peace Mother (평화어머니회)
14. Kyunggi Women’s Association United (경기여성연합)
15. Kyunggi Goyang-Paju Women Link (경기 고양파주 민우회)
16. Kyunggi Women’s Network (경기여성네트워크)
17. The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (한국정신대문제대책협의회)
18. Korea Women’s Political Solidarity (여세연)
19. Korean Sharing Movement (우리민족서로돕기운동)
20. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (참여연대)
21. Iftopia (문화세상 이프토피아)
22. Ewha Women’s Alumni Meeting for Democracy (이화민주동우회)
23. Kyunggi Jinbo Women United (경기여성자주연대)
24. Kyunggi Council of Women (경기여성단체협의회)
25. Chungchung-namdo Education Center for Equality (충청남도 성평등교육문화센타)
26. 21st Century Seoul Women’s Union (21세기 서울여성회)
27. Common Nourishing and Education (공동육아와 공동체 교육)
28. Ecumenical Youth Network (에큐메니칼 청년 네트워크)
29. Women Ministers Association of Presbyterian Churches Korea (대한예수교장로회 전국여교역자연합회)
30. Women Ministers’ Association of Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea
31. Korea Association Methodist Women in Ministry (기독교대한감리회 여교역자회)
32. Korea Methodist Women’s Leadership Institute (감리교여성지도력개발원)
33. Korea Church Women United (한국교회여성연합회)
34. Duraebang (두레방)
35. Sunlit Sisters’ Center (햇살사회복지회)
36. United for Women’s Rights Against US Military Bases’ Crime (기지촌여성인권연대)
37. United Voice for the Eradication of Prostitution: Hansori (성매매근절을위한 한소리회)
- Open Letter to Trump Administration, Women Cross DMZ
- Women Cross DMZ: Women Cross DMZ is an organization led by women working globally for peace in Korea. In May 2015, on the 70th anniversary of the division of Korea, Women Cross DMZ led a historic women’s peace walk across the De-Militarized Zone from North to South Korea to draw global attention to the urgent need to end the Korean War with a peace treaty, reunite divided families, and ensure women’s leadership in peacebuilding. Representing 15 countries, our 30-member international delegation walked with 10,000 Korean women on both sides of the DMZ.
- Our mission is to: 1.) Promote women’s leadership in the peacebuilding process in Korea; 2.) Raise awareness about the urgent need for peace in Korea; and 3.) Expand and deepen relationships with women leaders and organizations in South Korea, North Korea, and around the world.
- Church Women United
- CODE PINK
- International Women’s Network Against Militarism
- Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, UK Section
April 26, 2017
There has been a great deal of darkness, and small windows of light, in this project, what with my 100 days of attention to and reflection of the #fakenews that saw, forwarded, and engaged with the shadowy moves of this administration as well as those of the social and digital media that analyzed, propagated, and multiplied these daily acts, including my own engagement. The darkness of #100hardtruths-fakenews is seeded in the violence, hatred, greed, and stunning illogic of the first 100 days, and a deeply interconnected internet logic that fueled and monetized our attention and participation. Even when I would use this project to point to intelligent, beautiful, inspiring counter-moves (in the form of a great many of the #100hardtruths) the darkness often deepened for me, knowing as I did that when sharing those here I was never outside the system, but rather that I was a part of an infrastructure of participation that produces and feeds off of #fakenews and its dark heart situated in the play between honesty and deception, sincerity and fraud.
This tension—between promises and impasses of participation, its hopes and disappointments, its illusions and recuperations—is at the forefront of recent social, cultural, and political assessments of participation in relation to new media … For, despite what appears to be an unprecedented range of opportunities for individuals to participate in activities that seem to compare with long-standing ideas about what constitutes political action—gathering and publicizing information, expressing opinions, debating an deliberating with others, signaling preferences, making choices, witnessing events, and organizing collective action—it is not at all clear that the participatory condition marked by all this activity is actually one on which the quality, intensity, or efficacy of political experience is significantly greater, or more democratic (in the substantive sense of a more equal distribution of power and resources), than it was before participation became routinized part of most every aspect of social life. (Darin Barney, Gabriella Coleman, Christine Ross, Jonathan Sterne, and Tamar Tembeck, “The Participatory Condition: An Introduction,” The Participatory Condition in the Digital Age)
From these authors and other engagements with my smart and committed peers and colleagues, I understand that my plight within this condition—enacted for me in the construction of this self-aware witnessing of my own participation in what I despise and hope to help change—is common, human, and currently definitive. And I turn to art and scholars, to my communities and reasonable humans, to learn again and again that we can and must name these conditions—here and elsewhere—as well as how we suffer (and profit) in their wake.
Between us. Between strangers. Our civic contract states. We will act in each others best interest for no other reason. Than we are here together. (Claudia Rankine and John Lucas)
We need to do our best to build the vocabularies and practices that can describe and improve upon what and how we now see, engage with and participate in. We need models for responsive, human systems for sharing, making, interacting and viewing. We need ethics, a working “civic contract,” to witness and act in defiance against this onslaught of images and words, #fakenews, given that we are so “different from and similar to. each other.”
Producing contexts for our interactions, for our participation and sharing, has always been but becomes now even more so: everything. In Situation 8, by my friends John Lucas and Claudia Rankine (one of a larger series, Situations), we see one attempt to produce ethical context for seeing: a poetic, historic, lyric, audio-rich analysis that situates unspeakable images between known and unknown viewers who will have to “put their trust” in each other.
“Someone is paying attention. Someone is watching. See.”
The lesson of the conjunction of surveillance and subversion is that, in the digital era, active participation generates data about itself in addition to the intentional and deliberate forms of action or feedback with which it is associated. This is a crucial—and increasingly important—aspect of the digitally informated society. Digital participation is reflexive in the sense that it generates information about itself, and this information may be more detailed and comprehensive than the information generated by deliberate and active forms of participation … We may find that active forms of participation online are redoubled by increasingly passive ones, amounting to automated participation in data-driven control systems. (Mark Andrejevic, “The Pacification of Interactivity”)
- The Participatory Condition in the Digital Age, Darin Barney, Gabriella Coleman, Christine Ross, Jonathan Sterne, and Tamar Tembeck, eds.
April 25, 2017
President Trump and I both have five more days (til 100). I assume or hope we both have a plan for our last (mis)steps. Today the New York Times reports that “Trump Rejects 100-Day Test, Yet Seeks an A.” It appears “Mr. Trump [is] spending his final week before [what he states is] the artificial and ridiculous 100-day point of his presidency … With a flurry of action on health care, taxes and the border wall to show just how much he has done in the first 100 days — amplified by a White House program of first-100-days briefings, first-100-days receptions, a first-100-days website and a first-100-days rally.” We may have been too distracted to notice.
Meanwhile, here in my putrid and sometimes illuminating, often bleak and at times revelatory project of embedded, digital, parallel play, I have spent the last 50 days sharing literacy tools and projects, looking to the inspiration of art, intellect and movements, and relying on the wisdom and nourishment of friends, colleagues, comrades, and family to help me get through and see beyond the noise on my computer and in my heart.
Just yesterday, my sister Antonia provided me with an optimistic #100hardtruths (#95: people actually DO get it“) about the people’s power to know and act, something we both believe in, and that we all need to remind each other about when we feel defeated or afraid. However, she had also tossed out to me another possible route for her contribution, a set of tweets about expertise. After some emailing back and forth, we decided to go upbeat, given the rather dark place the project had gone, what with all the bombing.
But there was a lot of wisdom and comfort to be had in Antonia’s second-choice, harder #100hardtruths. Expressed in two tweets, this was a call for the wisdom and comfort of the long form: read books, turn to those who think deep and hard.
#100hardtruths-#fakenews How to decode fake news? Read all the way thru. Check sources. Don’t base knowledge on 1 article. “Experts” r real. (@AntoniaJuhasz)
#100hardtruths-#fakenews Believe in expertise. There are people who know more than u do. Seek out. Build Trust. Rely. Then Doubt & Question. (@AntoniaJuhasz)
As I was anticipating my last 5 days, this was already something I had planned. I read some books. I sought some cheer, some understanding (I was on a late spring break too, btw, which is how I could read three books over a week!). My five day plan (even before Antonia suggested it) had been to share some of the insight I learned by reading some books, doubling down on expertise, and seeking and sharing not so much “truth” in the face of lies but thoughtful, careful time with other’s well-honed guidance. Thus, my last few #100hardtruths will map this one woman’s attempt to gain some comfort and knowledge from reading books even as my 100-day rival keeps building his evil empire.
In “An Introduction to Ten Theses,” Social Media—New Masses, editors Inge Baxmann Timon Beyes, Claus Pias explain that “media upheavals invariably entail the restructuring of knowledge cultures.” This is a clear (if complex) way to think about #100hardtruths-#fakenews: both what I found and shared but also what I did. My assertion that I would provide #100hardtruths about #fakenews was, of course, a sort of obfuscation in reverse, or perhaps a ruse, or just a prop. The problem was never really fake news, just as I never had the skills, chutzpah, or ability to provide a solution (in 100 days!) Rather, the project, as I began to show and express within it, became one digital manifestation of one citizen’s attempt (in real time) to engage in a connected and at times collective set of stabs at understanding or at least reflecting upon the experience of swimming in a sea of distractions, misdirections, reflections, misperceptions, and upheavals, some of them my own, about and as news as fake as that adorning Trump’s whitehouse.gov “President Trump’s 100 Days” website, reluctantly reflected above.
#100hardtruths-#fakenews is an offering of one format and its associated practice whereby a person could participate in a minor, situated restructuring of contemporary knowledge culture, attempting to manifest, online, in real time, and sometimes through and also against social networks, the daily politics that were unfolding in the first 100 days of this administration, as well as counter-approaches, tools, knowledges, art works, practices, and feelings that have been waged in response.
The ‘political’ here refers to making manifest the contingency of the social by way of gaps in, and ruptures of, the network of institutionalized apparatuses and practices. This includes the awareness and acknowledgement of current forms of control and surveillance, which in the digital age take an algorithmic or protocological form and work through the modulation of affects and atmospheres. (“An Introduction to Ten Theses”)
April 24, 2017
- Poll: Trump gets historically low approval ratings, Brooke Seipel
April 23, 2017
“The commercialization of radical ideas and social movements is hardly new. Since this election cycle, attempts at revolutionary image-making seem to have appeared with greater force and ubiquity—and to be coopted in greater measure. Equality is sometimes perceived as the freedom to pursue fame, the pleasure of being socially accepted, the right to spend money, and the right to chase it. Unfortunately, whatever lasting political potential that some images might have held are often deflated upon arrival. The process by which subversive concepts are trivialized, defanged, and repurposed by the mainstream into friendly, socially acceptable forms–what the Situationists International called recuperation–is being abetted in part by a scramble toward cultural significance and economic opportunity. The threat of fake news may wane, but a shore of confusing images undermine liberal capacity to take stock and wage an honest resistance.
Consider the image of DeRay McKesson, a young civil rights activist, in January’s issue of Vogue. His expression is sober; his style of dress–white oxford shirt, thin necktie–recalls the leaders of the Southern Freedom movement. His fist is raised in a Black Power salute befitting a 1970s radical. The photograph is flanked by the caption, ‘DeRay McKesson wears a Theory shirt and Tom Ford pants.’
Consider the Assata Box, a package of products from women-owned businesses designed to ‘celebrate the life and legacy of Assata Shakur.’ Priced at $60, the set includes a t-shirt, a Black Lives Matter pin, and a custom print with the slogan, ‘We Must Fight.’ It also includes a container of shea butter bearing the name, ‘The Revolution Will Be Moisturized.’
Consider Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime performance of ‘Formation,’ a beret and leather-clad spectacle collapsing symbols from the sometimes competing ideologies of the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers, and the Black Power movement into one anti-establishment mashup. The song and the music video–which had been widely interpreted through the lens of radical and separatist politics–was performed again at a rally for Hillary Clinton at the close of her campaign. The dancers donned blue pantsuits in homage to this most establishment of candidates.
Consider the discourse after Walmart removed a t-shirt inscribed with the term bulletproof (a slogan associated with Black Lives Matter) from their website at the request of the nation’s largest police union. Some activist corners of the Internet decried the shirt’s removal as evidence of corporate repression; in the ensuing backlash, few seemed to consider whether such a motto even should be commodified. Consumerism has become so unremarkably intertwined with the notion of resistance that it can supplant a carefully considered strategy. The garments in question were produced by Old Glory, an apparel company run by Glenn Morelli, a graduate of the Wharton School who lives in Connecticut and has frequently shared memes from the Facebook groups Hillary for Prison, Donald Trump Memes, and Police Lives Matter. ‘It wasn’t a big seller at all. The Blue Lives Matter sells more than the Black Lives Matter or bulletproof shirts combined,’ said Morelli, whose catalog includes 500,000 kinds of shirts. Walmart, frequently criticized for labor abuses, does a brisk business in activist merchandise. ‘Like other online retailers, we have a marketplace with millions of items offered by third parties that includes Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter merchandise,’ according to a Walmart spokesperson.
Consider the male cast of Moonlight in states of undress, modeling on billboards for Calvin Klein underwear.
Consider ‘Ooouuu,’ the self-released music video by Young M.A, a ‘stud lesbian’ which has been viewed 203 million times on YouTube. The subversive possibilities of a young, openly gay, gender non-conforming rapper is quickly diminished by the video’s depiction of a socially commonplace brand of masculinity–one imbued with misogyny, flashy materialism, and the suggestion of violence. Some say the song exemplifies a growing nihilism–those who believe liberation will come from the margins might have to think again.
Consider #RefreshTheTalk, a hashtag launched by Absolut Vodka to promote the company’s first new flavor in four years. The campaign, which targeted millennials new to alcohol, asked followers to vote through Twitter their most pressing social issue–the winner to be discussed on the Grammy’s red carpet. A few of the topics: ‘LGBT in Hip Hop,’ ‘The Wage Gap,’ and ‘Arts Exploitation.’ According to Adweek, ‘A thirst for flavored spirits plateaued in 2014, so Absolut needed to find a fresh way to encourage consumers to try this new flavor of vodka.’
‘The Lime for Change is Now,’ reads one ad.
And consider Pepsi, who, in their recent commercial, may have believed they had created a version of ‘Hilltop,’ Coca-Cola’s legendary 1971 utopian TV ad linking soda to social harmony. Pepsi’s ill-considered demonstration of cooptation was easier to see. Furor arose at the image of Kendall Jenner–wealthy, white, and a notorious social climber–confronting police officers with a soda bottle. The commercial bears a resemblance to Jonathan Bachman’s photograph of Ieshia Evans, the African American woman who was arrested by enormous armor-clad troopers as her dress blew gently away from her petite frame. Few people these days seem to recall that Bachman’s image echoes one made fifty years earlier by Marc Riboud, of a girl approaching a rifleman with a single daisy at a protest against the Vietnam war.
In simpler times and certain circles I’ve heard Jan Rose Kasmir, the subject of this image, criticized for seeking recognition; by contrast Ieshia Evans was immediately approached by news outlets including BBC and CBS News within days of being photographed. As her name and her telegenic image went viral she became a readymade symbol, a counterpoint to the violent videos in circulation. Like Kasmir, Evans wasn’t especially political before being immortalized in protest. I have a lot to read up on now that I’m in this position, was her sentiment as she spoke to an audience at conference hosted by Reuters in December, 2016. This is bigger than me. It has been Evans’s desire to talk about injustice, but like any star she is asked to play her greatest hits by recounting the transformative experience of being photographed. In this way, long before the Pepsi ad, her recuperation had been made complete. In an interview in Time magazine, Kasmir offered Evans advice on managing sudden fame, and thus, a cycle was renewed.
Visibility today is presumed to be a virtue. It seems like no one wants to be an outsider these days; nearly everyone has forgotten (or never learned) Alice Walker’s poem:
Be nobody’s darling;/Be an outcast./Qualified to live/Among your dead.
The hard truth is, where activist iconography dovetails with the lure of easy money, political expedience, and social capital, we must resist the lure of recuperation. We must not confuse the shadow with the substance. Where the images and stories are too facile we should look deeper. We have much to gain by searching for the real, real thing.”
- An Introduction to the Situationists, Jan D. Matthews
- Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media, Critical Art Ensemble
- #100hardtruths-#fakenews: a primer on digital media literacy
- Culture Culture
April 22, 2017
It may seem very innocuous, but the purloining of ideas for profit is an egregious form of journalistic harm that places no value on the thoughts, feelings, or needs of the original creator of the content. It is at the very least the laziest form or ‘journalism’ possible. In the broader scheme of things, it is a form of intellectual property theft and should be dealt with as such. Jamie Nesbitt Golden & Monique Judge, Journalism, Social Media & Ethics Part 1
“A lot of justice-oriented academics and journalists are committed to researching, writing and circulating what we see as hard truths, responding to fake news with evidence we gather from a wide range of materials. Often, the work of circulating #100hardtruths has to do with amplifying the experiences, perspectives and ideas of folks whose voices are not typically heard, or are actively suppressed, in and by dominant (white, wealth-driven, settler, US-centric) news media. For example, well-meaning academics and journalists might cite a social media content producer as evidence to show public sentiment and support for a social justice-oriented argument—for example, this is what people are saying on Twitter about state-sanctioned anti-black police violence, or about the proposed anti-Muslim ban, or about the Canadian Prime Minister’s support for another pipeline, destroying more land, air and water, or we might base an entire article or book on how social media content producers are shaping contemporary activism.
The availability of easily accessible social media posts has made it possible for scholars and journalists to find a wide range of perspectives from folks they do not have ready access to in face-to-face existence, thus allowing the researcher to easily incorporate the ideas of others in the formation of their own research argument or news story. Social media platforms make it possible to grab a “quote” from a minoritized social media content producer—who generated the content for free—without ever having a conversation with that person, or sharing the potential profit, be it financial, intellectual or cultural capital. As long as the source is cited, we’re accustomed to calling it a day, and an ethical day at that! We’ve written something that incorporates the ideas and words of folks who are not normally heard in the context of [insert the newspaper, magazine, journal or conference], possibly to tell a hard truth, uncovering the real story behind some fake news, and now we’ve helped make the world a better place. Well done!
Not so fast, comrade. As Jamie Nesbitt Golden and Monique Judge explain in their short essays (see my epigraph above) for the Center for Solutions to Online Violence (CSOV), hoisting a tweet or other social media post from a non-famous person and using it to build a scholarly argument or news story is not rigorous or ethical research, it’s idea theft. Sure the tweets of high-profile people might be fair game as public speech. But to use the tweets of folks who are having an online conversation that we’re not part of, even with a correctly-formatted citation? That’s just eavesdropping.
The politics of citation—to cite down rather than up, to cite sources that are not already in massive circulation, to cite predominantly women, people of color, trans folks, Indigenous peoples, folks from the Global South, etc.—is an important form of intellectual activism meant to center the ideas of these folks rather than perpetually re-centering the ideas of mostly white, Euro-American settler dude-experts. But, citation is, as the Northern Lights Canadian all-star charity ballad goes, not enough.1 [Heads up: this video clip opens with scenes of Ethopian people starving, during drought and famine of the early 1980s. It also features a lot of white people in Canada–though not exclusively white Canadians—singing in a sound booth and ends with the very nationalist images of Canadian wheat being flown to Ethiopia. Sorry.]
By approaching all social media content as public texts, just as available for quotation as any newspaper article, published book or policy statement, we fail to recognize that not all social media content producers (i.e. tweeters, bloggers and posters) want their words to extend beyond their immediate social media network or, indeed, that the re-circulation of a tweet or a post beyond its initial context is, in fact, unethical and potentially harmful. In so doing, as Joss Greene explains, we “flatten very different relationships into one generalized public.” Social media content producers face different kinds of risk when their words are taken beyond their original context, depending on who they are, where they live, how they live, and how targeted they may already be in a world structured by, for example, racial and gender hierarchies.
Most social media posts are created in community, in conversation. When a scholarly or journalistic researcher—especially one from outside the community in which the material was originally posted—extracts a tweet or post written by a non-famous (or not professionally public) person without covering the scope of the conversation, without getting permission to quote, without being accountable to the community of origin and context, we conveniently steal someone else’s ideas in pursuit of our own argument, exposing the content producer to risk of harm, without their consent and without sharing the profit or credit of this work.
Rather than thinking that our ethical obligation stops at citation, we can be more rigorous in our research practices towards a framework of accountability, co-authorship, resource distribution and power sharing.
So often the logic of mere citation is that in the food chain of ideas, scholars and journalists who have access to high circulation or high prestige publishing venues, will use their profile and access to increase the exposure—to signal boost, amplify the voices—of artists, activists and other grassroots cultural workers, and the payment these folks receive, as my collaborator Jasmine Rault and I have argued, is the “caché of being studied.” That is, so often scholars and journalists don’t pay the artists and activists whose work and words they study because the labour of being studied (of answering questions, of dealing with the potential blowback) is understood to be in the interest of that artist or activist, i.e., for their own good, for the good of exposure. As the artist Alexis O’Hara says about these logics and practices, “You can die of exposure.”
The politics of mere citation helps to keep the power structure—the ideas food chain— in tact, keeping grassroots social media content producers and other cultural workers putting it out there for free, and journalists and scholars using it without paying for it, to add cred to the articles that they get paid to write.
Let’s hear the chorus now, Northern Lights style: Don’t you know that citation is not enough?!
That is, mere citation does not require the kind of transformation of privilege, values, analysis and access that is needed to shake up the world of “thought leaders,” to use a particularly gross term that nonetheless reflects how ideas circulate as currency in the intellectual and news economies.
Once more: Citation is not enough!
At the Center for Solutions to Online Violence (CSOV) we have created a set of materials to help journalists, teachers and scholarly researchers to rethink how they use the work of social media content producers. Our materials are meant to shift the discussion from an obsession with proper citational practices (i.e. what does the MLA style guide say about tweets?), to a commitment to ethical community engagement and resource distribution. In particular, we hope that our materials will help scholars, students and journalists to build accountability to their social media “sources” into their research and publishing practices.
As all of the contributors to the CSOV resources have noted in one way or another, one way we can begin to make these kinds of transformations is to start thinking of social media research as community-engaged research, rather than as textual analysis or literature review.
You can check out our open-access materials on shifting digital research ethics by Izetta Autumn Mobley, Dorothy Kim, Joss Greene, Veronica Paredes, micha cárdenas, Alexandrina Agloro, Jamie Nesbitt Golden & Monique Judge, Moya Bailey & T.L. Cowan, and The Alchemists—a collective of Bianca Laureno, I’Nasah Crockett, Maegan Ortiz, Jessica Marie Johnson, Sydette Harry, Izetta Mobley and Danielle Cole. These materials are available on the FemTechNet website; they are intended for sharing widely and folks were paid for the labour of making them, although nothing is stopping you for paying them some more if you can!
These materials are created with the idea that if we shift our methodologies, it will help us to shift our ethics, and help us to match our research protocols with the community protocols of our subjects and sites, especially social media subjects and sites.
Here’s a tour through some of the CSOV digital research ethics materials:
Moya Bailey and I wrote a Research Ethics for Social Media in the Classroom guide, in which we explain the ways that often well-meaning teachers might inadvertently expose social media content producers to harm, by turning their posts and profiles into curricula without ever seeking permission or input from the OPs (Original Posters). We offer some tactics that teachers can use to be accountable to the individuals and communities they want to engage with their students. In particular, we think through the risks associated with increased, unwanted exposure and the labour and potential harms associated with that exposure.
The Alchemists—a collective of Bianca Laureno, I’Nasah Crockett, Maegan Ortiz, Jessica Marie Johnson, Sydette Harry, Izetta Mobley, and Danielle Cole—developed the Power & Control Wheel and Respect Wheel to “help creators slow down and consider the ways they cite and utilize information both on and off the web.” The Alchemists explain that these resources are “modeled from the popular Power & Control Wheels that have been created for discussing domestic and intimate partner violence, we extend those conversations to the violence we have experienced and survived online.”
The CSOV also produced the “Research Ethics, Social Media & Accountability Video Series,” based on two online workshops co-hosted with the Feminist Technology Network (FemTechNet). Six of the co-facilitators of these workshops further contributed to the project by making videos, responding to the question, Why is it important for teachers, students and journalists to think about Research Ethics when they are using social media as part of their teaching and research? Here are some of the practices proposed:
Joss Greene: “What does it mean for us as researchers to work from a place of solidarity? Social media tends to flatten very different relationships into one generalized public. In the real world we understand that there are different dynamics at play. Just because we have access to information, doesn’t mean that we are the intended audience. It is important to recognize that a power dynamic is in play here and as researchers we have an ethical obligation to negotiate with the person whose words we are interested in using, even it if seems like it would be easier to just take what we have access to…. I would encourage academics to have relationships with the communities that they’re doing research with that go beyond the researcher-subject dynamic, which is always going to be one in which we, as researchers, hold power. Being in solidarity is about taking direction. It is important that we as researchers release our grip on our researcher way and devote our time and energy in equal part towards the goals and projects that other people are defining.”
Alexandrina Agloro: “Data is not detached from real world bodies, real world lives and real world experiences. So, when using social media, think about the increased vulnerability of folks who are online.”
Veronica Paredes: “Like any other mode of communication and expression, social media has its own set of histories, communities, and practices. If a teacher, journalist or researcher imagines social media as an empty space, or only as one composed of autonomous contributions, each 140 characters long, they are missing the conversation. They are missing a lot about how individual tweets are situated, and where they come from.”
Izetta Autumn Mobley: “We are now thinking about social media as divorced from IRL (In Real Life). So sometimes we think that informed consent or thinking about context, is somehow dropping out from concerns about research. I think this is the moment when we need to consider it the most. What is the impact of the exposure? If we are educators asking students to go follow a blog or Twitter feed, what, then, is the result of that? What does that do for the exposure of the person is who now being highlighted? Did they expect for this to happen? And, probably most importantly, what labor are they now being asked to do that they previously weren’t being asked to stand up and do?”
micha cárdenas: “Just as with offline socially-engaged scholarship, try to make your work mutually beneficial to the individuals and communities you are engaging with, and to you and your students. Think carefully about how your use of social media may cause harm to people for your own benefit.”
Dorothy Kim: “Try not to do harm…. Research all the platforms and understand what those ecosystems are and what the rules of engagement might be before you do something on social media in relation to your work. … Think about the possible harm that may come from your engagement, slow down, and plan out what you want to do, and what these interactions might look like and what might be the consequences.”
As journalists and scholarly researchers in pursuit of hard truths, let’s also examine and adjust our research practices so that we aren’t just reproducing the logics of exploitation and exposure for the purposes of our own careers and reputations.
- Jamie Nesbit Golden & Monique Judge “Journalism, Social Media & Ethics Part 1.”
- Jamie Nesbitt Golden & Monique Judge, “Journalism, Social Media & Ethics Part 2.”
- Moya Bailey & T.L. Cowan, “Research Ethics for Students & Teachers: Social Media in the Classroom.”
- The Alchemists (Bianca Laureno, I’Nasah Crockett, Maegan Ortiz, Jessica Marie Johnson, Sydette Harry, Izetta Mobley, and Danielle Cole): “Power and Respect Handout”
- Caroluyn Sinders: “Designing Consent into Social Networks”
- Eira Tansey: “Large-Scale Archiving And The Right To Be Forgotten.”
- Brian X. Chen & Natasha Singer: “What else are you sharing? Here, have a cookie.”
- @tgirlinterruptd, @chiefelk, @bad_dominicana, @aurabogado, @so_treu, @blackamazon and @thetrudz “This Tweet Called My Back”. Originally posted to thistweetcalledmyback.tumblr.com
- Lisa Nakamura: “The Unwanted Labour Of Social Media: Women Of Colour Call Out Culture As Venture Community Management.” New Formations: a journal of culture, theory, politics, 106-112, 2015.
1 By the way, the song I’m quoting here, Northern Lights’ “Tears are Not Enough,” is itself not unproblematic, but it is the refrain I hear every time I write about digital research ethics. The song was a fundraiser to help folks in Ethiopia during the famine and drought of the early 1980s. However, while the song is reminding folks in Canada that tears are not enough, which is true enough, it does not engage in the structural analysis required to be accountable for Western imperialism in Africa, forced industrialization and resource extraction, in addition to the normalized devaluation of Black lives, and global maldistribution of wealth and life chances that produces and reproduces the glut/starvation divide. Relief efforts, like the one Northern Lights is promoting, are kind of like mere citation: they show a little bit of care, but require no real engagement, and keep the food chain in tact.