The VHS Archives Working Group at the CUNY GC (2018-2019) is engaging in sustained conversations as we are tool-building a lightweight app that can sit on top of a small stack of digitized VHS tapes so as to attend thoughtfully and ethically to the buzzing interplay of feelings, intimate community, video, and tech in relation to tape. We think hard about the connections between the digital migration of tape—its saving or loss—and also, then, safety. Although we start with tape, we attend primarily to people and their things:

  • the needs for the privacy of public things.
  • the needs for publicity of things that have been forced into privacy.
  • the needs for the privacy of vulnerable people and communities as some of their things become public.
  • the needs for vulnerable people and communities to have access to representation, and its salvage, in ways that empower and do not endanger them.

Carol Leigh, “Safe Sex Slut” 1987.

We are committed to the safety and care of vulnerable people and their objects. For our group this has primarily meant queers and trans people/of color, women and feminists, people affected by HIV/AIDS, and those with non-hegemonic sexualities and its representation. Attending to our people, and their practices and things, raises concerns that we understand as ethical, conceptual, and technological. This is what our group calls “caring.sharing.” We insist you shouldn’t share (digital media) without care (of those whose it is and was and will be). Attending to the experiences and wants of people, in community, at every technological step, is an act of ethical obligation and its technological formatting.

We believe that frames for thinking about and taking action on caring.sharing should be written into all encounters (personal, technological, interfacial) when the already fragile materials of vulnerable others become available online, including:

  • the ethics of reuse: “Can we develop queer archival practices that engage subtle questions of power and access, the strangeness of the past, the tension between the individual and collective, and the changing historical contexts that have shaped viewership, authorship, and privacy? Can we somehow account for both the delights and the troubles that our digital technologies facilitate? In short: Can we enact community-engaged, ethically informed, queer approaches to the conundrums that lie at the center of our documentary and archival impulses? Maybe some stories shouldn’t be told in public. Maybe some archival materials should remain hard to find. Maybe it matters who tells which stories. And maybe just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” (Rachel Mattson, Queer Histories, Videotape, and the Ethics of Reuse)
  • nostalgia and intellectual feelings:  Things matter to those who own, save, made and share them. How do we make sure to honor “the feelings attached to desire and sexuality, whether in a peep show booth or a backyard in the shadows of East Los Angeles.” (Juan Fernández, Nostalgia and “Intellectual Feelings”)
  • working from unmade, lost, or hidden archives: Sometimes there isn’t a record to be found because people chose to remain unrecorded because documentation can bring in the state, the family, or other outside forces of potential discipline or punishment. “Is it possible to reintroduce the cultural work of our archival subjects when there aren’t many video materials available?” (Jaime Shearn Coan,” Crucial Circulations: VHS and Queer AIDS Archives“)
  • finding and working from material that is too personal, graphic or painful to be shared, or was never made for curious, potentially violent others.
  • finding and working from personal archives of loss: can we be technologically tender?
  • attending to accessibility: so that saved things can be used by all who need them.
  • context-building: how to understand, preserve, and honor where work came from while enriching our understanding of past times, places, and people. This is critical, because it insures that things (and their peoples) aren’t and can’t be ripped from their original home, place, people, use, and values.
  • staying small; resisting scale: at some point, the number of objects, tags, people, or connections can get too large for the community that salvaged things to insure and protect them.
  • rules of engagement: objects online should be engaged with using agreed upon rules written by the community that made/saved them: community-specific, community-produced, iterative, and adaptive.
  • preservation with purpose: communities should know why they are saving and for what and whom.
  • activation as safety: easy to lose things can gain a toe-hold in memory, history, and advocacy when they are saved and used. Once known, procedures for safety can be written onto them.
  • acknowledging communal knowledge and other types of ownership within and beyond the tech.

From Bebashi AIDS educational trigger tape, late 1980s. See more: “Stacked on Her Office Shelf: Stewardship and AIDS Archives,” Theodore Kerr and Alexandra Juhasz

At previous meetings, we have come up with some tactics we want to build into the use of our tool. Scale, time, presence, and collectivity are key.

1. We recommend using our tool in a group:

  • the tapes should be a project of a community.
  • playing with your stack should be embedded in the world somehow, and fun.
  • it should be used by people who understand, need, want the tapes, or a/the community, or the tech.
  • different types of users could bring and learn different skills to the stack: to set it up, to add videos, to comment/annotate videos, to curate, to show them, to learn and share skills from/with each other.

2. Our tool should ideally be used locally and in shared time (online or off):

  • there’s a materiality and embodiedness to working in-person, in real time

3. Caring.sharing happens best with and for and by a small group of people:

  • a known group, already known or getting known via tapey engagement.
  • with shared interests: already known or getting known via tapey engagement.
  • a groups with their own, known, self-developed, adaptable rules of engagement.
  • to be helped along, facilitated, by the tool, the tech, the instructions.

4. Ownership and access:

  • who holds the rights to the material?
  • do we respect the system that grants that? if not, what rights systems do we honor and why?

FOR OUR NEXT MEETING: TACTICS TO ENGAGE/OR WRITE INTO THE TECH:

  • write instructions and/or questions that move people through a set of issues with associated writing before they can touch the tool, or before each in a series of steps that follow one after the other in the tool
  • do this in short steps
  • allow users of the tool to answer, and thus to be “ethical” in any way they choose, but choose they must, first
  • create fields, pages, areas on the tool for users to fill in their answers (including none) to the concerns above; step by step, information would be built by the users to surround their now-digital always-vulnerable objects
  • step by step builders/users indicate their own degrees of comfort and concern, including none
  • create activities, engagements with the tool that build out user interaction and connection with others, with the material, with the material’s initial owners or makers and/or new users (what we call “party games’)
  • being alone with a tape found in a box is only a beginning of its/our care!

From “Compulsive Practice,” (Jean Carlomusto, Hugh Ryan, and Alexandra Juhasz, 2016)

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I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd International Conference on Interface Politics, “After Post-Truth,” in Barcelona, Spain, November 28-30, 2018. Scores of speakers, hours of intensity, dark findings about seamless interfaces—even so, the experience was deeply replenishing for no reason more central than that there I was, in Spain no less, and in community with many many others, from around the world, all of us, paying attention. This, the conference co-organizer, Jorge Luis Marzo (with Bani Brusadin) described at our introductory sessions as “an urgent abandonment from the real being replaced by our desire and will to freedom.”

While I can not cover all that I learned, or even all that moved me there (people and their ideas and actions), I will use this brief recap of the highlights of the proceedings to help me to better understand critical frameworks that link to the work I have been doing towards the completion and release of my new website (thanks Ethel Moore and Partner and Partners), fakenews-poetry.org: a useful and pretty container holding the media, ephemera, and yes, the poems, that I have been producing with so many others by initiating, in 2018, something like fifteen Fake News Poetry Workshops, around the world, as Radical Digital Media Literacy given the Fact of Fake News. For some, this post might serve as an introduction to the larger #100hardtruths-#fakenews project (initiated during the first 100 days of the Trump administration, thanks to Craig Dietrich for that website), while for others, it might be a recap of the concerns and practices the project engages or a chance to see your own work held alongside that of others who engaged in different places and communities.

But most importantly, this post and the site serves as an invitation to mount and run your own Workshop, in your community, with your own poets, theorists, and participants (feel free to reach out to me! Stage 2 of the website will build out more how-to documents.)

But the project is always, also about sharing what we do and know about fake news and related travesties. In Barcelona, I learned about a number of exciting sister projects, all seeking, as do I, to break through the transparency of interfaces, and to reveal, understand, undermine, or remake all that might be algorithmically, ideologically, financially, and psychically hidden behind the ever more huge and inapproachable back-end, our frothy frozen impenetrable cloud:

  • bellingcat: the home of online investigations.
  • HyperNormalization by Adam Curtis.
  • Safebook by Ben Grosser. Facebook without the content!
  • Algorithms Allowed, and much more charting the real costs of “free” interfaces (see image below), by Joana Moll,
  • Digital Dietetics, by Javier Lopes, Pedro Fernandez de Castro, and Victor Sampedro. Their project uses a dietary model to facilitate a critical digital citizenship where limiting consumption, setting collective goals for media interaction, and being with others who know more are steps towards better digital health.
  • the films of Metahaven, emphasizing our simultaneous time-scales, each a version of competing or even co-exiting realities: real for people in parallel, these versions  are incompatible and also all “true.”

Joana Moll, DEFOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOREST

As critically for my own heart, mind, and practice, I heard presentations that named dynamics that help focus or nuance some of my own perhaps more inchoate motives for the fakenews-poetry project:

  • Doro Wiese‘s explanation that information does not not allow us to feel in time, and then many related pleas for slowness.
  • a shared response by many of the speakers to begin research into the (very recent) past of the internet to understand how earlier cycles of sudden technological, corporate, and digital change have been reacted to by humans.
  • careful attention to delineate between the precise terms and functions of a variety of truth vocabularies—veracity, sincerity, frankness, persuasion, evidence, proof—both in regards to how information is produced, packaged, and sold but also for our (changing) sense of selves as political, psychoanalytic, and human subjects, sometimes embodied.
  • an understanding of truth in a time of post-facts as that which produces a sense of coherence, even if it is false, and despite any evidence, thus a new kind of “partisan knowledge” (Emillie V. De Keulenaar)
  • a related set of attempts to understand how algorithms and computational propaganda have been used to “dismiss, distort, distract, and dismay” (Berke Alikasifoglu and Gabriele Cosentino)
  • several returns to Hito Steyerl’s idea of the “poor image” (what I have called “bad video” in my perhaps old but still too-valid YouTube work), and its links to veracity, and more so addiction, and its sustaining but false forms of intimacy (one click away, so close, just nearby, an immediacy [do see Pooja Rangan here!])
  • significant work on new and consolidating interface realisms (what Christian Andersen and Soren Polk call the “metainterface,” one that both represents and produces our new [fake, post-truth] realities, all the while obscuring the labor, networks, and other resources that produce it).
  • a continuing keen attention to collectives, commons, publics, and lived networks, including the work by Marco Deseriis on “Condividual” activities: “sharing as ‘dividing’ together.”

Then, some useful questions and tactics:

  • do people even want to be truthful (anymore)?
  • strive for trust over truth: create invitations to engage with evidence rather than statements of truth which only lead to suspicion (Enrico Beccari)
  • Pay Attention to What I do Not Say

With this last tactic as a directive and method, I will conclude by nodding briefly at what was impossible not to notice as being invisible and unsaid at this wonderful event: the many approaches, politics, people, and theories whose names and terms and needs were never (or rarely) uttered over hours and days of astute and informative analysis: that is, just about anything to do with race, ethnicity, sexuality, sex, indigeneity, ability, age and as often as not gender or feminism. These body- and place-based, situated politics, theories, lived experiences and methods with their own regal, lengthy, powerful ideas, movements, and actions that have been so central to our experiences, analyses, critiques and movements about the internet and its world (from #Blacklivesmatter to #metoo, from Donna Haraway to my/our own femtechnet and in particular our “Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Workbook“) were, oddly, invisibilized. A cultural and intellectual outsider, I am not sure why these movements and their core theories and practices of justice, epistemology, creativity, and sustainability were not go-to reservoirs of inspiration and power for most of my fellow panelists. Certainly, a significant amount of the evil, despair, violence, and injustice that has been enacted in and by corporate and political regimes of post-truth have been against others seemingly marked by difference of race, gender, sexuality, citizenship, and otherwise. And, responsive movements have been mounted digitally, and otherwise, in response. Perhaps the connection of these movements and methods to “identity” or the “body” or “community” or “care” or the “individual” make these vital traditions seem inadequate in the face of the immensity of our data and its infrastructure that enclouds us? I really don’t understand … But, I will not testify to the definitive necessity of these traditions, because that’s been done everywhere by my allies and colleagues for decades (you can find many links to such research and action in the #100hardtruths primer), but I will end by repeating what I said in my own presentation:

I want to engage in alternative formats for the generation and movement of meaningful fragments, post truth but gentle, not easily spreadable or digestable, not expendable, but rather demanding your attention and care—so perhaps for this moment at least, made for and consumed by small local groups that will listen together in time. With diverse participants in unique places, I am exploring truth and authentication systems that veer away from cameras, and indexical “truth,” thus mobilizing other systems outside of journalistic evidence or slick socials. I want to engage in alternative formats for the generation and movement of meaningful fragments that can mobilize and save honest expressions about our lived experiences of the internet’s deceptions in ways that might momentarily liberate us, or at least partially remove us from the logics of capitalist and governmental watching and lying that have underwritten this dangerous dishonest flow.

What if we aimed for gentle truths? For now.

From Toronto Fake News Poetry Workshop

 

My VHS Archives Party

November 20, 2018

In 2017-2018, I initiated a working group sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, VHS Archives. Over seven meetings and one public presentation (Come Play with our VHS Archive), approximately twenty people—anyone with an interest in the places where analog videotape meets queer histories and queer/feminist/of color AIDS activism—came together to consider ‘the difficulties, surprises, losses and bounty that adhere to the task of collecting, preserving, and facilitating access and ethical questions related to the reuse of video materials documenting queer and trans lives.’ At each of our meetings ‘members of the group presented the holdings, concerns, worries, plans for, and uses of a VHS archive important to their scholarship, activism, art-making or community.’ (The Work(s) of the VHS Archives)

And this year, we’re really working again.

During the 2018-2019 academic year we will be project-focused: prototyping a lightweight, static site generator for the ethical research and activation of small collections of videotape. Again with the sponsorship and support of the Center for the Humanities, this year we will engage twelve committed participants for sustained conversation, tool building, programming, and most importantly, attending ethically and thoughtfully to the buzzing interplay of feelings, intimate community, video, and tech. Engaging three community partners—the XFR CollectiveInterference Archive, and Visual AIDS—and one design practice, Partner and Partners, this year’s Working Group will meet to discuss, design, and implement a prototype for the community-based, internet-supported use of small stacks of digitized tape keeping in mind and at our fingertips a set of questions about archives, queers, tape, safety, accessibility and more … (The Work(s) of the VHS Archives)

Over the first two meetings of 2018, our group has been busy and focused. Each participant has moved (or tried to move) some tape materials (our own, those we have digitized by or from others, or some we have found already online) into our Github lab: these we call our short stack (it is by definition small, contained, manageable, knowable, and yummy!)
We explain to the technologists on the team what seems too hard, as access is key to the project. But then, so again, is digital media literacy. So we also want people who use our app to work (with others) to understand the many steps, technologies, implications, uses, and feelings associated to moving, saving, and using a small tape archive online. These responsibilities and actions shouldn’t be so easy as to be obscured.

Some notes from our last meeting:

1. We recommend doing it in a group:

  • the tapes should already be a project of a community
  • playing with your stack should be embedded in the world somehow, and fun
  • it should be used by people who understand, need, want the tapes, or a/the community, or the tech
  • different types of users could bring and learn different skills to the stack: to set it up, to add  videos, to comment/annotate videos, to curate, to show them
  • Questions of ownership are critical
    • What are the ethical implications?

2. It’s not an accessibility project:

  • maybe it’s sitting on the internet but it’s closed or has rules to engage
  • it’s not about getting things out but rather, doing things for particular people
    • then these questions about ownership don’t matter as much

3. There are a lot of services out there already, we don’t want to replicate them

  • We are not making a documentary
  • VDB, EAI already get things out, distribute, we are not distributors
  • We are making something that is collective and collaborative, the making makes the community
  • We are not a video hosting site (to show video work), Interference Archive does this
  • It is more like curating, within and for communities, making a small set of things exciting for a small group of people

4. If it’s local, safety and ownership issues both become manageable:

  • there’s a materiality and embodiedness to working in-person, in real time

5. The stack is about sharing with and for and by a small group of people

At our previous meeting, we decided that we were committed to our short stacks being engaged by an equally short stack of people: that is, a known group, with shared interests and their own known, self-developed rules of engagement (helped along by the tool, the tech, the instructions). This group could be online or off, or mixed, it could even be as small as one, but the one commitment that is critical, beyond interest in the materials, is time and presence.
This spending time in each other’s presence with and for some tapes is what we are calling the Party, or probably Parties: shared, task-focused, committed engagements with the materials and using the tool. (“Party”: a gathering of humans to work collectively and in real-time on an actionable task).
Our assignment for the third meeting is to IMAGINE OUR PARTY OR PARTIES.
My short stack is an object of one: it is VHS footage of a research meeting (albeit 4:19:19 in length!) In, 1995? I held a meeting in NY where 50-60 media feminists came to talk about the history of feminist film and video over the course of a day. I held four other such meetings: in Philadelphia, Chicago, Long Beach, and San Francisco. Those tapes, and the interviews I subsequently shot of 21 feminists (as well as many paper records, like logs, attendance sheets, and agendas, see below) are archived as part of the Outfest UCLA Legacy Collection. I archived (in 2003?) them there because I hoped that later scholars would (want to) access the interviews and research meetings for their own related projects. (This happened for this first time, this year, when a scholar from the Netherlands learned about the archive and asked for access to my interview with Carolee Schneeman, upon whom he writes. We learned it hadn’t been digitized, although it was available for use at the UCLA Film and TV Archive. One thing led to the next, and I ended up paying to have many of the materials digitized!)
The finished project is available as a documentary (1996) and a book (2001) of the same name: Women of Vision.
Here are the answers to my tasks for the November 20, 2018 meeting:
1. make an invitation: this would be an email, written by me, carefully.
2. a guest list: I would want 6-10 people with a keen interest in feminist media history. Ideally, they would be much like the people in the various working groups that I recorded on VHS, that is the process from before would be reflected and doubled: cross-generational, scholars, artists, activists, archivists, students, diverse in race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. It takes work to get a group of people who are both committed and diverse. It takes pretty deep connections to community.
3. What do they bring (their own videos, or are they just playing with yours?): For the first party or two, we would engage with my tiny, slow stack. Or maybe this is over several meetings because it is so long? Maybe we’d annotate? As we continue to party, I’d invite participants to add one thing of their own to the stack, each. We’d all have to see these, too. Carefully, thoughtfully, responsively, so that the stack would build to reflect who we all are at the time of engagement—our discrete interests and commitments—which would add up to a larger view of feminist media at this time if someone engaged with the whole stack. I’d want each participant to be fully committed to her own tape.
4. is there food? There is always food, it makes a meeting feel more like a home.
5. what kind of place: online or off, mixed? I’d want mostly offline with 1-2 people porting in via computer to keep these affordances of the digital live in our hearts and heads.
6. what kind of party and how many parties are they obligated to commit to? It would be a set of working parties with some time for connection and play. I would want people to commit to all of the parties over the course of two months ending with an exhibition. Each party would last for three hours.
1. Collections assessment party; rights/ownership party
2. transfer party; annotation party
3. writing/context party
4. curation part; acces
5. exhibition
Resources:
  • digitized paper materials

Committed media praxis is a doing as much as it is a knowing. Queerness is a manner of being as much as it is a politics, theory, or set of modish objects. Our labor in queer cinema studies might result in institutional anthologies, retrospectives, or canons, but for me it needs smaller, stranger sites, activities, and outcomes that honor how it’s done: its moods, weather, learning and loving.

Alex, Carolyn, Jazzy and Deborah at Union Square Park, as part of the event, “Dear J,” revisiting “Homosexuals: One Child’s Point of View,” featuring Jazzy and directed by her mother, Juanita Mohammed (1990)

In this talk, I introduce a multi-sited project (three websites: a graduate class, an in-process web app for vulnerable video, and a working group sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, at the CUNY Graduate Center) where I engage in inter-disciplinary, community-based, activist queer film scholarship: VHS Archives. In the talk, I will show some attempts to work with and use some of my own queer media archives, initially held on VHS tape. How I do and did this, often with others in and outside the academy, taking up many art forms and as well as adaptive platforms, and now making use of my own and other’s soon to be lost video fragments, is what I have longed called my committed media praxis. Theory adjacent and conversant, sexual and political proclivities in flux, responsive to communities and collaborators, primarily and definitively process-oriented and often production-based, my committed media praxis in queer media and its archives is about using media as one part of a beloved community’s efforts at doing our best at living queer feminist lives.

Please find here, my power point, script, and three screenshots of me reading (pretty poorly) from my computer: “My VHS Archives: confessions from the field of queer feminist media praxis,” for The Labour of Media (Studies): Activism, Education, and Industry Conference, held at Concordia University, November 17, 2018. Do take a look at the three sites linked above. There’s much to see and explore by colleagues, students, technologists, archivists, friends, and loved ones.

Snow kept me from physically attending.

 

Please see on full post at the Center for the Humanities blog.

The VHS Archives Working Group worked. Sponsored by the Center for the Humanities* at the CUNY GC, and engaging in 2017-2018 over seven meetings and one public presentation (Come Play with our VHS Archive), approximately twenty people**—anyone with an interest in the places where analog videotape meets queer histories and queer/feminist/of color AIDS activism—came together to consider “the difficulties, surprises, losses and bounty that adhere to the task of collecting, preserving, and facilitating access and ethical questions related to the reuse of video materials documenting queer and trans lives.” At each of our meetings “members of the group presented the holdings, concerns, worries, plans for, and uses of a VHS archive important to their scholarship, activism, art-making or community.”

The VHS Working Group worked it. We watched a lot of eclectic tape: clips from Erica’s Transexual Love Trip (1998), YouTube videos of footage from a now-closed Los Angeles nightclub called Arena Café, retro-chic porn tapes, documentation of 1980s performance art and poetry readings (by Neil Greenberg, Assotto Saint, and others), footage for never-to-be-made art works by great artists lost too early to AIDS (the work of Jim Lyons, transferred from Hi-8). We didn’t watch some images: the footage of people suffering from AIDS that one of our members was commissioned to seek, to be used as B-roll for a soon-to-be-released mainstream TV documentary on AIDS in the 1980s. Happily, we did see Pharmaco-Pornographic feminist videos from the 70s and 80s (Valie Export and Lisa Steele) and today’s YouTube videos depicting more contemporary images of feminist fashion (see Medical Landscapes, Birthday Suits & Memory in DenimRhea Tapp).

… (the rest is here)

* The VHS Working Group was supported by the kind and professional efforts of the Center for the Humanities Staff, including Kendra Sullivan, Sampson Starkweather, Jordan Lord, and Alisa Besher.

**The VHS Working Group was attended by Shanti Avirgan (AIDS activist videomaker and researcher), Kyle Croft (CUNY Art History MA student), Jean Carlomusto (AIDS activist video maker and professor, LIU), Lisa Cohen (writer and scholar of queer history and biography, Wesleyan University), Juan Fernández (CUNY Media Studies MA student), Anthony Freeman (CUNY doctoral student in Social Work), Michael Henry Grant (media archivist), Theodore Kerr (independent scholar and AIDS cultural worker), Amy Herzog (CUNY, Media Studies scholar), Alexandra Juhasz (AIDS media activist and scholar, Brooklyn College, CUNY), Ann Matsuuchi (librarian and professor, CUNY, LaGuardia Community College), Tara Mateik (video artist and scholar, CUNY, Staten Island), Rachel Mattson (XFR Collective), Karl McCool (Electronic Arts Intermix), Greg Mihalko (Partner and Partners), Helena Shaskevich (CUNY Art History doctoral student), Claire Fox (budding media archivist), Kat Roberts (CUNY, MALS student), Rhea Tapp (MA Media Studies student, CUNY, Queens College).

I interview Carolee Schneeman on the MS. Blog Q&A. Here’s a taste.

Alex: So you are saying that even though your work was eventually, if perhaps belatedly canonized within art and film history, it was appreciated for only a small prism of your feminist activity, that which focuses upon the representation of your own sexuality and body.

Carolee: Yes, a very narrow prism: the ghetto of feminism. You can have this erotic, even prurient dynamic in your work that we are going to pay attention to, but the rest of it is too astonishing, complex, and beyond our need to control how we characterize women’s work.

This is such an important insight about your feminist work and legacy; and a very painful one. Is it possible to not diminish or simplify that part of the project, the body work, the representation of femal sexuality, which is so essential to your work and so essential to the needs of women?

It is as variable as women’s experience. There are aspects of sexuality that I’ve always had to fight for that are not available erotic experiences for lots of women. There’s just so much variation that I cannot represent more than the area that I know well.

But in the show, I saw for the first time your Sexuality Perameters Survey (1967-1971 + 1975) where you you “attempt to note main parameters of lovemaking. Only from a woman’s point of view” by interviewing scores of women and documenting their detailed, intimate answers about sex and sexuality on handmade typewritten grids. I love those charts! The PS1 show highlights work you made that catalogs your relationship to other people’s sexual and relational experience as well as your own sexual and domestic intimacy with male lovers and companions, and with your cats as well.

In film I was able to most clarify this area of contradiction. The films are constantly talking to each other. The ideality of Fuses (1965) gets impinged next with Viet-Flakes (1965; a compilation of Vietnam War-era horrors garnered from magazine and newspaper clippings) and the surround of that morbid suppression of life. I still get very upset when I look at it. Then, the destruction of Palestinian culture overwhelmed all my considerations of the mid 80s into the 90s and that has no resolution. No formal political clarification. Actually it’s more repressive than ever. Now, Palestinians have no right to represent themselves in any aspect of the U.S. government. That’s just been put through as a law.

Below please find my Resolution for the panel, “Ex-Post-Facto? The Anthropology of Media and Journalism in a Post-Truth Era,” to be presented in my absence at AAA on December 1, 2017. Sadly, I can’t attend because I’ll be participating in a Day With(out) Art event in New York City.

Given that scholars and makers of documentary, visual anthropology, journalism, and autobiography have been investigating the construction, forms and circulation of reality-based truth claims in their fields of practice since the invention of these disciplines.

Given that these forms vary across time, culture, media, convention, and discipline.

Given that teachers have attempted, for as long as such claims have been made, to educate about the traditions, forms, and conditions that produce, authorize, circulate, and challenge mediated truth claims because such a “media literacy” is closely connected to citizenship, power, and knowledge.

Given that the mobilization of powerful, loose, and adapting theories and practices of mediated truth claims, under the nomenclature “fake news,” took by surprise even the most committed practitioners, scholars and educators signaled above.

Given, as Naomi Schiller and Robert Samet suggest, that “the deconstruction of claims to absolute truth have us in a kind of bind, one that has become ever more dangerous. In the current climate, anthropological approaches to media as a social practice can bear uncomfortable, even uncanny, resemblance to critiques circulating within the ‘alt-right’ in the United States.”

Let it hereby be resolved that our previous practices of “digital media literacy,” while  useful and relevant for the previous epoch, are no longer equipped for our emergent reality.

Radical digital media literacy is required in a post-truth anti-Trump era.

Given that I was just one within a vast community of scholars, media makers, teachers, and students, over time and across disciplines, who drew “on anti-essentialist theories to show the relationship between power, knowledge, and the construction of truth,” particularly in my earlier work on the productive possibilities of fake documentaries (in the 1990s), and the insidious, definitive “increasingly unproductive” dangers of the destabilization of the fake/real binary as definitive of the forms and platforms of internet culture, most definitively of videos on YouTube (in the 2000s). When our current president and the broader culture became fixated on the problem of “fake news,” especially during the first 100 days of the new administration when this felt the most rabid and destabilizing, I felt compelled and qualified to act in this time of confusion, despair, and self-criticism.

I pledged: For 100 days, aligning and twinned with the new President’s opening timeline, to blog every day about fake news and is so doing produce an online primer of digital media literacy.

Given that my painful if productive effort of informed, desperate citizenship eventually took the form of a digital tower of 100 blog posts, #100hardtruths-#fakenews, each cell holding either my efforts or those of a great many others across a range of fields also contemporaneously attempting to understand, combat, respond to, analyze, and teach about the crisis of fake news as is was unfolding.

Juhasz image

Screen-grab of the final twenty #100hardtruths.

Given that this high and vast monolith itself holds an immensity of deep efforts, inter-disciplinary knowledge, diverse resources and thoughtful tools but that, in this form, these many useful things remain hard to navigate and needing of literacy efforts in their own right so as to make them the most useful for the many people interested in this crisis.

Let it hereby be resolved that I will transform my own preliminary efforts at “an online primer of digital media literacy” to become something even more useful, responsive, thoughtful and focused on educating about, and working against, the enduring and complex crisis at hand by experimenting (with others) with new formats and practices for radical digital media literacy.

Given, as Naomi and Robert suggest that “this presents new dilemmas both for our teaching and our research. What is to be done with our constructivist analyses of truth in a post-truth era? What would it mean to reclaim objectivity, validation, and truth?”

Let me suggest five alternatives toward a radical digital media literacy in our post-truth anti-Trump era:

  1. fake news r us: we are implicated by, produce, and circulate this crisis whenever we study, teach, or try to fix it.
  2. virality is virility: a potent mix of internet-fueled falsity, masculine grandiosity, and  resulting real-world bellicosity undergirds fake news and our efforts to understand it.
  3. art answers to fake questions: departures from evidence-based, indexically-linked practices into realms of truth-telling verifiable by different logics might get us out of the he-said/he-said rabbit-hole we currently find ourselves in.
  4. our internet truths trump media lies: we must name, share and honor our own lived experiences within social media as another form of honesty in desperate times. Let’s do this first offline, together where we live, work, struggle or learn.
  5. heed the poet’s call: poetry, a time-honored word-based form of truth-telling outside the logics of indexical mediation might be one well-honed literacy practice well-suited to this crisis.

Let it hereby be resolved that I will work with poets in their local communities to adapt, transform, extend, translate and all-in-all make more usable my original “online digital media primer.” That I will experiment with others in place-based, local, embodied poetry workshops that begin with the five alternatives above and my #100hardtruths-#fakenews primer as resources toward new forms of radical digital media literacy. That in so doing we will engage together in place-based, people-made, word-bound expressions of individual’s and community’s truths about social media, fake news, and post-truth outside of the indexical, evidentiary traditions that currently bind us and the technologies that are built upon, reinforce and monetize such expression.

I hope to conduct such workshops with Art and Public Policy MA students at NYU working with the artist, Pato Hebert; members of the literary journal club at La Guardia Community College in NYC working with the writer Lisa Cohen; at Occidental College and with the Get Lit Players in LA, at the University of Sussex, working with writing students under the tutelage of Samuel Soloman, and then elsewhere until 100 poems are written as new practices of and resources toward radical digital media literacy.

Please stay tuned.

“Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars),” Muriel Rukeyser

I lived in the first century of world wars.

Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.
Muriel Rukeyser from The Speed of Darkness, 1968.
(gifted to the project by Barbara Browning)