March 16, 2017
In “Facebook and Google make lies as pretty as truth: how AMP and instant articles camoflauge fake news” platforms like Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, and Apple News are also further breaking down the relationship between good design and credibility. In a platform world, all publishers end up looking more similar than different. That makes separating the real from the fake even harder.”
He continues: “Websites that operate on these homogenizing platforms, whether they offer real news or fake, exist under the same digital gloss no matter their production budget, which presents a problem for upscale publishers wanting to stand out … What happens when questionable news sources enter the walled and manicured gardens of Google, Facebook, and Apple’s proprietary publishing systems? An increasing volume of readers experience articles through these mobile masks. AMP now represents 10 to 15 percent of publisher search traffic, according to an October Define Media report … readers are left with the necessity of divining from headline format and copyediting alone if a publisher is pushing a legitimate story or promulgating an outright lie.”
See More about #100hardtruths-#fakenews and Reading Through Software and Design:
- “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources, Tips for analyzing news sources,” by Melissa Zimdars
- Designing Culture: The Technlogical Imagination at Work, Anne Balsamo
- The Stack, On Software and Sovereignty, Benjamin Bratton
- #100hardtruths-#fakenews: a primer on digital media literacy
I have committed some real time and energy this summer to reading books about digital culture (Capitalist Realism, Digital Vertigo, ‘We are All Children of Algeria’, Blog Theory, You Are Not a Gadget, Networks with a Cause, and Hello Avatar!) and then writing blog posts about them. Given these books’ shared focus on the Internet, perhaps I should not have been so surprised to find that these many volumes about things digital were themselves often also about the writing and reading of books and blogs, thereby making this effort, like so many Internet enterprises, meta. So, it actually comes as no surprise as the summer wanes, that my final assignment, my friend and collaborator (on FemTechNet) Anne Balsamo‘s new monograph, Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work, concludes with a chapter focusing on her ruminations about presenting her research on paper: “The Work of a Book in the Digital Age.”
Attending to her thoughts, and the “transmedia project” that she produced with Duke University Press to address or perhaps situate them, will serve as a fitting conclusion to my rather old-fashioned (if also meta) campaign. Before that, however, I will draw a few other conclusions about that dying form, the summer book list, from also having recently completed Siva Vaidhyanathan‘s The Googlization of Everything, Evgeny Morozov‘s The Net Delusion, and Sherry Turkle‘s Alone Together. I unceremoniously clump these three offerings not because they are unworthy of attention in their own right but because they exemplify another, contemporary fix to the challenges of scholarly publishing: the trade book (of course Vaidhyanathan’s book is with UC Press, but it reads and moves like a trade book, more on this soon).
Frankly, given the volumes already written (pun intended) on the Internet about these three books, my delayed prose on this under-read blog, seem irrelevant or at least not really worth the effort. And this question of effort and pay off will prove definitive for my understanding of this particular compromise and the situation of scholarly digital publishing more generally. For, I had in point of fact, put off reading these particular books—or even buying them for that matter—because I felt I already had read them, given the amount of writing about them that had already moved across my reading-radar (robust coverage on both my blogisphere and within publications that I routinely read on paper). By slightly modifying their academic prose, method, and voice on paper to better suit a broader audience, it seems these astute scholars have also managed to enable their own transmedia projects. However, by condensing and clarifying their thoughts to suit the intelligent lay-reader, they enable even more writing (about their writing) that is ever more compressed. As Jodi Dean worries: “The forms of theory’s presentation likewise highlights how communicative capitalism fragments thoughts into ever smaller bits.”
And it’s true: given the bits, I needn’t have bought the books. All that Internet chatter, not to mention blue-chip reviews, did adequately serve to explain the authors’ main preoccupations to me (with many less words and much less effort). But, stuck in the logic of their own publishing compromise, because these scholars have chosen to write in more accessible styles, there was not, for me, lady Professor, that special surplus accrued when reading a book-size effort because they had filtered out complexity (the pleasure of the grueling, careful, hard, long idea). And, I’ll be honest, the longer the Internet is around, the harder it becomes for me to focus upon a book (or anything) without some payoff: a really hard new idea, a place of my own to work them out and share. By writing about stimulating books that I read here, that payoff is not the number of readers, but it is the pleasure of my own original expression situated, as it may be, I hope, within a community of sympathetic thinkers.
Balsamo explains: “For humanists, the book remains the privileged signifier of academic credibility. Curiously, the value of the book as a testimony to scholarly trustworthiness isn’t due to the size of the audience it reaches immediately … Rather, its value is tied to its particular affordances that allow for the expression of complex explanations of abstract ideas and of critical analyses of particular texts, applications, and situations.”
As blog writers and readers, and book writers and readers, and members of Internet culture all, we are somehow, suddenly it seems, asked to take account of all our efforts, big and small. To do so is exhausting, and confusing, and sometimes nearly nonsensical, what with all reading and writing and publishing systems being currently in disarray, but I’d say, in the long run, this might be edifying if not productive. There will be no one size fits all model for any scholarly author, project, or audience. And just as has been painfully true for many of us mediamakers (once the government no longer helped out with independent and artistic forms and when the Internet allowed us new ways to move our output), scholarly writers will now have to think through not just our big ideas, but also a funding and distribution strategy for our every effort: we’ll have to design our own publishing culture (with the help of innovative presses … and soft money).<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/26987589″>Designing Culture: the Technological Imagination at Work</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user7911734″>Anne Balsamo</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
The upside is complex, tailor-made, multi-modal things, like Balsamo’s, which are best suited for the complex aims of her specific project: “transformative research that is designed to explore new possibilities and new social arrangements.” By writing about the process as well as outcomes of a “hermeneutic reverse engineering” that takes into account who makes things, how and why, and then engineering the best home for these words, Designing Culture is not a book at all, but rather a “transmedia project realized as a print book, a dvd, and an interactive flash website” with a blog, videos, and web-based experiences of the exhibits, interactive wall books and applications that Balsamo discusses designing in the book.
The down-side, another up-side: to succeed in this new writing and reading order, we have to not only know our tiny piece of the intellectual pie, but also its pan, oven, and who grew the berries and under what conditions. We need to think about where and by whom it will be eaten, how much to sell it for, and how hot and even sweet it needs to be. That’s the really hard but really good work: to understand that “technological innovations have cultural consequences,” according to Balsamo.
August 15, 2012
“In an interview that complements my earlier interview with Juhasz, Balsamo reflected on the efforts involved in creating expansive networked projects that engage many participants in different contexts and roles. The FemTechNet project — which was first conceptualized by Juhasz and Balsamo during friendly conversations in early 2011 — has an ambitious objective: to create a course focused on the topics of feminism, science and technology, offered simultaneously around the globe by feminist teachers in different locations, supported by a shared network of learning materials, of digital resources, of participants, and of pedagogical activities. This high-profile venture takes shape as a Massively Collaborative Online Learning Experiment: it is a feminist manifestation and reinvention of a MOOC. The risky but exciting “learning experiment” takes form as follows: During September — December 2013, instructors around the world offer courses at their home institutions on the topic of “Feminist Dialogues on Technology and Science.” The courses are created using a shared set of learning resources: a series of eight videotaped “dialogues” among prominent feminist scholars of science and technology; a repository of digital learning materials; asynchronous online conversations; and collaborative activity called “Storming WikiPedia” — designed to write feminism and feminists back into the collective digital archive of important knowledge. Students can enroll in courses at a particular institution for credit; or they can arrange to take an independent study elsewhere with a supportive faculty member; or they can participate as self-directed learners, or as “drop-in” learners. The goal is to engage one hundred feminist teachers and thousands of students around the world.”
October 13, 2011
I’m in Montreal, getting ready to give a talk “Remembering AIDS Online: Networking, Viruses, Virality, and Arteries” as part of Concordia University’s eighteen year old, multi-disciplinary, year-long undergraduate course and lecture series: HIV/AIDS Project. As my host and Project founder, Tom Waugh explains, the Project links students to internships, the community, and AIDS scholars and activists. I’m honored to be a part of it.
I’ll be sharing my most recent work that is attempting to theorize the distinctions and through-lines of the online documentary by looking at how my earlier activist AIDS video project (and those of many of my peers), as well as our associated projects of memorialization, have moved from linear video (and other materials) to new digital platforms and uses. I make wacky use of power point to create a “mixed reality experience” (this term comes from Anne Balsamo’s Quilty project, which I discuss, a digital interface that she is building that allows the AIDS Quilt to be viewed on a hand-held, table-like device). Their attempt to repurpose and repopulate an old memorial material becomes the quilt metaphor (and practice) that I will point to and attempt to embody in a room with others during my talk tonight.
Over the course of 40 minutes, 37 power point slides, many quotes, and a handful of AIDS media old and new, I plan to focus upon four tangled lines of thinking about the changing shape of documentary and memorials, and how they contribute to or shape our shifting perceptions of AIDS. I will consider:
1) How AIDS documentaries change as they move from the linear form of video used by myself and others when the AIDS crisis began in the 1980s, to today’s online documentary forms.
2) How memory and memorials are dependent upon their forms and materials
3) How documentary and other memorials have and might continue to serve AIDS activism
4) How “public mixed reality experiences,” using documentary to build temporary memorials, in lived and live offline rooms, might also serve AIDS activism, and its memory.
The talk will next become a more traditional essay that I will publish in the Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Documentary Cinema that I am co-editing with fellow AIDS video activist and now documentary scholar, Alisa Lebow.
Tomorrow, I also get to work closely with a small number of students and activists from Montreal and Concordia in a hands-on multi-media workshop where I will introduce them to,and ask them to participate in, my new work on Online Feminist Spaces. It looks to be an exciting couple of days in Canada.