March 20, 2017
On February 18 on my blog I pledged:
- To disrupt the new President’s First 100 days by posting #100truths-fakenews with linked actions, analyses and organizations committed to digital media literacy.
- In so doing, I will produce a 100 point digital primer to counter the purposeful confusion, lack of trust, and disorientation of the current administration’s relation to media, offering instead a steady, reasoned set of resources seeking clarity and justice.
One month later, I have written the first 50 posts … phew … it hasn’t been easy! Over those many posts, while keeping my eye on the daily, shifting fake fixations that are definitive of this disruptive, dangerous, confusing time, I also tried to express a set of interlocked truths that might help clarify some of the relations between digital expression, media infrastructures, contemporary art and politics, and opportunities for resistance. The first #50hardtruths found me thinking about, while also trying to enact, effective modes for truth-sharing, trust-building, complexity-enhancing and resistance-producing that would begin about and within digital culture and then potentially move beyond it.
But, during the first phase of the project, I only shared these #50hardtruths on my blog, and then via Facebook and Twitter. As hard as it was to write so many truths in such a short time, those platforms made them easy enough to share, at least a little. But, in many of these truths, I observed and wrote about the limits of these very platforms for honest or at least meaningful or useful communication. By this I mean, specifically, meaningful for our psyches as human beings and useful for social change or activism; and by this I am referring, particularly, to the use of Facebook, Twitter, and their kin, what with their structuring logics of neoliberal production, consumption and corporate ownership; their valuation of the quick, the superficial, and the viral; and their pretense of community, engagement, and participation camoflauging experiences of isolation, distraction, and commodification. Given the goals and values that were emerging from the project and its focus on effective digital media literacy, it became increasingly clear to me that I was enacting a highly self-reflexive process that engaged in and suffered from the very constraints it hoped to critique. Now, limits are often useful for learning (see my “video-book” Learning from YouTube, where a similar set of corporate constraints taught my students and I a good deal about teaching, learning, writing, reading, classrooms and more).
As one response to the learned limits of this project, I decided to seek the assistance of the technologist Craig Dietrich to build it a better digital home, one that might more honestly or effectively hold its #100hardtruths-#fakenews, particularly given the five digitally self-aware beliefs and visions I have learned from the project thus far, expressed as five new truths below. While this fix lives online, it begins to move outside some of the very troubles of social media that lend it, and all we do here, so easily to the shallow, the immediate, the isolated, and thus what might be or at least feel false.
As I move forward, I hope to engender other processes within even more radical logics and platforms toward even more effective forms for digital media literacy. I will enumerate some of these methods as a new pledge at the conclusion of this post. But here’s an easier one to begin, adding the parenthetical oxymoron “(#offline?!)” as a revelatory tick or trick to the halftime truths that follow—one that might help us to momentarily think outside this box—to consider how do, could, would these digital truths play forth in the “real” or “true” world? And to be very clear, my vision of the real world understands it is a mixed-reality where internet and world are one. Hence, my five hardtruths @50:
- producing internet content, rather than simply consuming or sharing it, feels productive; in this time of desolation and destruction, good feelings and actions have real use and value. Choose to be digitally productive rather than reactive (#offline?!)
- we all know truths about this internet—the place in which we swim, live, and drown daily. Naming our truths to ourselves and others—how our lives here feel, how they mean, what we want, who we know, follow and trust—is a vital step in building critical media literacy. Choose to know, name, and share your own internet truths (#offline?!)
- however, it is also true that after the feelings subside and the ideas are refined, our user-produced content on the internet’s social media primarily and ultimately serves best its corporate masters. Our usually small, succinct online one-offs become more culturally and politically productive when bundled, and even better, when used purposefully towards stated goals. Projects for the use of our many media truths are more critical than their expression (offline?!)
- while this goes against current internet common-sense, the quality of interaction with my expression is much more valuable to me than its quantity. I value a thoughtful response or considered use over a like; a sitting-with over a share. Work towards qualities of principled encounter or use over quantities of bogus reception for our internet expression (#offline?!)
- the delightful ambiguities of the fake/real binary are being played by this administration, and the sectors of the media and internet that are built upon and refract them, in ways that are at once confusing, entertaining, distracting and also deadly real for actual people and communities. Understanding and not simply producing contradiction; naming and not evading complexity; breaking through the digital hall of mirrors allow us to focus our attention and action upon the real-world applications of #fakenews, a critical project of this time.
#100hardtruths-#fakenews will end on April 29, 2017. At that time, I will begin a different kind of work, transforming the website into a digital media primer for specific learners in real-world communities and settings through the production of curricula and events. But before that, over the build of the final 50 hardtruths, I will engage in two new, even harder digital practices that I hope begin to work slightly past the logics of corporate social media.
@50, I hereby pledge:
- To share this disruption by asking others to author #100hardtruths of their own, thereby acknowledging that the most meaningful and useful knowledge (this, a kind of truth) comes from communities of practice and care.
- to share this project, for its final #50hardtruths, through a one-to-one, person-to-person effort (via email or IRL), thereby connecting my truths to a person who I know, and who I think might truly want, need, or use it. I will ask them to do the same.
The first of my shared-hardtruths, #51, will be by my friend, the scholar and curator, Eve Oishi. I invite anyone who reads this to contribute, and I also invite you to meaningfully respond to or use any one of my #100hardtruths-#fakenews, or your own, in your world.