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On November 22, 2016, Alex Juhasz was a guest in Tara McPherson’s “Activism in the Digital Age” graduate seminar in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Throughout the term, the class considered how mediation has impacted activism since the advent of the video camera both through the examination of a number of case studies and through different registers of praxis. In joining the course, Alex presented her JSTOR Daily article, “Four Hard Truths about Fake News,” and asked students to engage the piece vis-a-vis the concerns of the class. We reflected on what the digital might mean for activism and on pedagogical and activist strategies that might lead to a more informed citizenry. Alex also invited the students to help build a reading list to share with the article, presented below. This sharing of their knowledge of Critical Internet Studies is, of course, one example of the radical digital pedagogy that Juhasz suggests is a response to the Fake News.

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  1. “Triumph of the Will”: Document or Artifice?, by David B. Hinton
    What struck me about the way that Trump supporters view Trump is how similar it is to the ways in which Hitler was also viewed. Leni Riefenstahl was instrumental in creating the spectacle and artifice around Hitler and the Nazi party, and the ways that Trump has uses fake news mirrors some of that (even beyond the similarities of some of his proposed policies).  Recommended by Jennifer Jee Cho, MA Candidate, Cinema & Media Studies, USC
  2. The Meme of Memes: Information as Objects, by Antonio López
    This article addresses the ideas of memes.  It looks at how we can classify them, how they function, and why they insidiously find their way into our collective psyches. It is interesting re: the figure of Pepe, its dissemination, and what the corporate media then took as its meaning. Recommended by Amalia Charles, M.A. Candidate, Cinema & Media Studies, USC
  3. From Home to Public Forum: Media Events and the Public Sphere, by Barbie Zelizer
    I think that consideration of the media as a whole is important when considering the rise you are claiming of the fake news. It is important to consider not just the role of the viewer in relation to spectatorship of the news but also to track the decline of certain types of viewership of the news, and how viewership of “fake news” diverges from an older form of spectatorship. Recommended by Alia Haddad, PhD student in Cinema and Media Studies, USC
  4. Talking Race and Cyberspace: An Interview with Lisa Nakamura, by Lisa Nakamura and Geert Lovink
    I think the opening speaks to its utility: “Nakamura’s work shows how the Internet, despite all its claims to the alternative, remains a part of dominant visual culture.” Recommended by Harry Gilbert, M.A. Student, Bryan Singer Division of Cinema and Media Studies, USC
  5. Protocol, Control, and Networks, by Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker
    Via Deleuze, Galloway and Thacker map our meaningful counter-protocols of current networked life. Recommended by Harry Gilbert
  6. On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge, by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
    Recommended by Harry Gilbert
  7. Race Racing: Four Theses on Race and Intensity, by Amit Rai
    Amit Rai considers speed, media, and race: “If what I have argued is a sensible shift in the politics and theorization of race toward the common notion of race racing as a diagram of speeds and slownesses, intensive rates and gradients internal to manifold assemblages of technology and perception, then these theses should perform an experimentation on race itself. This experimentation would continuously mutate, never resembling itself, changing the metric of its own measure through a resonance that moves beyond its term.” Recommended by Harry Gilbert
  8. Framing the Internet in the Arab Revolutions: Myth Meets Modernity, by Miriyam Aouragh
    The attached article supports the idea of needing a more critical citizen engagement with the internet. Something else that this article does in a very understated way is point out that the relationship between the internet and produced fakeness/realness changes based on where/when we are in the world. Your op-ed points out that, in a Western/American context, the internet is our source for producing, consuming, and sharing fake content. But it’s just as important to note that the internet can become a place of very real Western (re)configurations of non-Western narratives, cultures, and social and political structures, effectively acting as a tool for the production of neocolonialism and its real effects. Recommended by Mary Michael
  9. After Politics/After Television: Veep, Digimodernism, and the Running Gag of Government, by Joe Conway
    Joe Conway makes reference to Alan Kirby and his dystopian concept of “digimodernism”, where the “apparently real” is the dominant aesthetic, “one where the knowing pastiches and parodies of postmodernism cease to register because they require a broad foundation of past cultural knowledge that has been leveled into non-meaning”. Some of his descriptions of digimodernism are helpful to think about fake news and how fake have lost its subversive potential. Recommended by Emilia Yang, Ph.D. Student in Media Arts and Practice
  10. The Quantum Paradox of Truthiness: Satire, Activism, and the Postmodern Condition, by James E. Caron
    Caron cites Geoffrey Baym’s concept of “discursive integration,” a concept he offers as a way of speaking about, understanding, and acting within the world defined by the permeability of form and the fluidity of content. “Discourses of news, politics, entertainment, and marketing have grown deeply inseparable; the languages and practices of each have lost their distinctiveness and are being melded into previously unimagined combinations.”Both of these authors are part of a Special Issue of the Studies in American Humor: American Satire and the Postmodern Condition. I see the problem of fake news as a historical trend where on one side news has accommodated to feed what sells and what people want to read (click bait), and on the other side as Alex mentions, we are not aware of the complexity of the Internet, its politics and interests. I also recommend Evgeny Morozov’s critiques like The Internet,” Recommended by Emilia Yang, PhD Student in Media Arts and Practice
  11. In Transit, by Claudia Rankine
    While I teach in a cinema school, my doctoral degree is from an English Department, and poetry wields a particular language that has spoken its own truths to me across the years.  This fall, I have found myself turning to poetry again and again, searching for words that might ground meaning beyond the swirls of information that were scrolling across my many screens. Although this piece by Claudia Rankine was published nearly twenty-five years ago, it speaks powerfully to our present. Recommended by Tara McPherson, Professor, Department of Cinema, University of Southern California

For some historical context on fake news, look to nineteenth-century “Yellow Journalism.”


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University of Texas Press on behalf of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies
Peter Lang AG
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University of Illinois Press on behalf of the University Film & Video Association
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University of Nebraska Press
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The MIT Press
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University of Texas Press on behalf of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies
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Penn State University Press
Studies in American Humor, Vol. 2, No. 2, Special Issue: American Satire and the Postmodern Condition (2016), pp. 153-181
Penn State University Press
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Kenyon College