The Operating System is pleased to introduce you to our newest guest contributor, Alexandra Juhasz, who will be kicking off the revival of our Field Notes series (where creative practitioners from all variety of disciplines shine the light behind the curtain of their daily practice — revealing the causes and conditions of their creative work) with a mini-series that uses poetry as a means of exploring and responding to the crisis of knowledge and meaning in the digital age, specifically the digital age as governed (read: controlled) by the current administration. In a world defined by fake news, information overload and the infinite scroll, the act of making and reading poems becomes an act of radical resistance according to Juhasz (and we at the OS couldn’t agree more). Over the next few months we’ll have the privilege of following Juhasz through a series of experimental poetry workshops / community-based conversations about fake news, digital media literacy, and new applications of time-honored forms of truth-telling. — Adrian Silbernagel, ed.
In the Spring of 2018, I will be collaborating approximately ten times with poets in their communities. Together with our participants we will adapt, extend, translate and make more usable the many resources currently available in the “online digital media primer,” #100hardrtuths-#fakenews, a website that I built over the first 100 days of the Trump administration as an act of engaged, enraged intellectual citizenship.
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 particularly rabid and destabilizing, I felt compelled to act in this time of confusion, despair, and self-criticism. Given a long commitment as artist and intellectual to all things media-fake, I pledged on February 19, 2017: “For 100 days, aligning and twinned with the new President’s opening timeline, to blog every day about fake news and in so doing produce an online primer of digital media literacy.”
My painful if productive effort of informed, desperate citizenship eventually took the form of a digital tower of 100 blog posts, a stack 5 X 20 high of #100hardtruths-#fakenews, each hardtruth holding either my efforts or those of a great many others across a range of fields who were also contemporaneously attempting to understand, combat, or teach about the crisis of fake news as it was unfolding.
This high and vast monolith ended up holding a vast array of inter-disciplinary expressions of keen knowledge, helpful resources and thoughtful tools. However, in this form — which I grew to understand as its own tower of babble — these resources remained hard to navigate and still required literacy efforts in their own right, in order to maximize their usefulness for the many people interested in this crisis.
Thus, since its pained writing, itself a daily practice during the horrid first centennial of this administration, the online primer has been adapted twice for more robust use. It has been modified by Craig Dietrich and Xiomara Liana Rodriguez, to become a digital “Scalar Book.” By clicking on the Table of Contents in the far left-hand corner a number of helpful paths through the #100hardtruths are available (from those about Racism or Sexism or Freedom of Expression or those authored by or featuring the work of others.) I also worked with Craig to make a paper magazine: a pared-down, handheld version skimming the larger digital depths that result, it seems, whenever one collects and writes online.
This Spring’s poetry workshops are yet another transformation. These community-based experiments in radical digital media literacy will re-engage these resources within small groups of participants in local, embodied art-making about participants’ individual and community truths about social media and fake news. The process of making poetry, together, in situ concerning what we know and want to share with others about our own internet truths is the key product: the radical pedagogy. Meanwhile, I’m also hoping that 100 poems will be created starting from these foundational five #hardtruths that I offer as self-evident:
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/she-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.
Using these five hardtruths as both motivation and action plan I will collaborate with digital artists, community college authors, queer feminist cabaret performers, and a youth poetry troupe; we will write poetry about our local internet truths held and lived in New London CT, Queens NYC, Toronto Ontario, Brighton England, Philadelphia PA, online and elsewhere. We might be in a classroom of middle school girls in LA or grad students working on MFAs in poetry where classroom teachers will lead the session. Sometimes we’ll be writing within already-formed collectives relying on their own practices of facilitation and power-sharing. For some workshops we’ll do an open call to interested local residents. I will collaborate with the poets and writers Sam Solomon, Kyle Booten, the Get Lit Players, Lisa Cohen, TL Cowan, the Dyke Ditch Collective, and many more.
We strive for 100 poems, but better yet, community-based conversations about the truth of our own internet experiences communicated and shared with artistic license with the goal of radical education: a poetry solution for resistance, knowledge-production, and better literacy given the truth of fake news in the Age of Trumpism.
Over the Spring we will write up and share here our lesson plans and what we learned and made at the various workshops. Please reach out to me if you’d like to help sponsor a poetry workshop about fake news in your own community: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the links below to view the series: