FLS: Megan Boler: Truth Effects and Digital Dissent: Authority, Affect, and 'Truthiness' in Media Politics

Event Date: 

Monday, January 31, 2011 - 12:00pm

Within the explosion of web-based alternatives to mainstream media, contests about "truth" and knowledge are more fraught than ever. My three-year mixed methods research project "Rethinking Media, Democracy and Citizenship" examined the motivations of producers of "digital dissent" following mainstream media news coverage of events including the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the 2004 presidential election. Our interviews with 35 participants and survey of 160 online video, blog, and satire producers representing diverse political views, revealed frustration with and desire to correct media coverage and to influence political views. For the producers within the new media landscape, an affective longing for certainty and truth sits in tension with the postmodern sensibility that "all truths are constructed." Drawing on Ranciere and Nietzsche, I discuss the difference between understanding truth claims--within contexts of journalism in particular--as ontology (an account of how things come into being) contrasted withtraditional questions of epistemology (what counts as truth). Ontology traces 'truth' as relations of productive force and strategies that make audible and visible the voices and claims, such as those of dissent and activism, often dismissed as invisible noise. With unique clips and excerpts from our research, I illustrate how prosumers energize new forms of creative politics, and describe 'paths to truth' and 'sense making' in an epoch governed by 'truthiness'.

Megan M. Boler is Professor, Department of Theory and Policy Studies, at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She is Associate Faculty of the Center for the Study of United States and the Knowledge Media Design Institute also at UT. Her books include Feeling Power: Emotions and Education (NY: Routledge 1999); Democratic Dialogue in Education: Troubling Speech, Disturbing Silences (M. Boler, ed., Peter Lang, 2004); and Digital Media and Democracy: Tactics in Hard Times (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008).

Her web-based productions include a study guide to accompany the documentary The Corporation (dirs. Achbar and Abbott 2003), and the multimedia website Critical Media Literacy in Times of War. Boler's essays have been published in such journals as Educational Theory, Cultural Studies, and Women?s Studies Quarterly; recent publications include M. Boler, Guest Editor with Ted Gournelos, "Irony and Politics: User-Producers, Parody, and Digital Publics," Electronic Journal of Communication (September 2008), and M. Boler, "The Politics of Making Truth Claims: The Responsibilities of Qualitative Research," in Methodological Dilemmas of Qualitative Research, ed. Kathleen Gallagher (Routledge 2008). She recently co-hosted an international conference "DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media." A graduate of the History of Consciousness Program (UCSC), she teaches philosophy, cultural studies, feminist theory, and media studies at UT and for the Knowledge Media Design Institute at University of Toronto. For further information, see her website: meganboler.net