RES.CMS-001 | Spring 2021 | Non-Credit

Media Literacy in the Age of Deepfakes

Sample Syllabus

Sample Readings


Week 1: Pandemic-Infodemic: Viral Media and our Epistemic Crisis

Malaka Gharib, “Fake Facts Are Flying About Coronavirus,” NPR, February 21, 2020

AJ Willingham, “How the Pandemic and Politics Gave Us A Golden Age of Conspiracy Theories,” CNN, October 3, 2020

Paula Span, “Getting Wise to Fake News,” New York Times, September 11, 2020

Part I: Historical Forces

Week 2: Humbug, Hoaxes, and “Fake News”

Kevin Young, “Moon Shot: Race, a Hoax, and the Birth of Fake News,” The New Yorker, October 21, 2017

Kevin Young, “The Age of Imposture: The Moon Hoax,” in Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News (Minneapolis: Grey Wolf, 2017).

Neil Harris, “The American Museum,” “The Operational Aesthetic,” in The Art of P.T. Barnum (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).

Week 3: Privatizing the Public Sphere

Bob McChesney, “Corporate Media Consolidation,” in Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy (New York: Seven Stories Press, 1997)

Patricia Aufderheide, “Shaping of the Act,” in Communications Policy and the Public Interest: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 (New York: The Guilford Act, 1999).

John T. Caldwell, “The Crisis of Network Television,” in Televisuality: Style, Crisis, and Authority in American Television (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995).

Week 4: The Fox Factor and the Right-Wing Media Ecology

David Brock, et. al., “Attack and Destroy” and “Building a Movement,” in The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine (New York: Anchor, 2012).

Nicole Hemmer, “The Leaders,” in Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2016).

Part II: Poisoning the Stream

Week 5: Social Media and its Discontents

Tarleton Gillespie, “The Myth of the Neutral Platform,” in Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions That Shape Social Media (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018).

Safiya Umoja Noble, “A Society, Searching,” in Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (New York: 2018). 

Week 6: Alt-Right Media, Trumpism, and the 2016 Election

Yochai Benkler et. al., “Dynamics of Network Propaganda,” in Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

Casey Williams, “Has Trump Stolen Philosophy’s Critical Tools?” NYT, April 17, 2017.

Matt Taibbi, “The End of Facts in the Trump Era,” Rolling Stone, February 8, 2017.

Jeet Heer, “America’s First Postmodern President,” The New Republic, July 8, 2017.

Week 7: Deepfakes – From the Margins to the Mainstream

Samantha Cole, “AI-Assisted Fake Porn is Here and We’re All Fucked,” VICE, December 11, 2017

Joan Donovan and Britt Paris, “Deepfakes and Cheap Fakes: The Manipulation of Audio and Visual Evidence,” Data & Society, September 2019.

Live Science Thursday

Henry Ajder et. al., The State of Deepfakes: Landscape, Threats, Impact, Deeptrace, September 2019

Nina Schick, “R/Deepfakes,” “Deepfakes in the Wild,” in Deepfakes: The Coming Infocalypse (New York: Boston, 2020).

Part III: Civic Media

Week 8: Media Literacies

Alexandra Juhasz, “#100hardtruths-#fakenews

Alexandra Juhasz, “Fake News Poetry Workshops,” “Radical Digital Media Literacy in a Post-Truth Anti-Trump Era,” Radical Teacher 111, 23-29.

Carol Choksy, “Training the Masses in ‘Informational Awareness’” in Proceedings from the Document Academy vol. 4:2.

Sam Gregory, “Prepare, Don’t Panic: Synthetic Media and Deepfakes,” Witness Media Lab.

“Media Literacy’s Civic Problem” and “Designing Civic Media Literacies,” in Civic Media Literacies: Re-Imagining Human Connection in an Age of Digital Abundance (New York: Routledge, 2018).

Week 9: Ethics and Aesthetics of the Archive: In Event of Moon Disaster

Video: In Event of Moon Disaster (IEOMD), MIT/Center for Advanced Virtuality

  • Read dossier of materials on IEOMD website
  • “Behind the Scenes”
  • “Moon Conspiracy Theories”
  • “Why We’ve Made this Deepfake”

Roger D. Launius, “Responding to Apollo: America’s Divergent Reactions to the Moon Landings,” in Limiting Outer Space: Astro Culture After Apollo vol. 2, 2018.

Week 10: Satire as Political Critique

Jonathan Gray, Jeffrey P. Jones, and Ethan Thompson, “The State of Satire, the Satire of State,” in Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post Network Era. (New York: NYU Press, 2009).

Alisa Lebow, “Faking What? Making a Mockery of Documentary,” in F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006). 

Amber Day, “Truthiness and Consequences in Parodic News,” in Satire and Dissent: Interventions in Contemporary Political Debate (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011).

Emily Nussbaum, “How Jokes Won the Election,” The New Yorker, Jan 2017.

Garrett, Bond, and Poulsen, “Too Many People Think Satirical News is Real,” The Conversation, Aug 2019.

Week 11: Networked Journalism as Community Media USC Annenberg

Colin Rhinesmith, “Community Media Infrastructure as Civic Engagement,” in Civic Media: Technology, Design, Practice, ed. by Eric Gordon and Paul Mihailidis (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016)

Victor Pickard, “American Media Exceptionalism and the Public Option,” “The Media We Need,” in Democracy Without Journalism: Confronting the Misinformation Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).

Sasha Costanza-Chock, “Design Practices: Nothing About Us Without Us,” in Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2020)

Patricia Zimmermann, “Reverse Engineering: Taking Things Apart for the New Global Media Ecology,” in Documentary Across Platforms: Reverse Engineering Media, Place, and Politics (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2019).

Week 12: Synthetic Media as Public History

Dimensions in Testimony, USC

Matthew Fishbane, “Do Holocaust Survivors Dream of Electric Sheep?” Tablet, April 21, 2020

Davina Pardo, “116 Cameras,” Op-Docs, September 19, 2017.

Lauren Styx, “How are Museums Using Artificial Intelligence, and is AI the Future of Museums,” MuseumNext, September 18, 2020.

Week 13: Identity Fashioning and the Politics of Presence

D. Fox Harrell, Phantasmal Media: An Approach to Imagination, Computation, and Expression (Cambridge, MIT Press, 2013).

Ruha Benjamin, “Retooling Solidarity, Reimagining Justice” in Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (New York: Polity, 2019)

Kamal Sinclair & Jessica Clark, Making a New Reality: A Toolkit for Inclusive Media Futures, Ford Foundation/Immerse/Sundance, August 2020. 

Week 14: Open Ending

We will collectively decide on the topic and readings for this week. Options could include issues of civic media and misinformation related to the pandemic, the climate crisis, racial justice, or political elections.