ITP blog · faking-the-news

Week 1 project brainstorm

13 September 2018


Notes, responses


The main assignment for this week is to brainstorm a potential mid-term project. Please submit a 1 page sketch of an idea you could pursue. There are no bad ideas at this stage, and you don’t need to commit to seeing this idea through. We will share ideas and iterate together in the next class.

My initial idea from the course's first class seemed promising, but I don't think I will pursue it all the way. Although Elon Musk is somewhat of a polarizing figure and he has been on the collective consciousness lately, I don't think he's polarizing enough such that I can convince lots of people to either vehemently defend or disparage him (or his "horcruxes") in the real world.

The direction I'd like to take my class project involves astrology, a topic which has seen a resurgence in popularity this year, especially amongst millenials and on social media. Astrologers already peddle in something that looks and feels a bit like fake news: horoscopes provide generic insights which seem to be subjectively true to the believer, but have no real basis in scientific fact.

When dealing with this topic, I’d want to be careful not to harm the average person who believes in astrology; instead I’d want to try and “punch up” to some public figure who shares these beliefs.

I see astrology as a way to cope with the inherent meaninglessness of the world; its resurgence in popular culture comes at a time when millennials are losing faith in their government and large corporate institutions. I think an effective simulacra here would start by reflecting this reality (it’s not hard to assert that the world is messed up because of government and corporate action right now, especially from the perspective of progressive politics). It could then proceed to mask & pervert this reality by highlighting the “good” things that tech elite figures are doing to address world problems and provide meaning to people’s lives. I would further try to pervert the message by creating fake news that convinces people that these tech elite are living their lives as ardent astrology fans (Elon times his rocket launches with astrological events, Zuck has his palm read before testifying before Congress, etc) with the goal of further plunging my audience into a feeling of meaninglessness. Hopefully they will fall far enough to be able to pick themselves back up with a renewed sense of skepticism about non-scientific belief system like astrology.