The events of September 11, 2001 and the explosion of U.S. wartime propaganda that followed coincided with the emergence of participatory media and Web 2.0. A professor at Virginia Tech at the time, I spent long hours on the Internet surfing and searching for alternative media accounts about the U.S. invasion of Iraq (see also my web-based project Critical Media Literacy in Times of War). I began to observe a paradox: On the one hand, increased public demands for truthful accounts from media and politicians expressed across the blogosphere in online discussion threads, viral videos, and animations (see Who We’ve Talked To for examples). But on the other hand, alongside this demand for truth users expressed the post-modern skepticism “that all truth claims are constructions”. In short: the common thought was that the only thing that is certain is that we’re being lied to.
The paradox of demands for truthful accounts from media and politicians alongside increasing skepticism about “truth” sparked the SSHRC-funded research I conducted from 2005-2008. We studied the emergence of digital dissent — tactical online expressions that counter and subvert corporate-owned news.