We’re certainly living in “interesting” times, as the ancient Chinese curse would have it. But for many of us that is probably understating things by at least half. No, we’re living in terrifying times, made worse by the echo chamber of social media, instant response, fake news, alternative facts, and brazen official lies.
How can we possibly make sense of this? How do we separate fact from fiction, news from noise? To help friends and follow travellers, writer-activist-educator (and Common Edge contributor) Eva Hagberg Fisher and multidisciplinary artist Jason J. Snell have created created a flowchart to help people navigate our choppy civic waters. It’s smart, rigorously researched, lively, funny and, best and most important of all, extremely useful.
To look at the flowchart in greater detail, click here.
Eva on why they created it: “We saw so much stuff going around that was really helpful, telling people to call numbers and giving scripts, but some of it seemed outdated and poorly sourced. And there are so many rumors going around about purposeful disinformation that it’s hard to trust these anonymous reports/calls to action. I wondered if a lot of ‘voicemails to the security committee’ and so on were going into a black hole or really being tallied, etc. So we wanted to offer something different – for the activist who’s interested in charting their own path through the maze but just might not have the research background. We also felt that there is a lot of scary shit going around that is getting people (including us!) panicked, so our title ‘Don’t Panic’ is from the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s important to be vigilant and respond appropriately, but we are also trying to add a little levity for the long haul.”
Jason on the creative process: “Eva had written her first draft of the chart when she emailed me about the design. The first step was to do a basic, black and white version, just to get the flow down, using both of our experiences with contacting our representatives. (I now email mine a few times a week). Once we got the flow down, images from the graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth popped into my head—patriotic colors, red white and blue, but a softer, friendly hue of each. I wanted to appeal to the idea of civics and patriotism in a way that’s as approachable as possible for a person who may be feeling overwhelmed or scared about contacting their representatives.”
Eva on the “flow” of the chart: “It was determined in a few ways: by writing down what I’d trained myself to do using my PhD-pursuing academic experience, and by thinking about how I teach. I’m a historian of American architecture and culture (not politics! this is multidisciplinary!) and I’m also teaching Berkeley undergrads how to write a senior thesis right now. I constantly tell them to carefully examine their sources, to build an argument by synthesizing primary and secondary sources. Our definition of ‘secondary sources’ in the flowchart is pretty loose, but we were really interested in giving people the research tools to come up with their own decisions through a synthetic and iterative research process.”
Featured image created by Eva Hagberg Fisher and Jason J. Snell.