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Writer-In-Residence Annual Lecture: Claire Bond Potter

Portrait of Claire Potter

"Clickbait, Hashtags, and Viral Rage: Writing Politics on Social Media — and How We Can Do Better"

Free and Open to All, Book Signing to Follow

Since the 2016 election cycle, we have all become aware that social media, and the wide variety of clickbait information that circulates there, have become powerful forces in national politics. This talk will focus on several recent examples of social media events triggered by clickbait, most prominently the recent confrontation between a Native American activist and students from Covington Catholic High School on January 18 2019. Social media events triggered by clickbait are particularly difficult to engage online, or to write about thoughtfully afterwards: the original image, post or video is effective, not because it is true or false, but because it taps into strong feelings, either about core values or values we aspire to. Social media offers us a paradoxical solution to the anger and pain that it triggers: to return to its platforms and write more, an action that, much of the time, triggers more anger than pain. But what would happen if we thought of writing, not as incidental to our presence on social media, but its core activity? What values can a writing practice bring to social media -- and how might it help us navigate its perilous political world?

Claire Bond Potter is Professor of History at The New School for Social Research, New York, NY, and Executive Editor of Public Seminar. She is co-editor, with Renee Romano, of Historians on Hamilton: How a Blockbuster Musical Restaged American History (Rutgers University Press: 2018) Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History That Talks Back (University of Georgia Press, 2012). Her writing has appeared in general audience publications such Dissent, The Washington Post, Jacobin, and the New York Times. Potter received her B.A. from Yale University and her Ph.D. from New York University. Currently, she is writing a biography of political media titled Click Bait Nation: the Origins of American iPolitics.

Writer-In-Residence Program The History Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is dedicated to the idea that an understanding of the past is essential to living in a vibrant democracy. As a measure of that commitment, the Department of History's Writer-in-Residence program facilitates sustained conversation with widely-read authors whose historical work engages broad public audiences.

Each year, with major funding from Five Colleges, Inc., we bring a writer of national prominence to campus for a week-long residency in order to give focused attention in our graduate training to writing for a range of audiences and in a variety of venues well beyond the monograph or scholarly article. Our guest visits courses and seminars, meets with students and faculty over coffee, lunches and dinners, and gives a public lecture on campus or in Amherst. The residency is embedded within our signature seminars, Writing History and History Communication. In this way, graduate students from UMass Amherst expand their ability to write for a wider array of readers, sharing the insights of our discipline both within the academy and well beyond.

More Information: Goodell Hall is located in the central part of campus, approximately one city block from the UMass Parking Garage (1 Campus Center Way, $1.75/hr). Goodell Hall is wheelchair accessible. To request additional accomodations, contact information: accessible parkingcampus accessibility mapbus schedulecampus map with Goodell Hall and nearby parking indicated.