The Wisdom and Madness of Social Media

Join me in this live 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about how the Internet is reshaping the way we learn and think, and why, for all of its promise, seems to be creating as many problems as it solves.

My name is James Surowiecki. I’m a journalist and an author, and I’d like to invite you to my new class, Five Things I’ve Learned about the Wisdom and Madness of Social Media.

About fifteen years ago, I published a book called The Wisdom of Crowds, which showed how under the right conditions groups of people could be remarkably intelligent, and smarter even the smartest person in them. The key to the wisdom of crowds, I argue, is having groups made up of diverse, independent thinkers who are able to learn from each other but still think for themselves. The paradox of the wisdom of crowds is that we’re smartest collectively when people are acting as much like individuals as possible.

I wrote The Wisdom of Crowds before social media as we know it really became a thing – before Facebook or Twitter or Instagram came to play such a big role in the lives of so many of us. And over the years, I’ve thought a lot about the way the Internet generally, and social media specifically, is reshaping the way we learn and think and how it influences what we know and how we know it, and why social media, for all of its promise, seems to be creating as many problems as it solves.

The Internet is, in principle, an extraordinary tool for making us collectively smarter. It offers us access to an enormous range of information and data we otherwise wouldn’t have, and exposes us to perspectives and opinions we otherwise would never hear. But in practice, the Net, and social media in particular, often seems to make us dumber. Social media is built around the idea of influence, not independence, and as a result it often reinforces people’s biases, encourages the spread of misinformation, magnifies polarization.

So in this 90-minute class, we’ll look at how this works, and what we can do about it.

We’ll look at how we learn and how being in groups—even online ones—can shape our behavior. We’ll talk about the power of conformity and peer pressure, and the way social media works to amplify them, and about ways to combat them. We’ll look at why spreading misinformation works, how you can recognize it, and how you can debunk it without managing to reinforce it. And we’ll talk about how you can make yourself a better, sharper user of social media and the Internet.

In the process, I hope the class will help you make your time online more enjoyable and productive, and our collective crowd a little bit wiser.

I hope you’ll join me!

– James Surowiecki

How Women Writers Thrive

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned during my nearly two decades of leading and championing women-only publishing about the ways that women writers work, collaborate, and succeed.

If you’re a woman writer, and you’re eager to find out what works for other women – and particularly if you’re open to learning more about how women can make a difference for other women – I hope you’ll join me for my live, two-hour class, Five Things I’ve Learned about How Women Writers Thrive.

I’ve been working in women-only publishing since 2004, first for beloved indie publisher Seal Press, and then striking out on my own in 2012 to cofound She Writes Press, which is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year. With this milestone top of mind, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to all the women writers and authors I’ve worked with over these past 18+ years. I’ve thought deeply about what it is that I know—and have witnessed—about the ways that women writers work, collaborate, and succeed that is unique and special and powerful.

This is what I’ll share with you in this session—and if you’re a woman writer, you’ll discover for yourself in this class that part of the magic of being a woman writer among your female peers. Hint—support and collaboration definitely play essential roles in women’s unique brand of thriving.

In our time together, I’ll share some of the powerful success stories I’ve witnessed during my tenure as Executive Editor of Seal Press, and now as Publisher of She Writes Press. I’ll challenge you to consider your own mindset, and I’ll offer some women-tested ways in which you might lean into your inherent strengths. I’ll also encourage you to consider how and where you might get in your own way.

As a champion of women writers, I’ve seen a lot over the years when it comes to how women writers behave. I wrote my latest book, Write On, Sisters!, in part because I saw the unique challenges women writers face—as a result of social conditioning; getting a late start, historically speaking; and how our inner critics beat us up and leave even the strongest of us doubting ourselves and our capacity. 

In this class we’ll address all that head on, and we’ll unlock the keys to the thriving part—because we have the will and the agency and the strength to determine our own course of action, our own success—but we cannot do it alone.

I hope you will join me—and a whole big awesome group of women—to talk about thriving as writers, as authors, and as thought leaders. Join me, Sisters! Write on!

This is your circle. Come claim your space!

– Brooke Warner

The Healing Power of Songwriting – in Five Songs

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about song’s unique power to bring hope in the face of deep trauma – inspiring lessons from my own life and from my time with wounded veterans and frontline medical workers.

My name is Mary Gauthier. I’m a singer-songwriter, troubadour, and author. I have released ten studio albums and published one book. In spite of my lack of musical training and my somewhat belligerent nature (particularly in regards to the music business), I’ve have been nominated for a Grammy Award, four Americana Music Awards, and several Folk Alliance Awards. To my amazement, I’ve won several.

I began writing songs in my thirties, after I was arrested for drunk driving on the opening night of my second restaurant, and got sober. I credit songwriting with helping me first to stay in, and then to deepen, my recovery from addiction. It pointed me to my own story, which helped me sort through and deal with my own childhood trauma. I sold my restaurants and moved to Nashville when I was forty to become a full-time artist.

So far, so good.

Today, I am thirty-one years sober. I still live in Nashville, and have had my songs cut by everyone from Tim McGraw and Jimmy Buffett, to Boy George and Bettye Lavette, Bobby Bare and Kathy Mattea. My songs, all of them, have been born from a desire to dig deeper into my stories and to the stories of others, uncover hidden emotional truths, and make art from it.

I’ve learned alchemy, and how to turn coal into diamonds.

Music and song helped transform me, it helped grow me, it gave me a reason to keep trying, and home to return to. Far more than just entertainment, music and song saved me. Songwriting also helped me to heal.

Songwriting has also helped me to help others. For many years I participated in a program that pairs wounded veterans with professional songwriters, and more recently, I’ve been part of another that does the same with frontline medical workers. Both programs have given me the chance to apply what I learned from dealing with my own trauma and addiction in songs to help others to navigate their own trauma. Together, we co-write songs.

The result has given me a unique perspective. I have seen profound reductions in depression and PTSD in many of my co-writers, and I have seen hope return to families whose supply was running dangerously low. Something else I know for sure: resonance and empathy are two of life’s most powerful experiences. When we (both songwriter and listener), discover that there is someone who feels exactly as we do, we no longer feel alone. The heart opens, and hope follows.

Please join me for my live, two-hour class, Five Things I Learned about the Healing Power of Songwriting. I’m going to share some of the most valuable, interesting, inspiring and surprising things I’ve learned about the unique power of songs to bring hope in the face of deep trauma.

I’ll focus on five specific songs and in the process share all that I’ve learned:

  • A great song is a balance of art and craft. A simple, honest clear song about what matters, and what hurts, will connect with hearts.
  • Songs can be more than entertainment, they have the power to generate empathy, which is no small thing in todays divided world of meanness and rage.
  • Honesty is the most important thing. It does not matter if the song is fiction or if it happened. Removing falsehood, lies, posturing, clichés, cleverness, and delusion, will tear down the armor of self-protection, leaving the story and the storyteller emotionally naked. From there, amazing things happen.
  • Courage is a must, because vulnerability can be terrifying, especially for those who have served, and those who work in medicine, and well, all of us.
  • An honest song about what matters shows our inside on the outside. This is scary, but we gain agency by telling it. We get to decide how the story ends. Moving from being the story, (the paper being written on) to becoming the storyteller (the hand holding the pen) is a powerful experience.

More than anything, I’ve learned that healing is a by-product of empathy, resonance, and agency. Telling our trauma story, no matter how difficult, is a way of making peace with it. It is freeing. The telling it releases some of the poison, giving us the power to make plans and reach for goals once considered unreachable.

I’ve gained so much insight about myself through this work, and I think you can as well.

I hope you’ll join me.

– Mary Gauthier

Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: What Our Government Still Doesn’t Know – and All It Does.

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about all that’s certain – and all that remains unknown – in light of the U.S. Defense Department’s continuing investigation into decades of unexplained UFO encounters.

I’m James Fox: a filmmaker, writer, director, and producer. For more than two decades, I’ve focused my career on what I’ve come to call the “parallel history“ of unexplained phenomena – a long, detailed collection of sightings and engagements so credible that in 2007 the U.S. government funded a formal program within the Defense Intelligence Agency specifically to investigate a well-established, well-documented body of UFO reports.

Again and again during this time, I’ve discovered that there’s far more to these unexplained sightings and encounters than most of us realize. In 2020, I released my most recent documentary on the subject, The Phenomenon. Long on detail, short on sensationalism, The Phenomenon has – I’m proud to say – since been hailed as the most credible and revealing look at unidentified objects ever made.

I conducted years of research for this film. In the process, I spoke in detail with figures including Senator Harry Reid, Governor Bill Richardson, astronaut Gordon Cooper, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Christopher Mellon – each of whom shared his response to both decades of reports of unidentified objects and to the more than half-century long attempt by our government to shape public perception about these encounters. I also discovered and analyzed scores of testimonies from high-ranking government and military officials whose personal experiences lend first-hand credibility to their concerns.

I’ve learned even more since the film’s release, and I’ve come to recognize how much more is understood about all we’ve been inclined to dismiss about these unexplained phenomena. For this reason in particular I hope you will join me for my upcoming class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: What Our Government Still Doesn’t Know – and All It Does.

In this 90-minute session, I’ll share with you:

  • The remarkable, consistent, and still unexplained history of UFO sightings across the United States – many engagements along our nation’s network of nuclear-weapon facilities.
  • Our military’s well-documented record of actual engagement with unexplained flying objects, which – no matter the circumstance or location – all seem to move and react similarly, in ways for which there remains no technological precedent here on Earth.
  • Individual accounts of similar engagements – remarkably consistent stories of local encounters by individuals and among groups around the world.
  • The initial formation and subsequent findings of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), the U.S. government program formed specifically to investigate and better understand these sightings.
  • The conclusions suggested by the scores of documents that the Pentagon has subsequently made available to the general public.

There’s a lot to digest, and an almost equal amount that remains uncertain or undetermined. As Christopher Mellon rightly suggested to me when we talked at length about these sightings , “It’s not a question of belief, it’s not a question of whether this is happening.” In fact, I’ve learned that these sightings are happening. In our time together, I’ll share exactly how the United States government and our defense department have determined – and the manner in which they’ve publicly acknowledged – that that these experiences are real.

I hope you’ll join me.

– James Fox

Cheerfulness

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the historic roots of cheerfulness, and about how our control this essential tool of emotional life lies not in our deepest selves but in our social relationships.

My name is Timothy Hampton. I’m professor of literary studies at the University of California at Berkeley. I’m here to invite you to my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned About Cheerfulness.

I’ve been thinking about cheerfulness a lot recently. We live in very difficult times, and as I’ve struggled with the emotional roller coaster of the COVID era, I’ve been on the look out for wisdom and for emotional resources that can help guide me. I realized that there were days– sometimes many days in a row – when I needed to reset my way of looking at things, and my ways of responding to the world. I realized, too, that increased isolation and uncertainty was leaving me less open to others around me.

During this time, I read a sentence by the philosopher Montaigne, who says, “the surest form of wisdom is a constant cheerfulness.” I read it again, and I wondered, What could he mean? And, how could go about achieving the constant cheerfulness Montaigne recommends?

In Five Things I’ve Learned About Cheerfulness, I’ll share with you what I’ve found: what I’ve learned about the deep roots of cheerfulness in religion, about the concept’s changing status in the world of the European Enlightenment, and about how attention to the work of cheerfulness can help us better understand our own present-day situation.

During our time together, I don’t aim to teach you “how” to be cheerful – this isn’t a class focused on self-actualization or self-help. Rather, I’ll show how writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jane Austen, and Friedrich Nietzsche investigate cheerfulness’s power over human activity – and how their discoveries still speak to us today.

As it happens, I’ve put my time during the pandemic to use by writing a book on this topic, called Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History. In it explore how many of the greatest artists and philosophers – from Shakespeare to Louis Armstrong – have described and embodied cheerfulness. In fact, cheerfulness is often overlooked by people who write about emotional or psychological life. Unlike many emotional states, it is fleeting. And yet, it is an essential emotion. As I’ll explain, its origin lies not in our deepest selves but in our social relationships. And we can control it—we can make ourselves cheerful. And when we do so, cheerfulness becomes an essential tool of emotional life.

I hope you will join me for this stimulating and cheerful session about the history of this too-often-overlooked emotion. I want to explore with you this strange and powerful emotional state because I’ve found that contemplating cheerfulness helps us to develop resources for lighting up the emotional darkness.

As Shakespeare said, “Cheerly, cheerly!” 

Please join me.

Timothy Hampton

How We Win the Messaging Wars and Save Democracy

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about what we can do right away to ensure that America survives – and about the perspective you need to make sure your time and your attention are focused on all we need to do together.

My name is Rick Wilson. I’m an ex-Republican political strategist, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, and best-selling author. I’d like to invite you to join me in my upcoming class, Five Things I’ve Learned About How We Win the Messaging Wars and Save Democracy.

This is an important class, and in our 90-minutes together I’ll share some of the most important and hard-earned lessons I’ve picked up in my 30+ years of long, sometimes painful experience in politics. I’ll focus on the things that each of us – every American – can do right away to help resolve the political crisis of our time. I believe it’s up to us, really: Whether America survives and remains a functioning democracy, or collapses in the wave of the nationalism, populism, and hyper-conservativism that now defines us.

This class will be more than a profanity-laced vent session. I plan to share with you my analysis of what we all can do to make sure our democracy stands.

We’ll talk first about these five essential strategies, maxims that my time in politics has taught me are more important today than ever:

  1. Drive the damn bus, don’t lay down in front of it. Frame your opponent early, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Grab the wheel like you’re what’s his face in Speed, and never let go. This also means that if your opponent has got the conversation and the mike, you’ve got to flip a table over  to get them back.
  2. Don’t bring a policy pen to a knife fight. All of us – particularly my friends in the Democratic Party – need to stop thinking that the road to glory is paved with policy. The fight we’re in will never be won on health care or infrastructure, paid leave or bunnies romping in the sunshine. Winning on policy was never true, and it will never be LESS true than in 2022. We are in a culture war. You win culture wars on emotion, and spectacle. Emotions of lift, strength, certainty and ideals–and emotions of anger, fear, and repulsion.
  3. Never catch the grenade. The Republican playbook is to lob some crazy attack on the Dems and then  just sit back, watch, and enjoy. The Dems catch a grenade like Critical Race Theory like it’s a bouquet, bobble it around giving it weeks of play, until boom, it blows off another limb. Because it’s a grenade. Instead: Make clear that every time you hear “CRT,” they’re saying the N-word. Done. Stop waffling on and on about history and curriculum and what CRT is and is not. Better to snuff out that little nuclear fire – and every one like it– at the get-go.
  4. Have some damn fun and stop worrying about everything. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching a poor gopher trying to undig its own hole, seeing one of my Democratic friends tiptoe  around making a point without offending anyone. In Churchill’s words, people feel and trust a “vital force” in a leader, someone at ease in their own skin, someone who hasn’t pre-chewed every focus grouped word like a tinned pastry. The winningest candidates and campaigns are not worrying over everything they put out there, and second guessing the message to death. 
  5. Sell your wins, and back your own. In my years, if a Republican leader said monkeys invented cotton candy, the Republican Party said to a man, “Good thing about monkeys, or there’d be no cotton candy!” Today too many Dems mumble their wins, bury their leads, and hash each other mercilessly rather than fall in line as allies against the true threat. In a fight this dire, every last standing enemy of my enemy is my unquestioned friend until further notice. More importantly: My Democratic friends need to shout their victories from the mountaintops, bite their tongues when they don’t agree, and start having a good time again.

I hope that in our time together, we’ll talk even more about how you can apply all that I’ve learned to make a difference on your own. I’ll focus on concrete, practical things we all can do to make a difference at the local, state, and national levels. And, I’ll give you the perspective you need to make sure that your time and your attention are focused on all we need to do together.

Please do join me.

We need you. Your country needs you. We’ll have some fun.

– Rick

Documenting Migration and Culture

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about photography’s power to trace, preserve, and celebrate the people and communities of the African diaspora.

My name is Lewis Watts and I hope you’ll join me for my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned About Documenting Migration and Culture. I’m a photographer, an archivist, a curator, and a teacher. For more than 30 years, I’ve been tracing, preserving, and celebrating the people and communities of the African diaspora, particularly in America.

I have photographed in West Oakland, South Central Los Angeles, Harlem, New Orleans, and Atlanta, and most recently in Charleston. There, I’m working on a project in conjunction with the African American Museum now under construction. I just returned from my second trip, where I was exposed to the Gullah Culture and to the history of African American Communities in existence since the civil war. My work includes portraits of artists, activist, authors, and musicians along with photographs of historical and archival objects. I’m interested in historical and contemporary representations of people in this migration. I’ve made a point to document those who have thrived and those working to make sure that their cultural history is not erased.

I have also had a chance to document migration between parts of Africa and the Middle East to Europe, which like the southern migration is caused by war, oppression, and the desire for economic opportunity. I have photographed in France, Greece, Germany and England and I’ve been looking at the “Black Presence” and its impact on those cultures and communities.

For me, the consequences of slavery and the results of the Great Migration that followed World War II begin with my own family. My father found himself in Seattle when he was discharged from the Army. He found a job and sent for my mother, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Though I grew up in Seattle, much of my childhood involved trips to the south to visit grandparents and other relatives. I am sure that these trips – and with them my many returns to the Northwest – fueled my photographic and intellectual life. I have always been interested in the things that people bring with them as they migrate in search of a better life.

It’s what I’ve learned from a life documenting from my work that I wish to share with you.

In our 90-minute class, I will show work from these projects and trace the ways my own roots are connected to a common past. We’ll talk about the conditions under which I took some of the most important photos in my life. More important to me: I’ll also share what I’ve learned during a life caring about the results of people’s travels and exploring the things they’ve carried with them.

I hope to see you soon,

– Lewis Watts

What Will Be On Our Plate in Ten Years

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about how technology is reshaping our food and reimagining our food system – and what these changes mean for people who love food.

My name is Larissa Zimberoff, and I’m an author and investigative journalist. I’m a lover of food. I’m either thinking about what to eat, wondering what to pick up at the market, or, well, I’m eating. Food makes us tick. It’s why I devoted my career to covering the topic. I hope you’ll join me for my upcoming live, 90-minute class, Five Things I’ve Learned about What Will Be On Our Plate in Ten Years.

Recently, I published a book about how technology is reshaping our everyday foods–or trying to! Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat is about my journey to uncover what’s happening to our food system, and what it means for people who love food. I wrote this book for two reasons: Because I felt both like our foods were becoming ever more complex and even more unknown and that we were becoming farther removed from understanding how food makes it to our plate. And because I have Type-1 diabetes.

With my condition, I look at food in an entirely unique way. It’s this lens, this scrutiny, that I wish to share with you. Together, we’ll dive into five topics that I learned while reporting on the future of food both for my book, and for Bloomberg Businessweek, where I am a regular contributor. You’ll get a front-row seat to what’s happening to our food system, learn more about how these new foods are being made in labs, and become better acquainted with the startups that are creating them. I’ll bring you behind-the-scenes as an investigative reporter—sharing what I’ve learned while interviewing founders, eating “chicken” made by Michelin-star chefs in gleaming marble-countered kitchens, and tasting secret milk in hotel hallways.

Throughout my 90-minute class, I’ll share my take on five delicious foods that may one day be wholly reinvented: Bacon, eggs, cheese, kale and steak–each made without animals (for the most part.) What’s happening to our staples is the perfect entry point for learning what tech startups are doing, and for understanding more fully the levers being pulled  from Wall Street to Silicon Valley to promote an entirely different way of eating. Founders say they’re working to save the planet, to end industrial animal agriculture. Are their efforts good for us?

Maybe you love food. Maybe, like me, you have a complicated relationship with food. Either way, this class is for everyone who is passionate about knowing what they put in their mouth.

What you’ll learn will be interesting and weird, and, like a delicious dinner, time will fly by.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Larissa

The Future of Media and Democracy

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the tenuous link between media and democracy – and what the continuing convergence of media, technology, and politics means for artists, and for us all.

My name is Jonathan Taplin. I’ve had five distinct careers. I started my working life the year I graduated from Princeton (1969) as Tour Manager for Bob Dylan and the Band. I was at Woodstock, The Isle of Wight with Dylan and toured Canada on a train (1970) with Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Band and Bonnie and Delaney. Much madness ensued. In 1971 I produced the Concert For Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden for George Harrison and then went to Hollywood to produce Martin Scorsese’s fist important film. Mean Streets. In the 1980’s I helped the Bass Brother’s rescue Walt Disney from corporate raid and then became a Vice President of Media Mergers and Acquisitions for Merrill Lynch Investment banking.

In the 1990’s I returned to film production and then started the first streaming video on demand service, Intertainer.

In the 2000’s I was a Professor at the Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism and was the Director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California.

In 2016 Little Brown published my book Move Fast and Break things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. In 2021 Heyday published my memoir The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock and Roll Life.

These experiences have given me a unique perspective from which to talk with you about something I think about quite a lot these days: the essential link between media and democracy. I believe that media and democracy are so deeply connected that if one dies the other dies. I also know first-hand that media passes through periods of revolutionary change into periods of conservative consolidation. We are currently in a consolidation era, and, unless we are vigilant, the likely consequences are that the outlier artist (Billie Holiday, Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Rachel Kushner, Jean-Michel Basquiat) that has always driven our culture forward, will be silenced.

I hope you will join me in my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned about The Future of Media and Democracy. I want the class to be interactive and provocative. I want you to come away reimagining what our cultural future might soon look like. I’ll share with you some conclusions from a lifetime of wrestling with the convergence of media, technology, and politics.

  1. Today decisions about our collective art are made by businessmen. The philosopher Herbert Marcuse has said that the role of the artist is to never forget “what can be.” So artists constantly played a role in political change. From Sergei Eisenstein’s Potemkin Village to Pablo Picasso’s Guernica to Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’. But these were all personal creations, made under what I would call folk or craft conditions. But now all media is a giant business, and so the decisions as to what get’s created and distributed or not are made by businessmen. We will start by investigating the meaning of that change. We will look at journalism, film and TV, music and art.
  2. The Internet changed everything. On the positive side, the streaming media future has exposed us to great drama and great music from all over the world. So we know we really do inhabit McLuhan’s Global Village. It makes me optimistic that I can watch Korean or Norwegian dramas or listen to Icelandic music when ever I want and it is a huge boon to society. But we also need to question how we arrived at a situation in which it’s easier than ever to share your creativity with the world, and harder than ever to make a living doing so.
  3. We share few common facts. For society, the invention of the mobile Internet, in combination with new forms of social media, completely destroyed the world of shared facts that had been the basis of our democracy since Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. When I was at Princeton in 1968 I would watch the CBS Evening News every evening, where Walter Cronkite would end the broadcast with the phrase “that’s the way it is, May 16,1968.” And to a large extent, the whole country could agree on that set of facts. But Social Media changed all that. We have no shared facts. We live in our political and cultural bubbles.
  4. Volume makes a difference. Could the number of people making media (including influencers) surpass the number of people who are just consumers of media? There are 70 million tracks on Spotify. 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute worldwide. According to Mediakix.com, there could be as many as 37 million influencers online globally. This is a half–serious question, but how much of this content passes the “who cares” test? Whatever your answer, I do think the overwhelming fire hose of media aimed at us has implications for art, culture and mental health.
  5. The Metaverse is coming. As Big Tech comes to dominate media distribution, men like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have a very clear view of your virtual reality media future. The venture capitalist Marc Andreessen thinks that Zuckerberg’s coming “Metaverse” is just the solution for our current despair. “We should build — and we are building –” he adds, “online worlds that make life and work and love wonderful for everyone, no matter what level of reality deprivation they find themselves in.” But others distrust Zuckerberg’s vision of this alternative virtual reality, where you can’t skip the ads. As Rob Horning noted  “Facebook would also like to secure the ability to prevent people from any right to absence … The Metaverse is fundamentally a place you will be forced to be.” Let’s discuss if we want to live in the Metaverse.

So as you can see I’m worried. But there’s still hope and it’s unsure how it will play out. When the class concludes I hope you will have a grasp of some of the possible solutions to the five problems I have mentioned. I would like to spend the last 45 minutes addressing both your questions and your policy suggestions for the future of media and democracy.

Please join me.

– Jonathan Taplin

What Memoir Demands. And All it Makes Possible.

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about sharing my family’s stories in prose and in song – and about all that taking ownership of our most personal stories makes possible.

Hi. My name is Allison Moorer. I’m a singer-songwriter, author, and have produced a few records. I’m also a mother, wife, sister, and friend. Those details are inextricable from my work, as I regularly deal in memoir no matter the art form.

I have released ten studio albums and two memoirs. And if I don’t do this part, they’ll make me rewrite this paragraph: I’ve been nominated for Grammy, Academy, Americana Music Association, and Academy of Country Music Awards. I received the Hall-Waters Prize for Southern Writing in 2020.

The work I’ve done is the result of my desire to dig into my experiences and make art out of them. I began writing songs in my early twenties and spent the entirety of my forties (I’m 49 now) writing two full-length memoirs in which I explore my admitted obsession: the nuclear family. Life and relationships are often a mystery to me, and writing about them – in music and in prose – helps me to better see the light in my thoughts and feelings.

I hope you will join me for my live, two-hour class, Five Things I’ve Learned about What Memoir Demands. And All it Makes Possible. I’m going to share some of the most valuable, interesting, and surprising things I’ve learned from nearly twenty-five years of exploring my internal world and creating windows into the parts of my life that are most vivid for me.

There seem well more than five things to share. A list of possibilities:

  • How to figure out what your story is. What is or what are the turning points of your life?
  • How to dig down into yourself and find the juicy details.
  • How to find the universal within your individual experience.
  • Why the memory is unreliable and how to get comfortable with the shadows it casts.
  • When you are ready to do so, how you might make peace with telling your truth and surrendering to it, even if it is difficult.
  • Why becoming the teller of your own story is freeing and healing.
  • How acceptance of the events of our lives becomes more possible with the willingness to say/write our truths.

Some things I know for sure: When we write things down, they become real in a way that they aren’t otherwise. When we write about ourselves, we discover things we might not have known through any other route, and with that comes the potential to see ourselves more clearly.

I’ve gained so much insight about myself through this work, and I think you can as well. I hope you’ll join me.

Allison Moorer

Nashville, Tennessee

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New classes begin in September!

If you’ve not yet done so, register in the fields below and be the first to know about this fall’s roster of great live classes and workshops.

(In the meantime: Explore every session from our first two seasons – and view them now, or any time you like.)



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