Char Stiles’ BCSA ’18 project Astroturfing, which connects the influence of social media in China to the supporters of Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election, was featured and reviewed in Digital America.
In his review, Kevin Johnson asks “How do you make decisions in an increasingly complex world? Real or Fake? What has been done? These questions, posted on the endless void of social media, are out of context but packed with meaning. These questions are not human questions. These were asked in a calculated effort to support a cause. To change minds. More specifically, to propagate a political system by posting intentionally influencing messages with the false belief that supporters are in large following. To give false hope. We see in Char Stiles’ Astroturfing that a voice is provided in a void, a backdrop of digitally rendered grass and a dizzying spin as confusing as the messages that rise and sail away from view. We watch a phrase, lifted directly out of any context and sent, as if to be floated to an anonymous viewer, waiting to be influenced. Stiles presents the phrases to be artifices of the ethos of grassroots activism and makes use of knowledgeable resources to support her visuals. This is understood best by a team of Harvard researchers who authored a recent research document stating the inexplicable proof of the effect of China’s “50-Cent Party.”