Artist Spotlight: Michelle Sheng

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Artist Spotlight: Michelle Sheng

Michelle Sheng is a UM rising senior studying computer science and is also a Peer Information Counselor (PIC) at the library. Michelle worked with Angie Oehrli throughout the winter semester to create the exhibit "Changing the Story" which was displayed in the Shapiro Lobby from March 27 through April 2. We asked Michelle to share her thoughts and motivations on creating the exhibit about fake news.

What motivated you to create the display?

I was moved to create this display because of the alarming rate at which I saw so much untrustworthy news appear around me. Participating in politics and being informed are important issues to me because I think everyone should do their best to engage. I really want to help equip people with the skills to do so, as I'm always inspired by people's passion for truth and justice.

But fake news throws a wrench into that process. It is such a deterrent to informed engagement, especially for people who don't necessarily already possess the skills to discern what's legitimate from what's not. It's frustrating to think that sometimes, these stories are made purposely to be attention-grabbing or inflammatory, without regard for whether they're true or helpful or not. Journalism should be held to a higher standard, and we have to be the ones holding them to it!

Tell us about your experience creating the display.

I worked with my library mentor Jo Angela Oehrli, who is both a Learning Librarian and the Children’s Literature Librarian. She's been developing a course about fake news for next fall semester, so she contributed a lot of great strategies and insight that we could share with people.

As far as the visuals are concerned, I was interested in making a display that moved, in a sense. Some of the screens have slight changes that make it look like fires are being turned on and off. The main visual theme is of microphones and megaphones emitting flames, because I wanted to make the danger of fake news really literal. It's a bit heavy-handed, but I think one of the dangers is people brushing fake news aside and thinking it's not that big a deal. I don't mind being a little blunt, because the truth is - though maybe now that's an ironic thing to say - that these inflammatory articles of "news" are as dangerous as fire.

Although our strategies focus on fact-checking, we're doing it for more than just protecting what's "fact" and what's not. These articles have consequences that are far-reaching in a way that's hard to predict; you don't know who will be hurt by the lies and ideas they propagate. Sharing them is just as bad, like adding fuel to their fire. Overall, it feels like the media landscape has transformed into something that people largely don't trust. That's an issue, and it's imperative that we all do our part to address it because there are real human repercussions.

Anything else you would like to share?

I hope people will take the strategies in the slides to heart. Even a little fact-checking, or a little more thoughtful sharing, can make a big difference in media culture and the lives of others.