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Category Archives: Activism

Cutting out “empty words”: Presentations this week in class

This week, my students are preparing their 12-slide presentation for a project titled, “The Future is Now.”

This is the culmination of a research project and a 3-page report based on Google’s Moonshot program. But it’s not just about creating the content and formatting the slides. I tell my students that they happen to be in “a communications class that pretends to be a computer class”. This week they are watching a TED talk by a 12-year old. But there is another student worth watching this week, Greta Thunberg,  the 16-year old activist from Sweden.

She railed against the grown-ups in the room, for stealing this generation’s childhood with their “empty words.” Speaking of Feedback loops, risks, and tipping points, her emotionally-charged speech warned that “change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

UN Envoy, Sri Lankan, Jayathma Wickramanayake, called climate change “the defining issue of our time. Millions of young people all over the world are already being affected by it.”

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2019 in Activism, Communications, Education

 

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PR Stunt or Learning Moment? When protesters take over class

Student protests happen everywhere, not only during times of turmoil. When I was in Uni, students took over parts of the campus ‘kidnapped a Dean (!) and held him for a few hours. At another time some stormed the campus police station. Most student protests happen in public spaces, with rhetoric aimed at public figures – or at least those people in power.

So what do you make of a situation when a classroom (in Reed College in Portland, Oregon) was turned into a protest space? Is the audience just students like themselves, sounding off their different perspectives? Watch this and think again.

  • Is it possible that the demonstration was set up (this doesn’t seem a spontaneous turnout) to create ‘media’ and not just to hijack the space?
  • Was the debate that took place toward the end, unintended?
  • Was it an appropriate way to address sensitive issues around a Humanities 101 class?

What’s your take?

For some background, read the piece in The Atlantic in November last year.

 

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Cliches don’t work after this school shooting. Students will put spin doctors out of business!

I came across an observation made by Michael Shammas, who asked us to consider what we would say if Kim Jong-un disputed international arms control treaties by adapting the cliché, “Nukes don’t kill people; people kill people!”

We would dismiss it as deranged thinking, wouldn’t we?

The events following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have created a different kind of tipping point. One that shows students’ capacity to hold up these tired clichés and talking points for scrutiny. Such as these lines spoken by a senior at that school:

“They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun: We call BS!”

“They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars: We call BS!”

These students are thoughtful, logical, vocal –the kind of non-polarized citizens a country needs. Imagine what they could accomplish when they get to voting age!

 

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Cut through the spin on Net Neutrality

I don’t blame you if the term ‘Net neutrality‘ make your eyes glaze. However as a battle royale is being waged these weeks, it’s good for us to all get to know the definition of Net neutrality, and what’s at stake.

Before bureaucrats put their spin on it.

Definition – by the ACLU.

Network neutrality means applying well-established “common carrier” rules to the internet in order to preserve its freedom and openness. In other words, the network should discriminating against information by halting, slowing, or otherwise tampering with the transfer of any data

(Older) Definitionby WIRED

Today, privileged companies—including Google, Facebook, and Netflix—already benefit from what are essentially internet fast lanes, and this has been the case for years. Such web giants—and others—now have direct connections to big ISPs like Comcast and Verizon, and they run dedicated computer servers deep inside these ISPs.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Statement

He proposes a return to a Telco as a Title I information service. One with “light-touch regulation”  The wording of the rest of the document looks specious, since it supports the rolling back of regulation with the talk of jobs, competition and privacy.

Firefox (Mozilla) cuts through the legaleseWorth a Read

Under Pai’s proposal, ISPs would be allowed to block, throttle and prioritize (or deprioritize) internet access for Americans. Companies like Comcast and AT&T could selectively slow down or speed up access to online journalism, blogs, films, apps, and other services. This would undo 2015’s hard-won net neutrality protections that took years of hard work.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2017 in Activism, Communications, Technology

 

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The ‘sharing economy’ – Aaron’s article

Worth a read – my son’s article on the new economy movements, and land use practices in a ‘sharing economy.’ He’s spoke on a similar topic last evening at Clark University, Worcester, MA.

 

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2017 in Activism, Best Practices

 

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“Sending a message” – There’s the contents and there’s the medium

Slogans or protest messages on T-shirts get stale, however funny.

Speaking of making a statement, I can’t think of a better artist who has been ‘sending a message’ than Bansky.

But when a mailman landed a gyrocopter on the Washington Mall this week it was not the message that got people’s attention, but the medium. One man in an exposed flying machine.

You know it’s creative because no one seems to be talking about the contents of the envelopes that c was supposedly carrying to the nation’s lawmakers at the Capitol. We are all focused on the delivery method, aren’t we?

Marshall McLuhan  who coined the phrase ‘the medium is the message’ must be smiling, up there. No tweets. No PR agency. No Facebook page. But a pretty powerful statement.

Note: Hughes does maintain a website, where he says

Hello – I’m Doug Hughes, a mailman, pilot and the author of this web site. In my time, I’ve delivered a lot of letters, and I’m delivering 535 letters by ‘air mail’ today – a special delivery to every member of the US Congress.

On this blog post (worth a read) he speaks of wanting to ‘change the narrative’ in Washington about whom we elect. He might succeed — if only the evening news folk will only stop talking about the potential danger of the stunt.

 

 

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Citizens’ voices matter

A few years ago I conducted a series of webinar-style workshops for the U.S. State Department, for content creators, educators, marketers and those in traditional and new media. The workshops were called  “Passport to Digital Citizenship.”

I was convinced that citizen’s voices would be valuable, and –despite technological barriers and people who would try to keep them quiet– they could be heard.

So today, as my book is about to launch, I am thrilled to see this report by CNN on the importance of citizen-driven media.

Journalism has been forever changed — I’d argue for the better — thanks to the fact that people can interact with media organizations and share their opinions, personal stories, and photos and videos of news as it happens. This year’s nominated iReports are prime examples of how participatory storytelling can positively affect the way we cover and understand the news. 

(“36 stories that prove citizen journalism matters.” By Katie Hawkins-Gaar, CNN | Wed April 3, 2013 )

When we talk of  ‘participatory journalism’ we mean that ‘CitJos’ work alongside traditional media. They are not here as a replacement model, but to complement the changing media industry. Of the 100,000 citizen stories submitted to CNNiReport.com in 2012, they used 10,789 –having vetted them first.

I just interviewed the creator of a leading citizen journalist outfit in South Asia, and he stressed the importance of community guidelines, and careful design.

Citizen journalism, and the power of citizen voices is a big section in my book, Chat Republic.

 

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