YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

  • Digital Cosmopolitans: An Interview with Ethan Zuckerman (Part Two)

    by Henry Jenkins

    The word, cosmopolitanism, is often used and often misunderstood. What does the term mean to you? What do you see as the core values or virtues of adopting a more cosmopolitan perspective?

    I debated whether or not to use the world “cosmopolitanism” in the book, as it evokes a sense of globe-hopping placelessness that’s not what I wanted to evoke. But I ended up using it because I found Kwame Appiah’s thinking about cosmopolitanism so helpful.

    Appiah, a Ghanaian-American philosopher, suggests that cosmopolitans recognize that there is more than one acceptable way to live in the world, and that we may have obligations to people who live in very different ways than we do. This, he argues, is one of the possible responses to a world where we find ourselves interacting with people from very different backgrounds. Cosmopolitanism doesn’t demand that we accept all ways of living in the world as equally admirable – he works hard to draw a line between cosmopolitanism and moral relativism – but does demand that we steer away from a fundamentalist or nationalist response that sees our way as the only way and those who believe something different as inferior or unworthy of our consideration or aid.

    I’m struck by how personal a response Appiah’s cosmopolitanism is. He navigates two very different cultures in his life – his academic life in Princeton and his family in Ghana – and aspects of that life, notably his homosexuality, can be very controversial in one environment and uncontroversial in another. The solution he proposes, it struck me, is one of the more thoughtful approaches to life in a world where we continually encounter other ways of thinking and living. A cosmopolitan approach offers us the encouragement to discover other ways of solving a problem while accepting the idea that we may choose to continue living in ways we have in the past. What we are not free to do is to dismiss other ways of living out of hand, or to fall back on a narrow, tribal definition of obligation. It strikes me as a responsible reaction to a world that is connected in ways large and small, in ways we rarely see or understand.

     You discuss across the book the symptoms of an “incomplete globalization.” Is it incomplete in the sense that it is broken or incomplete in the sense that it is still in process? 

    One of the criticisms I’ve received about the book is that it’s insufficiently critical of contemporary global capitalism. One reason critics have brought up that objection is that I’m enthusiastically pro-globalization, though not in the ways most people use that term. I’ve been involved with global economic development for the past two decades, and it has persuaded me that what developing economies need is more globalization, not less. Nations that have the hardest time educating their populations and giving them economic opportunities tend to be those most detached from global trade and migration flows. This doesn’t mean that I support exploitative globalization, and I think that a great deal of what happens at the WTO and other international trade fora is rigged against developing nations. But the enemy isn’t globalization – it’s bad, unfair globalization.

    I use “incomplete globalization” as a way of describing a tension between three types of movement. Atoms are quite free to move across global borders – we’ve built trade systems that allow low-cost sourcing of raw materials and manufactured goods from across continents and oceans. While trade in atoms isn’t barrier free, it’s far less restrained than the flow of people, which has been dramatically restrained in the 20th century, to the great detriment of many in the developing world. I am deeply influenced by Lant Prichett’s arguments which make the case that increased migration would be the single biggest step taken towards economic development in poor nations. My contribution to the debate is to note that globalization of bits often lags behind globalization of atoms, closely following the globalization of people. I am concerned that a world where we globalize atoms and not bits is a dangerous world – we are dependent on other parts of the world without understanding local circumstances. So I would argue for a more complete globalization of atoms, bits and people, in ways that are careful, fair and focused on human development. So “incomplete globalization” is both broken in some ways, and incomplete, though my focus is one the ways it is incomplete and imbalanced between globalization of atoms, people and bits.

    You make a productive distinction in the book between Xenophiles and bridge figures. What are the differences between the two? What kinds of functions do they each serve in connecting people together across national differences? How do they both fit within a larger vision of a more cosmopolitan culture?

    For me, bridge figures are the cultural brokers and translators who work to make cultures understandable to each other. Bridge figures have deep attachments to two or more cultures – they’ve usually lived and worked in different parts of the world, and they’ve chosen to champion those cultures, identifying the good parts in one and introducing them to the other.

    If you’re going to have an advocate for a culture, they need someone to advocate to. Xenophiles are people who seek inspiration and new ideas in different cultures. They don’t have the background in the different cultures to build new bridges, but they can cross the ones that bridge figures build.

    For the project of increasing global understanding and connection, both types of figures are critical. I probably emphasize the function of the bridge figure more thoroughly in Rewire because it’s hard for me to imagine much global connection without bridging. But xenophiles – particularly xenophiles who wear their interests and passions on their sleeves, like Anthony Bourdain and his relentless search for interesting global food – are enormously important in promoting the possibility and importance of international connection. Not everyone can be a bridge figure, I argue – it’s an accident of circumstances as well as a choice of perspective and temperment – but xenophilia is a choice and one I hope more people will make.

     What steps might educators take to foster a greater interest and engagement with the kinds of global communication flows that you value? Is it simply a matter of encouraging Americans to learn foreign language or beefing up geography teaching, or does it require rethinking the curriculum at a deeper level?

    Languages, geography, history and travel are all powerful tools to encourage engagement, but I think we need a more fundamental change in educational systems. We need much greater awareness of interconnection so that the importance of understanding the wider world is far more apparent. We’re lousy about teaching students the complex systems that hold the world together – trade, financial flows, shipping, migration – so it’s not a surprise that complex stories that require us to understand interconnection are hard to develop audiences for.

    Near the end of the book, you discuss “cognitive diversity” and its value in contemporary organizations. How do you define this concept? In what sense is it different from “Identity diversity”? What steps can organizations take to foster and sustain greater “cognitive diversity” in their operations?

    Cognitive diversity and identity diversity have some common ground, but do not fully overlap. Cognitive diversity recognizes different ways of thinking about problems and tends to track to differences in cultural upbringing and education. Two people who have different ethnic and religious backgrounds might think very similarly if they were raised in the same geographic community and attended the same set of schools and trained in the same ways.

    Near the end of Rewire, I argue that teams benefit from cognitive diversity and may need to look for it both through identity diversity and above and beyond identity diversity. This likely requires changing how we recruit talent, looking at broader pools of individuals with different paths towards qualification. It also means making a commitment towards building teams to encourage diversity and accepting some conflict over more comfortable, homophilous teams, possibly trading some degree of comfort and harmony for creative tension.

    Ethan Zuckerman is director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, and a principal research scientist at MIT’s Media Lab.  He is the author of “Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection”, published by W.W. Norton in June 2013. With Rebecca MacKinnon, Ethan co-founded international blogging community Global Voices. Global Voices showcases news and opinions from citizen media in over 150 nations and thirty languages. Ethan’s research focuses on issues of internet freedom, civic engagement through digital tools and international connections through media. He blogs athttp://ethanzuckerman.com/blog and lives in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.

  • Mapping the Trayvon Martin Media Controversy

    by erhardt

    This is a summary of the article “The Battle for ‘Trayvon
    Martin’: Mapping a Media Controversy Online and Offline,” co-authored by
    Erhardt Graeff, Matt Stempeck, and Ethan Zuckerman and appearing as the lead
    article in the February 2014 issue of First Monday: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4947.

    News coverage about the killing of Trayvon Martin started as a short-lived, local
    Florida news piece, but through strategic activation of traditional broadcast media and
    participatory online activism, eventually became
    the most-widely covered story about race in the last five years. The story drew
    immense coverage from professional journalists and active public engagement online and
    offline, offering a potent case study for examining the role and influence of
    participatory media on media agendas.

    To make this research possible, we’ve been building Media Cloud with colleagues at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and
    Society. It’s a toolset for rigorous, quantitative studies of media agendas
    and frames. Media Cloud collects stories from a corpus of more than 27,000 mainstream
    media and blog sources, and uses a link-following methodology to expand the corpus to
    other relevant sources.

    The first major
    analysis to use Media Cloud’s tools for the purposes of “controversy
    mapping” considered the emergence in nontraditional, online media of opposition
    to proposed SOPA-PIPA legislation. In contrast to SOPA-PIPA, the Trayvon Martin story
    occurred and unfolded substantially offline: the shooting of a black teenager
    eventually sparked a national debate across multiple media channels, in rallies and
    marches, and in the speeches and actions of major political figures. Initially, the
    story passed with little notice, but the efforts of a small pro bono team of
    lawyers and publicists attracted the national limelight. From there, the Trayvon Martin
    story spread to broader audiences through a widely signed online petition, 24x7 cable
    news coverage, multiple activist campaigns including competing political agendas pushed
    by participatory media, a deeply emotional response from President Obama, and a widely
    televised criminal trial.


    To understand the full arc of the Trayvon Martin story, we extended and refined the
    SOPA-PIPA study’s website-focused methodology. First, we collected data from a
    diverse range of social and professional media sources to analyze the story, looking at
    the volume of references to the story: in hashtags and individual tweets on Twitter; on
    television news’s closed caption transcripts (using
    Archive.org’s TVNews archive); in
    Google searches for the two main subjects; in front page coverage in national
    newspapers (using PageOneX); and through online
    actions by the public in the form of Change.org petition signatures. Conceiving of the
    media ecosystem as a network demanded a network analysis approach to influence, for
    which we used Gephi and the PageRank algorithm. We complemented and
    informed the direction of our quantitative analysis by interviewing media activists
    involved in the early stages of the Trayvon Martin controversy.

    Summary of Data Collected for Period of February 26–April 30,


    Data forTotal Period


    Spark line (normalized intensity over time)

    Media Cloud Articles/Posts


    490(23 Mar)

    Front Page Newspaper Coverage (%)


    27.25(12 Apr)

    Broadcast Television Mentions


    117(10 Apr)

    Google Searches for ‘Trayvon Martin’ (%)

    18.2(average relative to peak)

    100(24 Mar)

    Google Searches for ‘George Zimmerman’ (%)

    6.4(average relative to ‘Trayvon Martin’ peak)

    39(11 Apr)



    74,247(24 Mar)

    Change.org Petition Signatures


    457,775(22 Mar)

    bitly Clicks


    101,879(23 Mar)

    In order to directly compare volumes of attention to each other and appreciate the
    general ebbs and flows in attention paid to the story, we normalized the volumes of
    each media type per day according to their own peak, and then graphed them along a

    Figure 1: Normalized Histogram of Collected Data

    We broke this timeline into five “acts” based on pivotal events that
    served as catalysts of major events, as well as content of the most heavily cited
    stories in our Media Cloud corpus.


    Act I: Not a Story (February 26–March 6)

    The day after Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman, February 27th, the
    shooting death was covered, like many crime stories, by a local television news
    channel. It appeared on Fox 35 Orlando's news program. On February 29th, the
    Orlando Sentinel ran a story. On March 2nd,
    The Miami Herald picked up the story. After that, nearly a week passed
    without any additional press mentions. After this small amount of local coverage, we
    would expect the story to be over, as the news cycle had moved on.

    Act II: Building Pressure (March 7–15)

    Figure 2: Network of Interlinked Media during Act II

    The second “act” of the story begins on March 7th and 8th, ten days
    after Martin's death, when the story received a new wave of media attention from two of
    the national media's largest outlets: the Reuters newswire and the CBS program This
    Morning. This resurgence in interest was the direct result of efforts to publicize
    the story: Martin’s family was able to enlist the legal services of civil rights
    attorney Benjamin Crump on a pro bono basis. Crump brought on local lawyer
    Natalie Jackson and publicist Ryan Julison.

    Within a day of joining the effort, Julison began reaching out to the largest
    national media sources (as measured by audience reach) and worked his way down until he
    found interest from Reuters and CBS This Morning. This mainstream media
    coverage helped Julison and Crump generate more stories, but also brought the story to
    the attention of an online audience. One reader,
    Kevin Cunningham, saw the Reuters piece shared on a Howard University email
    listserv. Frustrated by the relative paucity of media coverage and incensed by the lack
    of justice, he began
    a Change.org petition on March 8th.

    Our graphs show that alongside local coverage of the now national story—most
    prominently NBC affiliate
    WESH—Race-based media led by
    Global Grind, and to a lesser extent activist outlets ColorOfChange and the Black Youth
    Project, played key roles during this act. ‘Trayvon Martin’ appeared on

    Google Trends on March 8th for the first time. The Change.org petition (the most
    prominent gray node in the graph above) gained a significant increase in signatures
    following this continued interest for the story (indicated by the searches), making it
    an early leader in relative media attention according to our normalized histogram.

    On March 14th, while other media channels were still relatively quiet on the story,
    there was a strong increase in signatures on the Change.org petition (116,391). The
    surge continued on March 15th. Using Change.org’s petition traffic data, we were
    able to link this surge of interest back to supportive tweets from a number of
    celebrities. Specifically, Change.org employee Timothy Newman elicited supportive
    tweets from celebrities such as Talib Kweli, Wyclef Jean, Spike Lee, Mia Farrow, and
    Chad Ochocinco, creating a 900 percent spike in social media traffic to the petition
    between March 12th and 15th.

    Figure 3: Celebrity-driven surge in Change.org signatures (dark blue) while the
    story begins to gain traction in other media

    Act III: National Exposure (March 16–22)

    Figure 4: Network of Interlinked Media during Act III

    In Act III, the mainstream media strengthened their positions as the predominant
    authorities. The energy building around the story accelerated sharply on March 16th,
    when Crump was successful in his quest to secure the public release of the audio of the
    911 call Zimmerman placed while he pursued Martin with a gun. The audio of the call
    established that the 911 operator asked Zimmerman not to pursue Martin.

    This explosive evidence increased the story’s reach across the Web. We see
    upticks in Media Cloud stories and Google Searches for both Martin and Zimmerman. While
    television had helped spread the Trayvon story in Act II, Broadcast Television took up
    the story in earnest after the release of the 911 tapes. The audio may have been
    especially important for broadcast media, as it gave radio and television an
    “actuality” to build a story around.

    Figure 5: Effect of 911 Tapes on Media Attention—general rise on all media
    channels on 17 March, with notable spikes in Media Cloud stories (light blue) and
    Television coverage (green) on March 18th

    This strong televised coverage preceded a second wave of sharp growth in Change.org
    petition signatures and mentions in online news article and blog posts. The Change.org
    petition surpassed a million signatures, and civil rights leaders and activists began
    holding rallies and marches in Sanford, New York
    City, London, and elsewhere starting March 21st. The most notable of these marches
    was the Million Hoodie March
    in New York City, initiated by digital strategist
    Daniel Maree.

    Act IV: Political Agenda Wars (March 23–April 10)

    Figure 7: Network of Interlinked Media during Act IV

    Nearly a month after Martin was shot, a reporter asked President Obama about the
    case during an unrelated press conference in the White House Rose Garden. The President
    alluded to the potential of racial profiling by saying that if he had a son, he would
    “look a lot like

    The day following Obama’s statement brought hundreds of blog posts, tens of
    thousands of tweets, continued strong TV coverage, front page stories in national
    newspapers, and shortly afterwards, the Change.org petition passed the two million
    signatures mark. On March 25th, Howard University students released their video
    campaign entitled “Am I
    Suspicious?” which garnered hundreds of thousands of online views and

    additional media attention. On March 26th, the Change.org petition signatures were
    delivered to the Florida Attorney General, Sanford Police Chief, US Attorney General,
    and Florida's 4th District State's Attorney.

    The actions taken online and offline, incendiary comments by pundit Geraldo
    Rivera, and the President’s statement broadened the story beyond the focus on
    the events of February 26th.
    The Pew Research Center reported that the Trayvon Martin story “received the
    highest level of sustained coverage of any other story with a racial component”
    they had seen in the past five years of weekly media tracking. Given the broad media
    attention paid to the case, what started as a battle for justice around a singular
    event became a political battle, with both sides harnessing the attention trained on
    the story for political gain.

    We used subgraphs of the linked Media Cloud network to understand different media
    framings of the story. This allowed us to identify which actors were important in
    introducing the frames. In this act, we see evidence that actors on the political right
    worked to establish a narrative that undercut our understanding of Martin as an
    innocent victim.

    On March 25th, Dan Linehan, lead author of the Wagist blog,
    asserted that Trayvon was a drug dealer. This reframing of Trayvon as dangerous,
    not innocent, was then amplified by a number of right wing blogs. Although there was no
    solid evidence to support the Wagist’s claim that Martin was a drug dealer, the
    narrative was effective in that it ended up being echoed by those in the mainstream
    media, if only to report that there was no credible evidence that the claim is
    accurate. This strategy of introducing a new story framing worked, at least as
    determined by volume of mainstream media mentions of the argument that Trayvon
    wasn’t an innocent teen.

    Figure 9: Network of Interlinked Media mentioning ‘Drug Dealer’ during
    Act IV

    The influence of Wagist is visible in ‘drug dealer’ sub-graphs in Figure
    9. We even see Left-leaning blogs and organizations like Think Progress repeating the
    framing, if only to chime in and debunk the assertions. Activist on the Right were able
    to gain mainstream coverage for their framing, causing opponents to respond,
    perpetuating a debate that features the desired framing.

    We also identified concerted efforts to use the attention the story had attracted to
    connect the public to broader national issues behind the events. The Center for Media
    and Democracy, a progressive group concerned about the influence of the American
    Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) proved very effective in propagating their own
    original reporting, published on their website PRWatch.org and through their campaign microsite ALEC Exposed. The organization had begun an anti-ALEC
    campaign seven months before Trayvon Martin was shot, and
    successfully made the connection between the shoot-first Stand Your Ground law used
    to justify Zimmerman's actions and ALEC’s behind-the-scenes influence in passing
    these laws in 24 states.

    Figure 11: Network of Interlinked Media mentioning ‘American Legislative
    Exchange Council’ or ‘ALEC’ during Act IV

    Huffington Post contributors wrote pieces connecting ALEC, Trayvon, and
    Stand Your Ground. These pieces made arguments that were soon echoed elsewhere in the
    liberal blogosphere. From March 21st on, ALEC can be seen as a sustained frame in our
    Media Cloud data.

    The Left
    successfully pressured several of the target ALEC sponsor companies to end their
    relationship with the lobbying council. The public attention to the Trayvon Martin
    story drove the pressure that eventually resulted in the campaign’s victory. On
    17 April,
    ALEC announced plans to shut down the Task Force behind the controversial Stand
    Your Ground laws.

    Act V: Tabloid Court Case (April 11–30)

    Figure 12: Network of Interlinked Media during Act V

    Six weeks after Martin was shot, Zimmerman was taken into police custody. Google
    searches for ‘George Zimmerman’ peaked, alongside a final, smaller spike in
    searches for ‘Trayvon Martin.’ Front page newspaper coverage peaked the day
    after the arrest, again suggesting a need for actualities as “news hooks”
    for newspaper stories.

    Figure 13: Tabloid court case patterns of media attention during Act V: Broadcast
    Television News (green) stays focused on the story as other channels significantly
    decrease—April 19th sees peak of 117 mentions in TV news, well after other media
    have peaked; Shift in Google Trends volume toward “George Zimmerman”
    (orange) vs. “Trayvon Martin” (turquoise) mirrors the shift in the story to
    focus on Zimmerman’s legal battle

    In this final act of the narrative, news outlets played up a human drama angle,
    giving a tabloid tone to the stories. TV coverage was consistently middle-to-high and
    spiking regularly up to and around its peak, while the attention spikes in Google
    searches, newspaper front pages, and Media Cloud mentions dissipated shortly after
    Zimmerman’s arrest.


    We looked closely at clicks on the link-shortening service bitly and found that
    non-race-specific mainstream media still dominates the lists of most clicked on
    stories, just like they do in the network maps. However, we also see across our data
    and different methods that blogs and niche media, including race-specific media, can
    direct attention to their own accounts of the story with profound effects on the
    overall media ecosystem.

    Table 5: Top 25 Most Clicked Media Sources across All Acts according to bitly

    Media Source


    Total Clicks

    Twitter Clicks

    Facebook Clicks

    Other Clicks

    Think Progress


















    Washington Post






    The Huffington Post












    The Orlando Sentinel






    CBS News






    The Miami Herald


















    FOX News


















    The New Yorker












    The Daily News New York






    Reuters: Top News






    BuzzFeed - Latest
























    USA Today






    The Onion






    Slate Magazine






    Table 6: Top 10 Most Clicked Media Sources during Act II according to bitly

    Media Source


    Total Clicks

    Twitter Clicks

    Facebook Clicks

    Other Clicks







    The Huffington Post






    CBS News
























    The Atlantic Monthly












    The Miami Herald












    Table 7: Top 10 Most Clicked Media Sources during Act III according to bitly

    Media Source


    Total Clicks

    Twitter Clicks

    Facebook Clicks

    Other Clicks

    Think Progress












    The Huffington Post


















    The Miami Herald


















    CBS News






     The New Yorker






    The bitly data suggests that the link economy and ensuing network of media sources
    is only a partial proxy for actual authority and influence in the attention economy of
    news media. Clicks are a better proxy for readership than simply the existence of links
    to stories.

    As noted in Act II and III of the Chronological analysis, alongside Change.org,
    Race-specific Media were key to the early mobilization that built up the pressure and
    helped make the story a national one. However, their lack of incoming links may mean
    that they were “gated” by mainstream media sources when it comes to the
    link economy. Yet outside of that context, they enjoyed huge success on platforms like
    Facebook, where related events like the Million Hoodie March in NYC were organized.


    Our key finding is that broadcast media is still important as an amplifier
    and gatekeeper, but that it is susceptible to media activists working through
    participatory media to co-create the news and influence the framing of major
    controversies. Benjamin Crump’s strategy to focus PR efforts on
    broadcast media brought national attention to the story, which allowed groups like the
    Black Youth Project to amplify stories to their online communities, and informed actors
    like Cunningham who launched campaigns like the Change.org petition. Without the
    initial coverage on newswires and television, it is unclear that online communities
    would have known about the Trayvon Martin case and been able to mobilize around it.

    In the work of conservative and liberal commentators during “Act IV” in
    our analysis, we find that television and newspapers are sensitive to new developments
    in stories they have already begun to cover. This openness to new developments may make
    some news outlets unwitting amplifiers of outside political agendas, while other news
    outlets may intentionally amplify partisan messages when convenient, both products of
    networked framing.

    debates about the relationship between professional and nonprofessional media
    suggest a parasitic relationship between professional and social media, where
    professionals report stories and social media argues about them, creating little
    additional value. Our research suggests the narrative is far more complicated. In
    unearthing content from social networks about Trayvon's past, conservative bloggers
    attempted to contribute original reporting to the dialog, while
    Think Progress and others took on a verification role, challenging the facts
    unearthed and their interpretation.

    In some cases, members of the public using social media present interpretations of
    events which themselves become newsworthy, as in the case of newspapers amplifying the
    framing of Martin as blameworthy. In other cases, social media becomes a tool to
    organize responses to events reported in professional media. Responses like the Million
    Hoodie March and the “Am I Suspicious?” video became news stories in and of
    themselves, leading to additional coverage and extending the lifespan of the story.

    Finally, this study demonstrates the complexity of contemporary media ecosystems and
    the need for tools, techniques, and data sources that allow us to empirically study the
    spread of ideas between media, examining influences of participatory media on
    professional media and vice versa. Work like Memetracker’s ability to analyze quote
    propagation and manipulation across news media, Stuart Soroka’s use of
    automated coding and sentiment analysis to study newsroom bias and gatekeeping, and
    emerging uses of Media Cloud for controversy mapping should be continued and augmented
    with “real world” data and broader sources of media online and offline.

    Read the complete case study at http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4947/3821.media ecologymedia ecosystemsmedia cloudtrayvon martincontroversy mapperCivic media

  • The Civic Art Initiative presents Kambui Olujimi

    by kanarinka

    On Thursday, February 6th, the Civic Art Initiative recently partnered with the List Gallery at MIT to host a lunch and participatory art event with artist Kambui Olujimi. Here's a brief excerpt about his project which is installed in the Bakalar Gallery until Feb 23rd:
    Kambui Olujimi works in a variety of media, ranging from film to installation to photography. His past projects have often included viewer participation in projects that explore social practices such as dream interpretation, penny wishing, and photo sharing. List Projects: Kambui Olujimi features A Life in Pictures, an interactive installation functioning as a social space where visitors will be invited to exchange their own photos with selections from the artist’s photo archive. For this project, Olujimi will provide over two thousand of his own photographs to exchange with visitors’ pictures from their lives. Participants will be asked to record and share their thoughts about the personal photos that they have contributed and the ones they’ve exchanged from Olujimi’s archive. The picture exchange mimics the way the public shares images online but that exchange is recontextualized by creating a physical space for individuals to give and receive photographs. A Life in Pictures allows visitors to interject moments from their own lives into a larger shared life in pictures. -- from the List's project page

    Kambui introduced us to A Life in Pictures by first giving us a brief overview of his work. He shows projects like Hide and Seek,  a piece for the Bearden Centennial, that explore ideas of commemoration. "When we commemorate someone, we often obscure the individual," says Kambui. In this project, he wrapped trophies with paper, showing what becomes just beyond us.
    He describes how, after 9/11, we saw a cycle of accusation, rewards, and suspects. In The Clouds are After Me, Kambui put together 350 wanted posters that featured clouds. Some of the pieces reference actual events from the time the work was being generated (Bernie Madoff, etc) and others reference categories of legal persecution. "The breadth of the work was beyond you as a viewer" says Kambui, with the pieces distributed across both East and West coasts.
    Kambui returned to the US after living abroad just as the 2008 recession hit. In a lot of conversations, people expressed that they were doing their best -- hitting against prescribed roles and capacities. In Finding and Forgetting, Kombui created a piece inspired by the Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island -- a rickety wooden construction that everyone expects to fail, and that continues to ride on. Finding and Forgetting is a series of platforms that require an action from two dancers in two spaces who danced to synchronized soundtracks until they reached exhaustion. A year later, Kambui put the piece together and danced an entire work day. He was inspired by dance marathons from the 20's and 30's.
    "Was there music?" asked Catherine. "Oh yeah," says Kambui. He started out strong in the morning, but he lost motivation from 8am to noon. Around lunchtime, people started to join him. From 2-5pm, he struggled with cramps. Then, a good friend joined him; "Are you going to stop now?" No way!
    In A Life in Pictures, Kambui is interested in the relationship between the individual and the collective. "How do individuals become abstracted?" he asks. In the installation, constructed as a quasi-domestic space, a pile of chairs and projectors show 1200 printed snapshots from his life strewn across a long table where people are encouraged to sit and sift through the photos. Participants can bring a photo from their life and take away with a photo from his life. The project starts out as a biography of Kambui and changes over time into a "biography of our time." He has done the project five times in different locations around the world and the archive has gradually transformed into something beyond just the autobiography of Kambui. If a participant wishes, they can conduct an interview about the photo they brought and describe why they chose to take away the photo they take away.
    After Kambui's talk, the group adjourned to the installation and spent over an hour sifting through photos, sharing photos they brought with each other, and talking with Kambui about where the photos came from. Many people made photo exchanges and several conducted interviews.
    About the Civic Art Initiative
    The Civic Art Initiative sits at the intersection of civic media practices and art practices. We explore and develop cultural strategies to engage the public in complex issues, build community, and create change. Civic art combines civic media practices like data journalism, networked storytelling, meme-making, data visualization, tactical media, collaborative design, and community organizing with art practices like community and public art, socially-engaged art, performance, interventionist aesthetics, and contestational design.
    The Civic Art Initiative is a series of lunches with guest speakers and civic artists who will explore the possibilities of these emerging expressive forms, share their work, and incite conversation. We invite partnerships and collaborations as we chart this path. In the future, we hope to host workshops with visiting artists and, invite civic artists to be in residence at MIT, and develop art-centered approaches to civic and cultural change with MIT students and communities.
    The Civic Art Initiative is organized by Catherine D'Ignazio and Desi Gonzalez and hosted by the MIT Center for Civic Media and Comparative Media Studies/Writing with the support of Foreign Languages & Literature and Digital Humanities.

  • Digital Cosmpolitans: An Interview with Ethan Zuckerman (Part One)

    by Henry Jenkins

    Ethan Zuckerman is one of the big thinkers, and doers who consistently inspires me. His Wikipedia entry identifies him as “an American media scholar, blogger, and internet activist.” All of this is true, but that’s just part of the picture. He’s also someone who consults regularly with major foundations, think tanks, NGOs, and policy-makers, as they try to understand the potentials, and risks, of networked computing. As the founder of GeekCorps and Global Voices, he’s put his geeky skills to work to try to change the problems which worry him the most about our contemporary culture. He’s someone who has a formed a network of other bloggers and digital activists around the world, and someone who travels often to parts of the planet that most of us could not point out on a map, in order to better understand the political, cultural, and technological conditions on the ground there. He’s become one of our best thinkers about “digital age civics” and through his work as the Director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, he’s leading a team of graduate students as they seek to design tools which might empower activists and community leaders to be more effective at fostering social change. He does this while remaining mild-mannered, easy-going, modest, and open-minded, a model for what an engaged public intellectual might look like in the 21st century. I am lucky to be able to call him a friend.

    Last year, he published an important and timely book, Rewired: Digital Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Connection, which should be required reading for all Americans. Zuckerman is asking us to think more deeply about how we learn about the world and whether our access to the WORLD Wide Web has done much to change the parochialism within our culture. Here, he draws on the full range of his experiences to bring us face to face with the blind spots in our information consumption, with the challenges in overcoming isolationist and xenophobic tendencies in our society, but also to propose alternative strategies by which some people are becoming “bridge builders” who embrace diversity and insure that we have greater access to alternative  perspectives. Zuckerman understands the complexities and contradictions of our current moment, adopting a position that is sometimes optimistic, somethings skeptical, but always feels  is in the service of building a better society.

    In the interview that follows, Zuckerman spells out some of the core concepts from Rewired, including some consideration of what the book might have to say to fans, journalists, educators, and other citizens.

    Much of the media discussion around the Arab Spring movements has centered on the fantasy of more person-to-person communications across borders via social media rather than through the more formal relations between nations or the mediated communications of traditional journalism. Why has this fantasy of a “Twitter Revolution” proven so compelling to people when their everyday practices often involve relatively limited communications outside of their immediate circles of friends and families?

    Like many compelling fantasies, the Twitter Revolution myth has some roots in fact. Tunisia’s revolution had a strong media component. Protests in Sidi Bouzid would likely have been invisible to the rest of Tunisia and the rest of the world had they not been documented on Facebook, edited and contextualized by Nawaat.org and amplified by Al Jazeera. And there are deep ties between activists in Tunisia and in Egypt that helped spread ideology and tactics of those revolutions via social media. But any account of the Arab Spring that doesn’t focus on existing labor movements, soccer fanclubs, neighborhood organizations and other forms of offline social organizing misses the point.
    I think Twitter revolutions are such a compelling idea because they allow us to inscribe ourselves on global events. If digital media is the key actor in a political event, and we’re participating by amplifying tweets online, we are part of the revolution, an exciting and compelling prospect. And there are times when this, too, is true – if an event is visible locally and invisible globally, and we take responsibility for translating and amplifying it, leading to global coverage, we might, in fact, share some credit for changing circumstances on the ground.
    But this ability to be a participant in a minor way in a global event tends to blind us to our more ordinary use of these media. Very few of us are Andy Carvin, using our online presence to curate digital media and connect our readers to global events. Our use of these tools tends to be about connecting with friends and interests that are far closer to home. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that – it’s fine for social media to be a tool that connects us locally if we have other media that informs and connects us globally. What strikes me as dangerous is the illusion of connection, the compelling idea that we are encountering global perspectives via digital media when we’re mostly reinforcing local ones.

    You write, “[New Media] tools help us to discover what we want to know, but they’re not very powerful in helping us discover what we might need to know.” This seems to be a central theme of the book, that we have opened up new channels of communication which might allow us to connect with others around the world, but that our use of those tools has been limited by a lack of motivation or understanding. We seek out information only about those topics we already care about, and a large part of the world falls outside of that zone of interests. What are some of the signs that our interest in the world is more limited than our technological reach at the present time?

     I think the main reminder is sense of surprise that pervades much of modern life. The Arab Spring was a surprise, but only up to a point. For those few watching Tunisian social media, it became clear pretty quickly that something deeply unusual and transformative was taking place. At Global Voices, we were able to see the protests unfolding weeks before they received attention in mainstream American media. There’s a strong tendency in our contemporary media environment to pay attention to stories only when they’ve reached a crisis point – we’re always arriving in the fourth act, and we never stay through the denoument. It’s possible to imagine a form of media that’s scanning the horizons and giving us a better sense of what’s coming, not what’s already arrived.
    I think a second reminder is our ability to turn on global networks at moments of crisis. The global response to SARS was quite amazing – within a week of identifying a new syndrome, the WHO had global videoconferences that allowed frontline medical personnel to identify symptoms and jointly diagnose new cases. Once those networks were set up, the spread of the disease slowed dramatically. When we need international connection, we’re capable of bringing it about very quickly.
    One of the reasons the book has been challenging to describe is that this question you’re asking -what are we missing when we’re so tightly attached to local media – is a really hard one to answer. I tend to understand it in personal terms. I follow African media, particularly west African media, quite closely, due to my long personal ties to the region, and as a result, I see stories well in advance of their visibility in broader media. And while that sounds self-congratulatory, patting myself on the back for my global vision, the actual experience is more anxiety-producing, because it’s a perpetual reminder of how much there is to know and discover. The little I know about Nigerian politics that most Americans don’t is a perpetual reminder of how much else is going on in the world, and how little we encounter until it manifests as a crisis or emergency.

    What roles does the news media play in shaping what we care about and conversely, to what degree does our lack of concern or interest impact what the news media is prepared to cover?

    I think this relationship between caring and coverage matters much more than it did a generation ago. Newspapers include stories on a wide range of topics, local, national and international. Until recently, our sense for what readers wanted to hear about came from newsstand sales and letters to the editor, very inexact tools for understanding which stories were being read and which were being ignored. Now we have incredibly granular information, that shows interest on a story by story level, including readership and time spent per reader per article. Publishers are acutely aware of these statistics, and more editors and writers are becoming aware of these figures. It becomes harder and harder for authors to report on stories that don’t already have an audience, as there’s a very strong temptation to write what people want to hear, as they will reward you with their attention.

    This becomes a circular equation, because people need help developing an interest in new topics. A fascinating story isn’t immediately apparent or comprehensible to an audience. Take the mortgage crisis a few years back – most coverage focused on the moment to moment details, featuring stories that were comprehensible to financial professionals and few others. This American Life made a major investment – an hour-long story called The Giant Pool of Money – that helped audiences understand the crisis and become better consumers of future stories on the crisis. If we wanted people to pay attention to protests in Sudan (people beyond those of us who are already watching those protests), we’d need to invest time, energy and reader attention in explaining the context and importance… and we’d be gambling that we were able to create an audience for that story in the future. 
    The net result of this cycle, I fear, is that we get an enormous amount of information on stories we “know” are important – the minutia of US federal elections and the machinations of Congress  - and very little information on parts of the world we know little about, care little about, and care little about because we hear little about.

    I’ve often thought that there might be a need to shift from a focus on international news (news about things happening elsewhere on the planet) to global news (news that shows the connections between distant events and people in our own communities.) Would such an approach help resolve the gaps you are describing here? Why or why not?

    I think we’d gain a great deal from journalism that helped contextualize global events in local terms. The best newspapers and broadcasters have historically tried to do this – one of the losses we experience  when local newspapers cut international bureaus is the connection between global stories and local communities. 

    We need something broader, I suspect, as not every event in Myanmar has an immediate local connection. Sometimes we need heroes and heroines – think of Malala in Pakistan and the ways in which her story has been a window into gender and educational issues in that part of the world. While we can go too far and turn a story about issues into a story about a single person, we often benefit from stories that let us feel like we know and care about an individual in another country or culture.
    I think we also need to learn how to tell stories that look at local facets of global issues. A story like climate change is critically important, but extremely difficult to report. We might benefit from an approach to reporting that showed us the implications for different people in different communities, interweaving personal stories with the science and politics of the issues.

    Ethan Zuckerman is director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, and a principal research scientist at MIT’s Media Lab.  He is the author of “Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection”, published by W.W. Norton in June 2013. With Rebecca MacKinnon, Ethan co-founded international blogging community Global Voices. Global Voices showcases news and opinions from citizen media in over 150 nations and thirty languages. Ethan’s research focuses on issues of internet freedom, civic engagement through digital tools and international connections through media. He blogs athttp://ethanzuckerman.com/blog and lives in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.

  • Initial Reflections on Promise Tracker

    by chelsea.barabas

    Last week a group of us from Civic returned from a two-week trip in Brazil, where we were busy testing the initial prototype of a project called Promise Tracker. Our work involved creating a mobile phone application that enables citizens to collect data on infrastructure developments related to promises made by their elected officials.
    As Ethan’s blog outlines , the initial concept of Promise Tracker was born from the observation that in many places around the world, we have achieved open, fair and “bad” elections. Although the international community is increasingly capable of policing blatant election fraud through citizen and third-party election monitoring, the outcomes of these elections are still not strongly related to the performance of the elected officials. Thus, “good” elections, in which people vote for a candidate based on his or her capacity to implement the promises they make during their campaign, remain elusive. With the Promise Tracker project we are hoping to develop a tool and complementary set of practices that provides citizens with the capacity to monitor and hold elected officials accountable to the promises they commit to while in office.
    We were very fortunate to work with some great partners from two different cities in Brazil. In Belo Horizonte, we collaborated with the Office of Strategic Priorities, a branch within the Minas Gerais state government in charge of innovation. The team from Minas provided an invaluable link to community leaders hailing from one specific neighborhood in Below Horizonte, where we held our first workshop. In São Paulo, we collaborated with Rede Nossa São Paulo, a network of community organizations dedicated to creating stronger links between citizens and their government. Through Nossa São Paulo, we were able to connect with a group of citizens recently elected to monitor a specific set of promises that the Mayor has committed to achieving during his term in office.
    Both experiences provided us with rich insights into the challenges and potentials of the Promise Tracker concept. Below I describe a few of the most valuable insights we gained regarding the underlying premises of this work:
    Assumption 1: During elections, promises are made that can be tracked
    This assumption proved tricky for two reasons: 1) There is no clear and obvious guideline for what “counts” as a political promise. In Belo Horizonte, we found it difficult to identify an officially recognized list of promises that were known and acknowledged by both the government and the citizens. This opened us up to thinking about all the potential things that could be considered promise sources (official party platforms, comments made in political debates, commitments made in speeches, etc.). However, without any clear guideline for what “counts” as a promise, it was tough to gather and consolidate that information in one place where concerned citizens could learn about them. In the future, we will have to figure out how to identify and consolidate promises. Then we can identify practices to ensure that citizens are informed about how those promises relate to their priorities and areas of interest. 2) Even where we had a large body of fairly specific promises developed jointly between the government and citizens, most of them were not specific or concrete enough to monitor on an ongoing basis. For instance, last year Nossa São Paulo worked with the mayor’s office to organize a participatory process for defining goals with the citizens of São Paulo. With the help of more than 9,000 Paulistas, the city drafted and committed to 123 promises to be fulfilled by the end of the Mayor’s term in office. However, even when broken down to the sub-prefecture level, none of the public goal descriptions included timelines or specific addresses, which are essential for monitoring ongoing progress of projects over time. Without that clear level of specificity, we foresee challenges in determining how to measure a promise in a way that is deemed valid by both the citizens and the government.
    Assumption 2: Implementation of a promise can be attached to a specific government official and then used during elections as an accountability mechanism.
    Our team agrees that there is great potential for using citizen monitoring activities to open up ongoing feedback loops between concerned citizens and their elected officials. However, it may prove difficult to hold individual politicians accountable for large-scale, multi-faceted projects that extend far beyond their direct purview. For example, if a building contractor is not living up to its end of the deal in the contract to renovate twenty new hospitals, who should be held responsible? The mayor? The municipal minister of health? The contractor? And, more importantly, how do such conversations link back to greater accountability during the next election cycle? With these questions in mind, we are beginning discussions to think through ways to build in opportunities for productive feedback between citizens, the government and other relevant third parties.
    Assumption 3: Goals can be attached to clear, specific means of implementation.
    During our community workshops in Minas Gerais, there was much discussion regarding the unreliability of the neighborhood bus system. As participants from the community explained to us, long bus delays were caused by congestion from too many cars trying to drive on the very small one-way roads throughout the neighborhood. Many possible solutions to this problem were discussed, such as: broadening the roads, making certain streets one-way, or building a bigger thoroughfare through the neighborhood and rerouting the bus system. When weighing these options with different community members there were strong, divergent opinions about what would be the best way to solve this problem. This begs the question: What happens when politicians start to make good on a promise using means that a significant segment of the population doesn’t agree with? Certainly it’s unreasonable to expect all parties to agree on the specific means of implementing a promise. However, we may want to think about ways to support constructive conversations regarding how the implementation of a promise can be improved to address the needs of diverse stakeholders over time.
    Assumption 4: Information changes voting behavior, creating more meaningful election processes
    Around the world, there are many organizations in the business of collecting data regarding politicians’ performances in office. Organizations like Mumbai Votes do a great job of disseminating such information to the public in an accessible way, in the hopes of promote more informed voting decisions come election time. However, it is still unclear how such educational efforts have impacted voting behaviors. Given the large body of work on all the ( sometimes disturbingly irrelevant ) factors that can shape a person’s voting behavior, we still have a lot to figure out in terms of bridging the gap between information gathering and voting behavior during election time. With Promise Tracker, I think the promise of our approach lies in the value of data being collected and disseminated by citizens for citizens, rather than the government or other 3rd party organizations. However, we still need to develop a clearer conception of exactly how the act of collecting and sharing data about an issue someone cares about is going to impact one’s voting behavior.
    These are just some initial reflections. In the coming weeks, we will be working hard with our partners in Brazil to identify viable next steps based on the rich insights we’ve gained from our first set of experiences in the field. Stay tuned for future developments!
    Citizen monitoringdemocracymapping datagovernment

  • Hugo Barra and America’s Technology Blind Spot

    by Ethan

    Hugo Barra is a long-time veteran of the technology industry. Raised in Brazil, he came to MIT in 1996 and completed B.S. and M.Eng. degrees in computer science and electrical engineering before joining wireless software company Lobby7. From there, he joined Nuance Communications and later, Google, working on the Android team, where he rose to Vice President of Android Product Management, becoming one of the public faces of the company, introducing new phones and software to audiences at trade shows.
    Most people, even those who follow tech closely, didn’t know who Barra was until he announced in August of last year that he was leaving Google for Xiaomi, a Chinese manufacturer of smartphones. The departure of a non-Chinese Google executive for a Chinese company was surprising enough to merit coverage throughout the tech press and in the Guardian, where Charles Arthur saw the move as a coup for Xiaomi and reason to ask questions about Google’s strategic leadership around Android.
    Stories about Barra’s job change took on a tabloid quality when writers began speculating that his real reason for leaving Google was a romantic rivalry. Business Insider reported that Barra had been involved with a Google Glass product manager, Amanda Rosenberg, who was now dating Sergey Brin, and Sydney’s Morning Herald reported that Barra’s departure from Google was a “collateral casualty” of the complicated love life of Google’s founder.
    After all, a star executive at America’s most-admired company would never leave for a Chinese phone company because he saw opportunity there. Putting the Pacific between you and a vengeful software billionaire is one of the few logical explanations for an American to want to work in China.
    Barra patiently explained to reporters that he’d come to Xiaomei to work with Bin Lin, the head of Xiaomi, who had been the head of Google’s mobile engineering unit in China. While he was at Google, Barra was impressed with the ways Lin’s team had extended and modified Android, and frequently brought Xiaomi products to the Android team to show off their functionality.
    Barra re-entered the tech press limelight in December when he spoke at Le Web in Paris. His speech was, unsurprisingly, a celebration of the new corporation he joined. But it was, more broadly, a education for European and US techies on the wonders of the Chinese technology industry. Business Insider’s crib of his talk makes Barra sound like a latter-day Marco Polo, returning to Venice with tales of 600 million internet users, 15% annual growth rates and billion dollar IPOs.

    Hugo Barra at his favorite dumpling joint in Beijing
    On the rare occasions American geeks think about the internet in China, they tend to think about the Great Firewall and the 50 Cent Party. This focus on censorship – which is an important fact of life on the Chinese internet – tends to blind Americans to the creativity and vitality of the Chinese internet. (This 2010 article by David Talbot for Technology Review, China’s Internet Paradox, explores this idea in depth.) As a result, we are surprised to learn that China’s most popular social networking site, QZone, has over 600 million users. That Jingdong, an Amazon-like online store offers three hour delivery in major Chinese cities. That tools like WeChat and MoMo offer functionality that’s surprisingly different from social networking models offered by most American and European social networking tools.
    I used the story of Barra and his reports from China to open a recent talk on Rewire at Harvard’s Coop. Our surprise that there’s a thriving and interesting tech industry in China strikes me as a symptom of a larger phenomenon, the ways in which we are insulated from information from places that are culturally distant, even if we’re tightly tied to those nations in terms of migration and trade.
    I give dozens of examples in Rewire of ways in which barriers of language, culture and interest keep us from learning about what’s happening in other parts of the world. But the lack of knowledge of Chinese internet tools is a wonderful example I wish I’d included. QZone, with over 600 million users, is represented in the English-language Wikipedia with a 3k stub, while Twitter, with a slightly smaller userbase, has a massive, 140kb article whose table of contents is longer than the QZone entry.
    When I speak about Rewire, I try to explain why I think it’s important that increased internet connectivity doesn’t inevitably lead to increased interest in or understanding of other cultures. I talk about the challenge of solving massive international problems like global warming without international cooperation, or the missed opportunities to think creatively by maximizing cognitive diversity and approaching problems from different points of view.
    But Hugo Barra’s story offers a much more straightforward motivation: there’s a ton of opportunity in China’s tech industry and Americans and Europeans will be shut out of that opportunity if they’re not aware of what’s going on. Americans may not be especially interested in building tools for Chinese users, but Chinese companies are looking aggressively at overseas markets. Xiaomi recruited Barra precisely because they are excited about expanding beyond manufacturing phones for Chinese markets.
    There’s a massive information asymmetry because the US and China right now. Teams of volunteer translators work to render US and European political and tech media into Chinese – one community, Yeeyan, features more than 100,000 registered translators. Other teams work to subtitle US television programming in Chinese within 12 hours of broadcast. Information in the other direction is brokered by small, underfunded, hardworking projects like Tea Leaf Nation, which provide great translation and contextualization of Chinese stories for the small audiences interested in them.
    Perhaps Barra’s celebration of Chinese internet culture will inspire others to follow his lead and work with Chinese technology companies. Perhaps others will learn what’s exciting about the tech industry in Brazil or Kenya. At the very least, Barra’s story might remind us that there’s a huge world out there we don’t hear enough about and that it takes work on our part to learn more.

  • Youth Radio Named A Finalist for the East Bay Innovation Awards

    by Youth Radio

    Youth Radio has been named a finalist in the second annual East Bay Innovation Awards, hosted by the East Bay Economic Development Alliance and the San Francisco Business Times.  
    The Awards celebrate cutting-edge innovators in clean technology, advanced manufacturing, food, information/communication technology, life sciences, engineering and designm catalyst, and education. They seek to honor those making notable contributions to the East Bay’s culture of innovation.
    Out of more than 100 nominations, Youth Radio has been named a finalist in the “catalyst” category for our work preparing the next generation of leaders and innovators for the new digital economy.

  • How and Where Does Learning Thrive?

    by Howard Gardner

    Visit the CASIE website today to learn more about the upcoming Project Zero Perspectives conference in Memphis, Tennessee!  

  • Announcing Transforming Hollywood: The Futures Of Television

    by Henry Jenkins

    UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
    USC School of Cinematic Arts
    Transforming Hollywood: The Futures of Television, April 4, 2014, UCLA 
    Denise Mann, UCLA
    Henry Jenkins, USC
    Presented by the  Andrew J. Kuehn  Jr. Foundation
    Media Sponsor: Variety
    Friday April 4   2014
    James Bridges Theater, UCLA
    Conference overview:  This year, the fifth installment of Transmedia, Hollywood has been given a new name—Transforming Hollywood: The Future of Television—to reflect our desire to engage more fully with the radical changes taking place in the American television industry for creators, distributors, and audiences. When future generations of historians write their accounts of the evolution of the American television industry, they will almost certainly point to the 2010s as a moment of dramatic change: we’ve seen the entry of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and YouTube as major players shaping the production of original programming, gaining critical praise, courting industry awards, and perhaps, most dramatically, starting to compete in terms of number of subscriptions to the top cable networks. We’ve seen Kickstarter emerge as an alternative means for “crowdfunding” television content, allowing fans to exert a greater role in shaping the future of their favorite series. We’ve seen a continued growth in the number of independent producers creating and distributing their content through the web. And with these other changes, we are seeing the industry and academia struggle to develop new insights into what it means to consume television content in this connected and yet dispersed marketplace. This conference will bring together key creative and corporate decision-makers who are shaping these changes and academics who have been trying to place these shifts in their larger historical and cultural contexts. What does all of this mean for those of us who are making or watching television?
    For more information, see http://www.liquid-bass.com/conference/
    For conference Registration, see : http://transmediahollywood4.eventbrite.com/#
    Panel one: “Virtual Entrepreneurs—Creators Who are Reinventing TV for the Digital Future.” 
    9-9:10 Opening Remarks
    Henry Jenkins, USC and Denise Mann, UCLA
    Moderator: Denise Mann, UCLA
    In the fall of 2011, Google announced plans to invest a hundred million dollars to forge talent partnerships with a number of talented YouTube creator in order to enhance the production value of their work and their value to brands. This panel gives voice to two new types of virtual entrepreneur: individual web-creators who are reinventing entertainment for the digital age, and the CEO of a new type of web-based multi-channel network (MCNs), which is forging deals with individual web-creators in exchange for providing them with infrastructural support in the form of sound stages, green screens, higher quality cameras and editing equipment, enhanced social media marketing tools, and brand alliances. Early entrepreneurs in this newly commercial, digital economy include Felicia Day and Sheri Bryant (Geek and Sundry), Freddie Wong (Video High School), and Dane Boetlinger (Annoying Orange), each of whom has catapulted his or herself into the top tier of web-celebs based on huge fan followings.  Many of these entrepreneurial web-creators have sought out deals with MCNS, such as Maker, Fullscreen, Maker, Machinima, and The Collective, in order to expand their budding entertainment enterprises. However, other creators are chafing inside these long-term contracts with the MCNs, frustrated by what they see as onerous terms—the split of advertising revenues and intellectual property rights. Today’s panel debates the viability of these new creative and business models, asking whether they represent a radical rethinking of entertainment that puts power back into the hands of creators or are they transitional systems that will eventually be absorbed by Hollywood’s big media groups.

    George Strompolos, CEO, Fullscreen
    Amanda Lotz, Associate Professor, University of Michigan
    Sheri Bryant, Partner,  Geek & Sundry

    2.“The Programmers of the Future: Video Streaming on Demand.” 
    Moderator: Andrew Wallenstein, Editor-in-Chief, Digital, Variety
    Overview: As consumers spend more of their free time online, viewing and sharing content on social networks such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, Tumblir, and Vine, what does this mean for the future of television? Cord-cutters and cord-nevers represent a very real threat to the current big dogs of digital distribution—the multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), also known as the subscription cable systems (Comcast, Time-Warner, Comcast), the satellite carriers (Direct TV), the telcos (AT&T U-verse), and the wireless companies (Verizon FiOS). At the same time, the MVPDs have been waging too many public battles with the Hollywood broadcasters over their high re-transmission fees, resorting to theatrics by pulling favorite sporting events and sit-coms–behavior that alienates consumers and tests the patience of government policy-makers.  At the same time, these policy-makers are making little effort to curb the reckless deal-making taking place in the video streaming on demand (VSOD) space as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and new players, such as Microsoft X-box, make aggressive moves to expand globally while freeing themselves from their dependency on Hollywood licensing deals. By creating their own libraries of critically-acclaimed original programming—House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Betas—the VSOD services are creating legions of new, loyal consumers, paving the way for a future that may or may not include Hollywood’s premium content licensing deals going forward. Furthermore, the VSOD services are attracting A-level talent by offering greater creative autonomy than their micro-managing counterparts at the studios and networks. Do these new programming and streaming options foretell the end of an era in Hollywood or the beginning of a revised set of practices for creators and additional viewing options for binging viewers? Only time will tell?
    3. “Second Screens, Connected Viewing, Crowd-funding, and Social Media: Re-imagining Television Consumption.”  
    Moderator: Henry Jenkins, USC
    Overview:  As the television industry has been remapping the flow of media content, as new forms of producers and distributors enter the marketplace, there has also been an accompanying effort to rethink their interface with media audiences.  Over the past decade, we’ve seen a renewed emphasis on audience engagement strategies which seek to insure consumer loyalty and social buzz as a way for individual programs or networks to “break through the clutter” of the multiplying array of media options. New metrics are emerging for measuring the value of engaged viewers and the kinds of social and cultural capital they bring with them when they embrace a program. So, for example, the rise of Black Twitter has been credited with helping to rally support behind new programs with strong black protagonists, such as Scandal, Sleepy Hollow, and Being Mary Jane.  Second screen apps are becoming ubiquitous as television producers seek to hold onto the attention of a generation of viewers who are prone to multitasking impulses. The successful Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign opens up the prospect of fans helping to provide funding in support of their favorite stars, creators, or series. And the commercial success of 50 Shades of Gray, which was adapted from a piece of Twilight fan fiction, has alerted the publishing world to a hitherfore underappreciated value of women’s fan fiction writing as a recruiting ground for new talent and as a source for new creative material. Yet, for all this focus on engaged audiences, does the industry value some form of viewers and viewership more than others? Which groups are being under-represented here and why? Are the new economic arrangements between fans and producers fair to all involved?

    Ivan Askwith, Lead Strategist, Veronica Mars Kickstarter Campaign
    Vicky L Free, Chief Marketing Officer, BET Networks
    Stacey Lynn Schulman, Chief Research Officer, TVB
    Sharon L. Strover, Professor, Department of Radio-Television-Film, College of Communication 

    4. Indie TV: Where Creators and Fans Pilot New Shows
    Moderator: Aymar Jean Christian, Northwestern University
    Overview: The Internet broke the network bottleneck. Through platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, creators release series directly to fans, who follow shows and share them with friends. Web-content creators can write stories in whatever length, style, and genre they choose, on their own schedule, and with actors of their choosing. The result is a truly open television ecosystem, where creators, talent and fans work together to realize stories they want to see. Each of the producers who appear on this panel has contributed to this new vision of television, producing series that are developed for the Internet but are also being shaped for traditional TV as well (several of these series are being developed on HBO). Issa Rae developed The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl with a small team and expanded the show using a successful crowdfunding campaign; she went on to produce a number of series with other creators, including Amy Rubin’s Little Horribles, and for the Black & Sexy TV network, which was launched by Dennis Dortch and Numa Perrier (The Couple).  Jay Bushman helped The Lizzie Bennet Diaries grow into a deeply engaging transmedia phenomenon, where viewers of the Jane Austen-inspired series followed characters from YouTube to Twitter and Pinterest. As these examples convey, the internet has become an incubator for talented, next-generation web-creators and web-celebs, who, in combination with their fan followers, are reinventing television for the digital age.

    Jay Bushman, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
    Issa Rae, Awkward Black Girl
    Amy Rubin, Little Horribles

    Numa Perrier, Black & Sexy TV


  • What Does It Mean to be Youth-Driven?

    by Youth Radio

    When you’ve been doing something for 20 years, if you’re not careful, you can go on auto-pilot.
    Compared to other fields, the risk of stagnation may be less of a concern in a digital media context that never stands still. But even so, at Youth Radio, periodically we step back to reflect on our process of collaborative production that’s been developing here over the past 20+ years. To keep us on our toes.
    The launch of the Innovation Lab has given us lots of opportunities to assess how we typically do things, because we’re having to create new systems and practices. Until Fall of 2013, Youth Radio’s Newsroom and App Lab operated as separate programs. With the Innovation Lab, we’re collaborating. Young people co-produce stories that combine the journalism we’re known for with “bits of technology” (news apps, interactive info graphics, maps, etc.) that bring the story alive and invite our readers/viewers/listeners to personalize and participate in the narrative. All of it–the reporting, the design, the development–is done by youth in partnership with peers and adult professional colleagues.
    In the process of inventing new methods, we’re also revisiting what we do everyday. Last month, the production company staff had a day-long retreat. As part of the agenda, we took up the question: What do we mean when we say we’re a “youth-driven” newsroom? As a way to make our answers concrete, we did a brief scan of other models for youth programming. We talked about:

    Youth-run projects: with less of a focus than our newsroom has on youth-adult collaboration
    Youth development initiatives: with less of a focus on generating professional-grade products than we have here
    Traditional workforce initiatives: where the most important outcome is placement in a job site
    Token youth involvement: where young people are engaged in only superficial ways to make a project appear credible

    With the exception of that last option, which we do everything we can to avoid, there are strong elements of all the other approaches across Youth Radio. (For example, our Pathways program  seeks to place young adults into sustainable careers.) But in our newsroom, we face a distinct set of circumstances, opportunities and pressures that have led to our development of a youth-driven approach.
    What does that look like in action? We explored that question together by organizing our conversation around a set of scenarios. Each brings into relief at least one of the pressures that can, if we’re not careful, pull us off our youth-driven model. For those of you who collaborate with youth on hands-on joint productions, whether in the context of media making, or citizen-science, or community campaigns, it might be useful to consider your big pressures and scenarios your teams can use to talk through what to do to stay true to your particular version of youth-driven activity.
    Pressure #1: Deadlines
    We’re working on a feature that we’ve pitched to a national outlet, and they’re interested. Collaborating with a producer, a newsroom intern has collected all the tape, including scenes and interviews with young people and an analyst. Then a related news story breaks that gets the outlet excited about getting our piece on quickly. The editor calls and asks to see something by the next morning. The young person on the story can’t come in that afternoon. What do you do? How far do you take the story in the young person’s absence?
    Pressure #2: Skills
    We’ve put together a strong script and sent it over to an editor, who likes it but asks for a lot more information establishing the scale of the issue we’re highlighting. The editor wants more data and a sense of the debates relevant to our issue. Answering those kinds of questions would require wading through research publications and public databases, and probably talking to a series of experts representing diverse schools of thought. What role should the young person play in that process, if this is the first big story they’re working on?
    Pressure #3: Stakes
    Let’s say we’ve been working forever, it seems, trying to find a character in a really sensitive story. Several prior candidates have dropped out after talking to us once or twice. It seemed like they were ambivalent about sharing their experiences. What role should young people play in finding leads and tapping their own networks of family members and friends? How important is it for them to be the ones to make the contacts and have the conversations leading to getting someone to go on record? What does that process look like, for the young people in our program and for the story’s possible sources?