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.

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  • Non-Conforming Americans: Genre, Race, and Creativity in Popular Music

    by Henry Jenkins


    This is another in a series of posts by the PhD students in the Public Intellectuals seminar I am teaching through the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.
     
    Non-conforming Americans: Genre, Race, and Creativity in Popular Music
    by Rebecca Johnson
    Papa bear and mama bear. One was Black, and one was white, and from day one, they filled our lower eastside Manhattan apartment with sound. Beautiful sounds, organized and arranged, and from song to song they would change in shape, tempo, rhythm, amplitude, voice, instrument and narrative. Sometimes those sounds would come from my father’s guitar playing in the living room, and sometimes, even simultaneously, from my bedroom, where I could often be found recording a newly penned song. But most of the time, those sounds came from speakers.
    Sometimes my father would put on this:

    And the next day he’d play this:

    Sometimes my mother would put on this:

    And the next day she would play this:

    And sometimes, they would both put on this:

    The wide array of sounds that I heard was not just limited to the inner walls of my downtown apartment though. They echoed as I left home every morning to take the train to my upper eastside magnet school, and as I entered that school every day and saw diverse colors in the faces of my classmates, and when I visited my father’s parents in Brooklyn, and then my mother’s parents on Long Island. The sounds I heard became interwoven in my identity, song by song, strand by strand, they became my musical DNA. As I got older, I learned how those sounds came together, replicated, and mutated in the history of a world much bigger than myself. I discovered how those sounds had changed over time, often through deletions and erasures, but also how they had evolved because of the insertion of something new, something extra.
    The sounds I grew up with were all part of the history of popular music in America. Crucial to the trajectory of that history has been the interactions between African Americans and white Americans. The complicated relationship between these two collectivities has informed much of the way we as a society understand how music helps to shape and influence our identities, and how we understand and perceive different styles, or genres, of music themselves. This post aims to explore how these understandings were formed over time, and how they can be reimagined, and challenged, in the digital age.
    Popular music in America from its start was not just about sound, but racialized sound. From the moment African sounds were forcibly brought to America in the hands and mouths and hearts and minds of Black slaves, they were marked as different and in opposition to the European sounds that were already at work in forming the new nation. And yet through music slaves found a positive means of expression, identification and resistance where otherwise they were denied. While they would eventually be freed, the mark of slavery never left the African American sound would be used to label Black music as different and not quite equal. As Karl Hagstrom Miller writes in Segregating Sound, in the 1880s music began to move from something we enjoyed as culture to something we also packaged, marketed, and sold as a business. It was then that “a color line,” or “audio-racial imagination” as music scholar Josh Kun calls it, would become deeply ingrained in much of our understanding of sound and identity (of course, that line had long existed, but it was intensified and became part of the backbone the industry was built on).
    The color line that still runs through music today was in part cemented through the establishment of genres. The function of genre is to categorize and define music, creating boundaries for what different styles of music should and should not sound like, as well as dictating who should be playing and listening to certain types of music and who should not (for example, based on race, gender, class). The essential word here is “should.”
    The racial segregation at the time the music business was taking baby steps played a large role in genre segregation. The separate selling of white and Black “race” records by music companies in the early 1900s assumed a link between taste and (racial) identity. Recorded music meant that listeners could not always tell if the artist they were hearing was white or Black, and thus it became the job of the music and its marketing to do so. Genres of music are living and constantly evolving organisms that feed off of input from musicians, listeners, scholars and key industry players such as music publishers and record labels. The contemporary use of them is a result of this early segmentation.
    A selective, condensed timeline of genre segregation goes something like this. In the early twentieth century many white and Black musicians in the South played the same hillbilly music (including together), which combined the styles of “blues, jazz, old-time fiddle music, and Tin Pan Alley pop.” During this period the best way for musicians to make money was often to be able to perform music that could appeal to both Black and white listeners. Yet hillbilly grew into Country music, a genre first and foremost defined by its whiteness and the way that it helps to construct the idea of what being “white” means. Jump to the age of rock ‘n’ roll, and you find the contributions of Black musicians being appropriated (borrowed, or stolen) and overshadowed by white musicians. If we fast-forward once again to the 1980’s, Black DJs in Chicago and Detroit were creating and playing styles such as house and techno, while white DJs in the U.S. and across the pond in the United Kingdom were simultaneously contributing to the development of electronic music. Yet today, the overarching genre of electronic music, and its numerous subgenres, is commonly known to be a style of music created and played by white DJs.
    The whiteness that came to define many genres meant to a degree erasing the blackness that also existed in them. Styles such as country and hip-hop have become important markers of social identity and cultural practices far beyond mere sound. At the same time, the rules that have come to define many genres have erased the hybrid origins of much of American popular music. They erase the fact that Blacks and whites, for better or worse, have lived, created and shared music side by side. And, they have created identities side by side, in response and through interactions with one another.
    But, what if your identity as a listener or musician doesn’t fit into any of categories provided? What if the music you like, and the identity you’re constantly in the process of forming, goes something like this:

    Unlocking The Truth – Malcolm Brickhouse & Jarad Dawkins from The Avant/Garde Diaries on Vimeo.
    What if you are not as confident as Malcolm and Jarad, and you are faced with a world telling you that your interests lay in the wrong place, because you are the wrong race? What if you’re like me, with skin and an identity created by the bonding of two different worlds, but you are bombarded with messages that tell you life is either about picking one, or figuring out how to navigate between the two?
    Popular music is a space in which identities are imagined, formed, represented and contested. Racialized genre categories that function within the commercial market have not only restricted the ability of musicians to freely and creatively make (and sell) music, but have also impacted the ability of listeners to freely consume.
    Take this encounter, for example:

    While humorous, it is also realistic. In the privacy of homes (or cars), in the safe space of like-minded individuals, and through the headphones attached to portable music players, consumption has always crossed racial lines. In the public arena though, Black listeners, just like Black musicians, have not had the same affordances as white listeners and white musicians to express and participate in non-conformity. This does not erase the fact that these non-conforming consumers exist, or that they have power. The boundaries of genre and the identities they reflect and produce are imposed from the top down and developed from the bottom up. The old institutions will try to exercise and maintain control in the digital age where they can (just as in the physical world), but our current media environment is more consumer driven than ever. Consumers now want to pull or seek out music, rather than having it solely pushed on them.
    We are in a period of transformation. The Internet and new digital technologies have forever altered the landscape of the music industry. The traditional gatekeepers might not be interested in taking risks as they determine how to survive in the digital age, but they no longer hold all of the power. Digital distribution creates new opportunities to have music widely heard outside of established structures. Once revered music critics, many of whom contribute(d) to and reinforce(d) racialized genre boundaries, are now faced with competition from music recommendation websites, music blogs, amateur reviewers and more. In the past radio might have been the medium that enabled artists to spread their music, but the Internet is quickly coming for that title. In an attempt to more properly reflect consumption by listeners, the music charts in Billboard magazine have now begun including YouTube plays and Internet streaming into its calculations. Potentially, anyone can make it to the top.
    The current moment is providing the opportunity to complicate our understanding of racialized sound. The dominant conceptions of what it means to be Black, what it means to be white, and what it means to create music through those identities are being challenged.
    Like this:

    Splitting from genre tradition does not have to erase social identities and histories; it can allow music to expand and breathe. The remix and mashup practices of both hip-hop and electronic music have demonstrated how boundaries and identities can be reimagined in a way that recognizes points of similarity, but also celebrates difference.
    Doing so is how we get songs such as this:

    And artists who make music like this:

    Holes are increasingly punched into the lines drawn to bound music and culture. The racial and ethnic makeup of America is changing. From musicians challenging stereotypes in the studio and on the stage, to series such as NPR’s “When our kids own America,” people are taking notice. The mutations in popular music that led to its evolution have always been about looking back, looking left, and looking right in order to look forward. The digital revolution is about providing the tools to make this happen.
    Rebecca Johnson is a songwriter and Ph.D. student studying the commodification of American popular music in the digital age at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Her work explores how music is produced, marketed, distributed and consumed in a constantly changing, technologically driven, and globally connected world.

  • Sharing Immigrant Stories at the #11milliondreams Storython Boston

    by Rogelio Alejandro Lopez



    #11milliondreams
    The #11milliondreams Storython, held on October 5th and 6th in both Los Angeles and Boston, was a collaborative effort of skill sharing and hands-on building to strengthen media practice in immigrant communities.  Drawing inspiration from social movements such as Occupy, which harnessed media and tech skills from participants in order to create tools and platforms that could better serve their efforts, the Undocutech project tapped into the preexisting resourcefulness and ingenuity of immigrant communities and channeled them into a creative space for tech and media. Since the project began, our role as the Undocutech team has been that of supporting organizer and facilitator, with the goal of amplifying the work conducted by immigrant communities.
    The Storython
    The Storython aims to create a space that is welcoming to all ages and skill sets, and is centered on the idea of creating and sharing compelling personal narratives.  We intentionally did not frame the event as a hackathon, because we became aware of limitations of using the model with immigrant communities.  From our experience, many people either did not know what “hacking” meant or they associated it with advanced technical skill.  However, projects like Migrahack are quickly building bridges between tech communities and immigrant communities, especially through hackathon-style events. On the other hand, stories have been a powerful influence for social change among immigrant communities, and we wanted our event to center around storytelling with media.
    Hanging Out
    On Saturday October 5th, we came together as organizers to set up and touch base with the Los Angeles team via Google hangout.  This provided an opportunity for teams to meet, offer support, and share the experience.  A memorable moment was when Vozmob blogger, Ranferi Ahiezer, communicated in Spanish (with the help of Lead Coordinator Maegan Ortiz’s translation) his desire to connect with us through Twitter. Ranferi mentioned having visited the East Coast in the past and expressed how happy he was to meet new people in Boston.
    Found Objects
    Urban planner and designer James Rojas shared with us the Found Objects workshop idea and materials, in which participants use a variety of objects to reimagine everything from neighborhoods to personal histories.  We began with Found Objects as a way to set the tone for the weekend as a whole.  It is accessible to all ages and skill levels, requires little facilitation, and is hands-on in the most literal sense.  By combining play and building, the activity affords participants the imaginative freedom to interpret objects in a variety of ways – to convey feelings, share moments, navigate space, or reenact a journey.  In an unfamiliar (and potentially intimidating) setting, it inspires a sense of confidence and creates a safe space to share personal stories. Beyond that, Found Objects places the contributions of participants at the forefront.  

    A Boston youth creates her story using a variety of objects during the Found Objects workshop. On the left is her native Guatemala, where she lived her whole life up until three years ago. The blue line represents a geographical border, and the pink arrow is her journey north to the United States. The Statue of Liberty can be seen on the right.
    Mobile Storytelling
    The Mobile Storytelling workshop began with a brief history of the Vozmob project, and how it directly led to the development of the Vojo platform.  We explored notable examples of stories, groups, and campaigns created using both Vozmob and Vojo.  The first task in our workshop was to create a new account by calling the #11milliondreams Vojo group and recording an audio story.  One youth participant told the story of his parent’s immigration to Boston, while another told her own experience of meeting a fellow immigrant from her home country in school.  The second task involved creating picture stories and sharing them with the Vojo group via MMS.  One story pictures a youth standing in front of a world map holding a sign that says his family is attending an immigration march, and another depicts a Found Objects story.
    Digital Video Stories
    The Digital Video Stories workshop, conducted by Center for Civic Media Research Assistant and videographer Heather Craig, covered the basics of creating stories using a variety of video devices and emphasized common techniques and best practices.  First, participants viewed and analyzed videos.  Heather then showcased devices and equipment including DSLR’s, camcorders, shotgun microphones, and tripods.  Participants had the opportunity to handle professional equipment (for the first time, in some cases), although most preferred to shoot on their own devices, especially cell phones, when it came time to interview each other.  The storytellers were encouraged to explore the Media Lab and conduct interviews in different spaces.  Because of the personal nature of the stories, there were varying comfort levels with uploading content.  
    Do Now
    The Do Now activity, which kicked off Sunday’s event, enabled participants to learn more about one another.  In collaboration with Boston youth worker and educator Molly Jones, organizers set up the Do Now on a white board and urged participants to post: 1) something to LEARN from the group, 2) something to SHARE with others, and 3) our most influential STORY or storyteller.  Everyone wrote responses independently on sticky notes, posted them to the white board, and came together as a group to share aloud.  It gave us a better sense of what brought each individual to the event, both in terms of skill sharing around media and personal connection.  We heard stories of inspirational parents, grandparents, spoken word artists, and authors who shaped our understanding of the world.

    Special thanks to our volunteers Mine Gencel Bek, Thalita Dias, Adrienne Debigare, Alexandre Gonçalves, and Becky Hurwitz, our partners United We Dream and Migrahack for making the Boston event a success, and to all the participants and those of you following our work online.  We are working to upload and share all content created during the #11millinodreams Storython both in Boston and Los Angeles.  More about our work can be seen at the #11milliondreams Storython website created by Heather Craig, and in a recent article by The Nation.
    This blog has been cross-posted at Undocutech.org.
     
    Downloads:  guatemala story-1-2.jpg donow-1.jpg panoramic crop.jpg#undocutech #storythonactivism

  • Work/Life Balance as Women’s Labor

    by Henry Jenkins


    This is another in a series of blog posts produced by students in my Public Intellectuals seminar.
    Worklife Balance as Women’s Labor
    by Tisha Dejmanee
    When Anne-Marie Slaughter’s 2012 Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” came out, I have to admit I was crushed. Knowing that I want both a career and family in my future, Slaughter’s advice was demoralising. However, what upset me more was her scapegoating of the feminist movement as a way of rationalising her own disappointment. This led me to explore the continuing unsatisfactory support faced by parents in the workplace, as well as the injustices inherent in the public framing of worklife balance.
    Worklife balance is a catchphrase endemic to contemporary life. Despite its ambiguous nomenclature and holistic connotations, worklife balance is a problem created for and directed towards professional, middle-class women with children. Exploring the way this concept has captured the social imaginary reveals that the myth of equality and meritocracy persists in spite of evidence that structural inequalities continue to perpetuate social injustices by gender, race, class and sexuality. It also exposes the continuing demise of second wave feminism in favour of narratives of retreatism, the trend for women to leave the workforce and return home to embrace conservative gender roles.
    The circulation of worklife balance as a women’s issue is only logical in an environment where the private and public spheres remain sharply divided. While gendered subjects may traverse between the two spheres, they maintain primary, gendered obligations to one sphere. Traditionally, men have occupied the public sphere while women occupied the private sphere. The work-life strain that we currently see is a remnant from the battle middle-class women fought in the 60s and 70s, as part of the agenda of liberal feminism, to gain equal access to the ‘masculine’ public sphere. This access has been framed as a privilege for women who, through the 80s – with the enduring icon of the high-paced ‘superwoman’ who managed both family and career – until the present have been required to posture as masculine to be taken seriously in the public sphere, while maintaining their naturalised, primary responsibilities within the private sphere.
    The unsustainability of such a system is inevitable: Women must work harder to show their commitment to the workplace, in order to fight off the assumption that their place is still in the home. The gravitational pull of domesticity and its chores remain applicable only to women, whose success as gendered subjects is still predicated on their ability to keep their house and family in order. Men have little incentive to take on more of the burden of private sphere work, as it is devalued and works to destabilise their inherent male privilege (hence the popular representation of domestic men in ads, as comically incompetent, or worthy of laudatory praise for the smallest domestic contribution). Accordingly, women feel the strain of the opposing forces of private and public labour, which relentlessly threaten to collide yet are required to be kept strictly separated.

    Moreover, worklife balance is regarded as an issue that specifically pertains to mothers, because while self-care, relationships with friends and romantic relationships might be desirable, all of these things can ultimately be sacrificed for work. Motherhood remains sacred in our society, and due to the biological mechanisms of pregnancy, is naturalised both in the concept of woman and in the successful gendered performance of femininity. This explains the stubborn social refusal to acknowledge child-free women as anything but deviant, and the delighted novelty with which stay-at-home dads are regarded which has been popularised in cultural texts, for example by the NBC sitcom “Guys with Kids” or the A&E reality television show “Modern Dad” that follows the lives of four stay-at-home dads living in Austin, Texas.
    Photo of Crossfit session by pregnant woman that caused internet to explode
    Motherhood heightens worklife balance in two particular ways: Firstly, it exacerbates the difficulties of attaining success in work and at home, because the demands set for mothers in contemporary life are becoming increasingly, irreverently, high. Fear has always been used to motivate mothers, who are blamed for everything from physical defects that occur in-utero to the social problems which may affect children in later life, as can be seen from the furore that ensued when a mother posted this photo of herself doing a crossfit workout while 8 months pregnant with her third child. However, motherhood has become a site that demands constant attention, a trend that Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels call ‘new-momism’ ‘the new ideal of a mom as a transcendent and ideal woman who must “devote … her entire physical, psychological, emotional, and intellectual being, 24/7, to her children” (The Mommy Myth 2004, p. 4).
    Secondly, motherhood physically and symbolically hinders the motility of women across the boundary from private to public as it reinforces the materiality of female embodiment. Women’s bodies are marked by the fertility clock, imagined in popular rhetoric as a timebomb that threatens to explode at approximately the same time as educated women are experiencing major promotions in their careers, and provides a physical, ‘biological’ barrier to accompany the limit of the glass ceiling. If infants are miraculously born of the barren, middle-aged professional woman’s body, they are imagined in abject terms – hanging off the breasts of their mothers while their own small, chaotic bodies threaten disruption and chaos to the strictly scheduled, sanitized bureaucratic space of the office. This is the infiltration of home life that is epitomised when Sarah Jessica Parker, playing an investment banker with two small children, comes to work with pancake batter (which could just have easily been substituted with baby vomit or various other infant bodily fluids) in the 2011 film I Don’t Know How She Does It.

    Public attention to this issue has recently been elevated by the publication of writings from high-profile women, including Anne-Marie Slaughter, Sheryl Sandberg and Harvard professor Radhika Nagpal; speculation about high-profile women such as Marissa Mayer and Tina Fey; and through fictional representations of women such as the film (originally book) I Don’t Know How She Does It, Miranda Hobbes in television show Sex and the City; and Alicia Florrick in television drama The Good Wife.
    Returning now to Slaughter’s article, she details her experience by frankly discussing the tensions that arose from managing her high-profile job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department. Specifically, the problem was her troubled teenage son who she saw only when she travelled home on weekends. Ultimately, Slaughter decided to return to her tenured position at Princeton after two years: “When people asked why I had left government I explained that I’d come home not only because of Princeton’s rules … but also because of my desire to be with my family and my conclusion that juggling high-level government work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible.”
    While Slaughter remains Professor Emeritus at an ivy league university (and her insinuation in the article that academia is the “soft option” is certainly offensive to others in the academy), she speaks of her experience as a failure of sorts, which is affirmed by the response of other women who seem to dismiss her choice to put family over career. Slaughter sees this as the culture of feminist expectation set for contemporary, educated young women, what Anita Harris would call ‘can-do’ girls: “I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).” In making this claim, Slaughter becomes a pantsuit wearing, professional spokesperson for retreatism.
    Diane Negra discusses retreatism in her 2009 book, What a Girl Wants?: Fantasizing the Reclamation of Self in Postfeminism. Negra describes retreatism as ‘the pleasure and comfort of (re)claiming an identity uncomplicated by gender politics, postmodernism, or institutional critique’ (2010, p. 2). She describes a common narrative trope wherein ‘the postfeminist subject is represented as having lost herself but then [(re)achieves] stability through romance, de-aging, a makeover, by giving up paid work, or by ‘coming home’ (2010, p. 5). Retreatism takes cultural form through shepherding working women back into the home using the rhetoric of choice, wherein the second wave slogan of choice is subverted to justify the adoption of conservative gender positions. Retreatism is also reinforced through the glamorisation of hegemonically feminine rituals such as wedding culture, domestic activities such as baking and crafting, motherhood and girlie culture.
    In keeping with the retreatist narrative, the personal crisis Slaughter faces is the problematic behaviour of her son, and ultimately she decides that she would rather move home to be with her family full-time rather than continue her prestigious State job. While this personal decision is one that should be accepted with compassion and respect, Slaughter uses this narrative to implicate the feminist movement as the source of blame: “Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation. But when many members of the younger generation have stopped listening, on the grounds that glibly repeating ‘you can have it all’ is simply airbrushing reality, it is time to talk.”
    This backlash against feminism is not nearly as novel nor fair as Slaughter suggests, but it does uncover (as I suggested earlier) the continuing scapegoating of the feminist movement as the source of women’s stress and unhappiness, in preference to addressing the rigid structural and organisational inequalities that require women to stretch themselves thin. Slaughter does not acknowledge the personal benefits she has received from the feminist movement and women who helped pave the way for her success, and in doing so contributes to the postfeminist belief that second wave feminism is ‘done’ and irrelevant – even harmful – in the current era.
    Slaughter suggests that women loathe to admit that they like being at home, which more than anything reveals the very limited social circle that she inhabits and addresses. Retreatism glorifies the home environment, and this new domesticity – as stylised as it is mythical – is the logical conclusion to Slaughter’s assertion that women cannot have it all. Moreover, men become the heroes in this framing of the problem, celebrated not so much for their support in overturning structural inequalities, but for their ‘willingness’ to pick up the slack – typically comprising an equal share of the labour – around the home.
    What bewilders me most about this account is Slaughter’s need to discredit the feminist movement. Without trivialising the personal decisions made by Slaughter and many other women in the negotiation of work and childcare, at some point the glaring trend towards retreatism must be considered as more than a collection of individual women’s choices: It is a clue that systematic, institutionalised gender inequality continues to permeate the organisation of work and the family unit.
    Slaughter points out the double standard in allowing men religious time off that is respected, but not having the same regard for women taking time off to care for their families; the difference in attitude towards the discipline of the marathon runner versus the discipline of the organised working mother. To me, this does not indicate a failure of feminism – it suggests that feminism has not yet gone far enough. However, yet again the productive anger that feminism bestowed upon us has been redirected to become anger channelled at feminism, taking away the opportunity to talk about systematic failures in the separation of private and personal life, and their continued gendered connotations.
    Slaughter’s opinion, although considered, is not the final word on this issue. There are many unanswered questions that arise from her article, including:

    How we might understand the craving for worklife balance as a gender-neutral response to the upheaval of working conditions in the current economic, technological and cultural moment
    How technology and the economy are encouraging ever more fusions between the personal and the private, and what the advantages and disadvantages of such mergers might be
    How to talk about worklife balance for the working classes, whose voices on this matter are sorely needed
    How to talk about women in a way that is not solely predicated on their roles as a caregivers to others

    We need people from many different perspectives to share their experiences and contribute to this discussion, and I invite you to do so in the comments below.
    Tisha Dejmanee is a doctoral student in Communication at the University of Southern California. Her research interests lie at the interface of feminist theory and digital technologies, particularly postfeminist representations in the media; conceptualising online embodiment; practices of food blogging and digital labour practices.

  • What Do We Expect from Environmental Risk Communicators?

    by Henry Jenkins


    This is another in a series of blog posts from the PhD students taking my class on Public Intellectuals: Theory and Practice at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.
     
    What do we expect from environmental risk communicators?
    by Xin Wang
    A recent poll conducted by New York Times showed that although many Americans are dedicated in principle to the generic “environmentalist” agenda,  we — as individuals — stop short of enacting real changes in our habits and in our daily lives, changes that would help undo some of the ecological devastation we claim to be concerned about. For example, the alarm of global warming or climate change has been sounded repeatedly, but the society collectively and individually still generally turn a deaf ear partly because they assume the potential risks of sea level’s rising and glacial melting as chronic, diffuse in time and space, natural, and not dreadful in their impact. Continued exposure to more alarming facts does not lead to enhanced alertness but rather to fading interest or ecofatigue, which means we pay “lip service” to many environmental concepts engaging in the behaviors necessary to turn concepts into action, or we just become increasingly apathetic. In short, we are a society of armchair environmentalists.
    The burgeoning civic discourses about environmental issues must confront this apathy. Our perspectives on environmental issues are influenced by official discourses such as public hearings and mass-mediated government accounts: we learn about environmental problems by reading reports of scientific studies in national and local newspaper; by watching the Discovery Channel and listening to NPR’s Living on Earth; by attending public hearings or events. By nature, however, these official environmental discourses tend toward a monologic framework that obscures the diversity and suppresses, rather than elicits, the dialogic potential of any utterance.
    So here is our question: what kind of environmental risk communicators do we really need?
    One challenge to effective environmental risk communication is that the narrative of environmental apocalypse still dominates as a standard rhetorical technique in communicating environmental problems to the public. Apocalyptic prophets continue, however, to blow the whistle on existing and developing environmental problems. Films such as The Core (2003) and The Day After Tomorrow (2004) suggest that our biggest threat is the earth itself. While scholars agree that such apocalyptic narratives can initiate public discourse about and intervention in impending ecological disaster, the overuse of fear discourse is highly controversial considering its euphemism, vagueness, and hyperbole, which often lead to procrastination and inaction. Those who are frightened, angry, and powerless will resist the information that the risk is modest; those who are optimistic and overconfident will resist the information that their risk is substantial.
    Another challenge facing environmental communication results from difficulties in producing knowledge to support improved decision making. Undoubtedly, the society requires knowledge in engineering and natural sciences, yet this is apparently insufficient for producing a transition to more sustainable communities. To wit, in the traditional technocratic model where there is little or even no interaction between scientific experts and the public, scientists decide what to study and make information available to society by placing it on a “loading dock”, then waiting for society to pick up and use it. This process has largely failed to meet societal needs.
    Environmental concern is a broad concept that refers to a wide range of phenomena – from awareness of environmental problems to support for environmental protection – that reflect attitudes, related cognitions, and behavioral intentions toward the environment. In this sense, public opinions and media coverage play a significant role in evicting questions, causing changes, resolving problems, making improvements, and reacting to decisions about the environment taken by local and national authorities.
    On the other hand, under the social constructionist model which focuses on the flow of technical information and acknowledges the shared values, beliefs, and emotions between experts in science and the public, an interactive exchange of information takes place: it is an improved integration of invested parties, initiatives that stress co-learning and focus on negotiations and power sharing.
    Trust or confidence in the risk communicator is another important factor to be taken into account where potential personal harm is concerned: if the communicator is viewed as having a compromised mandate or a lack of competence, credence in information provided tends to be weakened accordingly. Or if the particular risk has been mismanaged or neglected in the past, skepticism and distrust may greet attempts to communicate risks. Apparently, it is more difficult to create or earn trust than to destroy it. If people do not trust an organization, negative information associated with that organization reinforces their distrust, whereas positive information is discounted (Cvetkovich et al. 2002).
    When the control of risk is not at the personal level, trust becomes a major and perhaps the most important variable in public acceptance of the risk management approach. The single biggest contributor to increasing trust and credibility is the organization’s ability to care or show empathy.
    On the one hand, when experts refuse to provide information, a hungry public will fill the void, often with rumor, supposition, and less-than-scientific theories. Silence from experts and decision makers breeds fear and suspicion among those at risk and makes later risk communication much more difficult. On the other hand, information alone, no matter how carefully packaged and presented, will not communicate risk affectively if trust and credibility are not established first.
    It is time to advocate a new environmental risk discourse as well as to develop a practical wisdom grounded in situated practice on the part of communicators. Risks and problems are socially constructed. While grave threats may  exist in the environment, the perception of such danger, rather than the reality itself, is what moves us to take actions.
    Culture, social networks, and communication practices are nuanced, specific, locally based, and often highly resilient. Our objective of effective and productive environmental communication should be in democratizing the way control affects how people define risk and how they approach information about risk, and in “formulating the meaningfulness of conversational interaction to participants in terms they find resonant, important to them, and thereby opening portals into their communal standards for such action” (Carbaugh, 2005, p. Xiii).
    Xin Wang, Ph.D.student at Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California. M.A. in Mass Communication and B.A. in Russian language at Peking University, China. She has eight years of working experience in professional journalism, media marketing and management at the People’s Daily, a co-founder of a weekly newspaper China Energy News. Her current research interests concentrate on risk and environmental communication, nation branding, public diplomacy, and civic engagement.

  • Theory of Change for Tane

    by mkitagaw


    After the last class, I was in this spiral thought while reading various articles on rural depopulation. It was clear that the problem cannot be solved by a mere project, or I wasn't even sure what the problem was anymore. Is depopulation something we need to prevent? Would there be a local community I could work over this semester in Boston area? ...
    Then I asked myself, "Ok, so what do I actually care about? Do I actually care about rural depopulation in general?" - not really. I just care about it, because people in Tane (the community I'm working with in Japan) tell me their struggle there. I just want their situations to be improved, not necessarily the issue of depopulation itself.
    There's one thing that I've been feeling bad about Tane throughout my involvement with this community - there are two main people in the community, who are very concerned about their village situation and enthusiastic about hosting the outside groups for the improvement of the situation. Unusually for this kind of communities, Tane has been hosting many schools and outsiders for their projects - including MIT architecture group, Keio University architecture group, Doshisha University and SoHub, which is our organization. Since the involvement of MIT and Keio University in Tane has been almost 10 years, there's a website/booklet with full of information about Tane, called "Tane no Neta" meaning the essence of Tane.
    The change I want to see in Tane is this: More people in the community would participate in actively hosting outside programs.
    For this, I would defer from discussing whether or not hosting outside programs itself is a good thing for Tane - those two main people in Tane believe in so, and as a part of SoHub, I believe in us making some impacts in the community.
    Constructing the theory of change diagram for this was, surprisingly, very helpful, in setting my project goal. (Yes, "surprisingly" - because when I read Aaron Swartz' note , I felt like it's such an obvious thing ... )

    So here's my project now: making people in various generations inform about the outside projects going on in Tane, in an engaging way.
    Currently, they get to know about these projects through
    - casual conversations (face to face, or sometimes phone)
    - community newsletter (which we don't really know how effective it is)
    - blog
    My idea is to inform through video, because it just attracts people in various generations - young people watch YouTube, old people watch TV.
    Especially, I want locals to talk about these outside projects - because in that way, audience, who will be also locals, can be more connected to the video contents. Of course, only locals talking about the projects wouldn't be enough - but they would be effective as "entrance" to them.
    Who would make these videos? Me? Those two main people in Tane? SoHub members? Keio University/MIT students who only visit Tane in summer?
    I want more people in locals to make these. I'm not sure about the penetration rate of Smartphones in Tane - but maybe camera can be owned in the community. With some special instructions. Now I see some hardware design potentials....
    Anyways, I have some steps to make. 1. Contact those two main people about this idea. 2. Start making these videos, and decide on how they should be.
    I hope to make some progress on these by my next blog post!
    Intro to Civic Media

  • What’s wrong with crowdfunding your own security?

    by rodrigodavies


    Last week the emergence of three separate crowdfunding campaigns for private security patrols in Oakland's Lower Rockridge and Uplands neighborhoods provoked a lot of debate and criticism. For some people, it was a clear example of crowdfunding crossing a line. Not a line of good taste or judicial process as we've seen before, but the line of public goods - the things we feel government has a duty to provide to all its citizens, not just those who can pay for them.
    Safety and security is probably the most fundamental service people have the right to expect their government to provide. For the Oakland residents who started the three campaigns, the government had failed in its duty - and they were filling the gap with their own money. They're not the first neighborhoods in the city to do so, and they're part of a growing trend, but they were the first to crowdfund. So what is it about crowdfunding private security that feels so uncomfortable?
    One conclusion you might draw is that a public call is a more brazen, obvious attack on the inadequacy of the police and an attempt to shame public services - whereas a private collection of funds between neighbors would be somehow more respectful and less damaging to the institution. But what about a police captain's comment that "any time the community gets involved in a public security strategy, that's a good thing"? This remark reads as if (some elements of) the police force are not seeing the growth of private security as a slight, and may even view the crowdfunding campaigns as an opportunity to draw attention to their lack of funding. The captain's comment is of course very problematic in its own way, but it discredits the idea that the neighborhood took to crowdfunding as a deliberate attack on the police.
    A second conclusion or fear you might consider is that an open crowdfunding call invites donations from outside organizations, increases the chances of lobbying for private security and undermines the idea that this is autonomous decision-making by a neighborhood. It's worth noting that all three campaigns use the same Oakland-based security group, VMA, which says it will be patrolling 500 households by November, but this looks on the face of it to be a function of the second and third campaigns using the first campaign as template (more on that in a moment) rather than any direct lobbying. There's also little evidence as yet of influence outside Oakland itself: Paul Liu's campaign asks for $82 donations from each household (the price of a trial period with VMA security), rather than an open call for any amount. That's a clear signal that the campaigns are not expecting outside funding. Liu's advice to residents of other neighborhoods who are considering donating to his campaign is that they start their own.
    And here's the crux of the concern about these campaigns: the contagion effect. The emergence of Liu's campaign led, within the space of three days, to the creation of two other campaigns in adjacent neighborhoods. Those campaigns used the same platform (Crowdtilt) and borrowed most of the language of the first. The second campaign has already outstripped the first and raised its target amount; the three campaigns have so far raised a combined $45,000 and will provide private security in two of the neighborhoods through February. Let's be clear: the spread of security patrols itself has, and has had a contagion effect in Oakland. What crowdfunding does is to significantly increase the velocity and visibility of that contagion.
    We already know that crowdfunding can be used to fund things we might find distasteful or even harmful. But those products or groups will likely have a much shorter lifespan than the consequences of faster, deeper erosion of faith in institutions such as the police force. One Rockridge resident suggests that private security has become so common that many residents have effectively given up on the idea of a functioning police force. That is a terrible precedent. Of course, it's difficult to imagine in scenario in which crowdfunding private security would not be perfectly legal: as long as private security is allowed on the streets by law, there's nothing to prevent neighborhoods using crowdfunding to pay for it. But the new dynamic that crowdfunding introduces gives us some indication of the consequences of it becoming a bigger movement - for those who can afford it, and those who can't.
    As my advisor Ethan Zuckerman points out, what seems like a solution for one community has a knock-on effect for many others. I've made the point before that alternative infrastructures like crowdfunding can have a constructive, lobbying effect on their incumbents by signaling the need for change - but the wealthiest neighborhoods in a city finding easier, more scalable ways to top up deficient public services does not seem to resemble that kind of change.
    An inherent weakness of crowdfunding applied to the civic space is the attractiveness of certain ideas over others, and its potential to widen the gap between winners and losers - an issue I talked about with Seattle's NPR affiliate KUOW recently. To be sure, we can see this problem replicated in many kinds of competitive funding for civic projects. But as cities see more crowdfunding campaigns realizing the kind of projects they would like to encourage, they also need to be aware of the potential for much tougher questions about the services they are struggling to provide. I'll be returning to the question of how we figure out how to balance those two competing priorities soon.
    (Cross-posted at rodrigodavies.com)
    civic crowdfundingoaklandsecuritypolicedecision-makinglocal communities

  • The Passion of Chelsea Manning: Chase Madar and Noam Chomsky

    by schock



    Liveblog by @schock of the Starr Forum talk by Chomsky and Madar at MIT, sponsored by the MIT Center for International Studies. All errors mine!
    Chomsky and Madar are introduced by John Tirman, Director of the MIT Center for International Studies. Chase Madar wrote the Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in US History. He's a civil rights attorney who has written for many publications, including the Nation, the Atlantic, Le Monde, and so on. Noam Chomsky, says Tirman, needs no introduction.
    Chomsky on 'national security'
    Noam Chomsky introduces Chase Madar. Chomsky begins by saying that Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning was committed to years of torture, and will spend years in jail, for the crime of letting the people of the US know about what their government is doing. Snowden will suffer the same fate when he is apprehended. We recently heard from Secretary of State John Kerry that kidnapping people in other countries is legal; no other country has that right. Chomsky says that Yemenis can't come to the US and kidnap John Kerry. But it was nice to see a statement by the Secretary of State, approved by media and commentators, basically admitting that the US is a rogue state that uses violence where we choose. In fact, we didn't need Manning and Snowden to release this information, Kerry was willing to do it himself. It says something about us as a society: this statement passed without comment. What about Manning's supposed crime, the crime of letting people now what the government is doing?
    Chomsky points out that there's a pretext for the imprisonment: it "harmed national security." Chomsky says there are good reasons to think seriously about that pretext. It's important to ask: Is there evidence it's true? When a State pleads national security, the plea carries no information, even in the technical sense, since it's perfectly predictable. Any action can be justified as state security. Chomsky says that MIT students know that a perfectly predictable statement carries no information: it's worthless.
    Chomsky says that It is assumed that security is the highest priority of states, but the record doesn't show that. Except for in the special sense of "security of the state from its own population." He says that if you've worked through reams of classified documents, which you can do here in the USA since it's a very free country with a lot of access to documents, you find that invariably the State is trying to hide things from the population. As for the documents that Manning leaked, Chomsky maintains that there's essentially nothing there that threatens national security in any meaningful sense. Instead, he sees an effort to keep the population from knowing what we're up to. For example, Obama's drone campaign, which Chomsky calls 'the biggest terrorist campaign being waged in the world by far.' He points out that It's also a terrorist generating campaign.
    Risky State behavior 1: drone attacks in Yemen
    He illustrates this point with an anecdote: A couple of days after the Marathon Bombing in Boston, there was a drone attack on a village in Yemen. Ususally you hear nothing about these. This time there was a young man from the US who was there, who testified to the Senate. This young man testified that for years the Jihadis in Yemen had been trying to convince the villagers to turn against the US. Bu they resisted, because he was living here in the US writing positive letters about his experience here. The drone strike turned the whole village against the US. Noam says this happens over and over: drone strikes are increasing the threat of terror in the US. When the US invaded Iraq, US and British intelligence services informed the governments that the invasion would increase the threat of terror. In fact it did. Peter Bergen and another terror-ologist used RAND corp data and concluded that terrorism increased by a factor of 7 in the first year after the invasion. This was as anticipated.
    Risky State behavior 2: assassination of Osama Bin Laden
    Chomsky continues: Last May, Obama gave a widely reprted speech on national security. He took credit for the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. We might remember that 800 years ago there was the establishment of a principle: 'innocent until proven guilty.' In any case, he was assassinated by a NAVY Seal team. Obama took pride in it. But he also publicly said that the Seal team might have been engaged in a firefight with the Pakistani army, and that luckily, this didn't happen. However, Chomsky says there's more to the story. The invasion was detected by the Pakistani intelligence services. The Pakistani chief of staff assumed it was an Indian invasion. Meanwhile Petreaus had ordered the US air force to respond if Pakistan scrambled jets. Pakistan is a nuclear state, deeply committed to its own national project and to its own territorial sovereignty. If there had been a real battle, nuclear weapons could have been launched. But it was considered 'worth the risk' to assassinate someone, rather than apprehend and bringing him to trial.
    Risky State behavior in the past
    Chomsky says that this pattern goes back through history. He offers several examples of how 'security' is not a high concern for States. Not just the US. He says that we happen to know a lot about how the process works here, because the US is quite open about it. Let's go back to 1950: The US had overwhelming power. It had half the world's wealth, control of both oceans, and so on. There was one potential threat: ICBMs with hydrogen bomb warheads. They didn't exist, but they were under development. That was the threat. However, no one even attempted to develop a treaty with the Soviets. This could have saved the US from the threat of destruction, but it wasn't even considered. In another example, in 1971, when India invaded Pakistan to end atrocities in east Pakistan (millions of people were being slaughtered), Nixon and Kissinger were furious. This was because Nixon was planning a secret trip to China, this was threatened by the invasion. Kissinger wanted to use nuclear weapons against India. Chomsky says Kissinger insisted we had to use nuclear weapons. Nixon decided that "famine would be sufficient." This was 1973. A third example: In 1983, the Reagan administration decided to test Russian defenses by simulating air and naval attacks in Russia. The Russians couldn't tell if these were real or fake attacks. The CIA recently came out with a study concluding that this was extremely dangerous. The Russians nearly interpreted the fake attack as a real one. Just a few of days ago there was a revelation that a Russian officer disobeyed orders - automated systems were assessing the likelihood of a missile attack on Russia; he was supposed to transmit this to high command but didn't. It continues.
    Overall, Chomsky urges us:
    "When you hear a State plead 'security' as a justification, there are two things to remember:
    The statement carries no information.
    States do not give a high priority to protecting their citizens. The protect themselves from their citizens. That's why Manning is in Jail. That's not national security."
     
    Chase Madar
    Chase Madar begins with a joke: "It's every intellectual's dream to take the stage after Noam Chomsky."
    He is going to tell us a story of principles, values, and individual heroism. Mostly, it's a story of the Iraq War. It's a War that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, 4.5 thousand US soldiers, destroyed the country's infrastructure, and cost trillions of dollars. It was a strategic and humanitarian disaster. It's a war we sped into because of government secrecy, distortion, and lies. It's fitting that the finale end with the prosecution and court martial of someone who told the truth.
    Madar says that the story of Chelsea, formerly Bradley, Manning, has been misconstrued. He's going to debunk the folklore, a series of myths, starting with the first:
    First Myth: That the security leak put the US on the precipice of radical transparency.
    The myth is that we are on the slope to so much transparency that we'll have no functioning state anymore. Madar says this claim has constantly been made by journalists who should have known better. Chelsea leaked less than 1% of what is classified in a given year. Far from a floodlight, it was a modest and helpful beam of light. It hardly cost the distruption of our diplomacy or statecraft, for better or worse. Instead, secrecy has sped up. Last year there were 95 million classified documents, up from 13 million in 2003. We have a parabolic increase in state secrecy since the election of Obama, who promised major declassification, and also promised to be the whistleblower's best friend. Even as classification increases, Madar points out that Declassification moves in geological tempo. The NSA just finished declassifying documents from the presidency of James Madison. This timing is measured in centuries. The effect on our national memory is severe. How can we function if we don't know what we've done? It's a form of dementia.
    Meanwhile, it's rare that a week goes by without a major news story that doesn't rely on unnamed high officials leaking classified information. Most of these leaks are authorized in some way, although that doesn't make them legal. Indeed, leaks are how we find out about all kinds of things, like our drone program, or cyberwar against Iran. So that's the first myth: that leaks are new and scandalous.
    Second Myth: the leaks have damaged American Interests.
    Each leak was met with panic. The narrative is always the same: "it will cost lives, it'll put people at risk." But, Madar says, when reporters do their jobs and follow up, they're always told there's no concrete evidence of anyone being harmed. This summer, the government wasn't able to marshal any evidence of concrete harm towards individuals. Chase says it's remarkable, the real casualties of war, and of extrajudicial killings, including civilian deaths, don't get any press. But when it comes to hypothetical damage caused by Wikileaks, the press become "gushing defenders of humanitarian concern."
    Third Myth: They're Out to Get Us, or they're Utopian
    Madar says that Utopian is a curse word used to attack anyone who deviates from the Washington consensus view. If you look on Wikileaks' site, you see quotes from Jefferson, from the US Constitution. It's an odd kind of "destructive, radical position." Wikileaks' ideology actually fits easily in the broad mainstream of liberalism. Madar claims that Wikileaks are basically "classical liberals who are handy with computers." James Madison wrote two centuries ago that a popular government without information is a prelude to a tragedy, farce, or perhaps both.
    Fourth Myth: Psychologizing the Leaker
    Another myth is that Chelsea leaked these documents as a form of 'antisocial behavior.' In other words, there's an attempt to say that the leak was 'crazy,' linked to Chelsea's gender dysphoria. Whistleblowers are always pathologized. When Ellsberg was revealed to be the leaker of Pentagon Papers, Nixon immediately authorized a raid on his psychologists' office to find dirt that could deligitmize him. Russian dissidents also faced lock up and subjection to psychoactive drugs; the position of the Russian state was that dissidence was a form of 'mental illness.' Chelsea Manning was made for months to stand at attention naked before her jailers. This was in line with that Soviet treatment. It also opposed the recommendations of the military psychiatric advisors. This treatment was torture.
    Madar walks us through Chelsea's decision to leak the documents. She was a soldier deployed in 2010, who quickly realized that Operation Iraqi Freedom had little to do with Iraqi Freedom. Chelsea was disturbed by the 'Collateral Murder' video, footage of the Apache attack that killed Reuters journalists, civilians and bystanders. Manning read an account of this attack by David Finkel, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and it didn't accord with what she had seen in the video. She also learned there was an express US policy to ignore torture committed by the Iraqi military, as well as an order from Rumsfeld not to interfere with torture. This further angered Manning. There was also an incident where young Iraqis who had made a critical pamphlet called 'where does the money go' were arrested and taken away. Manning wrote “I want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” She failed to see why this was contentious, especially in the midst of the destruction she saw taking place in Iraq.
    Fifth Myth: the US Military is a delicate flower
    According to Madar, another myth is that even if these leaks are beneficial, are used by newspapers for major stories, helped spark the Tunisian rebellion that brought down a dictator, and so on: the law is the law. The military will fall apart if the law is not enforced. According to this argument, the 35 year sentence is warranted in order to preserve order. But does the military really require Manning to be punished? Will military order collapse if she's set free?
    Madar suggests that the answer is no. First, military law is infinitely forgiving when it comes to killing civilians, especially foreign civilians. For example, when 24 civilians were killed in cold blood by a Marine Corps unit, the only punishment was the demotion of the unit leader. No jail time for killing Iraqi civilians.
    The US military law is also elastic when it comes to rape and sexual assault. There's been little effort to stop it. Recently, Obama has been denouncing rape and sexual assault in the military. Chelsea Mannings' lawyer tried to use 'unlawful command influence' as an argument; but the motion to dismiss charges due to unlawful command influence didn't work for Manning. It does work when it comes to rape.
    In other words, If Chelsea Manning had committed rape or murdered civilians, she wouldn't be in jail.
    Madar points out that pardons are also possible. Every military in history has had pardons. Conservatives often understand this better than the center left. The right wing gov in Mississippi issued over 200 pardons; the outgoing Czech president pardoned about 1/3rd of the prisoners in the Czech Republic. This happened in the land of Kafka. Finally, it's worth mentioning that in nations and societies where military law reigns supreme, usually these aren't nice places to visit. Surely we can do better.
    Sixth myth: Knowledge is dirty
    Finally, there's also a belief that knowledge is evil, it's a contaminant. An idea that if we study reports from the Iraq or Afghan war, we'll become somehow dirty, and lose our innocence. But Madar says It's not fair to put all of this brunt on the soliders: "There's nothing less patriotic than a people that refuse to look at how their wars are being conducted."
    Conclusion: destructive, narcissistic, reckless little punks
    Madar concludes: 99% of what's classified in the USA has no business being made a secret. To argue against the harsh prosecution of Chelsea Manning is an argument for reasonableness, and for responsible citizenship. The more people hear from Chelsea Manning, the more they'll realize that she's the responsible, ethical citizen. Her persecutors in government and the media are the destructive, narcissistic, reckless little punks. Thank you.
    Q&A
    Q: First, what are some of the key truths revealed in the leaks? Second, the defense was inadequate, and the timing of the announcement about her gender was terrible.
    Madar: It's important to remember that Chelsea Manning, apart from being a cause, is also a human being. Her choice to announce her gender transition the day after the sentencing was her choice to make. She was thinking about this since before she was caught, over 3 years ago. If we want to support her now, we have to think also about getting her hormone treatment while still in prison. Even the NY Times has been taking this up, a positive outcome. We have to get her into the properly gendered prison that she asked to be moved to. The bad thing is that most of the country needs to catch up and accept transgender people as individuals, with dignity, just like cisgendered people, like everyone else.
    I don't think Chelsea's lawyer did a bad job. This is a person of conscience. These are powerful arguments, but they're not effective arguments in this case. The task of the lawyer isn't to get a point across, it's to defend his client. The politicla conditions are different now; when Ellsberg was tried, it was possible to make those arguments. But there's no mass antiwar movement. There's no hated right wing president, as in the Ellsberg case.
    Chomsky: The narrow reason why Ellsberg wasn't convicted was Nixon's individual criminality. I happened to be testifying at the trial at the moment the judge recused himself and declared a mistrial. The reason was that Nixon tried to bribe the judge, offered him a position as head of the FBI. So the judge had to recuse himself.
    As for the leaks, there were several of some interest. One was about the ambassador to Pakistan. She supported US special forces and drone actions in Pakistan. But she pointed out that they're dangerous; they're radicalizing Pakistan, they're creating a Jihadi atmosphere; she pointed out that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and this is dangerous. This is important for the American people to know.
    There were leaks from the Embassy in Honduras. In 2009 there was a military coup in Honduras, the military threw out the elected president, who was getting too liberal, talking about minimum wage and things like that. The whole world condemned the coup. Obama had a few words, then recognized the coup government as constitutional. One of the leaks said: this was unconstitutional, it violated the Ecuadorian constitution. Obama knew it, but refused to say it. That was worth knowing.
    Another leak was, sites around the world of supreme strategic significance. Most were what you expect. One was right outside Haifa. A military industry zone, where drones were developed. A contracter, Rafael, that's so integrated into the US strategic and military system that we must protect it as a site of extreme strategic significance. They moved their management closer to DC to be closer to the money. To understand Israel/Palestine, it's important to know about the highest level military and economic links with the client state in the region.
    A final case that was amusing: one of the wikileaks exposures got huge publicity. Someone in Saudia Arabia said they support US policy in Iran: "cut the head off the snake." Leading commentators in the US, financial times, others were joking that the CIA must be behind wikileaks, because they're leaking stuff that's so supportive of US policy. But the interesting thing no one said was: these are the attitudes of the dictators; what about the opinions of the population? There are consistent polls by leading Arab pollsters; they show that the Arab public dislikes Iran but don't regard it as a threat; they regard the US and Israael as threats. So the leaks were saying: who cares what the public thinks? If the dictators support us, great! It's an interesting insight into the state of public debate.
    Q: So much of the controversy around this trial has to do with Chelsea Manning's non normative gender and sexual orientation. The rhetoric of both sides was violently transphobic. Linking wikileaks with queerness, talking about mental unstability. What is the consequence of queerness being linked so tightly to leaking and instability?
    Madar: First, thank you. What is the relationship between Chelsea's gender and sexual identity and the rest of the story? It's a key part of Chelsea's personal story. But it's tangential in many ways. It has nothing to do with Chelsea's motive. Yet many tried to make it all about sex and gender identity. The New Yorker tried to do this. There are 4 million Americans with security clearance. You can bet that thousands of those with security clearance are queer: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. Yet they're not all leaking. It's not a genetic characteristic of transgender people. It's like arguing that Cheney pushed for the invasion of Iraq because he's a cisgender straight guy. But it's important in terms of how Manning has been treated. Part of the 14 month isolation was about gender dysphoria. It made it easier for them to marginalize Manning. In the end it's a classic trope to equate treason with being queer. Norman potter, the neocon, used to like to accuse James Baldwin and Gore Vidal of being a "queer fifth column." Many see this as bigoted nonsense. For the lawyer, the job is to defend the client. Because gender dysphoria is in the DSM, they tried to make something out of it, in a desparate situation. I don't think this is going to foster transphobia in the US military.
    John Tirman: there's a longstanding trope of 'the sissification of American Men,' it's often used politically.
    Q: You talked about the misclassification of Chelsea by critics. Do we also see the danger of that coming from supporters? Do we sometimes read what we want to into her intentions and personality?
    A: There's a risk to project onto any figurehead, using that person as a blank screen. It's unethical and wrong. We should listen to what the individual is saying. Chelsea released a statement today to the Guardian saying "I'm not a pacifist, I just think people need to know to make better foreign policy decisions." That shouldn't stop other people from seizing these documents and constructing arguments with them. People should be careful not to use Chelsea Manning as a projection screen.
    Q: re: transparency generally: you made the argument that Chelsea released less than 1% of what's classified, and also said that you don't advocate complete transparency. So for each of you, where does that balance lie?
    Noam: There's no general algorithm for transparency. You have to look case by case. Ellsberg didn't release all of the Pentagon Papers. I had access to them before the release; he felt there was a volume on ongoing negotiations, he thought it should be kept secret. He felt that crossed the line; it might harm ongoing negotiations. When I read it, I didn't feel that way, but he made a legitimate decision. The most interesting parts of that document is the way it embarasses world leaders based on things they were saying at the time. I sent this information to historian friends on condition they not use it publicly until it became public. When Johnson was planning to bomb North Vietnam, he asked allies what they thought. At the time, a Nobel Peace Laureate in Canada said 'that's a good idea, but stick to iron bombs, not nuclear bombs." The Nobel Peace candidate. That fit the general pattern. Security's an issue, but the security of power from scrutiny. Look at classified documents and see what you think. It's a good research project.
    Madar: to take the side of Chelsea doesn't mean you spport 'total transparency.' It's a functional ipossibility anyway. The size of our government makes it impossible. Nobody wants nuclear launch codes floating around. We can all agree there are a number of secrets that would truly endanger public security. The burden should be on the government to prove concrete palpable harm from a leak, not just 'you can't do that because I say so.' Diplomats, or any professional group, always want a maximum of secrecy. The public reaction even among intellectuals who should know better seem to assume that our diplomats have been doing a great job, and wikileaks is spoiling it. Get real. Our foreign policy has been one disaster after another. Anyone in the privaate sector who screwed up like this would be fired on the spot. There's a political science discourse about the positive impacts of transparency. Look at Linsley on transparency and its uses. Look at Vienna, transparency negotiations contributed to peace in Euope. Look at Wodrow Wilson on public diplomacy.
    Q: You made the point that certain things should be kept covered, for example nuclear launch codes. But if they're leaked, then changed, and the government can't prove tangible harm, where does that lie? It's a fuzzy line.
    A: All lines have fuzzy edges, but they should still be drawn.
    Q: I'm faculty from STS. Obama was elected as one of the most liberal presidents, first Black president. His record of prosecuting whistleblowers has been worse than Bush. The sentences, and the number of prosecutions. My question: in the first term, I can understand that to counter the Republican onslaught. But why this persistence in pursuing these people so harshly?
    Noam: I was never a supporter of Obama, and I don't say that in retrospect. Before the primary, I wrote about him, using material from his own self presentation. I'm not surprised. However, I do not understand the tenacity of his attack against civil liberties. It's very strange. It doesn't get him anything. It includes whistleblowers. Prosecutions using the espionage act include maybe 10 total, ever, and seven are under Obama. Some of the cases his Justice dept has initated are scandalous. One is Holder v Humanitarian Law Project. They essentially criminalized speech. It says if I go visit someone on the terrorist list, which I've done - Nasrallah - that could be material assistance to terrorism. It used to mean 'you gave him a gun.' Under Obama, it means research. In the case in question, it was about advising them of their legal rights, or urging them to turn to nonviolent means. What's the point of this extreme step?
    Chase: even though there's no public clamor for these prosecutions, there's no public clamor against them. So it's a small polical price to pay. This is changing somewhat. US Senators, not just ACLU members, are defending Snowden as a whistelblower. This is fracturing both parties. I hope this continues. I'm not sure any president since Eisenhower has been in charge of the national security apparatus anyway. But whether Obama is in charge of it or letting it happen, it's not as simple as flipping it on or off. This isn't to excuse him, but to point out just what it would take to roll back.
    [Out of batteries! lost the last few questions. If you have notes on them, please add in the comments below! - sc ]

  • Value-Driven Design, a workshop!

    by beckyh


    Co-written with Willow Brugh; graphic by Willow!link to the hackpad version of this post
    When you are designing a project for social justice, where do you start?

    In this workshop, we practice value-based design, a method that helps us to design for large scale social impact and to relate this directly to how we plan and implement projects. We envision the impacts we'd like to contribute to in the world and the values we bring with us into our work as the first steps in this design process. As individuals, this method helps us to express our connection to our projects on a personal level and to prevent burnout as we are able to identify work that resonates with our values and to set aside work that doesn't. As a team, this method helps us to identify shared values and to make design decisions based on our shared vision instead of personal preferences.
    At the last Codesign Studio, Bex and Willow took the class through an hour-long workshop to identify our individual values and to design our projects and approach around shared values.
    This workshop is inspired by Monica Sharma's work in transformational leadership for large scale system shift. In this article, she describes the framework of the methods she shares for this kind of work. Connecting with our personal values and designing based on values is a key component. [Sharma, Monica. "Contemporary Leaders of Courage and Compassion: Competencies and Inner Capacities." Kosmos Summer 2012.]
    Individual Values
    Purpose
    Uncovering our core values gives us better understanding of our own purpose and desire in the world. Doing this exercise with teammates is a great way to connect to each other's inspiration.
    Process
    (3 min) Select one person in the room to work these questions with:
    Share something you've worked on that you had some role in designing.
    Ask the following questions:
    What did you envision as success for that project? Often people will dissemble, and say it wasn't a success. People will also commonly talk about the activities of the project, things they did, instead of what the vision was of the project. So:

    Ask them to imagine that it WAS a success. What is happening in the world then? How are people living? What is the quality of life?

    Drill to one word. That's the value you were working from. The value you represent. The word should not be an action or process (manifestation, collaboration, interaction, etc), but what people feel like if they can act or work in that way (joy, justice, inclusion, health, etc).

    (12 min) Now, break into pairs. If there are project teams in the room, ask people to work with someone in the same team and ask each other the questions above.
    (at 6 min) Remind people to switch
    Reportback
    Have each person say their value when you reconvene. If you can, write these somewhere that will be visible for your team as you continue to work together.
    Value-Based Design
    Purpose
    Designing a project with the larger purpose in mind helps to think big and understand that your actions connect to your visions of social justice. It also helps your team to recognize shared values, a great starting place for connecting when you have to make difficult design decisions.
    Overview (5 minutes)
    In this method, we design with our teams first by developing shared understanding of the impacts we want to see as a result of the work we do together. These will be large-scale and will likely relate to values we identified in the Individual Values exercise. In this exercise, Impacts, longterm sustained state change.
    Because we can't implement impacts directly, we continue to design our work into pieces of work that we can implement. We divide these pieces into three categories: Inputs, Outputs, and Outcomes.
    Process
    Share the above graphic.
    Go through an example, here is an example of how we might have used this methodology in developing Codesign:
    Ask what desired impacts of Codesign are:

    Impacts - sustained state change. - What do you think the intended impacts of codesign as a method are? Empowered and equal engagement.

    Ask what some inputs, outputs and outcomes are of Codesign:

    Outputs - collaborative workshops

    Inputs - YOU! Partners, us, this room, MOUs, etc

    Outcomes - A change, but requires continued effort to maintain - Such as social relationships, people try it and don't keep it up

    We tend to fill these three categories with information in a nonlinear way -- recognizing an Output may surface desired Outcomes and Inputs. Broadly, we design right to left and implement left to right.
    Project Design (25 min)
    Now practice the value-based design methodology with project with your team. If you are at an early stage in your work together and you haven't yet identified or selected a project you will work on, you can begin by taking the various partner's organizational values into consideration. Broadly, what are the impacts that your team's members envision?
    Before completing the exercise, have each group fill in at least 2 points under each section.
    Wrap It UpReportback (15 min)
    Ask people to share their process. Try using the Green/Yellow/Red method and ask each group to share one Green - a thing that was easy or clear; Yellow - one thing that was challenging or that they learned something from; and Red - something that was difficult or a block.
    If the teams went to different parts of the room, have everyone tour around. Document the work of each group.
    Downloads:  Monica Article Capacities Kosmos 2012.pdfcodesign workshop facilitationguide value design

  • “To JK Rowling, From Cho Chang”: Responding to Asian Stereotyping in Popular Culture

    by Henry Jenkins


    This is the second in a series of blog posts produced by the students in my Public Intellectuals seminar at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. We appreciate any feedback or response you’d like to share. 
    “To JK Rowling, From Cho Chang”: Responding to Asian Stereotyping in Popular Culture
    by Diana Lee
     
    Awhile back, my friend and fellow graduate student sent me a simple email with the subject line, “Calling out the representation of Asian women in Harry Potter books,” and a short one-line message:
    “Saw this and thought of you – the videos are really interesting!!”
    I was immediately intrigued by her email because she is, as I mentioned, a respected friend and colleague, and I know she is thoughtful about her communication, but also because before clicking on the link, I wasn’t certain what she was referring to. Had she thought of me because of my love of the magical world of Harry Potter? My academic and personal interest in representations of Asians, Asian Americans, and gender in U.S. media and popular culture? Was it because of my deep appreciation of people who create counter-narratives that challenge stereotypes and forefront voices that are not frequently heard in “mainstream” dialogue? Or perhaps it was a show of support for my hopeful but yet-to-be-solidified desire to combine my enthusiasm for all of these things in academic life? The answer? Yes. Turns out she was pointing me towards something that exemplified all of these things, and much more.
     

    In April 2013, the Youtube video of college student spoken word artist Rachel Rostad’s “To JK Rowling, from Cho Chang” went viral. In the video, she is shown performing a poem which challenges the representations of Asian women and other marginalized groups in the Harry Potter series and other popular stories (such as Ms. Saigon, Madame Butterfly, and Memoirs of a Geisha). Written and delivered in the style of many spoken word performances, Rachel uses a powerful, clear, strong voice, and the poem is filled with provocative examples artfully expressed to maximize emotional impact.
    You can hear her frustration with the fact that Asians and Asian women in the U.S. are constantly misrepresented in shallow and/or stereotypical roles in books, movies, and television shows. You follow along as she exposes the subtle but sadly pervasive ways these caricatures are presented – with “Asian” accented English, with “foreign” names that may or may not make sense in actual “Asian” languages, as disposable minor characters used to set up the focus on the White, leading woman who is the “real” love interest, as sexually “exotic” Asian women who are submissive and/or hypersexualized, and only to be used and then discarded or left behind. And finally, at the end of the poem, through a story that comes across as her own, she draws a connection between why we should pay attention to these limited representations and speaks about an example of how they can influence our everyday interactions.
    She makes the case that when we don’t see other representations of characters with depth and breadth that look and sound and think and love like real people, then the limited portrayals can impact not only the possibilities we can imagine for ourselves, but also what others see as possible for or with us. Rachel Rostad used this poem as a creative and powerful challenge to pervasive, potentially damaging, familiar portrayals, urging us to think critically about the stories, images, and identities we participate in consuming and perpetuating.
    But that wasn’t all. She also did something else that we should highlight and celebrate.
    The video of her spoken word performance went viral, generating a flurry of criticism and commentary. Instead of ignoring or dismissing these responses or getting pulled into destructively defensive or combative flame wars, she used the opportunity to reflect, learn, teach, and engage in a (public) conversation. She did this in a number of ways and across multiple platforms (e.g., YouTube, tumblr, blog posts, Facebook), but the most visible one is the follow-up video she created a few days after the first video was posted, which was called, “Response To Critiques of ‘To JK Rowling, from Cho Chang.’”

    In the response video, Rachel speaks directly to the camera, beginning with “hey there, Internet!,” and point by point, articulately, sincerely, and calmly addresses the five main critiques that came pouring in to her through the various mediated forms she was involved with.
    One point addressed the possibility that “Cho Chang” could be a legitimate name, despite what she articulated in her poem about “Cho” and “Chang” being two last names. Rachel admitted ignorance in Chinese and other naming practices, acknowledged that the line in the poem about Cho’s name was problematic, apologized for marginalizing and misrepresenting parts of a community she was trying to empower, and urged viewers to also focus on the other themes she draws on in the rest of the poem.
    Following that, Rachel’s next series of comments emphasized that she does not speak for all Asian women, and is not claiming to through her work. She apologized again for unintended mischaracterizations, especially to those who reached out to her saying they felt misrepresented by her poem. Rachel then used these interactions to encourage reflection about and reemphasize the importance of a wider range of media and pop cultural portrayals for Asians and Asian women, which was one of the main points of her spoken word piece, saying, “I’m very sorry I misrepresented you. But I don’t think either of us is to blame for this. I would ask you, what conditions are in place that make it so that you are so defensive that I, someone with a completely different experience of oppression, am not representing your voice? It’s sad that we live in a society where my voice is so easily mistaken for yours – where our differing identities are viewed as interchangeable.”
    Continuing on the theme of advocating for a wider range of media representations and prompting us to think critically about the representations we do see, Rachel’s third point was about the realistic portrayal of a grieving character versus in-depth character development of Asian and White female lead characters. Yes, Cho was sad about boyfriend Cedric Diggory’s death and confused about her developing feelings for Harry so she was crying, pensive, and sad most of the time, but JK Rowling intentionally set up Cho as weak to make Ginny, Harry’s eventual love interest and a White woman, look stronger. This may not have been intentionally racially charged, but it is important to think about because discrimination and prejudice are oftentimes not only about intentionality. This is a theme that recurs in mainstream films and stories – women of color appear as minor, brief, undeveloped characters to set up the “real” relationship for the main White characters later in the narrative, and the more we see it repeated with no alternative portrayals, the more it has the potential to seem “natural.”
    Similarly, her fourth point is also about different ways that problematic representations take form, describing why she talked about Dumbledore’s sexuality, which some argued seemed tangential to the main themes of the poem. Thinking about representation and whose stories are privileged is not only about who is invisible from the story, or the limited roles people are allowed to play, but it is also about considering that even when in prominent positions within stories, aspects of character’s identities aren’t developed in a way that illustrates the depth and complexity of our lived realities.
    Rachel’s fifth point in her response video is about how she does not hate Harry Potter or JK Rowling (or Ravenclaw, I’m assuming!), but rather is a fan who grew up on the books and went to all the midnight showings, and importantly, is also able to think critically about and critique a world that she also enjoys.

    And finally, she closes the response video with this message:
    That’s it for now. I understand if you still disagree with me, but I hope you now disagree with me for the arguments I’m actually making, and it’s been humbling and amazing to watch people respond to this video. I think that the presence of so much passionate dialogue means that this is an issue that needs to be talked about. And yes, I made mistakes, and just as I think JK Rowling did with some of her characterizations. But what I hope people realize is that dialogue about social justice is not about blaming people for making mistakes, whether it’s me or JK Rowling. It’s about calling attention to mistakes, which I’ll be the first to admit, is painful, and using those mistakes as an opportunity to grow.
    I personally have learned so much from the mistakes I’ve made in this process, and I want to thank the community for calling me out on that. Social justice is about holding each other accountable. And I hope as a devoted fan base and as an amazing community we can continue to use my piece as a jumping off point for further dialogue, growth, and reflection.
    Thank you.
    We should celebrate this as an exemplary instance of reflexivity, of praxis  – of the liberating power of reflection, awareness, and action. Of an intelligent, passionate young person invested in learning from and contributing to her community. Of the engaging, participatory possibilities available through working with popular culture and using technology, media, and newer forms of mediated communication as tools for transformative education. This is also a great opportunity for educators and families to unpack the pedagogical implications of what happens when you find something young people are excited about and engage in this kind of expression and communication with a larger community. And this is also an example of what media scholar Henry Jenkins calls participatory culture, specifically, in relation to new media literacies and civic engagement.
    These words – reflexivity, praxis, pedagogy, new media, media literacy, civic engagement – get thrown around in academic institutions and circles all the time. And we should continue to teach them and explore their philosophies and apply their meanings, but we cannot forget the importance of grounding them in concrete examples, not just for academics or practitioners, but also for people who may not use these same terms, but still find the practices empowering. Rachel Rostad’s two videos, along with her other critical engagement with this discourse, is a great, accessible example of what we hope that people of all ages are doing when they are participating in mediated communication, engaging with popular culture, and otherwise interacting out in the world. We hope that people are actively engaged with their media and popular cultural stories and artifacts, and with each other. We hope that people are thinking about ideas, sharing them, playing with and acting on them, challenging each other and working out responses, incorporating new information, helping each other to learn and grow, and then repeating that process again and again.
    By following Rachel’s videos and active online engagement with a larger community, we can literally see and hear this messy, discursive, interactive transformative learning and teaching process unfolding. One of the key messages Rachel communicates is that she has learned a lot through the process of writing this poem, performing it, posting it online, receiving and engaging with all of the responses to it, and creating the follow-up video. She used these interactions in several ways. She apologized for areas where she made mistakes, where she misrepresented or silenced populations she was trying to empower. She clarified her perspective or points that either were not clear through the delivery of the poem, or could not be expanded on given the format of spoken word poetry. She used the experience as a way to take in and address critiques about areas she could have presented differently. And finally, she also spoke about the complexity of representation and tokenization both within the poem itself, which spoke about popular cultural representation via Cho Chang, but also in terms of her speaking about these topics from her positionality as a woman of color, who is considered “Asian” in the United States. She shared with us her processing and grappling with these issues, thanked all those that responded or commented, and kept the door open for future dialogue over these issues. She did all this, and publicly. What a courageous thing to do.
    In one instance, for example, a blogger at Angry Asian Girls United (AAGU) posted a response to the original poem, calling Rachel out for her glaring misrepresentation of South Asians and for ignoring Pan-Asian solidarity and identity. The blogger also critiqued her for taking up the term “Brown” as an East Asian, and for conflating the varying meanings of the “Asian” label when you consider U.S. versus U.K. contexts (where Harry Potter’s world is set; because then “Asian” would refer to Indians or other South Asians, e.g., Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, and people who look like Cho Chang would be referred to as “Chinese,” “Korean,” or another label associated with the East Asian country they hailed from). In the poem, Rachel speaks of “Asians” as if it equates to East Asian, and does not count Indian characters Padma and Parvati Patil when she speaks of “Asians,” a common issue when people have not fully unpacked the deeply ingrained, volatile, problematic U.S. (and global) race categorizations. In the poem, Rachel does include the Patil twins, as well as herself, as “Brown” and “minority.” I believe she used the term “Brown” as an attempt to empower and connect with discourses of identity politics that are possibly specific to U.S. cultural context, but whether (East, South, Central, Middle Eastern) Asians are included in that term, or whether she should or can use it can be saved for a separate conversation. The point is, the AAGU blog post called her out on her conflation, misrepresentation, and the silencing nature of Rachel’s use of these terms, and she heard them, learned from and engaged with the criticism.
    This one relatively small but important part of this larger example shows how many people were actively engaged, challenging both their own and each other’s thinking processes through this topic, and in a public way, which allowed others (like me and you) to witness and/or participate in the discussion, even months later. Additionally, Rachel and the people commenting on her videos were engaged through the combination and use of multiple, networked avenues. In the example above, the video was first posted on YouTube, which acquired comments. Rachel was looking for a way to succinctly learn about and respond to the YouTube comments about the misrepresentation of South Asians, which she found through the Angry Asian Girls United blog post. Rachel then linked to this blog post and responded to it on her tumblr site, and also apologized for misrepresenting Asian women in her response video, which was posted on YouTube. And to begin with, both Rachel and the AAGU blog poster were familiar with Harry Potter, whether through the books or movies (or some other form, e.g., video games, news, conversations), and the conversation and rapid spread of the discussion were supported because of an already existing Harry Potter fan base. Through their dialogue, both Rachel and the AAGU blogger were pushing ideas of the fluid markers and conceptions of identity and how it impacts and is impacted by visibility, representation, and socio-historic context.
    When thinking about social justice or civic engagement, we often look for big things – movements, large groups mobilizing many people – but sometimes we should shift our perspective a bit and focus in on the incredible things small groups of individuals are doing. They can also have a big impact. Word of mouth is a powerful thing.
    In the end, it all comes full circle. Rachel shared her performance and reflection with communities in person and on the internet, my friend shared the videos with me, and now I’m sharing my thoughts with you. I will join both Rachel Rostad and my friend and echo their sentiments. Hi. I saw this, and thought of you. The videos are really interesting! I hope we can continue to use these conversations as a jumping off point for further dialogue, growth, and reflection. Thank you!
    For more information on Rachel Rostad, visit her tumlbr or facebook pages. Rachel is currently a student at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. In keeping with voicing diverse stories about Asian Americans, she also has a great poem, “Adoption,” which is about identity, belonging, and family, from the perspective of a Korean adoptee growing up with a non-Korean family in the U.S., and one of her latest poems is about her Names.

    Diana Lee is a Ph.D. student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Her work explores representations of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, and other aspects of identity in U.S. media and popular culture. Specifically, she focuses on media portrayals of Asians and Asian Americans, implications of stereotypical and limited representation, and the educational and empowering nature of counter-narratives. Of particular interest are counter-narratives created through networked, mediated expressions, as well as participatory experiences and communities.
     

  • What is breast cancer awareness?

    by sjHuber


    With the ‘theory of change’ model as a starting point, I used a lot of ink thinking through my final project for Intro to Civic Media. As the theory of change model instructs, I began by thinking of the outcome of the project and worked my way back through it until I had determined the very first step. I realized while writing that I needed to ask and answer more questions about the project than I had anticipated.
    The biggest challenge I faced with my model was that I did not know what aspect I wanted to focus on regarding the role of breast cancer marketing on cancer culture. All roads, or arrows in the case of the diagram, lead to the term “awareness.” What is “awareness” exactly? How do corporations think they are making consumers more “aware” of breast cancer by selling pink products? What does it mean to be aware of a cause? Does awareness create action?
    October is “breast cancer awareness month,” and on a recent trip to the mall I saw that many stores were offering some cancer-related promotion. Every single store I entered asked if I wanted to donate to breast cancer awareness or offered me a way to support breast cancer awareness while purchasing their products. Where is the awareness money is going and how can consumers can ensure their money is making a difference?
    A web search on breast cancer awareness explains that awareness is important to reduce the stigma of breast cancer, but with pink ribbons on the selves of nearly every store and pink products or services sold by many major corporations it does not seem like stigma is the main issue here.
    We know that being a woman is the highest risk factor for getting breast cancer. We know that one in eight women will get breast cancer. Many people know someone personally who had breast cancer or has it. So, we do not need to be "aware" of the disease, instead we need to understand how we can reduce risk of getting it and improve the lives of people who have it and the lives of those who love them.
    Sometimes awareness means education about the importance of getting screenings and check-ups, but education does not necessarily mean that those who learn about it have access to it. And even if access is granted, these precautions alone do not prevent the disease though they could prevent the disease from getting worse. The emphasis on general awareness and on screening distracts from educating people about the increasing number of carcinogens we interact with on a daily basis. It leaves individuals feeling totally responsible for their health when we are each exposed to many other environmental factors that ought to be considered in the discussion.
    How can philanthropic organizations continue to involve people through consumerism without creating a culture of giving money but not time? How can these organizations get the greatest amount of money? Is it through cause marketing campaigns or through more traditional forms of philanthropy?
    What should corporations engaged in cause marketing do to maintain ethical business practices? Should they be able to sell products that contribute to the very problem they claim to address? Whose responsibility is it to have safe consumer products?
    All of the above questions and even more came to mind when I worked through my theory of change model. I concluded, or actually because of the theory of change model I began by deciding that I want my product to motivate people to take action by inspiring them and by offering them easy ways to be more responsible consumers and cancer activists. Now I have to decide which questions I want to answer and what sort of difference exactly I want to make with this specific project...
    There are so many issues to be discussed and discovered that deciding what I want this project to be about has almost become a project in itself. Perhaps what I should actually do for the final project is create a platform for discussion on this issue of cancer consumer activism, or connect people with platforms that already exist (please share if you know of any!). I think this content will take the shape of a website, or at least a draft of what a website would look like if it were to be created in the future.
    theory of changebreast cancercancer activismphilanthropypink ribbonsIntro to Civic Mediabreast cancer screening and early detection suggestions

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