New Media and Activism

(San Francisco Chronicle)

When reading Malcolm Gladwell’s article in The New Yorker, and Henry Jenkins’ response to the article, I had scenes from the movie Milk flashing in my mind. I kept imagining the rallies that Harvey Milk and his supporters organized, and started thinking about how these events would have been changed if each of those people were carrying iPhones or Blackberries with them. They were committed to the cause and the events, and social media could have been utilized to inspire the same sense of commitment in others.

I agree with Ramesh Srinivassan, who is mentioned in Gladwell’s post by saying that he would, “suggest that some elements of social media *can be utilized* to generate and cement ties and coordination between those committed to the revolutionary cause.” I agree that current social media tools are beneficial in creating change – whether it be in organizing a city-wide rally, or simply coordinating people for an after-school activist club. I disagree with Gladwell’s belief that the weak ties enabled by social media sites can’t inspire the level of commitment that civil rights movement required. If a person finds out about a social activist event on Facebook and says that they are “Attending” then actually attends, how are they not committed? Committing to a cause does not necessarily require a big demonstration or violence.

I also think it is interesting that Srinivassan also mentions how social media can enable people in various levels of commitment to a cause to still be able to act on it. For example, people can make anonymous donations through websites, or simply become more informed on certain issues by reading about them online and browsing Twitter and Facebook pages. I think that WikiLeaks is a testament to this – it allows people to become more informed about issues and form a strong opinion, without the “high-risk activism.”

 

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Change or Perish

From The New York Times:

“Before leggings, when there were letters, before texts and tweets, when there was time, before speed cameras, when you could speed, before graffiti management companies, when cities had souls, we managed just the same.

Before homogenization, when there was mystery, before aggregation, when the original had value, before digital, when there was vinyl, before Made in China, when there was Mao, before stress management, when there was romance, we had the impression we were doing all right.

Before apps, when there were attention spans, before “I’ve got five bars,” when bars were for boozing, before ring-tone selection, when the phone rang, before high-net-worth individuals, when love was all you needed, before hype, when there was Hendrix, we got by just the same.

Before social media, when we were social, before thumb-typing, when a thumb hitched a ride, before de-friending, when a friend was for life, before online conduct, when you conducted yourself, before “content,” when we told stories, we did get by all the same.

Before non-state actors, when states commanded, before the Bangalore back office, when jobs stayed put, before globalization, when wars were cold, we did manage O.K., it seemed.

Before celebrities, when there were stars, before Google maps, when compasses were internal, before umbilical online-ism, when we off-lined our lives, before virtual flirtation, when legs touched, we felt we managed all the same.

Before identity theft, when nobody could steal you, before global positioning systems, when we were lost, before 24/7 monitoring and alerts by text and e-mail, when there was idleness, before spin doctors, when there was character, before e-readers, when pages were turned, we did get by just the same.

Before organic, when carrots weren’t categorized, before derivatives, when your mortgage was local, before global warming, when we feared nuclear winters, before “save the planet,” when we lived in our corners, before the Greens, when we faced the Reds, it seemed we did somehow manage just the same.

Or did we? Before iPads and “Search,” in the era of print, before portable devices, when there were diaries, before the weather channel, when forecasts were farcical, before movies-on-demand, when movies were demanding, before chains and brands, in the time of the samizdat, before curved shower curtain rods, when they were straight, before productivity gains, when Britain produced things, and so did Ohio, did we really and honestly get by just the same?

Before January cherries, when fruit had seasons, before global sushi, when you ate what you got, before deep-fried Mars bars, when fish were what fried, before New World wine, when wine was tannic, before fast food and slow food, when food just was, before plate-size cookies, when greed was contained, before fusion, in scattered division, before the obesity onslaught, in our ordinariness, could we — could we — have gotten by all the same?

Before dystopia, when utopia beckoned, before rap, in Zappa’s time, before attention deficit disorders, when people turned on, before the new Prohibition, when lunches were liquid, before Lady Gaga, when we dug the Dead, before “join the conversation,” when things were disjointed, before Facebook, when there was Camelot, before reality shows, when things were real, yes, I believe we got by just the same.

Before “I’ll call you back,” when people made dates, before algorithms, when there was aimlessness, before attitude, when there was apathy, before YouTube, when there was you and me, before Gore-Tex, in the damp, before sweat-resistant fabric, when sweat was sexy, before high-tech sneakers, as we walked the walk, before remotes, in the era of distance, I’m sure we managed just the same.

Before “carbon neutral,” when carbon copied, before synching, when we lived unprompted, before multiplatform, when pen met paper, before profiling, when there was privacy, before cloud computing, when life was earthy, before a billion bits of distraction, when there were lulls, before “silent cars,” when there was silence, before virtual community, in a world with borders, before cut-and-paste, to the tap of the Selectra, before the megabyte, in disorder, before information overload, when streets were for wandering, before “sustainable,” in the heretofore, before CCTV, in invisibility, before networks, in the galaxy of strangeness, my impression, unless I’m wrong, is that we got by quite O.K.

Before I forget, while there is time, for the years pass and we don’t get younger, before the wiring accelerates, while I can pause, let me summon it back, that fragment from somewhere, that phrase that goes: “The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production … and with them the whole relations of society.”

Yes, that was Marx, when he was right, before he went wrong, when he observed, before he imagined, with terrible consequences for the 20th century.

And if back in that century — back when exactly? — in the time before the tremendous technological leap, in the time of mists and drabness and dreams, if back then, without passwords, we managed just the same, even in black and white, and certainly not in hi-def, or even 3-D, how strange to think we had to change everything or we would not be managing at all.”

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Blogging, Communication, and Fame

I would’ve posted on this Shirky reading last week but we were supposed to post our audio clip, so this is a bit after the fact…

In last week’s reading by Clay Shirky, he discusses the concept of fame in relation to the Internet. According to Shirky, fame is “an imbalance between inbound and outbound attention.” A person who is considered “famous” has to receive a certain amount of attention that is too great to reciprocate. He continues to discuss this concept with the example of Oprah – if Oprah wanted to talk to every single one of her audience members, it would be impossible. These social limits, according to Shirky, are similar to those that are now experienced by bloggers. There has been a huge increase in the number of blogs that exist, and some bloggers are now even considered “famous.” For people that just blog amongst their friends, the social limits have not become an issue; on the other hand, bloggers with thousands of readers have to pick and choose who they will interact with.

I think that the connection between blogging and fame is an interesting one. I agree with Shirky that as a blog becomes more popular, social limits arise. For example, Scott Schuman, of the well-known fashion blog The Sartorialist, does not have the time to respond to the hundreds of comments that he receives on each post. However, I think it’s important to consider the beginnings of a blog and the open communication that can exist before the readership becomes too much to handle. I’d like to hear what Shirky has to say about people who start blogs and gain fame from them, rather than people who are famous to begin with.

I think it is the potential for open communication that has caused blogs to become “famous” – people like that they can actually relate a website to a person, and that the person can interact with them. For example, Knight Cat is a well-known fashion blog that is updated daily with photos for inspiration. I just looked back to the first entry in the blog, and in the comments section the author actually responded to people who left comments. Now that she has become more popular, or “famous,” I don’t think she responds to comments. Yet, I think the fact that she did in the beginning, and still could, is what keeps people interested. The communication is quick and easy, and even if the blog author doesn’t respond to you, there are plenty of other people leaving comments that have similar interests and intentions who are probably more than willing to discuss them.

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A Future in Blogging…with Gossip Girl?

A recent posting on Mediabistro’s Media Jobs Daily suggests becoming a blogger as a way to break into the media industry. Specifically, they suggest blogging with television show recaps. Supposedly TV recaps have become quite popular with blogs but, to be honest, I’ve never really noticed them. The post says that blogging about your favorite television show could be a great way to break into the media industry while getting paid to watch a show you’d already be watching anyways.

While I agree that blogging can be a good way to get your foot in the door, I don’t think it’s as simple as Mediabistro makes it out to be. The only example of success in TV-recap blogging that they mention describes a scenario involving a girl who already had a job with the Wall Street Journal, who started writing synopses of Gossip Girl. She wasn’t your average student or college grad with a blog that just happened to gain some recognition. With so many blogs in existence today, I think it would be pretty difficult to make your television recaps, regardless if they are unique and well-written, become a paying job unless you already had some kind of “in”

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Media Bistro: A Week in Review

“She’s interested and she’s interesting,” is how  Elle’s editor-in-chief Robbie Myers describes the ideal candidate for a job with the magazine. Throughout her interview posted on Mediabistro’s Fishbowl NY Blog, Myers reiterates that Elle is fashion-based but looks beyond clothing, valuing people who are interested in educating themselves and expanding their horizons.

It was comforting to hear Myers say that an ideal candidate would also know how to be a reporter, not just a writer. Since the majority of my classes this semester are being used to fulfill the Journalism Certificate, I’m glad to know that what I’m learning will possibly be appreciated when I start applying for jobs.

After a week of following Mediabistro, I’m still unsure how I feel about it. My first visit to the site left me feeling overwhelmed by the amount of different blogs and links, but underwhelmed by their content. I think I’m not familiar enough with the website and it’s many blogs yet to be able to make a fair judgment about it. I was definitely disappointed that registration and payment are required to access some of the full articles that are linked to from other websites.

Aside from the job listings, I think that the “How to Pitch” section is one of the most useful that I’ve found on the site so far – aside from the fact that the Marie Claire outline is the online one that you can view in full without having to pay a fee.

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The Right to Blog

In my New Media class last semester we had a discussion about the message boards that have become a part of every news website, giving readers the ability to comment on stories in any way that they see fit. Someone in the class wondered aloud about the amount of “stupid people” leaving comments – another classmate responded by saying that the people have always been there, but now that they have the ability to make their voices heard, there seems to be even more of them than before.

The ability to leave an obscene comment on message board doesn’t refer to blogging exactly, but I think that it demonstrates how the internet has created endless outlets that allow people to make their voices heard. Do I think that people should be allowed to write whatever they’d like on a blog or message board? Of course. Can it cause controversy or become annoying? Yes.

Blogging does grant a right to speech that I don’t think should be denied. Yet, there are times when I think the freedom to blog or create a personal website should be limited. This article from Reuters touches on instances of cyber bullying that have lead to deaths – http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6275UG20100309. This might be an extreme example of the results of blogging and internet freedom, but I think that it demonstrates that some limitations are necessary.

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I’ll admit it, I’m a GLEEK – a Geek for “Glee”

I’ve never been a big fan of watching TV. I went through a phase of watching “Gossip Girl,” but only because I had read the series throughout middle school and high school. I’ll occasionally turn it on at home while I exercise or if I want background noise while cooking. Otherwise, I’ve always been more likely to pick up a book or magazine, or browse the Internet looking at Style.com or cooking blogs for new cookie recipes. Yet, my TV watching habits changed this fall while I was in New York. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by what I had heard about the new series “Glee.” My boss was a huge fan, and so were the friends that I worked with. Even the male stylist who worked on photo shoots out of the city would come into the office raving about it, and offering the newest gossip about the actor who plays the male teacher and leader of Glee club, and his relationship with Anderson Cooper’s boyfriend. The office was constantly buzzing with Glee, so I decided to check it out and buy an episode from iTunes. I wasn’t disappointed.

The show includes just about every high school clique and cliché. The award-winning cheer squad, the “Cheerios” skip around campus in their short-skirted uniforms, hanging on their football-playing boyfriends. Their coast, Sue Sylvester is blunt, sarcastic, and takes no prisoners. She encourages her squad to stay fit, and thin, and doesn’t accept anything but perfection. When she finds out that Will Schuester is going to be creating a new Glee club on campus, she determines to bring the club down – she doesn’t just want the club removed, but wants them to go down in flames.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but watching an episode of Glee will certainly inspire you to learn to sing and dance. The musical aspect of the show had me hooked from the start. I took piano lessons growing up, but always refused to sing along when my teachers would ask me to. I was always too embarrassed and knew there would never be any hope for my singing. When watching Glee, I feel extremely envious. Plus, all of the songs are covers of recognizable classics and current songs – there is always a little something for everyone.

The show inspires envy for the characters but also sympathy. The Glee club is a group of high school misfits, including a boy in a wheel chair, a girl with a severe stutter, and a boy who is obviously still in the closet but is more than willing to flaunt his passion for designer clothing. These are just a few of the kids who have had a Slushee thrown in their face by a popular football player.

One of the things I appreciate most about the show is the amount of detail used to perfect each character and their quirks. The outfits of the self-proclaimed “star” of the Glee Club are always borderline geeky, with matching skirt and sweater outfits equipped with argyle knee socks and Mary Janes. The show’s attention to detail is especially apparent in the school counselor, Emma. Emma, like the rest of the characters, has her own personal quirk – she suffers from an extreme case of O.C.D. Everything she touches is sterile, including the grapes that she eats with her lunch, that she cleans off one-by-one before eating.

As a result of being hooked on Glee, I’ve also become a fan of the soundtrack. I have to admit, I probably wouldn’t buy any songs from the soundtrack if I hadn’t seen the show. After you see the episodes and watch the performances of the cover song, it is difficult not to appreciate each performance. So first, I would recommend actually watching an episode of Glee, since I don’t think I can do the show justice without giving away too much of the plot. I’m pretty sure that the most recent episodes are available on Hulu.com. Next, if you’re a fan of the show, I would suggest checking out the soundtrack on iTunes. From my personal experience, a couple of the songs including “Don’t Stop Believin’” (their performance on Oprah) and “Keep Holding On” are quite motivating while pulling an all-nighter during finals week.

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