Category Archives: student blogs

Blog #1: My Response to "Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky"

My Response to "Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky"
By Andaiye Hall

Once I started reading, I immediately fell in love with this piece. Originally, I was going to write regarding Red Riding Hood by Donna Lieshman. I like the feeling I got when I started reading the story. Instead of just starting to read, I had to press Enter. I had to double check with myself to make sure that I was really ready to enter this new world/dimension. The sentences appeared on the screen and the narrator spoke in Arabic. They had a very soothing voice and seemed to say the intro in a calm melody.This added to the effectiveness of how the story's message was relayed. Since I couldn't understand, I was forced to keep watching the sentences appear. At times, I had to start over if I had missed a sentence.

The  music gave me an actual sound to visualizing the stars twinkling and feeling like I myself was in outer space. I loved the simple imagery that the designer chose for this piece at well. as the reader moves his or her mouse around it becomes prevalent that the blue stars carry messages and the white ones don't. I like how the reader can start wherever he/she wants and end wherever he/she wants. The music had a soothing effect as well. I feel like it opens the door to meditative thinking and reflection in the actual mind of the reader. Personally, I wanted to keep reading. It would have been nice if the designer had let the music slightly change as you pressed the different stars and read the respective messages.

This particular e-lit text allows the reader to have a small glance at each of the narrator's most memorable things/people from their past either experienced by them themselves or by their family members.The fact that this reading was relatable to a certain extent intrigued me. The narrator is so welcoming to a wide audience to be in his and his family's personal affairs. The traditional chapters of a book have been transformed into stars in this text and the author decides how long or short his chapters can be.
My key questions from this reading are:
Who is the narrator? Where were they born? How old are they? Why are they opening up themselves to the reading audience? What is the reader supposed to take away from this story? What is the symbolism of water supposed to mean? What does the author mean when they says "Shall I tell you of my water, which is getting thirsty"? How does water get thirsty? Is it a symbol for their soul somehow? How is the narrator so important that the whole world is destined to be their family? Is he or she now dead? Why is the uncle's palace unfinished? Is the uncle's palace a real place or symbolic of something else? Why did the author write in the manner that he did?

Examining Kenneth Goldsmith’s "Soliloquy"

"Soliloquy" by Kenneth Goldsmith is apparently the result of the author recording and transcribing every word he spoke in the span of a week.  It is divided by day, and then further divided by numerical pages, which seem to correspond only to the length of the content, not to any other factors (for example, a certain number does not equal a certain hour).  Each page begins with one line visible; the other lines appear and disappear as the mouse cursor moves over them. 

In one sense, "Soliloquy" functions as a cautionary piece, prompting readers to consider the sounds that spill from their lips each day (and "Soliloquy" shows us some of them, a lot of them, are just sounds). A great majority of the text in "Soliloquy" is devoted to verbal fillers and incoherent sentences.  Even when it's clear that the topic of speech is something that required a lot of thought, it comes out stunted by parasitic ums and you knows.  At first, I found this annoying because it was hard for me to make sense out of what I was reading.  I wanted full thoughts and articulate insights; after all, this guy's a writer!  Then I realized that what I wanted was dialogue and not speech.  Even knowing that this was essentially a work of creative nonfiction, that it was a real person's real words from a real week, I wanted the clarity and significance of fictional dialogue.  In short, I was holding this man to an unreal (in every sense of the word) standard.  Real people, even brilliant ones, give birth to a lot of meaningless words each day.  In helping his readers realize this, Goldsmith urges them to make every word count.  He encourages readers to make their everyday speech as meaningful as they can, with the goal of living up to the unreachable significance of fiction.  I find this quite interesting because generally an artificial thing is deemed less meaningful than a real thing.  "Soliloquy" calls that into question.  If fictional dialogue, and the amount of meaning it conveys, is the unattainable divine in this case, then readers, and the hollow ramblings they engender each day, are the lowly sinners.  The artificial is above the real.  In the words and cadence of Jerry Seinfeld, "What's up with that?"

There is also literary significance in the way that words/phrases are found and accessed in "Soliloquy."  Readers can choose to run down a page one line at a time, trying to imagine the words or reactions of the other, invisible, speaker in the conversation, or they can randomly point their cursor and see what pops up.  Oddly enough, the phrases make just as little sense in order as they do out of order.  This calls to question the way that meaning is created.  Earlier this week, I read Kenneth Bruffee's "Collaborative Learning" for another class.  Although I was reluctant to accept it at first, Bruffee asserts that meaning and knowledge are created socially, through interactions with other people.  "Soliloquy" did more to drive Brufee's point home for me than "Collaborative Learning" itself.  Seeing how disorienting and meaningless only one side of a conversation is was genuinely eye-opening. 

When one takes the two points of "Soliloquy," the comparative absurdity of real speech to fictional dialogue and the meaninglessness of only one side of a conversation, together with the title, it makes another point: there is not, nor can there ever be, such thing as a soliloquy in real life.    


  

Examining Kenneth Goldsmith’s "Soliloquy"

"Soliloquy" by Kenneth Goldsmith is apparently the result of the author recording and transcribing every word he spoke in the span of a week.  It is divided by day, and then further divided by numerical pages, which seem to correspond only to the length of the content, not to any other factors (for example, a certain number does not equal a certain hour).  Each page begins with one line visible; the other lines appear and disappear as the mouse cursor moves over them. 

In one sense, "Soliloquy" functions as a cautionary piece, prompting readers to consider the sounds that spill from their lips each day (and "Soliloquy" shows us some of them, a lot of them, are just sounds). A great majority of the text in "Soliloquy" is devoted to verbal fillers and incoherent sentences.  Even when it's clear that the topic of speech is something that required a lot of thought, it comes out stunted by parasitic ums and you knows.  At first, I found this annoying because it was hard for me to make sense out of what I was reading.  I wanted full thoughts and articulate insights; after all, this guy's a writer!  Then I realized that what I wanted was dialogue and not speech.  Even knowing that this was essentially a work of creative nonfiction, that it was a real person's real words from a real week, I wanted the clarity and significance of fictional dialogue.  In short, I was holding this man to an unreal (in every sense of the word) standard.  Real people, even brilliant ones, give birth to a lot of meaningless words each day.  In helping his readers realize this, Goldsmith urges them to make every word count.  He encourages readers to make their everyday speech as meaningful as they can, with the goal of living up to the unreachable significance of fiction.  I find this quite interesting because generally an artificial thing is deemed less meaningful than a real thing.  "Soliloquy" calls that into question.  If fictional dialogue, and the amount of meaning it conveys, is the unattainable divine in this case, then readers, and the hollow ramblings they engender each day, are the lowly sinners.  The artificial is above the real.  In the words and cadence of Jerry Seinfeld, "What's up with that?"

There is also literary significance in the way that words/phrases are found and accessed in "Soliloquy."  Readers can choose to run down a page one line at a time, trying to imagine the words or reactions of the other, invisible, speaker in the conversation, or they can randomly point their cursor and see what pops up.  Oddly enough, the phrases make just as little sense in order as they do out of order.  This calls to question the way that meaning is created.  Earlier this week, I read Kenneth Bruffee's "Collaborative Learning" for another class.  Although I was reluctant to accept it at first, Bruffee asserts that meaning and knowledge are created socially, through interactions with other people.  "Soliloquy" did more to drive Brufee's point home for me than "Collaborative Learning" itself.  Seeing how disorienting and meaningless only one side of a conversation is was genuinely eye-opening. 

When one takes the two points of "Soliloquy," the comparative absurdity of real speech to fictional dialogue and the meaninglessness of only one side of a conversation, together with the title, it makes another point: there is not, nor can there ever be, such thing as a soliloquy in real life.    


  

Reflecting on Air-B-N-Me & the Class

After participating in Air-B-N-Me, it allowed me an opportunity to reflect on how it was a microcosm of my experience with digital media as a whole. It was daunting at first, fun and creative once I got into it and yet included some technical obstacles that frustrated me and left me wondering if it was all worth the effort. The opportunity to “participate” in digital media with my colleagues and with others was fun, although it still seemed like less of a free-flowing give-and-take and more of a bulletin board type of opportunity. I don’t think that was the original vision of the project so I’ll give the creators the benefit of the doubt, but I believe that the creativity exhibited by both the creators and participants made the project worthwhile. As I pointed out above, I think it provided a lens into what’s good and bad about my online experiences thus far. It also showed me that the possibility of exploring new ways to use digital media to share online space in a creative way that expands our ideas about reality and community makes the whole thing worthwhile.

Going back to the beginning of the class, we focused on our responsibility to participate in the world of digital media and how the line has become blurred between our “real” lives and our digital lives. This is a tough lesson for a guy like me to learn because I feel strongly that there are simply parts of our lives that should remain unplugged. However, even during the time I’ve been in this class, I’ve found myself dragged (sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly) into the online world more and more (spending more time on my phone, more time tweeting, on Facebook, etc.).  Is this good or bad?  I still tend to see my kids spending time online and my reflexive response is that they should shut it off and go find a friend to play with outside. However, this class has helped me realize that their online lives are in some ways equally substantial and consequential as their lives in the real world. I am trying not to disparage the lessons they can learn by participating in online communities, while simultaneously trying to take more steps to immerse myself in that world. At the beginning of this class, I wrote in my second blog (This is Collaboration?) that I was appalled at the idea that someone could take the skills they learned in World of Warcraft and parlay that into a job at MIT. The problem I had was seeing how the skills earned by manipulating online communities were so different or more important than the skills used to navigate disputes and problems in the real world. Several months later, I feel like I can look back and have a better understanding of the particular difficulties inherent in building your online profile and communicating therein. Understanding how to communicate without being misunderstood, how to communicate to a large group of people in remote locations and how to keep abreast of the sheer volume of communications in an online space are daunting and unique challenges.

The presentation that I created helped me see more clearly the connection between what I do as a journalist and the participation of people all over the world. Up until now, I still saw UGC (user generated content) as something of a unique aspect of my business – something that overlaps with my job only every once in a while. But I see now that journalism is being transformed as we speak by people providing content and analysis and participating in the way news is not only created but communicated and understood across online spaces. We in the news are no longer even the match that lights the spark, but one match of many. And while we play a role in how news is communicated and understood by the masses we may no longer be the primary conduit of that message or the key to how it is framed. Finally, I’ll mention the technical problems that I encountered along the way. Creating my presentation, joining Instagram and participating in the Air-B-N-Me brought me face-to-face with a number of challenges in actually getting programs to work the way they were supposed to. In many ways I felt like my son as he tried to figure out what file to take pictures from or how to rename them – something totally unrelated to the task he was trying to accomplish (although he didn’t know it). I feel like some of this stuff should be intuitive and it’s not, some is needlessly complicated for the sake of aesthetics and some simply doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s my old brain trying to comprehend something new, but I don’t think so. I think there are times when people who are in charge of bridging the gap between new media and the new generation sometimes forget about us in the generation that came before. Give us a break – we are trying to get on board as well.?


NetProv Air-B-N-Me

I wasn’t too sure about this project at first. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all good with the creative aspect and the idea of inhabiting someone else’s life actually inspired a few interesting story ideas that I tucked away for future use. But in this case, it was the technological part of this that made me nervous. I have absolutely zero experience with Periscope and was concerned about letting people actually view my life for any period of time. (I know other people seem to have no problem with that, but it’s not exactly my thing). In reality, it turned out that my fears were (somewhat) justified when it turned out that the creative part was by far the most fun and the actual process of getting the posting together and up on the site was far more painful than I would have thought (and admittedly more difficult than it probably should have been).

Meeting with my group was a good way to kick off the project. I had initially thought about creating an ad that would offer the lurfer an opportunity (“swapportunity”) to be a child again.  I had a vision of me riding my bike down a hill in the sunshine when I was 10 or 12 and feeling like there was simply no weight on my shoulders. No responsibilities, none of the pressures that would come later in life. Enticing right? However, in discussing that with my group I initially thought a classmate was doing something similar. And then when she switched, I felt like perhaps others on Air-B-N-Me would do it.  I haven’t come across a similar idea on the site. Oh well. During our discussion, Melissa talked about giving some insight into what it was like to do her job as a waitress and I decided to take one of the unusual aspects of my job and make it the subject of my swapportunity. Thus, I decided on PreDawnDriver and gave people the chance to ride with me (instead of me?) to work at 4am from the Jersey shore all the way into NYC. The pitch? Enjoy a quiet commute with no traffic and no one bothering you – just you, the moon and the empty road. Creating the ad was easy and I accomplished it without difficulty. I created the video over the course of a few trips and then cut it together with Windows MovieMaker, added sound and posted it to YouTube. The problem was that I could not figure out how to post the video. I could see other people’s video links under their own posts. But when I tried to add to my forum posts I got this.

 

Error 404 – Not Found

The document you are looking for may have been removed or re-named. Please contact the web site owner for further assistance.

I tried a couple of different routes. I went back to the original instructions here. Nothing under settings. Clicking on Content under my account just took me back to the main swapportunities page. Nothing. I even tried to switch from Google Chrome to Firefox. Still couldn’t figure it out. I even reached out to Melissa to see if I had to sign up for  Periscope and that I had simply misunderstood the directions. She said no, I simply had to create the ad and put in the URL for the YouTube video. But how do I do it???

After probably an hour over a series of sessions, I finally figured it out. Go to Forum Posts, then to the available listings under the Forums Index and I had to crate a New Topic. Problem is, this wasn’t intuitive to me. I couldn’t see what forum I was posting in. It didn’t say anything about the ad. Why not at least put a NEW button on the page with all the other Forum Posts. Or label a button New Posting. I wasn’t even sure where my post would wind up until I actually posted it and saw that it had (to my relief) shown up where everyone else’s had.

This is my ad.

I also took some time to look at other people’s ads and found them creative and interesting for the most part. I will give a shoutout to our classmate Colin for an exceptional post.  I also check out this post and this post and commented on both. Some of the others seemed like people simply mailing it in (so to speak) – shooting something, anything for 30 seconds and posting it.  I wonder if in the next incarnation of this, we push people to videotape the wildest, most fascinating and unusual moments for people to “swap” with. It would take a bit of a change in the narrative behind the project, but might make for interesting results (and could prove to have more of a life beyond a classroom project.) All in all, I enjoyed Air B-N-Me – I thought it was a very creative idea nd I enjoyed taking part -just would have done the site a little bit differently.

 

 

 


Learning Instagram

Before We Began

The primary reason that I chose Instagram as the media platform I’m exploring is that my kids wanted to try it. In this blog, I explain how I went about exploring this medium and then how my kids did. Both said they were “excited”, although Frank also said he was “nervous” and Jackie expressed concern about sharing personal information (something I expect is a result of her parents’ pounding that cautionary message into her head). I don’t really know much about Instagram other than that is picture sharing. I am not by nature someone that shares a lot of what is going on in my life with people beyond my immediate social circle, so there is some question in my mind about how practical it is to open an account and how much I will use it. Really, I know nothing beyond that. I don’t really know how Instagram works, whether people check into my account to see my pictures or whether I post them like Facebook or send them out like on Twitter. I have used other social media but not a lot. I am notoriously bad at posting on Facebook and I use Twitter mostly because of school, although I have posted more in recent weeks as I find articles that I think are relevant to what we discuss in class. I guess it says something about my level of familiarity with social media that it even enters my mind to use it. I will say from the start that my children’s impression of Instagram was as vague as mine but they know classmates that use it. I don’t know anyone that uses it. They were both excited to learn about it. My feelings are less excited and more curious, although that may just be the stick-in-the-mud adult that I’ve turned out to be.?

My Adventure

As I actually went through the steps of getting on Instagram, my first primary decision was what picture to use for my profile. I opted for a picture of a shadow that I had saved on my computer. Why? I think for two reasons – one, because I like the sense of mystery and incompleteness that it denotes and two, because I am still nervous about putting my picture out there. I have some cute pictures of my mom & I, my sister & I and my son & I that I could have used, but I honestly wasn’t comfortable putting any of their pictures online. Doesn’t help that when I had second thoughts, I went to edit my profile and don’t see an option to change the picture. So I’ll keep it the way it is for now. On the main page, all of the people that are “suggested” that I follow are pop stars or media stars like Ariana Grande, and three (3!) different Kardashian/Jenners (out of a total of 10 suggestions). Thanks Instagram, but I don’t want to follow any of these people. I wonder about my kids though – did they follow any of them? And damn, there’s a lot of skin in these pictures. Kim Kardashian’s pictures are basically her boobs and her butt – and they look like they were all taken by a professional photographer to maximize the lighting. So I guess I have to search for someone to follow. I don’t know where to begin. I finally opted to look for the band, Above the Moon, which is my cousin’s band and who I saw last night at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park. I figure my cousin is usually on top of social media promotions and I was right – I found them. I note that many of the pictures are also on their Facebook page – are they basically interchangeable?  One thing I noticed when searching is that the names are really small and its hard to distinguish one result from another through the super tiny pictures. I tried Ray Bradbury because I was just reading about him and I found a number of Instagram accounts (?) with his name in them. I can’t tell if any of them are officially from his estate or anything (maybe picking a dead guy was a bad idea). But I did notice that when you click a picture, it has options to follow that person – so I can see how you would start in one place and be carried through a search that could result in you following a number of different people along the way. I tried searching for Axl Rose and, again, I didn’t know if there were any official accounts. I did run across one labeled Fan Page and one labeled Axl Rose Photography. In Googling, I found out that up until December of 2014, there was no way to determine whether an account was official or fake. Then they introduced little “verified badges” or checkmarks to make it clear. I searched “Prince” to see if I could find his and I did. One thing I noticed in playing music on Prince’s Instagram account is that if I open another window in the same browser, the music stops. Glitch! Wow – I just went back to my profile and I already have someone following me. I’ve only had an account for 20 minutes!  And I don’t have any posts!

instagram

Oh wait – ha ha – of course no one is following me. It is +I+ who is following someone else – my cousin’s band. Guess I’m still getting the hang of this, although I suppose I should have known that one. I almost went back and erased what I just wrote, but in the interest of expressing the full digital media adventure, I left it in.

Speaking of which, it is not immediately obvious to me how to upload photos. After scouting around, I realize I have to click on my profile photo and it gives me an option to change the picture or upload new ones. That is odd.  That can’t be the only way to upload pictures, can it? OK, no it must not be. That’s just for changing profile photos. Oh – now I see. I need to download an app to get it working.

9:09pm – I’m not thrilled with the way this site is set up. None of the little icons are labeled and they don’t even label themselves when you hold the cursor over it. Also, isn’t it ridiculous that I have to download an app to post pictures? I’m sitting at my computer and have pictures I want to post on the computer. Why can’t I just post them from here? It seems an unnecessary step to force you to download the app (and as you will see shortly, this is what derailed my son in his attempt to set this up). Now my computer is telling me that ITunes was downloaded improperly and I have to redo it. This is getting aggravating.

9:31pm – After 10 minutes and a bit of panicking over the possible loss of hundreds of songs stored on my old version of ITunes, a new version was installed and all the songs were still there and I managed to get the Instagram app.

9:42pm – One problem, I have no idea how to get it to work now. It’s downloaded – I see it on my screen, but when I click on it, nothing happens. I am having a ton of trouble with this and after working on it for a half hour, trying to go back and reload the App, I am giving up for the night.

9:17am – OK – brand new day and I’ve decided to bag the idea of doing this online and instead, downloaded the app on my phone. It took 5 seconds to download it and once that was done, it was very easy to access the pictures on my phone, choose one, throw a filter on it and share it.

IMG_3505

Frank’s Adventure

Just as I did, my son Frank had a lot of problems. However, his difficulties stemmed from more from an overall unfamiliarity with how we navigate online spaces. In the end, he spent 40 minutes trying to figure out how to build an account and couldn’t do it ultimately without input. (My wife was filming him and we both agreed that neither of us wouldn’t give him any help unless absolutely necessary). He was initially excited because, as he told me, he had “never had a social media before”. He went right to the instructions on the Instagram webpage. He got derailed, however, and ended up on a page about the app and din’t know how to download it (he was on the wrong page). He used Google repeatedly to try to figure out how to do things and he ended up going down a couple of rabbit holes (both regarding the app, regarding signing up and then later regarding naming a file which he felt was necessary to get an account photo loaded up for the site. The context of the video I added below is that at this point, he has figured out that he can’t load Instagram via instructions for the app (which dont help anyway).  He has instead figured out how to create an account on the computer, but does not know how to upload a picture. He is scouting around in the files, getting derailed on how to name a file, etc.  Here is my son basically coming to the end of his rope.

003

In the end, Frank was near tears at the end of this process (or I should say the point at which he gave up). This was not a friendly process and for some of the same reasons I cited above (icons not being labeled and confusing directions between using the app and uploading photos via the computer for example), Frank was disappointed and, at present, is no longer enthused about using Instagram.

Jackie’s Adventure

My daughter Jacqueline is not having anywhere near the same kinds of problems. While Frank struggled for nearly an hour, Jackie was able to sign up for Instagram in about five minutes and had no problem uploading a picture, actually deleting and picking a new one three times before she found the one she wanted.  For Frank, all the excitement he felt in the beginning of the adventure seemed to boil away into frustration. For Jackie, the excitement was still there when she finished. Check it out. In watching the videos of Jackie’s experience, I will repeat again that I was uncomfortable with the nature of some of the photos that come up right away as part of the people that are offered for her to follow. Could Instagram ask the age of the user and then tailor the options for that age group? Or does that occur through some sort of algorithm that scrutinizes the people she follows? By the way, Jackie has succeeded in her goal and already has 11 followers!!  (She is following one person – her friend Lacey).

jackiepic

Conclusion

I went in to this experience, expecting it to be simple and straightforward. In fact, before I began, I was almost rooting for one of my children to have difficulty signing up because I figured there was a fairly good chance that all three of us would sail through the process and there would be very little to write about. I was very wrong. I was surprised that the directions seemed less than straightforward, that there were limits on how you can upload photos and that the site itself was so unfriendly to users. In fact, it seemed more engineered for aesthetics, making sure that the icons were small and unlabeled perhaps to look “clean” while the Instagram photos of the people they were pitching (like Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian) were centered and large to make sure they made up the heart of the home page. I think that someone trying to set this up needs some advanced understanding of how computers and social media works. A newbie like Frank was clearly confused and frustrated and even I had to abandon my first plan of how to use Instagram and go to plan B, downloading the app on my phone. Only Jackie seemed not to have problems, although she has not uploaded any photos that I know of outside of her own profile picture. I found this form of social media to be frustrating. To me, the process of sharing photos is more effective on Facebook or even Twitter (or Vine) and I would rather use something like Facebook to look at friends’ photos and Google or TMZ if I want to see pictures of celebrities. I think part of the original attraction to this site was the idea of more intimacy – that the other people or celebrities are sharing something more personal by taking the pictures themselves – and I will say that I found some of that, for instance, looking at Prince’s Instagram (which offered some sound clips as well). But overall, they seemed like glorified publicity photos (for celebrities) and added very little value above and beyond pictures available on other forms of social media. It was just a lot bigger pain in the butt.

 

 


Chapters 6 & 7 (The End of the Story?)

I found the idea of Jenkins’ “civic imagination” intriguing – and I would imagine that for the majority of us, we never emerge from that state. Imagining a better world is a dream for all of humanity but, as is pointed out, the difficulty is in taking up the mantle of change agent.The report that he refers to points out the forms of participatory politics, including 1) sharing info through social media 2) engaging in online conversations 3)creating original online content 4) using tools like Twitter to rally people toward a collective activity 5) building databases that can investigate an ongoing concern.

It seems to me that by doing all these things, you=can= participate in social action, albeit from the comfort of your living room. Is there a component of this kind of participatory politics that needs to be more personal and active in the sense of physically going out into one’s community? My initial sense says there must be, but perhaps that is because I have not developed my sense of what it is to be connected to others in my community through social media. It makes sense that language should then be adjusted to take the field of participatory politics out of the hands of wonks and put it in the hands of the average person.

Interesting though that when we look at our TV screens we still tend to see politics as an exclusive club. Yes, we see grassroots organizations springing up – and yes, when it comes to local actions I feel there is some impact. Pressure over the LGBT bathroom law in North Carolina seems to be raising the possibility that the bill will be repealed. When it comes to national politics, we are seeing huge groups of people trying to upend the status quo. It remains to be seen if it will happen. I know through my own research that the ability to reach voters on a personal level , even by targeting them through non-political interests (like reaching them through websites they frequent) has revolutionized the way campaigns are run. Obama first grasped that back in 2008. We will have to see how it changes the election this time around. My guess is that if it’s Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump that the Clinton team, having been taken down by web savvy campaign managers once before, will have a better strategy this time around. Will Trump’s people realize how important it is to have a web-centered strategy as well?

I found it interesting that Mimi was so concerned about “delegating authority to big corporations and governments”. although I agree that there has been a startling decline in support for things like social welfare and education. But I think that trend is mirrored by the public at large, not just big companies. I feel like companies are more inclined to try to make attempts at being more socially responsible because their profiles are so much more readily available than they were in years past. I don’t think companies are able to hide what they do the same way they used to. Besides, as the author points out, I think people are more and more apt to pick up the slack when it comes to supporting causes if only because it’s so much easier to be connected to one and to be “active” from the privacy and comfort of their own homes (using the tools listed above).

The whole story about the DREAM act is informative. We covered that extensively and I was surprised by how much that movement was driven by locals. We had a number of people on our air who were not professional talking heads, but instead were real people with stories to tell about how current legislation had impacted them and how they needed change. I have found throughout my career that people telling real-life stories are typically the best way to illustrate movements or define an organizations’ activities.

I find it interesting that the authors make the distinction between dealing in the real of big-P politics (like our presidential campaigns) and little-P politics which basically means that they are operating outside of or against traditional power structures. I think this distinction is critical when we consider what to do with our current political system. For years, we have listened to politicians talk about reform (working within big-P political structures) and each election I think we see a larger and larger chunk of the public disillusioned by that kind of talk. if politicians were going to reform the system, they would have done it already. Instead they simply find new ways to keep the power in the hands of the powerful. Perhaps this election will be the tipping point. I am no fan of Trump, but he is rightly calling out both the Democratic and republican political systems for putting their thumbs on the scales. To this point, young people have tried to change the system from within. I don’t think it will be long before people decide that the system must be changed in a more radical way. Not surprising then that the authors make the point that young people are more apt to favor online spaces that value their voice and where they can actually produce change – something that rarely happens within traditional power structures. I wonder, at the same time, whether in previous generations, the agency that the authors say is so desperately craved by young people was found in other situations – perhaps neighborhood clubs and games? Pickup baseball? Garage bands? I don’t know. But it seems that power structures have always been the same and that young people have always craved the need to lead as opposed to follow. There were opportunities for that, I’m sure, long before the Internet came along.

I think the Harry Potter is fascinating and something I hadn’t known existed. But I do recognize some historical precedent in the phone or letter writing campaigns mentioned in the article. In fact, there are several instances in which TV shows were brought back by letter writing campaigns (or the modern equivalent) – as far back as Cagney and Lacey and including one of my favorites, Arrested Development. In looking up other campaigns like this, I also came across instances in which Amnesty International helped organize letter writing campaigns for prisoners to be freed, although those campaigns existed within a pre-existing structure. Of course, it is one thing to call on people to write letters. They still have to write them.

The idea of these kinds of activities honing both skills that can be translated across the “activist” spectrum is important. I think that, as with anything, you figure out what to do and what not to do. Or what works and what doesn’t. One thing that I’ve noticed is that some of these grassroots campaigns (like a Black Lives Matter) have trouble when they reach a certain point of exposure or size – at that point, it seems someone or some set of someones needs to take over to give the group direction and shape its message. The problem is that when a group becomes so large that it is any number of disparate messages (not voices – messages) it begins to collapse inward on itself. I believe that Black Lives Matter was effective up to a point but was co-opted by some and its message was obscured by others. A simple parallel is when a group of rebels takes over a country or topples a dictatorship. If no one is in charge, then the group tends to fail to take advantage of its own momentum. I leave it up to others to tell me if I’m wrong. Simply put, do activist movements, particularly grassroots ones, need a functioning head? Do they need a leader? The authors make this point aptly when they discuss what happened with the Kony 2012 video. It spread so far and so fast that the organization that created it was unable to keep pace and, as the authors explain “the young people who had passed the video along through their social networks were forced to confront these critiques on their own, without access to adequate information, without any real training or experience in the skills of rebuttal.” This is particularly problematic when the people who would have these kinds of skills look down on the young people who are participating – either marginalizing their impact or the consequences inherent in their participation. Adults need to recognize the power of young people in not only communicating but shaping a message – and help them learn how to do it. Once we take an active role in perpetuating an idea or a concept (or a video that does so), we put ourselves in a position of responsibility for that content, even having to defend or explain it if necessary. It makes it very clear that it’s easier to start a movement than it is to sustain it. And one more thing – the authors point out that “activism is cultivated”… Can a movement be successful simply if it empowers more activists? Or does it have to have a goal and achieve it? Can making people socially and politically active be a successful outcome in and of itself?

I thought it was fascinating and a little sad to realize the kinds of risks that young people are taking when they take part in social activism. It kind of encapsulates the risk I think some of us, as parents, feel about the Internet at large – that kids can share a little too much of themselves without realizing that there are people out there that will take it and twist it and potentially use that which was revealed at great personal risk against the person who revealed it. So the conversation then needs to be that actions we take online – and they use the example of a teenager supporting same-sex marriage online even if it causes real-life consequences in her neighborhood – carry weight and help to define us not only online but in the world around us too. I don’t have any personal experience with this because I don’t put too much of myself online and as a journalist I am actually prevented from doing so, but I know that when I am looking through Facebook or Twitter, one little comment or political diatribe can define (in my mind) the person who is giving it. It is particularly risky online (as opposed to a face-to-face conversation) not only because you don’t know who is reading or reacting to what you have to say, but you have little or no opportunity to add context or answer questions. Like it or not, you are defined by what you put out there.

Conclusion: The authors talk about reimagining participatory culture. This book helped open my eyes to the possibilities available to us when it comes to engaging all different kinds of groups online, but it also showed me how much effort and time needs to be put into making mindful decisions about how we engage, what responsibilities we take on and how our decisions shape the larger online communities around us. I found it particularly fascinating that they said that “participatory culture risks being both everything and nothing”. It =can= have all this transformative power if more and more people become actively involved – something I believe will happen in the future, although it’s not a foregone conclusion. But I agree that if all people do is tag photos and take pictures of what they’re having for dinner, our online communities risk becoming a vacuous replacement for real relationships. As with everything, it depends on who gets involved and how and for a person like me who is undoubtably a lurker, it is also a challenge to seek out my own place within these communities.