Multimedia for Social Change

Koree-FIOB Update! by koreey
February 28, 2011, 3:00 pm
Filed under: Reflections

Hi guys! Things have been hectic! However, I am happy to announce that the meeting with our organization (FIOB) leaders last Wednesday went very well! We had a VERY rocky start but Staci and I met with Odilia and Rosalinda, another young woman who will be working with us on this project and we sat down and got a genuine feel for one another. With this, we were assigned a very different project then the only originally proposed at the start of the semester. Odilia realized that the project she proposed which involved documenting the personal stories of the women involved in the organization was a bit optimistic. This project would have required an abundance of time and assistance which is feasible, but would be extremely difficult due to time constraints and language barriers. I knew it was going to be a difficult semester from the first meeting with FIOB. The first meeting we sat through was entirely in Spanish and although it was very confusing it was extremely interesting.  Although there was a language barrier, you could still hear the passion in the voices of the speakers while they were telling their personal stories about struggle and perseverance. It was slightly uncomfortable at times due to the fact that neither Staci nor myself had a clue what was going on or what was being discussed. Odilia soon realized that the language barrier may play a bigger role than she had originally anticipated and decided to change the project to accommodate Staci and myself. We will now be working with English speaking members of the organization on a VERY interesting project. Wish I could tell but you will have to wait and see our presentation this Wednesday!

I am extremely excited :- )


Jason – Week 6 Response, Tactical Media by jlipshin
February 23, 2011, 9:29 am
Filed under: mm4sc, Reflections

Until tonight, I had unfortunately never had the chance to read anything by Geert Lovink, but I had seen his work Dark Fiber: Tracking Critical Internet Culture cited by a number of new media scholars interested in the relationship between politics and networks. Perusing his crisp little manifesto, “The ABCs of Tactical Media,” it makes sense that people like Wendy Chun, Alex Galloway, and McKenzie Wark would make reference to him so liberally, given that he clearly agrees with their conceptualizations of power and technology on a number of key points. Although most of these authors would certainly take a more pessimistic stance than Lovink, they find common ground in their ambivalence to the Internet as technology, both in terms of its design and its appropriation towards unexpected uses. For, on one level, the Internet provides the ideal possibility space for tactical encounters, appropriations, and temporary formations – it is only by “scattering, by becoming centerless” (like the revolutionaries in Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers) that tactical media practioners can exploit the power of decentralized flexibility and “robustness” that network technologies afford. But, as Galloway and Eugene Thacker remind us in their equally manifesto-like book, The Exploit, the Internet is also vital to the smooth functioning of global flows of capital, as tactical flexibility and mobility can just as easily be put to use under the banner of post-industrial capitalism’s “flexible accumulation.” Ostensibly, because tactical media makers cannot simply be reduced to the “classic rituals of the underground and alternative scene,” they posit a form of resistance (and from an aesthetic point-of-view, a vision of the avant-garde) which operates not just oppositionally, but oppositionally from the inside.

Although the consequences of statements like these are manifold and cannot be explored fully in the short space of a blog post, one important consequence of this shift is a revised attitude toward the political potential of popular culture and industry sanctioned tools for production and spaces for distribution, just as Stasi mentioned with regard to culture jamming. While avant-garde filmmakers throughout the twentieth century, for instance, have long been interested in “remixing” and reconfiguring material from popular culture, critiquing it from the inside, as Holly Willis notes in her book New Digital Cinema, this practice gained an immense boost in popularity with the advent of widely available tools for desktop production and reduced barriers to entry in distribution. For, if what Lovink calls media tacticians are “not afraid of power” and are “happy to adopt” corporate tools, texts, and spaces for distribution to their own needs, we have a conceptualization of politics not unlike Henry Jenkins approach to participatory culture. Also drawing heavily on DeCerteau’s notion of strategies vs. tactics, Jenkins often speaks of the political potentials of a new kind of bottom-up, iterative, appropriation as production in which the popular culture text is always in a state of reconfiguration and becoming, assembled and critiqued from the inside using the very materials of the culture industry. Jenkins also makes reference to the sort of tactical behavior of “affinity spaces” online, in which fans, for instance, will flit from community to community, making use of the resources and skills which are present at hand, while at the same time contributing to a sort of ad hoc “collective intelligence.”

This idea of the “media tactioner” – the nomadic individual who is constantly breaking and forming new temporary affiliations, and who is constantly critiquing power from within its own texts, tools, and infrastructure – is certainly a welcome departure from old school Marxist models of pure opposition, but at the same time, it bears repeating that the tactioners relationship to hegemony is always one of ambivalence. To take an example that we brought up in class, Youtube may be a wonderful tactical space for activists to get their videos out to the world, but their platform for distribution is always also embroiled in issues of surveillance and censorship (whether that be because of violence, political dissidence and/or supposed copyright infringement). This is, of course, a point that Lovink has readily acknowledged and which we have repeatedly talked about in class, but it is definitely something to think about as we forge ahead with “tempered optimism” on our projects with the community based organizations.

***Note: As Liz mentioned, we actually did not get to meet with IDEPSCA this week as planned. Because of a very taxing event that was held by the organization on Sunday, there was a mix up at the office and Pedro was unable to come into work yesterday. Nonetheless, we have plans to talk with him very soon to catch up on what was missed and to prepare for the Aprendamos meeting this Friday morning.

Stasi’s reflection by stasiharrell
February 23, 2011, 1:26 am
Filed under: Reflections

One of my favorite topics that seems to come up often in communication classes (at least the one’s I have taken at USC), is culture jammers. I love the idea that anyone can take over a pre-existing text, alter it in some way that draws attention to the injustices it purports, and therefore strip it of its power.  All it takes is a set of basic media skills (like photo and video editing), a particular political ideology and vision, and some sort of forum to share the newly created media.  AdBusters is a great example of such a network of political charged individuals to share their beliefs through the practice of culture jamming.

We have discussed the idea of integrating media literacy into the classroom, and I think the issue of political expression within this framework is important to consider. Great teachers inspire us to challenge conventional ways of thinking, to think outside the box, to express ourselves in a clear and effective manner. Enter: the possibility of culture jamming. However, though free expression may be the ideal upon which our nation was founded, it can be tricky.  In this example of someone clearly attacking McDonald’s and such corporations’ role in our nation’s obesity epidemic, the culture jammer may face legal charges. Is this fair? Is the McDonald’s logo public property available for anyone to use, abuse, and manipulate for one’s own purposes? If we teach media literacy in any sort of formal way in our schools, we must also explore the possibilities of political action as well as the issues, be they legal or social, which may accompany such action.

In terms of our community partner progress, Koree and I finally had our first meeting with Odilia of FIOB! We attended one of FIOB’s meetings, which was held entirely in Spanish. While we were able to follow along thanks to Odilia translating for us, the project took on an entirely new set of challenges I had never even considered. The language barrier is going to be a difficult one to overcome, especially because we plan to document the stories of the women involved in the organization. It will be difficult to edit these stories into a cohesive piece when we have no idea what is being said! Luckily, Odilia offered to set us up with a translator, the communication director of FIOB, to help us converse with the FIOB members and to conduct the interviews.

Week 6 Post – Haran by hsivakum
February 23, 2011, 1:25 am
Filed under: Reflections

I was able to get around scheduling conflicts and finally meet with my community partner. One thing that I quickly realized, and that in hindsight I should have clearly known beforehand, is that there was a substantial amount of negotiation involved in developing a potential project. Going into the meeting, I had a few ideas and for some reason was sure that one of them would end up being my project. I had assumed that since all my ideas were well-intentioned and sought to benefit society in some way that obviously one of them would be perfect for the library. Of course, I soon learned that this was not to be the case. Through the meeting I learned a lot about how the library is more than just a library, how there are so many issues that I hadn’t even stopped to consider, and why my “brilliant” ideas were all inadequate in one regard or another. I left the meeting more unsure of what my project would be than when I arrived but at least I’m far more aware of what the library actually needs.

Segueing into the reading now, I realized that much of what the library is trying to accomplish deals directly with “tactical media.” I learned of past attempts to use film to promote the library and learned that conventional documentary-style films that featured predominantly “talking heads” and still images were not effective. Clearly, any type of documentary filmmaking would need to be incorporated in some creative or innovative way. We discussed numerous ways in which this could be accomplished, and I left with several new ideas as well as some new concerns and some new goals. Hopefully, with another week of imagining and planning, I’ll finally have a developed project idea that is ready to be implemented.

Liz’s Week 6 Reflection: Multimedia Literacies by Liz Krane
February 22, 2011, 6:07 pm
Filed under: Reflections

The Reading

I suppose I could say that new media literacy is one of my hobbies, because it encompasses a lot of them; I’ve enjoyed dabbling in making websites, image editing, audio and video editing, blogging, and communicating online using everything from instant messaging to virtual worlds.

I definitely think these new media literacies need to be part of traditional education. Or rather, I think we need to move beyond traditional education. Today we need to teach students more than just the three R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic). Those are no less important than they used to be, but they’ve evolved!

I loved reading the stories of how students developed a hobby into an amazing project, like the school newspaper for Hogwarts and the making of the Firefox web browser. Some of the best things students do are outside of the classroom, unfortunately.

Like I mentioned in class, one of my personal projects in elementary school was playing the games “Catz” and “Dogz” and hex editing, which involved opening the game’s source files and changing the numbers that controlled the appearance of the virtual pets. So I made green alien dogs, bunny rabbit dogs, and all sorts of ridiculous things. The game’s fan community is very imaginative; people host virtual dog shows and adoption agencies. It’s game modding, but for little girls who like cute animals!

Links if you’re curious:

The informal learning environment of the web is all about creating things and experimenting, as Jenkins’ paper points out. Schools focus more on memorizing and testing knowledge, and learning is motivated by habit and a fear of failure. In an informal learning environment, failure is expected and not a big deal because the activities are new and experimental, and the way that a participant’s work is graded is purely subjective. On a message forum where people share creative writing or artwork, it’s not uncommon for a work to receive several reviews, which often offer very different opinions. In school, work is usually graded by a single teacher, and school grades are viewed as objective and set in stone. Like Tina said in class last week, having stories reviewed on isn’t anything like having a story graded by a teacher.

On a different topic, I think computer programming and scripting should be included as a multimedia literacy. We all use computers so much, it’s a shame that so few people understand how they work and how to customize them to suit their needs better. Kids needs to learn at a young age how to effectively use computers, and that includes everything from ergonomics to internet security. The digital divide is not just about who has a computer, but how well they can make it work for them.

Computers are tools, after all. And I think they’re the most underutilized tool. Yes, many people do use computers, but too many still use them in a way that’s equivalent to hitting a nail with a screwdriver. For example, it always irks me when I see someone using the mouse to slowly click through a bunch of menus when a single keyboard shortcut would suffice. But that rant is for another day. 😉


We didn’t get to meet with Pedro Jaul this week yet, but we’ll go over project ideas very soon. Plus, this Friday we’re going to meet the Aprendamos staff at their weekly meeting to discuss our ideas with them. So, no major updates this week. Just some brainstorming.

Jason – “Meet Asmaa Mahfouz and the vlog that helped spark a revolution” by jlipshin
February 16, 2011, 12:30 pm
Filed under: mm4sc

Watch it here!

Jason – Week Five Post, Meetings with IDEPSCA by jlipshin
February 16, 2011, 9:40 am
Filed under: Reflections

As Liz already mentioned in her blog post, we actually met with IDEPSCA twice over the past week: once on Friday at the day laborers’ center and again yesterday at IDEPSCA’s main headquarters. We have plans to meet again next Tuesday with Pedro Joel in order to narrow and refine the goals for our project, and then finally to pitch a project plan to the Aprendamos panel (consisting of both IDEPSCA representatives and teachers from Esperanza Elementary School) on the morning of Feb. 25.

Overall, I found both of these meetings to be extremely productive, in that, I feel like we are already starting to get a sense of how the organization is run and have started to brainstorm potential projects with Pedro Joel. On Friday morning, Liz and I attended a legal, informational session concerning Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the “Secure Communities” initiative from the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Although the meeting was conducted almost entirely in Spanish, there were a couple participants who vacillated between English and Spanish, so I could actually follow pretty well what was going on. In fact, after only about fifteen minutes of Pedro’s presentation, a pretty heated discussion broke out in the audience during which many of the day laborers told stories about their less-than-cordial encounters with the police. One man from Cuba (who spoke the most English during the meeting) said that he has been the victim of xenophobic encounters with the police on a number of occasions: for instance, when he first moved to the United States and spoke very little English, a policeman pushed him up against the wall saying, “No English? You stupid?” and also made him sign papers that he didn’t understand. Another man (strangely there were no women there…) said that he has repeatedly been questioned merely because he has tattoos visible on arms. However, the way that IDEPSCA proposed that these men deal with the police in such situations was very interesting. If they spoke no English, Pedro gave them a card to give to the policeman that outlines their right to remain silent in both English and Spanish, with contact information for an attorney. Pedro also outlined the ways in which Mobile Voices could be used to “police the police” by documenting any violations of their rights under Provision 40. Although I had previously thought that Mobile Voices was used primarily as a “storytelling platform,” seeing the tool being used to defend the legal rights of immigrants is even more incredibly inspiring. It empowers these victims of police racism in high stakes situations in which they are unable to speak for themselves, whether that be because of language barriers or because the word of the police is valued over their testimony. While I doubt that Liz and my project integrating VozMob with Aprendamos will have such stark legal consequences, it was great to see this important use of the tool as we look toward potential uses of it later in the semester.