An innovative education and citizen journalism project, Small World News, has just released a storytelling app that has built into it all the tools necessary for scripting, shooting and editing a short news video. StoryMaker (demonstrated in the above video) walks through all the steps to put together a short video that can easily be uploaded to the web. It has editing features, compositional suggestions, story formats and many ways to link and share the final piece.
This tool will be handy for media educators. Students can learn rather quickly the basic storytelling structure of news and produce their own within a meaningful amount of time without a major investment in technology or funds. My only concern is that the app could potentially be too formulaic: its templates may restrict creative possibilities. On the other hand, it is simply doing what teachers normally do, which is to model a boilerplate that scaffolds to more advanced forms of production. I look forward to the opportunity of giving this app a try.
Update: Niels ten Oever writes: “One small correction: the Storymaker app is jointly developed and published by the Guardian Project, Small World News and Free Press Unlimited.”
By now you’ve probably heard about the NYC subway ad sponsored by the hypocritically named, American Freedom Defense Initiative, which reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel, defeat jihad.”* Aside from the neocolonial rhetoric of the poster’s language (notice that civilized people get the status of “man,” whereas “savages” are not even humans), it should be obvious that the way to defend freedom is not to insult other people with hate speech. The blogger behind the ad campaign, Pamela Geller, called one protestor who opposed the poster a “savage anti-Semite” and “Islamic supremacist.”
The vitriol was directed at writer and pundit Mona Eltahawy, who recently defaced the controversial subway ad as an act of civil disobedience. In a level-headed analysis of the incident, dana boyd believes that since Eltahawy was damaging property, the incident did not constitute civil disobedience. I disagree. Civil disobedience happens when you violate a law that is immoral. In this case, free speech is certainly a moral prerogative, but hate speech is not. While I would not ultimately ban Geller’s speech act, the MTA (which runs NYC’s metros) does have a responsibility to respect the public good. To its credit, the MTA opposed running the ad, but were forced to by a court ruling. As a steward of public space, I would not permit the ad to run. If they want to post it on a blog somewhere, by all means they can be as offensive as they want in their little reality bubble.
Here’s the thing, why is legal advertising not vandalism of public space? The legal protection of advertising obscures the fact that those with financing have greater speech rights than those who can’t afford to have their views represented. Moreover, when its advertising revenue that pays for our “free” media system, those media organizations that should be beholden to the public good are not. The public is not there client. The public’s concerns are important to the extant that media organizations don’t violate social norms that can spurn boycotts and outrage. Beyond that, advertisers have far too much power to position their views in the public sphere.
I believe Eltahawy’s response was appropriate on other grounds. One way to approach the ethics of speech acts is to clarify the distinction between communication as property and communication as a disturbance. Geller views her speech as a kind of truth that once it’s codified in writing or visual media it no longer belongs to the ethers of discussion and debate. It is a tautological statement claiming fact. But like national monuments in city plazas, public displays become “boundary objects” that function within ecosystems of cultures and social practices. As a globalized city, NYC is not the kind of place where such media exist in a vacuum. It immediately enters into the city’s raw feedback system. In ecological terms, the poster becomes a “disturbance” that reverberates through the system of ideas.
It’s disingenuous of Geller to call this ad an act of defense. It is a provocation, in the same way the cartoon of Mohammed depicting his head as a bomb in a Danish newspaper in 2005 was designed to spark outrage. The rationale of the Danish paper at the time was to defend the “Western” principle of free speech against the perceived threat of Islamists in Europe. But in an environment of ethical communication practices, people can’t launch blaspheme grenades and hope to walk away without getting hit by shrapnel. If people are so afraid of an impending invasion of intolerance, why fight fire with fire? Try water for once. Instead of drone strikes, drop water balloons. It confuses the so-called enemy.
Both the creation of the ad and the response are media stunts. As result, I’m afraid that Pamela Geller is getting far too much attention from this. The downside is that politics are reduced to theater, where media events matter more than dialog. However, given the open nature of the internet, such media stunts are far more likely to generate discussion than in the old days when we relied on just a few filters to understand the world. Imagine if the incident was completely mediated through the eyes of the New York Post (who broke the story and ran the Eltahawy video). Thankfully the incident has resulted in greater debate than the initial speech act (the poster) intended, allowing us to sort out who the real savages are.
Postscript: To add to the drama, Pamela Hall, who is seen defending the poster in the video (and shot the second one), is intending to sue Eltahawy.
* Here is their mission statement: “The AMERICAN FREEDOM DEFENSE INITIATIVE (AFDI) is a human rights organization dedicated to human rights, the rule of law, the dignity of the human person, free speech, the free conscience, and equality of rights for all. There is no incitement to violence in our work.” OK, you be the judge.
On Saturday I was enraptured by Tim Pool‘s USTREAM live cast of Occupy Wall Street’s recent action.* As Occupiers played Red Rover and Frogger with police across Manhattan, all was captured live and uploaded into the planetary Net. Like the live cast of the Occupiers getting kettled and arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge a few months ago, it was a riveting reprieve from the old, predigested form of media we grew up with.
As I watched I couldn’t help but feel that this is a collective, emergent version of Martin Luther’s protest in 1517. Like the 95 theses he posted on the church door that later was reprinted and widely disseminated with the new media technology of that period, likewise we are now seeing an unprecedented diffusion of an alternative paradigm that challenges the power structure. But this time it’s the 99% thesis. Whereas Luther challenged the corrupt authority and abuse of power by the Roman Catholic Church, we are now doing the same against domination and colonization of the planetary commons by corporations.
The fact is, since the 1980s I’ve seen these kinds of actions over and over again, but they never gained traction like they are now. The difference is probably that so many people have been pushed off a cliff that the propaganda system in place can no longer shield people from the truth at hand: that the corporate takeover of the commons can no longer be sustained. We have reached the limit and end of the old system and we are currently in a transition into a liminal state in which all the old thought forms that were codified during the past 500 years are becoming destabilized.
This is made visible in the above clip, which is an archived stream from the Saturday protests. It’s the moment when the protestors, after dodging the NYPD throughout Manhattan, spontaneously organized a General Assembly in Times Square. Using the “people mic,” they “testified” as to why they are part of the Occupation movement, all the while bathed in the surreal glow of corporate propaganda.
Times Square is the quintessential spiritual center of the corporate project. Once the seedy underbelly of New York’s deviant unconsciousness, since Giuliani’s reign as mayor the open space of 42nd St. has been transformed into a kind of dystopic hydra of capitalist enclosure (privatization/fencing off). A mix of surveillance and marketing uber alas, Times Square has become an open air television studio that invites anyone to enter and be mediated by the planetary corporate rulers. This, I would argue, is part of its lure. A hybrid of advertising and reality TV, I know of no other place on Earth where Disneyland, advertising and mass media cohere into a pulsating hum of mediated insanity. Not even Las Vegas can achieve such a distinction. And like moths to a flame, people are attracted by the very thing that could ultimately destroy them. To paraphrase Benjamin, not since the Nazis has our own alienation and self-destruction been made to look so beautiful.**
Yet as police stand by to protect holiday shoppers and business as usual, a handful of Occupiers bear witness to this insanity (thereby labeled by the system as lunatics). Here, as the embodiment of Earth’s spirit, these brave souls momentarily disrupt the pulsating spectacle. Whilst in the past numerous crazies have attempted such sacrilege against this colonizing machine, something has changed.
We are being heard. And it’s resonating.
It’s happening despite the luminous power of Times Square and its tentacled financiers in Wall Street. A people’s mic, which is a spontaneous form of direct democracy and speech, utterly contradicts the communication forms of advertising in which psychologically tested and honed messages are pushed into people’s mindspace. The occupiers wage guerrilla war against that mechanism through the deployment of prefigurative politics that pull people together with a shared senses of responsibility and reciprocity. Their collectivity, community and ritual becomes an alternate form of mediation that deprives the corporate powers of their ability to colonize human energy.
For the moment the system seems invincible, its vast architecture of light and information permeating public space. It can only succeed when no other world can be visualized or imagined beyond it. What you see here is a new kind of collective imagination taking shape. Behold, participate, smile and look around. Raised consciousness is coming to a live stream near you.
** If you think I’m stretching the analogy too far, I consider the rapid rise of Co2 emissions changing the very chemistry of our atmosphere as a far worse crime against humanity than anything achieved by the worse totalitarians of the 20th century.
I’m sure this “The Grand Rapids LipDub” video has been viral long before I set my eyes on it, but just in case you missed it, you’re in for a real treat. What strikes me about this (and warms my heart) is how media can be sublime in a positive way. It doesn’t always have to be about false consciousness. In particular, I think the video serves as a really clear example of James Carey‘s idea of communication as ritual. We normally don’t take the mundane activities of media engagement as ritual (i.e. reading the paper or checking Twitter feeds), but in this more extreme case we can see that media bring people together, and even possibly serve as a cleansing ritual.
The background is that “The Grand Rapids LipDub” was an effort to disprove Newsweek‘s claim that Grand Rapids was a dying city. No doubt the video’s producers were able to rejuvenate a sense of community pride through its choreography and production. It’s hard to know what kinds of politics went into the kinds of representations that would be included–not being a resident of the city I don’t know what is being left out. But it seems to include diverse representations. Viewing it from Italy I can see how remarkably American it is– is it internalized stereotypes, or is this really what the heartland is like? No matter, it feels good in an apolitical way, and shouldn’t be taken as self-aggrandizing propaganda. However, context is everything. If I had seen this right after 9/11, I would think differently. In 2011 it feels more like a kind of “back-to-basics” reminder of the good things about our culture (yes, sometimes it is helpful to focus on the positive). Let us forget, just for a moment, that we are a dying empire with political spectacles orchestrated by multinational media corporations and remember that people left to their own devices are also creative, community building creatures.
UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that no women are singing. Too bad, that is a grave omission.
What do I think? Any media that enters into a communication or language community will disturb it. By disturbance I mean an ecological disturbance as in when a new element enters into an ecosystem it becomes a new ecosystem. The fact is, the Internet is part of the system, so we can’t even speculate what the situation would be without it. Obviously it is a mix of both. But I like the point from Mark Poster (thanks Peter!) that the Internet is not a hammer, but a social space. Of course people make revolutions. But empathy is contagious and we can’t be empathetic with that which we do not know. Something is in the air, and certainly media are generating the wind.
Though I’m a big supporter of Amnesty International, I find something a little troubling about this ad. Part of it is based on some resent criticism I’ve been reading about how NGOs tend to work outside the context of the societies they are functioning in, and can inevitably buttress the control mechanisms of empire by advocating for universal rights and interventionism. Hence Bush can take the rhetoric of the NGO as justification for invading Iraq or Afghanistan. Yet, human rights are so intrinsic for international norms that provide a space for justice.
Strangely, though, the creates an odd vicariousness for ones actions in which a fantasy for justice is fulfilled in simplistic terms without allowing for the complexity of a situation. It’s like playing a video game that insulates us from the difficulty of real struggle. There’s certainly more blood, sweat and tears than this push-button kind of justice. Nonetheless, I remain a committed supporter of AI. I just don’t like this unsettled sense of ambivalence abetted by marketing and technology.
YouTube just announced on its blog a new citizen journalist initiative, which is described above by YouTube News & Politics manager Olivia M. I have to admit that the whole style and approach of the press release is interesting because normally it’s traditional media companies who try to hip-ify themselves through remediating (appropriating) the style of user-generated media (i.e. with amateurish production). It’s a complete melding of the prosumer aesthetic when one of the biggest internet companies in the world (Google) makes its company style completely “uncorporate.”
OK, so please don’t kill me for this cheap date, but I saw the above clip at Huffington Post and instantly fell in love. I’m torn because part of me thinks this is really a future SNL skit inserted as covert marketing, the other part of me wants to believe that this is the last piece of authentic home brew media we’ll see ever again. I love this because with so many out-of-the-box media production kits out there, rarely do you get to see something with real fingerprints on it.
Now, bring on the imitators and the haters and see what happens.
OK, so this is really not a spontaneous deconstruction of Super Bowl ads, but really a clever Miller Lite ad made to look like something fo’ real. I spotted the ad technique right away from the gratuitous lingering shots on the Miller Lite logo, and I thought the cuts were a little too fast for an amateur. But, I’m sure it will do its viral trick as it was intended to.
PS Unfortunately this year I cannot do a Super Bowl ad round up because here in Italy it was running far to late for me to watch. I will monitor the net closely, though, for some good montages.
I’m cribbing notes from Rising Voice‘s David Sasaki who wrote an excellent roundup of how the Web is a tool for Kenyan activists to document the current crisis.
Ushahidi is an organization that is combining SMS alerts of Kenyan violence with google maps that gives a timeline of civil incidents but also a way to map the state of the conflict in real time. You can view the timeline here.
It’s about time to demand some R-E-S-P-E-C-T from your cleaning products so tell that broom “She’s Gone.” We know that you love to belt out those break up songs, especially while you’re cleaning. Put those talents on camera! Choose a song, grab your Swiffer and start filming now! Sing along, dance and show us your moves Swiffer!
You know the user generated media revolution has gone too far when Swiffer gets involved. Yes, Swiffer wants you to make a commercial for them (you could win $15,000– cheaper than an ad agency) because you love them so much you feel motivated to make a film. One thing I emphasize in media literacy workshops is the ridiculousness of feigned passion, be it in the ecstatic and orgasmic states people in the ad-generated world find themselves in, or a Shakira jingle declaring love for Pepsi. I have never in my life seen in a teen talent show a song or poem written for a product– a jilted lover, a betrayed friendship, a love for animals, yes. Products? No. OK, sometimes drugs, but products are most definitely out. And just to prove my point, last I checked there were only 2 videos posted. But… there are 121 subscribers. They can’t all be media critics, can they? Anyhow, one thing that I don’t think anyone gets concerning the user generated phenomena: people do it because they care. In the case of Swiffer, I can guess that most will care more about the opportunity to win $15,000 than some plastic hyper-broom. But the way the dollar is going these days, a broom is about all you’ll be able to buy with the prize money.
PS A note to ad copywriters: please stop the extraneous use of exclamation points. It does not make the product more fun, and it’s really annoying!
Just ten years ago we all learned about the world around us from newspapers, the television, and radio. Professional journalists would go to faraway places and bring back stories, photographs and videos of the situations they witnessed and the people they met.
Sometimes at dinner we talk about these stories with our friends and family. But ten years ago we rarely, if ever, communicated directly with the journalists themselves. Leading members of society wrote editorials expressing their opinions about various issues, but the rest of us could only share our opinions and thoughts with a small group of friends.
Over the last few years everything has changed. Thanks to new tools like weblogs, it is now possible to easily publish to the Internet. From Turkey to Kenya to Bolivia, everyday people like you and me are starting to share their stories and opinions with the rest of the world.
While this new form of communication is now freely available to anyone, most of the people participating still live in the wealthy neighborhoods of urban cities.
The purpose of this guide is to show that anyone with an internet connection can participate in the emerging global conversation. Our understanding of the world is now shaped not just by the newspapers and television, but also by each other.
Indigenous Action Media, a Native American video production collective in the southwestern United States, believes the punk ethic of do-it-yourself (DIY) is more than rhetoric. Instigated by the sibling trio that forms the Diné rock band, Blackfire, Indigenous Action Media are designing and running their own video production workshops that are producing homegrown views on education, environment and social justice. Consequently, when school starts this Fall, these intrepid Indigenous youth will be taking their curriculum into their own hands.
By mixing DIY and skate culture, their set piece project, The Outta Your Backpack Media Collective, combines free workshops with a portable digital video editing system that compactly fits into a pack kids typically use for schoolbooks. Their project is meant “to create community ownership of media, recognizing the inherent creative energy of youth, and challenges corporate dominated media. We create fully equipped decentralized media centers in each backpack.” By utilizing cheap digital media tool, the program enables Native youth to explore difficult and forbidden issues ignored by mainstream media and the education system:
Every organization & community needs an Outta Your Backpack Media collective! Imagine if every community had the power to create its own media. What would it look like? We see youth displaying their films on projection and bed sheets in public spaces (or home) in every community. What would it sound like? We hear high school students making guerilla radio/Podcasts so all can hear. What would it read like? We read Outta Your Backpack newspapers incorporating art, comedy, current news, and events concerning community empowerment and resistance. And most importantly, how does it feel? It feels damn goooooood! To tell our own stories and create our own his/herstories.
As one of over a half a dozen clips featured on their Website, the above video, “Knowledge is Dangerous,” poignantly expresses the need to take local control of education. “Knowledge is Dangerous” envisions a dystopic future where children are forced to read certain books (hmm, sounds a bit like the present), i.e. the sanctioned knowledge of the dominant culture. But an underground of book lovers with their own rewritten curriculum of texts featuring the likes of Malcolm X and Dr. Seuss (!), uses a car trunk for its forbidden library. You’ll have to watch the video to see how the knowledge bandits prevail, but suffice to say, in the case of this particular group of young Native American mediamakers, their storytelling agenda bypasses stereotypes of how indigenous youth are engaging their education.
Also featured on Indigenous Action Media’s Website is this documentary, “Making a Stand at Desert Rock.” In their words:
On December 12th, 2006 community members in Burnham, New Mexico established a blockade to prevent preliminary work for the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired power plant. More info: www.desert-rock-blog.com.
If you click on the video’s YouTube logo, it will send you to the YouTube site where several other citizen produced videos about the conflict will appear in the “related” sidebar section. With an on-going struggle over the land between the local indigenous population and energy companies in the four-corners region of the US Southwest, it appears that new user-generated media on the subject are being uploaded on a consistent basis.
If you are a young indigenous filmmaker and feel like jumping into the mix, Indigenous Action Media’s latest project is the sponsorship of The 4th Annual Southwest Native American Film Festival Fall Showcase & Workshops to be held on their home turf in Flagstaff, Arizona (USA) in April ’08. On October 5-6, 2007 there will be a preview Fall showcase, so though the Website states the festival is in October, it appears they are still accepting submissions for the April event.
H/T to Will for passing on this great post from the Center for Citizen Media. It’s an excellent review of recent trends and has a nice little section on media literacy that focuses on principles rather than techniques. Here is a snip:
* Be skeptical. We need to be skeptical of just about all media. This means not taking or granted the trustworthiness of what we read, see or hear from media of all kinds, whether from traditional news organizations, blogs, online videos or you name it.
* Use an internal “trust meter.” But being skeptical of everything doesn’t mean being equally skeptical of everything. That’s why we need to bring to the modern media the same kinds of parsing we learned in a less complex time when there were only a few primary sources of information. Imagine a credibility scale ranging from plus 10 to minus 10. I give a New York Times or Wall Street Journal article an automatic plus 8 or 9; I don’t assume perfection but I do trust that, in articles by most reporters for those publications, a strong effort went into getting it right. An anonymous comment on a random blog, by contrast, starts at minus 8 or 9; it would have to go a long way to merely have zero credibility.
* Learn media techniques. Younger people are getting pretty good at this already. What I suspect they — and almost everyone else — lacks in this regard is understanding how communications are designed to persuade, and how we can be manipulated. We need to teach ourselves, and our children, about how media work in ways that go far beyond knowing how to take a snapshot with a mobile phone or posting something in a blog.
* Keep reporting. No one with any common sense buys a car solely based on a TV commercial. We do some homework. It’s the kind of research and follow-up that journalists do. So let’s call it reporting. We need to recognize the folly of making any major decision about our lives based on something we read, hear or see — and the need to keep reporting, sometimes in major ways, to ensure that we make good choices.
Some cool Native media and an important cause. Please support the Native Rights Fund. The performance is by Culture Shock, check out more info on them below.
Culture Shock Camp, comprised of Marcus “Quese IMC” Frejo and Brian “DJ Shock B” Frejo, is a Pawnee/Seminole hip-hop group originating out of Oklahoma City. Culture Shock’s sound and vibe is defined by its unique and powerful blend of hip-hop and Native music, language, and culture that promotes a message of wellness, unity and Native pride. Culture Shock was named “one of the most celebrated hip-hop groups in the Native American world” by The Source Magazine, one of the largest-selling hip-hop magazines in the country.
Culture Shock Camp has successfully toured nationally and performed before thousands of fans in more than 400 cities and reservations. Culture Shock also conducts youth leadership and wellness training for Native American youth using both hip hop and Pawnee/Seminole cultural teachings as the basis of their message of empowerment for Native youth.
Steve Spendlove realizes that after last month’s layoffs of most of the news-gathering staff at tiny KFTY-TV in Santa Rosa there will be less local coverage. The Clear Channel executive overseeing the station knows there won’t be reporters to investigate local scandals, let alone do those fluffy woman-turns-100 features that make TV anchors cock their heads and smile at the end of a newscast.
But Spendlove said that the station’s “business model” hadn’t been working for years, and that “covering one-eighth of the Bay Area” is neither a moneymaker nor even an operation large enough to be measured by Nielsen ratings.
So the next step in Channel 50’s evolution will be a nationally watched experiment in local television coverage. Over the next few months, the station’s management plans to ask people in the community — its independent filmmakers, its college students and professors, its civic leaders and others — to provide programming for the station.
Is this citizen journalism, or just asking consumers to produce their own content for free? It’s both really, and it should be viewed as an evolving situation that is more and more common. If the consumers are the producers, ultimately this is a good thing. In the early days of punk there was a breakdown between audience and performer, and it was liberating. Of course, in the end it’s quality that counts, and that remains to be scene
The ghost of Tibor Kalman, whose tenure at the helm of Colors Magazine revitalized and re-appropiated the language of commercial graphics for social change, seems eerily present behind the creative campaign of Dropping Knowledge. Like a Zen koan, Dropping Knowledge is part playful pun, part serious business. We drop a dime like anonymous tipsters to the cosmic dharma police on nonsensical, idiotic social practices, and we download knowledge like hidden viruses inside protein shell ad phrases.
The project is part of a trend of participatory new media, utilizing the Web as an instantaneous democratic medium. In this case site users can upload questions, which then get translated into ads, films and commercials. The more successful combination of images and words have built in paradoxes that get us thinking the way that riddles scramble our rational minds. Ideally these should be ready for meme deployment. That is, I’d like to see ready-made code available so people can easily drop Dropping Knowledge onto their iPods, P2Ps, and into emails. Thankfully the movies are in Quicktime format so they are easy to download, but I’d still like to see viral marketing strategies in place. But… it’s a nice start. I look forward to more idea infections.
Craig Newmark, of Craigslist, says that â€œjournalism needs to become a community service rather than a profit centre,â€ and is working on making this happen. As The State of the News Media puts it, â€œthe worry is not the wondrous addition of citizen media, but the decline of full-time, professional monitoring of powerful institutions.â€ That, after all, is what a free press in democracies is supposed to be for.
Update: Democracy Now! devotes its show to the student walkout in SoCal.
Talk about extracurricular activity! Apparently many of the high school students who walked out of class on Monday in Southern Califaztlan to protest the proposed draconian immigration bill (HR 4437) had been inspired by the film, Walkout, which taught the kids a lesson they probably wouldn’t learn in school about Chicano power. Glad to some new homies carry the torch!
Blog | Max Blumenthal: Walkout! | The Huffington Post:
“Many people I talked with around the city yesterday questioned whether Edward James Olmos’ newly released documentary about mass Chicano student protests against discriminatory educational policies in 1968 East L.A. high schools, ‘Walkout,’ influenced yesterday’s events. In an interview yesterday with Hoy, an L.A.-based Spanish language paper, Olmos refuted this idea by claiming the conditions that precipitated the protests against HR 4437 were drastically different than those that animated Chicano life in 1968. However, a student demonstrator from Manual Arts told Hoy, ‘Before I saw the movie, I didn’t think we could do something like that. I didn’t understand how you could affect change. But after I saw it, I felt in my heart that I could do something.'”