Category: Self-Referential

Media theory hip hop video

Global Youth Media by appl juic – YouTube.

Last year I had the honor to contribute “Practicing Sustainable Youth Media” to an essay collection edited by JoEllen FisherKeller, International Perspectives on Youth Media (Mediated Youth). One of her graduate students put together this fun video based on the book, which combines hip hop and media theory. It may be the first of its kind! Enjoy!

Evolving the blog

Gramsci street poster-RomeBefore the days of social media blogging was my main source of inspiration and expression on the Internet. Twitter and Facebook took some wind out of the blogging sails by making it easier to share and post, but this also depleted my blog of ideas and energy. I’m trying to remedy this by consolidating how I share and poke around the web, hence you will notice a lot of new posts with Scoop.it links. Scoop.it is part of a new generation of sharing tools that allow users to “curate” topics. I find it a terrific way to track and follow experts of a variety of topics. One can follow curators to develop a “personal learning network” (PLN).  Scoop.it will allow me to curate and share across many platforms, but I also will occasionally write unique posts (as time permits) for the blog. I hope you like the changes. Please let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!

Help support The Media Ecosystem

Dear friends,

I’m really bad at marketing and self-promotion. In fact, it’s embarrassing to write this post. Unfortunately, it largely falls upon me to get the word out for my new book, The Media Ecosystem. I’m hoping that you can help promote it through your own personal networks, but most importantly the publisher tells me that one of the key things people can do is to rate it and write a short review on Amazon.

If you’re not too busy and have a few minutes, could you please go over to Amazon and write up a short review? It has to be at least 20 words. Here is the link to the book’s Amazon page.

Thanks in advance for your moral support and kind words. Hard to believe, but promotion is actually harder than actually writing a book.

Mind bomb drops: The Media Ecosystem out today!

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Dear friends,

Just a quick note to let everyone know that today my new book, The Media Ecosystem, is officially released and available. For more information on how to obtain it, go here.

Other links:

The Media Ecosystem web site.

The Media Ecosystem Facebook page.

Thanks for all your support and to all who contributed to making the book possible. I look forward to your feedback!

Antonio

The Media Ecosystem updates

Dear friends and brain trust,

In anticipation of the July 10 release of my new book, The Media Ecosystem, I have a few favors to ask. First of all, if you haven’t done so already, please visit the book’s Facebook fan page and “like” it:

https://www.facebook.com/TheMediaEcosystem

Next, I created a resources page with links to the various sources I mention throughout the book. It will give you a sense of how eclectic the book is. If you have a spare few minutes, please visit the page and give me some feedback. I’m looking for suggestions for copy edits and sources. Your input will be greatly appreciated:

http://www.themediaecosystem.com/references/

Finally, I created an Amazon store with all the references from the book. Give it a look, I think you will find that it is a pretty cool mix of authors and ideas:

Amazon aStore

What does it really mean to be media literate?

My media literacy instincts are so engrained I rarely think about them. Sometimes, though, they become visible, like the time I was at the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee. I was there working on a documentary about the festival’s recycling and green efforts (which are extraordinary) and had free run of the place. One evening I was munching away in the food court when a college-aged fellow sat down across from me. In the background I could hear Tom Petty perform a live version of his greatest hits CD (the difference between the two was nominal). The young man, who was from a Southern state (Alabama or Georgia–my memory fails me), started a friendly conversation. At some point–I don’t know why–I launched into a diatribe about the culture industry, noting the various sponsorships, marketing opportunities and corporate presences throughout the festival and in the music world in general. I talked about how his demographic is targeted and that the illusion of choice hid the fact that media corporations had consolidated power and were engaging in ethnographic research to get into his mind.

What seemed so perfectly obvious to me–the big corporate take over of the cultural commons–came as a total shock to this poor dude. He wondered out loud if I was some kind of wizard–he didn’t use this term, but I think that’s what he meant. No, I said, it’s quite simple. It’s media literacy. Then I realized how dangerous to the status quo media literacy is, and that without these basic skills corporations will run amuck.

I don’t want to presume that this particular kid didn’t have agency or free thought. In fact, he seemed quite interested in what I had to say, albeit his shock was palatable. I offered him my card and said that if he ever wanted more information about the things I had ranted about, he could contact me. He thanked me and we parted ways.

I never did hear from him again. However, that short experience had a big impact on me. How many of these kids are out there? That is, kids who are curious but not to the point of seeking information outside what is available to them in their immediate environment. Or what it is that enables me to see the pervasive system of manipulation, whereas he doesn’t. I’m not saying this to be superior, but I’m trying to understand the skills that enable some people to see beyond the veil of hegemony. Is it just media literacy, or is there more to it?

Naturally, as a media literacy educator I spend lots of time thinking about what it is that makes students media literate. But it occurred to me that I rarely turn the table on myself. What is it that makes me a media literate person? What tools and thought processes do I use on a daily basis that enable me to “read” media critically? Rather than postulate about students in abstract terms, perhaps by examining my own practices it will help me design a better educational environment. So what does media literacy look like when practiced by a “pro”?

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Some personal curation links

Between travel and writing deadlines I’ve fallen off the blogging map for a few weeks. As I get caught up, I do want to alert you to a few topics that I have begun curating with Scoop.it. If you don’t already know it, by all means check it out.

Here’s what I’m curating:

Greening the Media Ecosystem: Ideas and examples for how to green the media ecosystem.

Occupy the Media: How the Occupy movement changes media.

And on Facebook I set up a page for my forthcoming book where I’ll be posting additional links and videos: https://www.facebook.com/TheMediaEcosystem. Please “like” and join.

I’ll be back…

The day the Internet told me I’m uncool

Image source

This is how uncool I am: until I read about Klout at Wired.com, I had no idea what it was. In case you are an Internet loser like me, Klout is a service with a proprietary algorithm that scores how much of a net “influencer” you are (its tagline: “Klout is the Standard for Influence”). Upon my first try, I scored a measly 16, which classified me as a “dabbler.” A 50+ score is for the super savvy, whereas 20 is the average for most users. But when I “liked” one of their partners, WWF, I jumped to 45, making me a “networker.” With such a drastic increase with one Facebook like, I find their scoring methods suspect.

Ultimately I don’t really give a damn about my rank, but at first I have to admit that my initial score left me feeling like one of those kids in the park that no one will play with. Then I got a quick high from my score boost, fulfilling my inner desire to be liked and connected (these are part of the psychological motives that Sherry Turkle writes about in Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other). Now that I have been confirmed as an insider (albeit by some kind of software glitch–I’m more likely still a 16), I have to ponder the meaning of this status.

Is it too simplistic for me to say this is just another popularity contest in which the jocks and cheerleaders prevail? Or is it revenge of the geeks? Is this wisdom of the crowds? Or just a measure of the mobs?

The first thing that makes me suspicious of this entire phenomenon is how it defines its particular ecosystem of cool. The only way to generate a score is to connect Klout to predetermined social networks that it dubs worthy. They mostly happen to be corporate platforms (Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, LastFM, etc.). There is no way to link my Klout score with my personal blog or presence within independent media communities. Nor does it measure my role within my own communities of practice. It also doesn’t gage my capacity for cultural citizenship. It merely measures how much of these activities have been filtered through the balkanized Web. In this sense, it may just reinforce the branding of social relationships and lead to a kind of digital fascism.

All media systems can be gamed. Klout just allows you to do it for dominant social media platforms. This is both good and bad. If you are a band, writer, activist, musician, etc. it’s good to have a tool that gives feedback for the kind of reach you have. As the graph above indicates, it has a matrix that defines different levels of participation, which allows one to make an action plan for attention.

It’s really hard to get a sense of how quality is measured, however. In fact, it really only shows us quantity. It appears that the algorithm rewards gratuitous and excessive networkers, even those who like to tweet when they are taking a crap. In the end, this just may very well be a refined engine for networked hubris.

Recent chapters from my literary life

I’m a little behind with the following announcements, but I wanted to let you know about a few recent books that feature chapters I’ve written.

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From the folks at Reality Sandwich and Evolver Editions, What Comes After Money?: Essays from Reality Sandwich on Transforming Currency and Community is a great compendium of essays about envisioning a world running under a different monetary paradigm. My chapter, “Poverty (UnConsciousness),” actually started as a blog post here, but evolved into a longer piece about the spiritual dimension of money making and happiness. FYI, you will notice a link in the righthand column for my upcoming book (due July 10), The Media Ecosystem, also published as part of Evolver Editions. If you want to pre-order it now, you can click on this Amazon link.

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International Perspectives on Youth Media: Cultures of Production and Education (Peter Lang), compiles a number of leading-edge essays related to media education and youth media. My particular chapter, “Practicing Sustainable Youth Media,” is probably the first essay to link student media making with sustainability issues. Many of the ideas I grapple with are at the core of my PhD research. Publisher link.

Greening a digital media course

I’ve been a media literacy educator for over a dozen years. And since participating in the punk movement during the early ‘80s, I’ve been a lifelong proponent of do-it-yourself media. Since entering the field of education I’ve worked in numerous arts programs with youths, spending considerable time in under-served communities. Consequently, working with Native Americans, Latinos and Afro-Caribbean youth has helped me to formulate a multicultural, multi-perspective approach to media literacy that has pushed me to reconceptualize cultural assumptions embedded in traditional media education.* Learners in those communities are under greater stress than mainstream Americans, and their particular needs call for attention to social justice, environmental issues and cultural citizenship, things that many privileged Americans take for granted.

While working on the rez, at one point a Native American elder said of the information highway: “any road can get you somewhere.” Unfortunately, many programs that embrace digital media tools are too enamored with the technology to think more critically about the “somewhere” we are moving towards. It was during the period when I worked on the rez that I realized the importance of appropriate applications of technology and the ethnocentrism embedded in the idea of “progress.” More importantly, I was forced to think more carefully about who or what I was ultimately serving in my work.

As a fellow media geek it might surprise you, then, to suggest that my approach since then has been to serve  the planet: humans and nonhuman alike. In particular I feel a strong calling to speak to the best of my abilities on behalf of our silent partner: nature. These days in my current role as a professor of media studies at an American university in Rome, I find myself in the unlikely position of having to argue for a greener approach to media. I have taken to heart the task of incorporating lessons I learned beyond the walled garden of academia to green the field of media studies. What follows, then, is a field report from my most recent effort, which was to green a digital media culture course.
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Berlusconi’s fiddle



The above clip from Fox News (link) cleverly inserts riot footage from Rome, making an erroneous connection between Occupy Wall St. and the antics of violent protestors in Italy. Such footage is meant to scare viewers and to discredit the thoughtful and nonviolent people who pose a serious threat to the system. As I go on to explain below, violent insurrections like the one on Oct. 15 have essentially sabotaged the occupy movement in Rome (for now).

Saturday Oct. 15 was an internationally coordinated event meant to extend the momentum of Occupy Wall St. In Rome, when we first arrived at the launch point (Piazza della Repubblica), the energy was fantastic. Lots of excitement. People felt energized, but the mood was bit dour as well. The day before Berlusconi had survived another no-confidence vote. The demo was massive–I heard that it was as high as 700,00 people, though that figure seems a bit exaggerated. All I can say is that from where it started it took over three hours for all the people to enter into the march.

After about 45 minutes of moving slowly while serenaded by all kinds of sound systems blasting the protest classics, once we began seeing the hooded black block infiltrate the crowd, we decided it was time to leave. One of them even threatened to punch me when I tried to take their picture.

Trying to leave proved difficult, however. The police had cordoned off the side streets, making it impossible for anyone to exit the march. We ended up having to backpedal upstream to get out of the demonstration. I took that as a very bad sign because it seemed to me that the police were forcing everyone into a pressure point. Sure enough, fifteen minutes after we exited all the burning and smashing started.

Local articles have pieced together a confusing picture. A theory among many is that the massive riot that quickly exploded was a highly coordinated and well-planed urban warfare strategy. Various kinds of projectiles were strategically placed and hidden at different points along the streets. There was a very large group (at least 100) that cut the demonstration in half at the precise point that the front group had arrived at march’s final destination. The police did not do very much at the beginning and let the rioters go about as they wished. Some claim police inaction was out of fear of being libel, as was the case in the aftermath of Genoa (indeed, the hashtag for the militants to coordinate each other was #genoareloaded). The police officially say they held back out of concern for people’s safety. This, I find dubious, since when I tried to leave the police wouldn’t let me. There were also reports of “ultras” (soccer hooligans) entering into the fray (apparently this is par for the course–they are professional rioters, after all).

Many of the black block kids were quite young (minors) and from all over Italy. It was clear that they were well prepared and had tactics. Rumor has it that they were trained in Greece. What their goals were remain a mystery to me, because at the end of the day, the government and police are the victors: an opportunity to initiate a peaceful occupation was sabotaged and now the fascist mayor of Rome is calling for a suspension for all marches during the next month. This means that Fiat auto workers who were planning a big demo are now prohibited. Jasmina Tesanovic asks the right question, a chi giova–who bennefits? My impression is that police and the black block need each other the same way that Christians and Satanists are co-dependentent. They define each other’s actions and reality. I suggest they go have it out in the Colosseum and let the rest of us participate in something productive.

Calling London’s genius loci

A Prezi for my presentation at the Media Education Summit, London 2011

I just returned from my first trip to London where I presented at the Media Education Summit, 2011. It was a slightly disorienting but invigorating experience. The conference itself was a success. I had a chance to network and learn from the various good folks who comprise the The Centre for Excellence in Media Practice.

One of the strangest things I experienced was when I clutched my first handful of British pounds. I had never fondled British money and it felt oddly magical, as if I was handling something from global banking’s radioactive nucleus. I’m sure others have had similar experiences handling their first dollars, but for me seeing the currency’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth–something I’m more familiar with from a Sex Pistols poster–gave me chills. I’m not sure if these were the good kind of chills, but I felt as if I was crossing a threshold into the capitalist core.

For the US, England is the motherland–for better and for worse. As such, I wanted to experience the city’s genius loci–spirit of place. My first effort failed. The hotel was at one of those conference no man’s land that is not unlike the other nonplaces that dot the planet’s web of global business centers. Yes, there were some unique architectural elements that drew upon the former industrial character of the place, but it had an inorganic feeling common to so many current developments. It was most certainly an island unto itself. The hotel, comfortable though that it was, also had the feeling of virtual quality one gets from Ikea: design-wise the elements and details of the hotel room feel fresh and interesting, but highly fragile and toxic. From the future’s perspective, the materials seem flimsy and dated.

I have mixed feelings about how my talk went (you can see the Prezi above). Only five people attended, while next door there were dozens checking out a presentation about incorporating Facebook into educational practice. When it comes to sustainability, it’s hard to compete with Facebook. I also had technical issues. Prezi behaves weirdly on the new MacBook Pro (the navigation menu disappears and you have to use the arrow keys to move around, which is really awkward when giving a talk). Towards the end, the video projector frizzled. This was a huge drag because the most important part was demonstrating how a non-linear approach to media ed can be achieved through a circular design based on a media mandala. Oh well. Maybe Mother Nature was punishing me for trying to bring technology into the process of healing the planet.

Though I was a little dispirited, I also saw it as a growth opportunity. I think one lesson for a talk under any condition is to keep it simple, find a good narrative to tell the story and try to focus on one take-away message that can fit into a sentence. Using a presentation tool like Prezi can encourage all kinds of intellectual mischief. Maybe it’s better to not lean so much on presentation tools so much.

Some of the feedback was interesting and unexpected. One gentleman who teaches production said that he simply had never made the connection between his work and sustainability. This view was confirmed by another attendee. This probably explains why so many people prefer to think about Facebook than greening media practice. I half suspected a low turnout since my current crusade (bad word, I know) to green media education has gotten so few bites. I have never felt so lonely. Either I am totally insane and what I’m talking about is useless, or I’m part of a minority of visionaries that the world hasn’t quite caught up to. I hope it’s the latter. But if I can plant the seed in one person that the connection is important, then I feel like I have helped evolve our species.

London was a little more surreal. I had only two nights and one full day while there, which made exploration limited. The weather was beyond fowl, but at a certain point the wicked winds and pelting rain blew away and I had a window of a few hours to see central London. First things first, I ate a good curry and drank a few pints (had my first hangover in over a year). Then I entered into the famous Underground and sailed into the city’s dreaming mind.

The tube really felt like a tube. Unlike NYC’s subways, it’s intimate and enclosed as I imagine a spaceship would feel. I entered central London through the portal of the Underground’s Leicester Square station. At first this was a little disappointing. I exited into a corridor of brand stores, video screen walls and tourist shops that had a slightly different flavor than Time Square and done on a much smaller scale. London should not try to outdo Americans with this kind of ostentatious display of capitalism. It’s way too tacky in the wrong context. Even Banksy was reduced to t-shirts in tawdry tourist shops

I did my best to get lost. I searched about for the genius loci but a mantra kept running through my mind: corporations destroy the spirit of place. This is, it seems, is their essence. A corporation cannot be successful unless it obliterates a sense of the local. For example, when a Taco Bell replaces a taqueria–as I have witnessed in some communities in New Mexico– this is a sure sign that the natives have been banished. I’m sure this has a little to do with London’s wildcat riots in which the inhabitants of culturally specific neighborhoods asserted their identity, albeit in a way most Londoners felt was unpolite.

I ranged through SoHo and Covent Garden, but could not quite get the gist of the place. I know two hours won’t do the trick, but there are other cities where one immediately gets a much stronger feeling for the local spirit. Most Italian cities, for example, have that affect. I suspect that because they emerged within such specific bioregional limits Italian cities are so particular. Maybe it’s because London peaked during the age of colonialism and grew according to an outward expression of ecological imperialism. It has a bold and fortresslike presence, as if it were a kind of command and control center.

My night closed with a descent back into the tube, where I entered into a sonic bath of Pink Floyd’s “Breath.” A busker at the bottom of the escalator noodled along to a Karaoke version of the track as if he were one of London’s many threshold guardians reminding its visitors that the city’s soul does express itself… through music. Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Radiohead are just a few of the great artists to emerge from the English dream that has so permeated my lifeworld.

Maybe this was the genius loci I was searching for.

Help me promote my new book

Deer peeps, in May 2012 my new book, Decolonize the Media, will be published by North Atlantic Books as part of the Evolver Editions manifestos series (these are the same folks behind Reality Sandwich). Here is a short blurb (this is a draft):

Decolonize the Media argues that in the 21st Century, the global economic system’s most precious resource is human consciousness. From social networks to popular culture, corporations use media to exploit and colonize our attention. But with insights drawn from grassroots activism, sustainability, ancient wisdom traditions and media literacy, we can create sacred media that defies the parasitic strategies shaping planetary communications.”

If you are interested in reviewing the book or interviewing me as part of the launch, I’m compiling a media list to be submitted to the publisher. They will send you a preview copy when it is ready (after x-mas, probably). Please send me an email: info@worldbridgermedia.com

Thanks in advance for your support and interest.

Media is… a short documentary

Media Is… from Lori H. Ersolmaz on Vimeo.

A few years ago I was interviewed by Lori Ersolmaz for a documentary project about media literacy. Here is a new video,”Media is…,” that she made featuring some sound bites from our original interview. I’m honored that she considers me an “expert”! The video is a nice meditation and I hope you will take a few minutes to watch it and support Lori’s work.

My current reading list

Between teaching five classes, writing a book proposal, working on my PhD, being a parent and Twittering, my poor blog has become an orphan. I intend to correct that in the near future. Meanwhile, to reignite the blogging habit I thought I’d share my current reading list.

The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy: Skills for a Changing World

Hands down this is the most practical book on sustainability education available. It consists of 32 short five page chapters with concise concepts and activities. Topics include (but not limited to) media literacy, culture, systems thinking, technology, ecocriticism, economics, commons, permaculture design, community gardening, ecological intelligence, materials awareness, complexity theory, and so-on. The book’s Website has additional downloadable chapters. If you were to get one book on sustainability literacy, I would get this one.

Mediactive

A very practical book for any media practitioner. It combines both useful advice for promoting alternative and independent journalism, and is an excellent primer for “crap detection,” or media literacy. You can download a PDF for free from the book’s Website. This is an accessible book that can be assigned to undergrads.

Greening through IT: Information Technology for Environmental Sustainability

I assigned chapters from this to my digital media culture class. It is clearly written and looks at IT from various perspectives. It is both critical and pro-active, with excellent conceptual tools for thinking about how to convert power-hungry IT to a greener future.

Making is Connecting

I admit that I haven’t read too much of this book yet, but based on blurbs and some of the videos from the book’s Website, this is very promising. In particular David Gauntlett connects DIY crafts activities with the Internet, featuring a lengthy chapter on Ivan Illich. I like the approach. As an old punk who got into media and online publishing from my experience of DIY, connecting the online and off-line worlds through the discussion of appropriate technology tools is a good way to connect the dots.

Language and Learning in the Digital Age

A new offering from James Paul Gee (co-authored with Elisabeth R. Hayes), this book is a very accessible discussion of the debates around language and digital literacy. In particular it argues that digital media are indeed examples of oral cultural expression. It also takes the perspective that literacy is a technology. I would recommend this as an excellent and accessible introduction to the highly contested debate about the impact of digital media on learning.

Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing

Although old in terms of Internet years (it was published in 2004), Digital Ground remains a truly prescient book. Written from the perspective of architecture and design, the book approaches the emergence of pervasive computing from outside the tech bubble. It has the best explanation for why humans ultimately rejected virtual reality, and challenges some naive assumptions about interactivity. I got the book on a tip from my friend and mentor Kathleen Tyner, who is one of the top media literacy scholars in the world. If she says this is her favorite book, then I take that as a five-star recommendation,

Design Literacies: Learning and Innovation in the Digital Age

Recommended by blog reader Davey, this has turned out to be a wonderful find. For me design is where it’s at in terms of really understanding why things are made to do the things they do. This book focuses largely on interactivity, and comprises interviews with some of the key innovators of Internet Web design (here we are not talking about the aesthetics of design, but rather the usability of it). The authors interview business people, artists, educators and techies. An excellent example of ethnographic research.

Films:

Objectified

I stumbled upon this while looking for a documentary about computer design for my digital media class. Though the film focuses mostly on industrial design, it does features interviews with people from the computer industry, including Apple. Made by the folks who brought us Helvetica, this film was a big hit with my students. It does a good job of going into the minds of designers and describing the kinds of decisions they make as they develop their projects. It even nods to sustainability.

Manufactured Landscapes (US Edition)

Based on the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky, this documentary takes a troubling look at how our demand for consumer goods has transformed the Chinese landscape. The film impacted my students greatly, giving them a deeper sense of how our media gadgets directly impact the environment. Bonus: here is a link to a short video about Burtynsky’s latest project on oil.

Please support my Mediacology: Green Media Education Website!

Free Range Studios (the folks who made Story of Stuff) are having an open competition to give away free design services. I’m in the process of developing my dream media education Website (see description below) and would receive a tremendous boost from these very talented designers. I’m asking for help with identity development. Please click on the link below to vote (it only takes a few minutes, really).

Thanks for all the love and support, and if you are so motivated, please share with likeminded folks in the network. Peace! Antonio

Mediacology: Green Media Education Website:

The Mediacology: Green Media Education Website connects media literacy with ecoliteracy. By filling a gap between media and environmental education, this resource offers sustainable and ethical media education tools for educators, community activists and cultural citizens engaged in transformative planetary change. In the spirit of sustainable communication, the final product will be open source and freely available to the global community via a Website portal. The resource will consist of free downloadable curricula, community space, online multimedia lessons and access to online trainings. This project requests help in developing a unified identity for all its materials: logo, print and Website.

Slow blogging and Net agnosticism

Although I remain enthusiastic about the Internet, I’m also increasingly a Net agnostic.

What is happening is that I’m finding my natural Net rhythm, which is like settling into the orbit of Pluto instead of Mercury. From afar I’m seeing more and more spinning at the Internet’s center, and finding myself as if I’m in a centrifuge spun out to the edge. This partially explains the recent slower pace at Mediacology. For the moment I’ve lost the drive and enthusiasm I had when I first started blogging five years ago. Back then I was excited and energetic to post everyday, and was pretty prolific in the beginning. I also had dreams of blog fame and a second income. Having let go of these delusions (and hence the simplified design of my current layout), I’m feeling more comfortable letting things come when they are ready, and resting when I need to.
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Scaling down

Scaling-Down

Photo by me

As we watched the events unfold at Copenhagen, many of us felt powerless to infuse wisdom into the process. It seems as if the globe’s political leaders cannot transcend their own momentum, and remain stuck in a reality that defines everything in the context of numbers. One thing that Jacques Ellus points out in The Technological Society is that a consequence of the technological mindset is establishing a set of perimeters on how to think about and categorize the world, and to make taboo human scaled relationships that result from organic processes.

Consequently, this year the theme that keeps knocking me over is to scale down. In my work and professional/activist ambitions I have felt the need, like many of us, to change the world as quickly as possible. The task often feels existential and too massive to contain– our system seems like giant robots trouncing the earth and often I feel like a Lilliputan trying to pin it down.

As a colleague reminds me, complexity theory shows that all system change happens at a local level. Perhaps in our desire to see a massive global political shift many of us have disregarded another option, which is to scale down our thoughts to the local level, and to work within the means that we have available to us. For me that translates to living a certain kind of low impact lifestyle, and also re-dedicating my work in the classroom where I have a lot of one-on-one contact with the next prototype of human, our youth. And of course spending more time with my family.

My sustainability education mentor, Pramod Prajoli, has the following guidelines for moving into the next phase of transformation:

1) critique to regeneration

2) ideologies to ideas

3) discourse to design

4) global thinking to local thinking

Some ideas I have for the coming year include editing a textbook for media educators that incorporates a sustainable framework, and to develop a green curriculum that can be used as part of media literacy work.

Meanwhile, I want to rededicate myself to eating well, relaxing more, taking it a bit slower and remembering to breath. Now is not the time to panic, but to become grounded and rooted again in our life work.

I’ll close with these thoughts from Tricycle Magazine:

Caring for Each Other

The Buddha has suggested that we are without a mother and father to take care of things for us. Mother Earth, once thought to be all-forgiving and capable of absorbing any abuse we could heap upon her, is not the infinitely benevolent resource we thought she was. As we learn of our own mothers at a certain point of maturity, Mother Earth can and does get worn down by giving and forgiving in the face of our persistent demands. And our Father who is in heaven, though perhaps immensely old and lord over a host of devas (as the Buddhists view him), is nevertheless subject to the laws of karma and is not sufficiently omnipotent to make it all work out for us in the end.

If we do not care for one another, who else will care for us? Who among us has the right to say of another, “He is of no use to us?” For better or worse, whether we like it or not, we are all in this together. Learning how to care for one another is a central part of the path and of the practice.

- Andrew Olendzki, Ph.D., “Medicine for the World,” from the Summer 2008 Tricycle. Read the complete article.