Your Project IDEAS

 

Hi everyone,

Please use the comment section of this blog post to add two project ideas for a semester long media project of a social issue that affects campus before class on monday. This way we can all see what everyone’s interests are to work towards creating groups around topics.   Also add one idea for connecting a media project to the larger college community.

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Medium is the Massage and our Video

One of the most striking things about Marshall McLuhan’s Medium is the Massage is the varying display of information on the page. One page will have a large black and white photograph with distorted effects and a quote describing what happened with the explanation of what needs to change, another will show a cartoon with the quote being a call to action, another page is a graphic design and a drawing. Each page uses a different technique to grab our attention and make every word seem relevant and noteworthy. I think this can be translated to our semester video. The main part of our video is the personal testimonies for sure but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to enhance their perceived importance and their impact by adding supplementary material. This supplementary material could be quotes from affinity groups on campus, pictures of protests or events/incidents described in the testimonies, statistics and visual data to support the information and to back up claims. Furthermore, we can recall Witness’s Video4Change document regarding video advocacy and storytelling. These are strong elements to incorporate into our video and can be done in many ways. To promote the advocacy aspect of the video, we can create calls to action and demands in order to focus the viewer. It is important to let the viewer know exactly what you need them to do and how to do it. Additionally, we can connect the stories and order them in a way that may make the overall story more evident, all the while making our point more clear.

Advertising to Control

While looking at the resources on Witness, which are useful for creating and carrying out citizen journalism, we spoke about selfie culture–something I had previously thought was completely harmless. If people want to take photos of themselves then they should be allowed to, no judgment! But that isn’t the problem with selfies, the problem is their promotion by the media and advertising. As Professor Lamb said in class, whenever new phones or similar gadgets are unveiled and commercials are produced about them, the commercials almost always focus on “capturing those important moments” which is definitely a substantial thing in people’s lives. However, those important moments are shown ONLY as being selfies or photos of dogs or friends and family. What is exclusively NEVER suggested by the media is capturing moments of citizen journalism: protests, riots, speeches, gatherings. It is curious that Apple and Google wouldn’t want to promote this use of their product since a large portion of the way we use our phones is to capture important events. One of the most prevalent uses of phone footage in the media right now are videos of police stops. These have been extremely pivotal in modern times and would potentially be a great example or way for companies to promote usage of their product but they won’t do this because it threatens the control and is almost directly attacking the hegemonic ways of the media by encouraging protests or encouraging dissent. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waTteMeg4Ag for example, this iPhone commercial prompts viewers to “focus on what you love” but funnily enough when you focus on something like a police traffic stop, you are protecting what you love which seems a lot more important.

Crying maps

After reading in Luchs/Miller’s work Mapping Memories on workshops that use maps to help participants deal with trauma, I was reminded of an art project created by Bonny Chen, a Mudd student from the class of 2017, who created an art installation based around “crying maps” that was up from December 2016 to April 2017. She conducted an anonymous survey where participants submitted maps of where they have cried on campus, and then for each crying instance, she installed a small “wart” (what Mudders call the square architectural features that are on many of our buildings) at the location.

I personally loved the project, because it took the shame out of crying and turned it into an experience that I shared with other students going through similar struggles. Also, since we would all walk by the warts every day, crying became something normal to talk about (or even joke about!), which can be difficult to do. During that semester, when I found myself crying and in the state where I most needed support, if it was somewhere where a wart was installed, I actually felt supported and less isolated by the fact that someone else had shared the same feeling at some point.

From WEEK 12 – Nov 13 & 15 – Advocacy and Participatory Media Process

Guiding Principles

Reading about “Refuge Youth & Participatory Practice” was eye opening in terms of understanding the issues and struggles that refugees go through once they are away from their home country. Not only did it focus on the conflict of running away from your home, but also emphasized on the battles of coming to a foreign country with nothing but feelings of isolation. Furthermore, it goes on by suggesting guiding principles for making media for youth refugees to voice their struggles and opinions and the bias they face once they arrive in the host country.

It is interesting to see that participatory mode fits so well with activism within media. Especially with making pieces about issues that are misrepresented in the mainstream media that often reinforce stereotypes that are misleading/biased. Having an authentic voice from people who have been through the struggles that are represented by the media through a western lens, would be refreshing to see, not to mention highly credible.

SUBTL: Building Accessibility

To echo one of my past post “Media/Editorial Platform” I wanted to introduce my own media platform I’ve created in the summer of 2016. SUBTL is a constructed media platform operating as a creative works portfolio, streetwear clothing line and editorial platform.

As a freelance graphic designer, I’ve built my portfolio through entrepreneurship, commission projects, installations and self-taught skills using Adobe Creative Cloud. I decided to marry this ability with my passion in fashion and social justice. You can check out my site here: www.inhouseatlas.com/subtl  where you will find my recent Fall collection. I aim to donate any proceeds from select products to social justice causes within communities of color such as hurricane relief for PR and donations to a youth summer camp in Chicago.

I used the editorial platform for advocacy for centering local shapers and influencers within our communities through interviews and sit-downs with people concerning their latest projects within Art, Music, Education, Social Justice and other breadths.

My most recent successful show came from my debut When We Met Gala held November 3, 2017 as my official launch and birth into the world. It was met with extreme support and encouragement as all I aspire to do is produce, collaborate, curate space for artists and make art/resources accessible.

Clothing can be purchased via online (www.inhouseatlas.com/subtl ) or even at Pitzer’s Shakedown!

Video For Change

A guide for advocacy and activism, though helpful and on point, still has some notions within it that were questionable. All the points that the writers noted were accurate and the advocacy they took on through the medium of video was commendable. But what caught my eye in the whole piece was that of using Caucasian women as their first go to since the U.S. government was more likely to pay attention to this advocacy if it focused on “whiteness”. I agree with their approach to get the media’s attention by what’s “important” to them and what’s not. Because advocacy and activism tried to focus on women trafficking in Southeast Asia, the first group they picked was Russian women because of their whiteness.

The issue I have with this approach, though problematic in every aspect, is that if you commit to advocating rights for a particular group, your approach should consist of intersectionality within it. There are way more women of color that go through prostitution and human trafficking than do white women, yet we see the white woman’s pain being glorified again and again. This is not to say that their journey is less agonizing than others, but there is an overt distinction between prioritizing the pain of white women versus women of color. And even though the advocacy started out for white women because that’s what the media picks up first, it still doesn’t justify glorifying “whiteness” and it’s importance to the world in comparison to people, especially women of color.

Video for Change

Within the initial chapters of Video for Change we are stressed the ground-breaking power video is used for advocacy. Gillian Caldwell opens “Using Video for Advocacy” with video’s ability to direct and influence masses. Marrying breaking news with the ‘powerful visual medium’ poses to be effective in spreading information  and subject to manipulation.

Caldwell explores her own experiences and narratives of others by capturing sex trafficking and other injustices around the world. Video as a medium of campaigning holds many strengths such as connecting audiences, providing visual evidence and serving as a vehicle to advocate and amplify. Films such as ‘California Impressions’ (1970) were used to advocate food injustices and attacks against farmed laborers, where video is used similar to Caldwell’s agenda of video to be a powerful mode of language and organizing communities.

 

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Open Source Reporting

In Graham Meikle’s chapter on open source publishing and software, the author succinctly lays out the organizing benefits of fostering a horizontal approach to technological development. One benefit of such a developmental strategy, Meikle recalls, is that it effectively filters out the corporatist biases present in software made for profit. In turn, this also allows activist that work covertly to withhold names, credit card numbers, geodata, and other information that could lead to arrest or suppression. In addition, this model allows users to become developers themselves, and democratically alter technological developments to suit their personal and ideological needs.

This reminded me of citizen journalist platform Bellingcat, a site that provides stories researched and penned by writers working remotely, as well as tools that readers can use to conduct their own research. Here, stories on the Syrian Civil War and Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine are complemented by guidelines on comprehensively auditing videos for stories. In this way, Bellingcat contributors are able to share timely, groundbreaking stories without the need to appeal to the corporate backing and interests of larger sites that report on foreign affairs, a scenario which seems to concretely reflect the horizontalism that Meikle writes on.

The Yes Men: Positive or problematic?

This week’s viewing of the documentary of the activism projects from the Yes Men (Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos) left me wondering about how their privilege from being white, cisgendered men had an influence on their work. It is highly possible that their privilege helped them be able to pull of the stunts that they did, since the success of their projects often relied on their ability to pass in roles like company spokesmen, where the expectation is to be a white, cisgendered man. So, in a way, their tactic of using their ability to pass to pull off their projects was positive and an example of how privileged folks can use their privilege for good, since someone of a marginalized identity would most likely have more trouble trying to pass as the same roles. I think it would have been productive for Servin and Vamos to acknowledge the fact that their privilege helped them pass, since there was zero mention of this in the documentary whatsoever. It is also very possible that their privilege helped increase their visibility as activists, since many viewers, even after finding out that their impersonations were a hoax, respected the message of the project, which tends to happen more often to people of privilege.

I found it somewhat problematic that the documentary focused very heavily on the Yes Men themselves and creating the idea of how successful their activism projects were, instead of using the film to critically evaluate their own positionality as privileged folks, the long-term impact (or lack of impact) of their project on the issues they were confronting, and centering the narrative on the people and communities most affected by those issues. While the film as is was humorous and very enjoyable, it was clear that they wanted to construct a tightly controlled narrative where their projects were impressive through their confrontation of big companies and other oppressive systems, making the Servin and Vamos like the saviors of those oppressed. In reality, it was unclear whether any of their projects had any actual long-term impact outside of just raising awareness, which is important, but not always an indicator of imminent social change. It did not appear that they attempted to keep those companies accountable for changing their behaviors after the Yes Men stunts occurred, since the film only showed the Yes Men themselves getting publicity on news interviews for being alternative activists, and then just moving on to a different cause to support. To me, this made me feel like they were not committed enough to making meaningful change, but rather floating from cause to cause almost like action junkie tourists, getting publicity and receiving respect without facing any of the serious consequences. So, overall, while I respect their work, I believe that their main area of growth is in their “allyship” and their problematic construction of their “savior” status.

From WEEK 11 – Nov 6 & 8 – Tactical Media Events, Hacktivism, and the Zapatista Movement

Mr. Robot and Hacktivism

In Graham Meikle’s Future Active: Media Activism and The Internet, he talks about the collaboration between Boston computer consultant Zack Exley and corporate/cultural sabotage specialists ®™ark. They created a satire site identical to Bush’s campaign site to send out a political message. The Internet is part of our day-to-day lives and we are online and connected almost 24/7. Because of that, the Internet is the perfect platform to spread a message to the public. Reading about the ways in which they sabotaged websites to “draw attention to the system of corporate power… and to the US legal convention of corporate personhood,” reminded me of the TV show, Mr. Robot. The show revolves around Elliot (Rami Malek), a young cybersecurity engineer for a corporation. However, at night, he is a “vigilante hacker,” (IMDB) recruited by a group of hacktivists called “fsociety” to help bring down corporate America. He’s tasked with taking down one of the biggest Silicon Valley firms in the world, E-Corp, a business that he should be protecting for his cybersecurity firm Allsafe.

I read into some interviews I found with the creator and director of Mr. Robot, Sam Esmail, where he discusses the hacktivist origins of his show. When asked on his general thoughts on hacktivism, he said,

“…wars like the American Revolution would have never happened if it weren’t for the specific decision to break what they deemed unfair laws. And let’s face it, sometimes that is the only path to justice. Even Snowden’s actions—whether you disagree with him or not—led to some startling and relevant revelations about our government’s surveillance programs that otherwise may not have happened had he not broken the law. So, historically, these complicated, extreme measures are often at the heart of any dramatic change to political and economic order. That’s my long-winded way of saying my thoughts on hacktivism is that it’s ethically complicated, but sometimes necessary for justice to prevail. Can it lead to a massive change in society? It already has, and will most certainly continue to do so because all it really requires at the end of the day is a computer, wifi and one passionate person with a drive to make a difference in the world.”

I added a link of the trailer for season 1 for whoever hasn’t seen the show! (It’s a must watch)