11/11/2011

Mobile device companies shaping social movements

The role that mobile devices has played in current social movements is fascinating to me.  I feel that I take the power of my cell phone for granted.  I am lucky to be able to communicate with my friends all over the world, but I had never really considered it as a tool for social change.  After learning more about the events in Egypt and other places in the world I do think it’s important for people to remember that these weren’t the sole forms of organizing.  I think that there is still much to be said for the old ‘grapevine’.  In my home town I know this still functions rather well, and even in larger cities, within communities I think in many ways it can be even more effective than technology.

My biggest concern is that social movements begin to rely on Technology to the point that they can be shaped and influenced by the companies, or organization that controls this.  If they know there is going to be a large demonstration, what stops a carrier from stopping service, or a government from setting up signal blockers in a vicinity.  I’m very curious to see how future events play out, and if my concerns about reliance on technology providers could be valid.

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11/11/2011

Why the Government Should Hire Me (Us)

Communications scholars continue to debate the influence of social media on political change, activism, and other social phenomena that seem to have some undetermined corollary effect on how society functions. Researchers analyze Twitter feeds to determine where collective activism and communication is taking place. Governments have a stake in the trend, whether their intentions are to encourage thriving democratic movements or to shut them down.

One thing is true: The government especially need people who can locate paths of information. They are trying to use open source data mining tools to piece together information for conversations in the future. Whether this is through traditional forms of communication or new media-shaped political debates about the Arab Spring, the government needs graduates from good communications programs to fill voids in international relations and public diplomacy who are cued into contemporary studies on new media, media ownership, and communication. We are systems people. We want to know why things work the way they do beyond the typical discussions in the public forum. In the complex web of public-private interests, where are the choke points?

Social media through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other significant feeds spreads ideas across international borders. But the means of analyzing this information is still a bit hazy. Open source data means no personal identification, which can be beneficial for international advocates for human rights, but difficult for data mining. Knowing what communication paths to trust and identify is also one of the roles of a communications scholar. As government plays a crucial role in world affairs, it seems timely and relevant that it would start looking to graduate students that understand how to use new media in the context of culture, world affairs, and public diplomacy.

11/11/2011

Mobile Movements

One of sentences that immediately stood out from “The Mobile Civil Society” piece was:

“The communication networks provided by mobile telephony can be formed and reformed instantly, and messages are often received from a known source, enhancing their credibility.”

Isn’t a phone just a phone anymore?  The answer to this ridiculous rhetorical question is a big NO, phones haven’t been just phones for a very long time  – this piece speaks to that truth.    We can do countless things on our phones now that were not even possible 5 years ago – the rapid development of mobile technology has been breathtaking.

For the audience of this blog, and the people they know, and the people that they know know, phones are ubiquitous.  But to take it back to Paul Adams, the author we read last week, our phones are also a symbol of the inclusion/exclusion dynamic since our access to the phones separate us from those in the world who don’t have access to mobile technology.

And of course, phones aren’t just phones any more because people are now using them as tools to mobilize for a varied number of reasons, some serious (political protests) and some not so serious (flash mobs).  The potential power of mobile technology to propel social movements is the main focus of this piece.  The Phillpine and South Korea examples were great case studies that show that power in pratice.  In the South Korea example, mobile technology was particularly useful.  As the authors point out:

“While the internet-based campaign had lasted for years, it was the mobile phone that mobilized large numbers of young voters on election day (194).”

Phones definitely aren’t just phones anymore.  They can also be tools for destruction, as the 2004 Madrid bombings demonstrate.  That always seem to be the dynamic – great technological advancements that make our lives easier also carry the potential for great harm if it falls into the wrong hands.

11/10/2011

Language vs. The Nation-State (yet again)

Aday and Livingston’s piece on “Taking the State out of the State” and Meng’s work, “From Steamed Bun to Grass Mud Horse” were excellent compliments to one another’s arguments. Aday and Livingston contend that the media is a distribution system for two entities: the government and Transnational Advocacy Networks. Embedded in their argument is the idea that media does not just distribute information, but it is a source for knowledge production, as well.

Meng’s research analysis of online spoofs on the heavily regulated, Chinese internet serves as an example as to how knowledge can be produced on the internet. The Grass Mud Horse is an example of an, “innovative strategy for articulating social critique and fostering societal dialogue in a heavily controlled speech environment”. When China launched a “clean up” campaign to limit “vulgar” content on the web (as defined by the government), a mystical, foul-named creature came to be the symbol of Chinese netizens’ discontent with such censorship. Through the creature’s ascribed meaning, crude Chinese translation and subsequently, the birth of a new language in Chinese characters to foster dialogue among internet users that share common concern of government censorship, the internet serves as a venue for knowledge production and an, “alternative imagined community that defies the official order”.

Though I am intuitively aware of the notion that the internet can create “imagined communities” and even new languages (as seen in the case of the Grass Mud Horse), I was still impressed by the power behind the idea that civil society can circumvent nation-state authority using an alternative language. Going back to our readings on Inclusion and Exclusion, the Chinese netizens, in the face of a repressive regime, were able to use the internet as a power-gaining tool. They utilized it as a space for gathering and a tool for developing an alternative language through the sharing of ascribed meaning to symbols and characters. As a result, once repressed Chinese internet users, were at that point able to attain power through their alternative language community, excluding those who remained unable to translate it’s symbols and enter into the dialogue around taboo topics of heated public debate.

This article got me thinking about other scenarios, both past and future, in which “alternative language” was created and used to leverage power among oppressed groups. Can you think of other examples in history when oppressed groups circumvented nation-state authority through the use of alternative language communities?

11/09/2011

Michelle and Barack Obama take over…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After last night’s discussion on the e-gao article and how there are hidden transcripts in political cartoons, the first thing that came into my mind was this picture from the New Yorker. I remember seeing this picture a few years ago so I went to Google, hoping to find this picture again. After a long search, I found this picture. This picture was shown during one of my undergraduate courses. My professor asked us what we thought of this picture and what we thought the hidden message was.

The message behind this picture is really strong. This kind of picture can affect the perspectives and our thinking of those who are involved with politics, and it even affects those who are not involved with politics. Take me, for instance. I am not a politician nor I know a lot about the politics. However, when I saw this picture, it immediately influenced how I viewed Barack and Michelle Obama. It caused a little bit of anger grow inside of me thinking that they had some conspiracy or hidden agenda behind the closed doors. It made me question if I even wanted Obama to be my president. It also had me concerned that something drastic will happen to USA because of him. It is funny to see how one simple picture without any words or written dialogue can affect my perspective on the political system, Obama as our president, and my role as a US citizen.

If you really look at the details of this picture, you will find a few humorous pieces like Michelle Obama has an Afro, which we never seen she has. Or the skin color- their skin is illustrated as light tan, close to white. If you look behind Obama, you will see a portrait of Bin Laden, but only half of his face is shown. Or how about the fact that Michelle and Barack Obama are standing on a picture of a “world” on the floor. What are the hidden messages behind these? It does make the reader think.

A simple cartoon illustration can ignite a political movement, political power, or even a protest. After reading the e-gao article and discussing in class, I have never realized how powerful a drawing can be. It does influence our society and each individual in many ways.

11/04/2011

How to Do A Good Literature Review

I really appreciate useful tips in school that I know I will in some way take with me in any future research or academic endeavor. I am part of the cohort of AU grad students who have never been taught how to actually DO a lit review. Yes, I’ve done several in my time as a grad student, but never with clear certainty. SO, for the use of those on the interwebs wondering, “How do I do a literature review?”, REMEMBER it’s not about finding every piece of information ever  relating to your topic. This was my misconception. Instead, use your resources wisely and join the discussion!

While the list below is not indefinitely exhaustive as research outlets and technological capabilities evolve, here are some helpful steps for you:

Phase 1: Know your Motivation

  • Be Strategic: You are looking for ammunition to make the argument you want to make
  • Focus on: Dominant conversations about your subject
  • If your subject is narrow, you may have to use less traditional research methods: A considerable body of work may exist on two topics, but not necessarily combined

Phase 2: Visualize & Operationalize

  • Jargon: Build an online keywords list used in research relevant to your topic
  • Map out the type of material or evidence you seek so you know when you’ve found key information

I. Find a “nodal point”

Start with an expert if you can. Finding a professor, non-profit representative, business person, or government worker that knows something about the topic will give you a launching pad for your research:

  • They might direct you to other “right” persons or readings and can clarify the questions you’re asking
  • They will also provide a crucial gut-check for your research question to let you know if you’re on the right track

II. Make friends with reference librarian: Their job is to do these searches for you

III. Get a pulse on the discussion through synthetic articles in handbooks & periodic reviews

  • Get a sense for what other people are saying
  • Figure out how you would respond to their comments if you were in a conversation with them

IV. Find relevant journal articles or books to get a sense of how many people are talking about your topic

V. Use other people’s research! Dissertations require literature reviews, so if you can, use them

VI. Treat your findings like a card catalog–find out what’s around them to get a lead on other subject headings related to your topic. Another way to think about it is “look around the book you pick out for other ideas.”

VII. Keep good records: Don’t waste your time doing tons of research and not recording where you’ve looked. Good organization will also make it easier to order and write your paper

VIII. Learn to Skim Well

  • Pick out ideas through the introduction, conclusions, topic headings, and key phrases
  • Only read key articles in depth

Phase 3: Regroup

  • Go back to your initial motivation and vision and assess whether your research is addressing your topic or whether it’s pointing you elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to change your thesis!
11/04/2011

You’re in! You’re OUT!

The idea of inclusion and exclusion are major themes of the in the Adams piece, coincidentally titled “Inclusion/Exclusion.”  The impression that I got from Adams was that there is an element of exclusion inherent in almost all the different ways that people organize themselves.  This dynamic between inclusion and exclusion is key to “understanding”  the “social geography of communication.  If correct, My understanding  is a little disheartening  – it’s seems that despite even the best intentions somebody or someone is left out.  It’s tempting to say “that’s just the way it is” but even c academics who study communication are concerned about exclusion.   Adams describes Jurgen Habbermas’ promoting of the “ideal speech situation” with the idea being that no person can or should be excluded from a discussion.  I had the rare opportunity to see this concept come to life unexpectedly when I was in New York a few weeks ago…

Of course I had to go to Occupy Wall Street!  I took the above photo my phone.   I did not venture into the park because I a little nervous (I also had no real desire to go into Zucotti Park).  Nevertheless, from the perimeter of the park, I was able to see a rather larger group of protesters seated and listening to one another.  Apparently, just from observing, I gathered that everybody had the right to speak before decisions were about activities for the day, even if it means that it takes them hours to make a very simple decision.  Going into further detail about ideal speech situation, Adams explains that exclusion “interferes with the processes generating truth, sincerity, and justice.”  I really saw this dynamic play out before me with the protesters.  Who knows how much life is left in there movement, nevertheless, they are really trying to establish a open, democratic, culture which dovetails nicely with their claims of representing the 99%.

Adams goes on to explore the inclusive/exclusive dynamic through a number of different prisms.  In fact, one prism we can examine the inclusive/exclusive dynamic is given in the Lilie Chouliaki piece.  What transnational media chooses to show or not show and how they show it separates people in many different ways.  In the portrayal of suffering, the way the media presents the subject may determine how much various publics feel tied or identify with victims of some tragic event.

11/03/2011

What’s my part?

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is growing rapidly. People across USA are joining together for this issue. As shown the video above, some of my friends are involved with this for Occupy Oakland.

To be frank, we have been talking a lot about OWS in class and I never really understood what was going on and why people were reacting to this. I decided to watch several videos and ask people around. I finally get the concept, but I am still uncertain what I should do. I have this mixed feelings about this protest. A part of me agrees that this needs to happen. The government needs to wake up and listen to us. We should not let only 1% control our economy when this is our world too. What’s more is that I completely can relate to the issue about cops/other authorities becoming more violent over simple peaceful protests. We say we have the rights to express ourselves, so if we protest in a peaceful way, we still get trampled over/beaten up by cops. I can relate to this because Gallaudet University had two protests: 1988 and 2006. Both of them were about our university’s presidents.

In 1988, we protested to have a Deaf president after a hearing president being elected. We won. The protest was non violent.

In 2006, we protested to have another president after one president being elected. Again, we won. This also was a peaceful protest.

I participated with the 2006 protest. It was an unbelievable experience. However, since we were protesting in a peaceful way, we still got mauled over by cops. I personally have experienced being thrown down by a cop just because I was standing n front of the gate, not letting the cops in with the new president. My friends and I were not violent. We just clutched our arms together and stood attached together peacefully. Yet, the cop took out his baton and started to shove us out of the way. He got to me, twisted my arm, and pinned me to the ground. I did not even fight back. But, that experience has taught me to realize- where were my rights? Freedom of expression? That’s a contradiction.

The OWS makes me feel like my university’s protest all over again. I do feel that I should support it. But the other part of me is resistant to supporting this idea because I don’t see how our protests will actually CHANGE the government system. The government might hear us out, recognize our problem, and try to soothe our anger. But, will it actually change? I am not sure. Are we really wasting our time? We cannot just tell the rich people to pay more taxes. We cannot tell those 1% to stop controlling our economy and shut down their businesses. Our governance is already deeply rooted in the system. It is almost impossible to change. Is it even possible to “de-institutionalize” our government system to satisfy everyone? I don’t think it can be done. I am proud that we are protesting to wake the government, but I am also ashamed to say I do not even know what my part in this should be because I am uncertain if our energy should be wasted on something that will not change.

11/03/2011

“Si entiendes el espanol, este articulo es para ti!”

“Tefhem il Arabieh?”…”Entiendes el espanol?”…”Verstehen Sie Deutch?”

Upon reading these three questions, did you feel included or excluded? In Paul Adam’s work about Inclusion and Exclusion in the context of global media, he discusses how language is more than just a means of communication. “Language lies at the heart of a nation’s education system, culture, and identity….[they] are associated with national identity [that] provides a sense of security, belongingness and common heritage”(Adams, 92). This statement embodies all that I have experienced living as a foreigner, having had to cultivate my own cultural and socio-political identity in Southern Spain (Andalusia).

When I first studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain, my Spanish skills were disastrous. So entertained was my host family by my ability to fabricate Spanish words during desperate attempts to communicate that they hung a list on the fridge, showcasing all the shameful vocabulary I had invented. And no. No one understood me during those painful first months of my experience as a foreigner in Andalusia. For example, instead of telling my host mother, “I’ll have a sandwich for my lunch”, I stated, “I’ll have a wine barrel and eat myself for lunch”.

Social, educational, political and cultural exclusion by means of language was evident everywhere—my University class notes remained largely blank pages, peppered with the occasional comprehended words scribbled in haste; given the Spaniards (in Andalusia, at least) had very little English and tight social circles, my ability to make friends in those first two months was limited to other English speaking foreigners. Politically, I longed to join in on the debates and exciting protests involving the US held almost daily outside of the city’s luminous cathedral, “La Giralda” and city hall; but alas, I lacked the ability to fully express my political views, both in the written and oral form. There were even some occasions when I ordered in a restaurant or grocery shopped in the open air markets and remained perplexed as to how I was just charged 20 euros on items that cost the Spaniard next to me 3 euros, at most. Culturally, I cannot even tell you how many rules of the Spanish “damas”, or “ladies”, I violated in that first month(apparently, a true lady never orders her own beer, sweats in public, goes out without heels, etc).

Without an ability to enter the Spanish community and feel socially, politically, culturally accepted, even by the education system, I experienced what one defines as “culture shock”. The adverse power of language couldn’t have been more obvious at that time as I struggled to build an identity for myself in a city where I knew no one and had no ties to the nation-state other than as a “visiting and outside” member of Spanish society. One could even go so far as to say that the Spanish system had a power advantage over me. Economically, it could reap the benefits of my inability to understand how to buy train and bus tickets correctly from the Spanish only web sites and vendors selling them at random prices on the streets. Politically, if I had a complaint about the system, or in my case, about a creepy man following me home at night, it was barely seen as legitimate, as I was not a legal citizen of the country. Culturally and socially, during the first month in Seville and until I learned the cultural norms of Andalusia, I’m pretty sure I was an embarrassment to the locals.

But little by little, as I gained Spanish fluency and a cultural identity inextricably linked to language acquisition, the power advantage of Spain and it’s people began to diminish. In it’s place,after 4 months, my University notebooks began to fill up. After 6 months, I was going to the marketplace, buying from different vendors who offered me a discount price on my produce because I could banter with them in Sevillano slang. When I returned to Malaga, Spain post-graduation from college and stayed there for the next 3.5 years of my life, I made plenty of Spanish friends, worked for the Spanish government and successfully participated in heated debates at the dinner table with my Spanish boyfriend. Visiting family and friends could see that I was no longer a foreigner living abroad, but rather, I had gained”inclusion” status in Spanish society by reaping the cultural, social, political and economic benefits afforded by the Spanish language.

11/01/2011

Compassion

I was very interested in Chouliaraki’s article about the visibility of suffering. I can see how the way a news story is framed would affect the viewers perspective, but I found it difficult to completely accept.  In the article it argues that there is ordinary and then extraordinary news and that this is presented differently.

I think that compassion is something people will either feel or not feel for someone distant from them.  I think that you’re ability to relate to people who are far away or distant from you has more to do with personal experience and circumstance.  The framing ends up being a factor in this, but I think its importance is somewhat over-emphasized.

Tragedies when they are presented in the news can lead people to a moral decision about whether to care, or donate money, or in some other way become active participants.  However I think that these people that are moved by the stories would otherwise be no matter their framework.  They argued that some of the extraordinary events that were framed in a way that made you feel closer to those suffering had higher donations etc… However I think that people who donate money to causes are more likely to do so for a cause when it is easily found.

To clarify I feel that the pool of people that is going to actually care about an event is always about the same size, but that how it is framed doesn’t determine whether or not we care, but emphasizes what we pay more attention to.  For example if in a week 10 stories are shown on the news about people dying in floods, then the way they are framed is going to affect what we care more about.  In this situation framing an event in a certain way can draw on the support of all the people to care, so instead of what people care about being spread over many topics, the news has the ability to make an event big enough that all the people pay attention to that one event.