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Monday, December 6, 2010

Formspring social network: focus of cyberbullying

This weekend I received a worrying email from the principal of my daughter's New York City public middle school.

The principal wanted to make parents aware of a year-old social networking site used by several of the students at school called 'Formspring'. Through a conversational 'Question and Answer' format, the intent of Formspring is to let you express yourself and learn more about people. All questions and responses are completely public on Formspring. Additionally, Formspring also allows people to post comments anonymously.

My daughter's principal reported doing some investigation on our students' Formspring accounts; and was shocked by what she found.

The amount of harsh comments, bullying and abuse was extreme. Comments ranged from insults on a child's personal appearance to use of slurs and offensive language.

The principal was particularly interested in making parents aware of this social network, because she had spent most of the past few weeks working with students and mediating specific incidents involving cyberbullying.

I decided to go have a look at Formspring for myself and was surprised to see that with nothing more than the name of my daughter's school and the search term 'formspring' I was able to pull up account after account, many containing completely public and unfiltered insults. It doesn't do justice to describe much of content I read: you have to see it for yourself for a sense of its general vindictiveness. Given that the Formspring accounts I looked at are completely public, I feel I can share this one example here (by no means was this atypical of what I saw).

Looking at these Formspring accounts provided an opportunity for me to have a frank conversation with my daughter on social networking, and this social network in particular. After speaking to my daughter, I was relieved to hear that she did not have a Formspring account, but I urge other parents and educators to start this discussion with the adolescents in your life.

On first look, Formspring looks like trolling by another name.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Classroom on the Water, an example of a video collaboration done right

Thought I would share this. It's a nice example of a short documentary about a school -- something we've seen many times before no doubt -- but two things stand out about this piece: Firstly, the school itself, NYC Harbor school, with its avowed marine-based focus may offer an educational experience that is unlike any other in the United States; and secondly, this piece is also an example of what is possible when an organization looking for video content that it can use for self promotion, works with a local media channel eager for interesting content. This was made by NYC25 NYC Life New York City's flagship cable channel. It shows the Harbor School's move from landlocked Bushwick in Brooklyn to its watery location in a brand new facility on Govenor's island. Enjoy 'Classroom on the Water'!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Transmedia storytelling at the Open Video Conference

This presentation featured 2 filmmakers whose latest projects have extended traditional storytelling beyond a single screen.

First up, Lance Waller, a self-described filmmaker who has become a story architect‚
talked about last film he made 'Head Trama' the first ever project to go through the Sundance Institute as a transmedia project. Head Trauma as a project started with interactive comic, then feature film, then live events. People were instructed to share their cell phone number and could interact with other audience members to solve puzzles presented by the film. After the screening, a game designed to build on the film experience loops them into conversation with others who had shared a theater screening experience. Then video on demand was released as a free download, again bringing people in 2.5 million people -- a core of whom continue to interact with games and add-on experiences about the film. The idea: no one piece of the storytelling tells the whole story. By engaging in these different places where parts of the story are being told the public becomes a collaborator.

He then described his latest project, Hope is Missing that will feature mobile episodes micronarratives and a mobile geo-location based app to put people in place of the film protagonist a child in a post-apocalyptic future who has to scavenge by day and make nests by night. His insight: When people buy in to this they give data points GPS info, make model of handset/ email address/phone no/ and storytellers can track their impact from amount of usage.

He also spoke about another of his projects:

A community that he started originally to help share his knowledge about creating this kind of storytelling but has now become an active online community helping people to better fund/create etc. Looks great.

Waller ended by arguing that we are at a point where the value of content is dropping but the social/collaborative experience of storytelling is thing that will have most value going forward.

Tommy Pallotta, producer of A Scanner Darkly spoke about how he unwittingly became involved with transmedia storytelling through a trailer remix contest for A Scanner Darkly. This yielded such rich results that he decided to make a graphic novel using these files. He then decided could make a mobile app. After the movie had been released for several months he couldn't understand why his audiences were growing in size not diminishing. At a screening in Korea he asked who had seen the movie before:it turns out many had on bit torrent. This made him then release a bit torrent of film American Prince. His latest piece is an energy conservation story told as part feature part doc part rotoscope part geo-data and website

OK Go at Open Video Conference

Damien Kulash of OK GO spoke at the Open Video Conference on the band's experiences of leveraging, sharing and the social web and their split with EMI following the label's decision to remove embedding feature from their videos.

One of most interesting nuggets: pitching idea for 'Here it goes again' treadmill video to EMI digital media head: "If this gets out you're sunk". The video took 10 days, cost $5K for treadmills and has had 200 million views.

Kulash also discussed the making of 'This too shall pass' (see video above, if you don't already know and love this piece!) -- and the fact that the video took 89 takes, that they got to the end of the Rube Goldberg machine 3 times, and that no: it is not one continuous shot: start and end are separate shots and the elevator shaft sequence was an additional separate edit.

Kulash talked about the group's belief in fan-remixing --OK Go's videos have been remade by almost 400 groups and the band are strong believers in open video. OK Go have spoken at the House Judiciary Committee and has met with Obama's team on net neutrality issues.

Build an HTML5 player at the Open Video Conference, 2010

At the Open Video Conference 2010, Chris Blizzard of Mozilla set the scene for what is at stake with HTML5 'we are just at the beginning of understanding what video on the web could be: imagine a video-rich wikipedia, or the ability to translate any video on the web into any language' HTML5 and WebM offer this potential. In order to demo what video could be they ran a called Flight of the Navigator in HTML5, Javascript and the Mozilla Audio API -- no plug-ins required.

Processing.js ( ) is used for animated textures, WebM video for videos and BeatDetektor.js ( ) for audio analysis and visualization.

The demo that Blizzard ran picked up real time flickr and twitter streams of images/video tagged #ovc10 (the twitter #tag for the OVC conference) and featured them in screens within an animated city scene and timed to be syncopated with the soundtrack. Very impressive!

Phillipe de Hegaret of W3C then demoed how to build your own HTML5 player using opensource screen vector graphics authoring 'inkscape' tools in just 10 mins!

Tim Wu "The Master Switch" at the Open Video Conference

In the 2010 Open Video Conference's Keynote, Tim Wu, professor at Columbia Law and author of The Master Switch: The Invisible Wars for the Information Empire argued that we are now at a time when screens dominate our lives but we have to understand that each of the 3 screens originates from a different founding principle and economic model. The first of the 3 screens: TV, was founded on idea of quality and unity = one nation under 1 schedule, but morphed into other founding idea: entertainment that sells.

Computer : in the early 70s founded on idea of openness and users, a different model to TV's idea of viewers‚ also founded on the idea that the computer would make you free but then very quickly based on commerce : first software then internet advertising becoming the means by which it earns its money.

Finally, the personal mobile device, built on usage, like a utility.

What Wu argues is that as technology converges we are beginning to see the faultlines of a battle between founding principles of these 3 screens and how technology will be compensated.

Autotune The News on "how will creativity be conpensated?" at the Open Video Conference

Perhaps the most amusing panel at the 2010 Open Video Conference dealt with the thorny question: can you build a business model around free content? Gregory Bros Autotune the News described their unexpected itunes payout model for the Bed Intruder song ˆ and revealed that they are sharing proceeds with Antoine Dodson (if you haven't seen the video check it out here) and Carla Jovine described how her film
has not only been crowd-funded and bypassing traditional distribution but also how the website makes everything available including scripts , aethetics dossier, budget, transmedia plan: everything is out there. Looks really interesting

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The medium’s message- article by Georgette Gouveia at Westchester Business Journal

The Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville has a new program for nonprofits in which the medium is, in a sense, the message.

In Reel Change for Nonprofits, teams from area organizations – consisting of staffers, volunteers and even board members – hone in on what they’d like to convey about their institutions and then craft those themes in videos they learn to make in the 12-week course.

“We enroll institutional teams of two: That’s the ideal,” said Theresa Dawson, curriculum designer and a faculty member at the Burns Center’s new green Media Arts Lab, where the program is held. “The reason we look for two is to build that institutional capacity and also, they can be a filmmaking team.”

Since the program began in April of last year, Reel Change has worked with 20 organizations in Westchester and Fairfield County, Conn., including the Greenwich Music Festival in Greenwich; My Sisters’ Place, a White Plains-based organization that aids victims of domestic abuse; and the Westpac Foundation in Pleasantville, which is committed to peace and justice.

“The first thing we start with is that this should be a piece of advocacy,” Dawson said of the videos. “It’s not a laundry list. We’ve all seen those films at the gala dinners. So we ask them, ‘What do you want to do and how could video craft that message?’”

Helping answer those questions is the ability to target an audience.

“Knowing the audience and what you want the audience to do is the most strategic journey I’ve taken these organizations on,” Dawson said.

As the teams identify their audiences and master video techniques, they also learn that not everyone longs to be in pictures.

“Most of the organizations have some issues of sensitivity,” Dawson said. “Some people are happy to tell their story, just not on camera.”

When My Sisters’ Place decided to make a video on human trafficking – an issue that sadly touches places like Westchester as well as a Mexico or a Thailand – the team realized it could not use real people. So it drew in part on archival footage of this criminal activity, said a member of the organization’s board of directors who participated in the program.

For the Westpac Foundation’s video on hydrofracking – a potentially toxic and thus controversial means of extracting natural gas from deep in the earth’s watershed – the organization decided to include American Indians’ views on the sacredness of the land.

“That’s what gave the piece wheels,” said Tracy Basile, a Westpac volunteer, who heads up the organization’s Friends of Turtle Island – non-Native Americans in support of this country’s indigenous peoples.

Both she and my sister's place have nothing but praise for Reel Change and curriculum designer Dawson.

“Theresa (and the Burns’ staff) were extremely helpful and supportive and continue to be so,” said Basile, whose organization’s video has gotten the attention of the Westchester County Board of Legislators and actress/activist Debra Winger.

As for My Sisters’ Place: “It opened our eyes to opportunities we weren’t taking advantage of. All of these nonprofits suffer from the same thing – not enough money, not enough people to do things.”

The idea of making a video that would raise an institution’s profile without hiring a professional filmmaker – something many nonprofits could not afford to do – was a great concept.

Now he and the other teams’ members are also learning what film students from NYU to UCLA have to figure out – that filmmaking is just part of the challenge. You have to distribute your product, whether by placing it on your website, getting it play on YouTube or holding screenings. Distribution isn’t easy.

To help program graduates weather their growing pains, Dawson said, the Burns Center has created a second program, Reel Exchange.

My Sister's Place for one would gladly sign up for it: “In today’s world, video is a great way to communicate.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Information Activism: 10 Tactics for Real World Impact

Published in on June 17, 2010

by Theresa Dawson

10 Tactics provides original and artful ways for rights advocates to capture attention and communicate a cause.
What is “information activism,” and what are the most effective strategies for putting it to work? This question was put to 130 activists from 35 countries at the 2009 Info Activism Camp, a seven-day intensive institute hosted in Bangalore, India by the Tactical Technology Collective, a global NGO created to help human rights advocates use information, communications and digital technologies to maximize the impact of their advocacy work.

The answers to those questions—along with inspiring stories of how information can be translated into action—are now contained in Tactical Tech’s indispensable resource 10 Tactics for Turning Information Into Action. Stephanie Hankey, a cofounder of Tactical Tech, says, “We knew [all the participants] had really interesting stories to tell about how they had turned information into action using digital technologies. We decided to document and explore people’s stories throughout the camp. When we had finished we knew that what we had collected was pretty remarkable.”

What is 10 Tactics?
10 Tactics is a 50-minute film anchored by stories from activists about how they have used digital technologies to instigate real world impact. Equally central to the project are the set of beautifully conceived tri-fold cards relaying tips and advice for planning info-activism campaigns based on examples from the film. While the examples explored are primarily applied to human rights causes, these strategies can be readily applied to any brand of social action activism. The 10 Tactics resources can be viewed and downloaded for free directly from the website, and activists are encouraged to use them to host their own screenings and use the cards as a teaching tool. (For a small fee, you can order a package including a DVD of the film and the full array of cards and support materials. I recommend this; not only will you be providing financial support for this groundbreaking project, but you will also value adding these potent tools to your resource library.)

Since its launch last December, the 10 Tactics film has screened at over 100 conferences and panel events worldwide, and volunteers have created subtitles for the 10 Tactics film in more than 20 languages; the support materials are available in three languages. “We hope these stories can be used to inspire others,” says project manager Tanya Notley. “The video and cards provide the sort of in-depth background information you usually don’t have access to. People have shared how much their digital activism campaign cost, what tools were used, what skills are needed, what the local context was, and exactly what happened. All of this information can be used by other people to develop their own ideas.”

So, what are the 10 Tactics for turning information into action?

1. Mobilize people
2. Witness and record
3. Visualize your message
4. Amplify personal stories
5. Add humor
6. Manage your contacts
7. Know how to use complex data
8. Use collective intelligence
9. Let people ask the questions
10. Investigate and expose

Taken individually, nothing on this list will likely surprise those of us working in social impact media. What is surprising, though, is the generosity of the activists who have shared the nuts and bolts of what they did, the resources they needed, the reach (and the pitfalls) of their campaign and—my personal favorite—the level of difficulty in planning an action of this kind, rated with a level of difficulty of 1 through to 5.

A Level 2 out of 5 Info Activism Campaign
Namita Singh of Video Volunteers offered a very simple, replicable tactic for mobilizing people. She shared an account of how a community-made video on land rights in Gujarat, India, was screened in 25 nearby villages. The result? More than 700 people rallied and filed applications with the local government to have land fairly distributed to them. In a YouTube world where we measure video impact based on the 100,000s or millions of views, it is sometimes forgotten that making an impact means more than collecting web analytics. A more telling barometer is whether a message is taken up as a call to action by those that are uniquely positioned to create change. Singh, who managed the land rights in Gujarat video project, says “Video is a good tool because I think a lot of communities do not have literacy and access to other forms of technology such as the Internet. In that sense, video is a very good medium to reach out to such communities because they see things right in front of their eyes and it really creates a lot of impact.”

A Level 4.5 out of 5 Info Activism Campaign
An example of one of the most difficult projects to replicate—with a level of difficulty rated at 4.5 out of 5—is offered in a detailed case study of how to use complex data to inspire action. Fair Play, Slovakia developed a website that gathers information on how the Slovakian government spends its money, to whom it awards contracts, and data on connections between the companies awarded contracts and the government officials. Zuzana Wienk from Fair Play says, “We learned that contracts were given to companies that are closely connected to the government’s leaders. Soon after doing this, NGOs, journalists, concerned citizens and academics started to analyze the data themselves and write about it. There were very active forums based on these articles. This made us feel it was important to include the public in these investigations.” Fair Play involved an intensive programming and technical phase that might be beyond the resources of many grassroots groups, but it had enormous reach. During the Slovakian funding scandal, the Fair Play website was one of the top three most visited in Slovakia. The Fair Play alliance now offers a unique opportunity for NGOs to receive free database software, provided they can cover translation, transfer and training costs.

These are just two examples from the many informative, illuminating and inspiring case studies presented within 10 Tactics.

A 10 Tactics Contributor’s View of the Project
Sam Gregory, program director at international human rights and video organization Witness, participated in the camp and is featured in the 10 Tactics video. I asked Gregory how he characterized the strength of the 10 Tactics approach. “Diversity,” he replied. “Participation at the camp was so varied, and it drew on local activism examples.” On his return to New York following the camp, he demonstrated his commitment to the movement by representing the film in three panel events at the Open Society Institute; Coup, a space for a coalition of activists and teachers, designers and technologists based in Brooklyn; and at The Tank performing arts space, hosted by Organizing 2.0 and Grass Roots Camp.

The panel screenings of 10 Tactics around the world are conceived to engage local activists and reground the project in local activist movements. Gregory cites the Coup screening as an example of this strategy. “The best part about this event was the 60-minute session after the film where we broke into small groups to discuss the examples in the film and how local social justice activists might apply them in their work.”

Gregory also describes how he is now using the 10 Tactics resources in his work. “It’s been really valuable in a teaching context; as well as using it in Witness trainings, I have also used it in a class that I teach at the Harvard Kennedy Carr Center for Human Rights. It gets a great response from students.”

I left Gregory with a question I had been itching to ask: Out of the ten, which is his favorite tactic? “Well, that’s tough!” he responded. “Obviously I advocate for video-based approaches, but I’d have to say that the mapping and visualization of complex data is powerful. Often in campaigns there is too much data, not too little, and mapping can be a very effective tactic.”

I am inspired by all that I’ve learned from this collective, and keen to start using the 10 Tactics material in my own work. I teach a class at The Jacob Burns Film Center Media Arts Lab called Reel Change for Nonprofits, a course that teaches nonprofit leaders, staff, board members, volunteers, and activists how to create their own advocacy videos. In the fall I will be enrolling a new group of activists for this class and I will also be offering a new class, Reel ExChange for Nonprofits. I can’t wait to start using 10 Tactics in my work, and I am confident that as soon as you see what this resource offers you will join the growing legions of film-for-change practitioners and educators to harness the power of info activism.

Theresa Dawson is a film-for-change practitioner and instructor as well as a faculty member at the Jacob Burns Film Center Media Arts Lab. The Media Arts lab is a 27,000 square feet facility based in Westchester, NY that houses a fully-equipped sound stage, recording studio, workshop space, screening room, and 16 editing suites. The Media Arts Lab mission is to transform what it is to be media literate in a world where digital media is increasingly the way we participate in community, and engage in democracy and the global economy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Personal Democracy Forum: Rethinking Nonprofits

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

How Many Free Agents Does It Take To Change A Nonprofit Fortress?

How Many Free Agents Does It Take To Change A Nonprofit Fortress?

Personal Democracy Forum 2010 presentation: Rethinking Nonprofits by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine

Intro: Beth Kanter.
Allison Fine and I are honored to be delivering a conversational keynote at the Personal Democracy Forum today in New York City. Our session is part of a series brief talks that look at the future in a networked age. Our topic is rethinking nonprofits in a networked age. It just so happens that Allison Fine and I wrote a book together over the past year, The Networked Nonprofit, on that topic.

There has been an explosion in size of nonprofit sector over last twenty years, huge increases in donations and number of organizations, and yet needle hasn’t moved on any serious social issue. Growing individual institutions ever larger has failed to address complex social problems that outpace the capacity of any individual org. or institution to solve them.

That is why we feel passionately that nonprofits need to become more like networks and leverage the power of social media and connectedness. That was the inspiration for the book and the title, “The Networked Nonprofit.”

Making the shift from working as a single organization to one that works in a networked way both inside and outside of institutional walls is not a one-step process. Many organizations cannot just flip a switch. It isn’t as easy to change as changing a light blub. In the book, we offer a 12 step framework to guide nonprofits on how to embrace social media holistically. In our research, we found that some nonprofits are born as naturally networked nonprofits and have it in their DNA. While other nonprofits, institutions that have been working in a particular way for decades, have more challenges in making the change. Some will probably never change.

We believe that Networked Nonprofits first have to be, before they can do. The being includes:

Understanding social networks through social network analysis
Creating a social culture at your nonprofit
Listening, Engaging, and Valuing relationships
Becoming more transparent, less of a fortress
Simplicity, letting go, focusing on what you do best and network the rest
Once an organization has assumed this way of being, then comes the doing. Networked Nonprofits are masters at:

Working with “Free Agent” fundraisers
Working effectively with crowds
Rapid experimentation and learning
Friending and funding
Networked Governance
The framing our discussion is the question, “How Many Free Agents Does It Take To Change A Nonprofit Fortress?” is not just a play on those light blub jokes. We’d like to focus on the challenges that some nonprofits have working with free agents. But first, let’s define the terms “Free Agents” and “Fortress.”

A free agents are powerful social change players. A free agent, as we are defining it, is a person (many times a GenY, but not always) who is a passionate about a social cause, but is working outside of a nonprofit organization to organize, mobilize, raise money, and engage with others. Free agents are also fluent in social media and take advantage of the social media toolset to do everything organizations have always done, but outside of institutional walls. Some times they go on to form their own nonprofits like Amanda Rose and Manny Hernandez.

In the book, we talk about three different models for transparency and nonprofits. The least transparent is one that we’ve dubbed the Fortresses. These institutions work hard to keep their communities and constituents at a distance, pushing out messages and dictating strategy rather than listening or building relationships. Fortress organizations are losing ground today because they spend an extraordinary amount of energy fearing what might happen if they open themselves up to the world. These organizations are floundering in this set-me-free world powered by social media and free agents.

We’ve been witnessing Free Agents crash into nonprofit Fortresses – not even getting past the gate. We think this is a lost opportunity.

It happened in April at our NTEN/NTC session on the Networked Nonprofit right before our eyes in a room filled with people from nonprofits and Shawn, a passionate free agent fundraiser and video blogger. (You might know Shawn from his “Uncultured” project – I first encountered him in 2008 through Blog Action Day.)

Shawn’s frustration with traditional organizations spilled over. He grabbed the microphone to address the room full of nonprofit professionals and said, “the problem isn’t social media, the problem is that YOU are the fortress. Social media is not my problem: I have over a quarter million followers on Twitter, 10,800 subscribers on YouTube, and 2.1 million views. Yet, despite that, I have a hard time having you guys take me seriously.”

He turned and pointed a finger at Wendy Harman from the Red Cross who was also in the room and said, “When the Haiti earthquake struck, I contacted the Red Cross. I offered to connect the community supporting my work with your efforts in Haiti. But I was dismissed as ‘just a guy on YouTube.” A few hours later he wrote a blog post titled “You Are The Fortress!” to further vent.

Crash, Bam, Glass Smashing ….. but the story didn’t end here. Something amazing happened. Wendy Harman engaged with Shawn in the comments of his post and later by phone or email. Shawn wrote a second blog about his meeting with Red Cross and applauded them for taking the step to explore ways to work together. The title of this post is “Unfortress”

This morning Shawn shared some more thoughts about how to engage free agents from his perspective. So, I leave you with the questions we are posing to the audience at the PDF conference:

What is your experience turning Fortresses inside/out? What works?
Should we try to change free agents or just let them be?
Answer these questions in the form of a light bulb joke in comment (include your email address) and you’ll be entered into a raffle for a copy of the Networked Nonprofit.

Tags: crash, fortress, pdf2010, shawn admed, uncultured

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Latest from Lost blog:

This post first showed up on DarkUFO as someone claiming to be from Bad Robot. I don’t think that there is any credence to that claim, but his take how everything fits together is intriguing.

I don't think this guy worked on the show either -- a writer would presumably not spell blatant as 'blatent'!

This view is certainly less nihilistic than my take-- that the characters Jack encounters on the island are constructs / stand-ins for his own father issues --from Ben to Locke to Sawyer, Hurley, Sun etc and that the island adventures represent Jack working through his daddy issues as he himself is dying. This take makes a nonsense of the sideways-world church scene that many fans enjoyed because it gave the opportunity to say an emotional goodbye to the characters and it offered a redemptive message that in death you reconnect with those who are most important to you. In the nihilistic view, the sideways world church scene is meaningless because it represents Jack reconnecting with people who were fictions of his own imagination. This also means our emotional response to this scene is built on nothing –we are being called on to feel emotional about characters who are in fact constructs of Jack’s imagination, and this may represent the writers’ final joke on the audience – to buy off the Lost audience with a fake emotion for characters who had no existence other than in Jack’s head and to refuse to solve the 6 years of puzzles that the Lost world presented: which again had no meaning other than as a pre-death dream.

Good stuff on here! I can finally throw in my two cents! I’ve had to bite my tongue for far too long. Also, hopefully I can answer some of John’s questions about Dharma and the “pointless breadcrumbs” that really, weren’t so pointless …

First …
The Island:

It was real. Everything that happened on the island that we saw throughout the 6 seasons was real. Forget the final image of the plane crash, it was put in purposely to f*&k with people’s heads and show how far the show had come. They really crashed. They really survived. They really discovered Dharma and the Others. The Island keeps the balance of good and evil in the world. It always has and always will perform that role. And the Island will always need a “Protector”. Jacob wasn’t the first, Hurley won’t be the last. However, Jacob had to deal with a malevolent force (MIB) that his mother, nor Hurley had to deal with. He created the devil and had to find a way to kill him — even though the rules prevented him from actually doing so.

Thus began Jacob’s plan to bring candidates to the Island to do the one thing he couldn’t do. Kill the MIB. He had a huge list of candidates that spanned generations. Yet everytime he brought people there, the MIB corrupted them and caused them to kill one another. That was until Richard came along and helped Jacob understand that if he didn’t take a more active role, then his plan would never work.

Enter Dharma — which I’m not sure why John is having such a hard time grasping. Dharma, like the countless scores of people that were brought to the island before, were brought there by Jacob as part of his plan to kill the MIB. However, the MIB was aware of this plan and interferred by “corrupting” Ben. Making Ben believe he was doing the work of Jacob when in reality he was doing the work of the MIB. This carried over into all of Ben’s “off-island” activities. He was the leader. He spoke for Jacob as far as they were concerned. So the “Others” killed Dharma and later were actively trying to kill Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and all the candidates because that’s what the MIB wanted. And what he couldn’t do for himself.

Dharma was originally brought in to be good. But was turned bad by MIB’s corruption and eventually destroyed by his pawn Ben. Now, was Dharma only brought there to help Jack and the other Canditates on their overall quest to kill Smokey? Or did Jacob have another list of Canidates from the Dharma group that we were never aware of? That’s a question that is purposley not answered because whatever answer the writers came up with would be worse than the one you come up with for yourself. Still … Dharma’s purpose is not “pointless” or even vague. Hell, it’s pretty blantent.

Still, despite his grand plan, Jacob wanted to give his “candidates” (our Lostaways) the one thing he, nor his brother, were ever afforded: free will. Hence him bringing a host of “candidates” through the decades and letting them “choose” which one would actually do the job in the end. Maybe he knew Jack would be the one to kill Flocke and that Hurley would be the protector in the end. Maybe he didn’t. But that was always the key question of the show: Fate vs Free-will. Science vs Faith. Personally I think Jacob knew from the beginning what was going to happen and that everyone played a part over 6 seasons in helping Jack get to the point where he needed to be to kill Smokey and make Hurley the protector — I know that’s how a lot of the writers viewed it. But again, they won’t answer that (nor should they) because that ruins the fun.

In the end, Jack got to do what he always wanted to do from the very first episode of the show: Save his fellow Lostaways. He got Kate and Sawyer off the island and he gave Hurley the purpose in life he’d always been missing. And, in Sideways world (which we’ll get to next) he in fact saved everyone by helping them all move on …


Sideways World:

Sideways world is where it gets really cool in terms of theology and metaphysical discussion (for me at least — because I love history/religion theories and loved all the talks in the writer’s room about it). Basically what the show is proposing is that we’re all linked to certain people during our lives. Call them soulmates (though it’s not exactly the best word). But these people we’re linked to are with us duing “the most important moments of our lives” as Christian said. These are the people we move through the universe with from lifetime to lifetime. It’s loosely based in Hinduisim with large doses of western religion thrown into the mix.

The conceit that the writers created, basing it off these religious philosophies, was that as a group, the Lostaways subconsciously created this “sideways” world where they exist in purgatory until they are “awakened” and find one another. Once they all find one another, they can then move on and move forward. In essence, this is the show’s concept of the afterlife. According to the show, everyone creates their own “Sideways” purgatory with their “soulmates” throughout their lives and exist there until they all move on together. That’s a beautiful notion. Even if you aren’t religious or even spirtual, the idea that we live AND die together is deeply profound and moving.

It’s a really cool and spirtual concept that fits the whole tone and subtext the show has had from the beginning. These people were SUPPOSED to be together on that plane. They were supposed to live through these events — not JUST because of Jacob. But because that’s what the universe or God (depending on how religious you wish to get) wanted to happen. The show was always about science vs faith — and it ultimately came down on the side of faith. It answered THE core question of the series. The one question that has been at the root of every island mystery, every character backstory, every plot twist. That, by itself, is quite an accomplishment.

How much you want to extrapolate from that is up to you as the viewer. Think about season 1 when we first found the Hatch. Everyone thought that’s THE answer! Whatever is down there is the answer! Then, as we discovered it was just one station of many. One link in a very long chain that kept revealing more, and more of a larger mosiac.

But the writer’s took it even further this season by contrasting this Sideways “purgatory” with the Island itself. Remember when Michael appeared to Hurley, he said he was not allowed to leave the Island. Just like the MIB. He wasn’t allowed into this sideways world and thus, was not afforded the opportunity to move on. Why? Because he had proven himself to be unworthy with his actions on the Island. He failed the test. The others, passed. They made it into Sideways world when they died — some before Jack, some years later. In Hurley’s case, maybe centuries later. They exist in this sideways world until they are “awakened” and they can only move on TOGETHER because they are linked. They are destined to be together for eternity. That was their destiny.

They were NOT linked to Anna Lucia, Daniel, Roussou, Alex, Miles, Lupidis, (and all the rest who weren’t in the chuch — basically everyone who wasn’t in season 1). Yet those people exist in Sideways world. Why? Well again, here’s where they leave it up to you to decide. The way I like to think about it, is that those people who were left behind in Sideways world have to find their own soulmates before they can wake up. It’s possible that those links aren’t people from the island but from their other life (Anna’s parnter, the guy she shot — Roussou’s husband, etc etc).

A lot of people have been talking about Ben and why he didn’t go into the Church. And if you think of Sideways world in this way, then it gives you the answer to that very question. Ben can’t move on yet because he hasn’t connected with the people he needs to. It’s going to be his job to awaken Roussou, Alex, Anna Lucia (maybe), Ethan, Goodspeed, his father and the rest. He has to attone for his sins more than he did by being Hurley’s number two. He has to do what Hurley and Desmond did for our Lostaways with his own people. He has to help them connect. And he can only move on when all the links in his chain are ready to. Same can be said for Faraday, Charlotte, Whidmore, Hawkins etc. It’s really a neat, and cool concept. At least to me.

But, from a more “behind the scenes” note: the reason Ben’s not in the church, and the reason no one is in the church but for Season 1 people is because they wrote the ending to the show after writing the pilot. And never changed it. The writers always said (and many didn’t believe them) that they knew their ending from the very first episode. I applaud them for that. It’s pretty fantastic. Originally Ben was supposed to have a 3 episode arc and be done. But he became a big part of the show. They could have easily changed their ending and put him in the church — but instead they problem solved it. Gave him a BRILLIANT moment with Locke outside the church … and then that was it. I loved that. For those that wonder — the original ending started the moment Jack walked into the church and touches the casket to Jack closing his eyes as the other plane flies away. That was always JJ’s ending. And they kept it.

For me the ending of this show means a lot. Not only because I worked on it, but because as a writer it inspired me in a way the medium had never done before. I’ve been inspired to write by great films. Maybe too many to count. And there have been amazing TV shows that I’ve loved (X-Files, 24, Sopranos, countless 1/2 hour shows). But none did what LOST did for me. None showed me that you could take huge risks (writing a show about faith for network TV) and stick to your creative guns and STILL please the audience. I learned a lot from the show as a writer. I learned even more from being around the incredible writers, producers, PAs, interns and everyone else who slaved on the show for 6 years.

In the end, for me, LOST was a touchstone show that dealt with faith, the afterlife, and all these big, spirtual questions that most shows don’t touch. And to me, they never once waivered from their core story — even with all the sci-fi elements they mixed in. To walk that long and daunting of a creative tightrope and survive is simply astounding.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New anti-piracy technology : a threat to "fair use"?

Read this interesting piece in this week's Economist about a new anti-piracy technology developed by NEC. Apparently it can scour 1,000 hours of video per hour and spot copyrighted material in clips as short as 2 seconds. What is missing from this article is any discussion of fair use of copyrighted material, and the nature of "transformativeness". Using copyrighted material for piracy is in a very different camp from using elements of copyrighted works to comment upon, critique and transform them into new forms of creative expression.

Science & Technology

Spotting video piracy
To catch a thief
A new way to scan digital videos for copyright infringement

May 13th 2010 | TOKYO | From The Economist print edition

ONLINE video piracy is a big deal. Google’s YouTube, for example, is being sued for more than $1 billion by Viacom, a media company. But it is extremely hard to tell if a video clip is copyrighted, particularly since 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Now a new industry standard promises to be able to identify pirated material with phenomenal accuracy in a matter of seconds.

The technique, developed by NEC, a Japanese technology company, and later tweaked by Mitsubishi Electric, has been adopted by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) for MPEG-7, the latest standard for describing audio-visual content. The two existing methods do not do a very good job. One is digital “watermarking,” in which a bit of computer code is embedded in a file to identify it. This works only if content owners take the trouble to affix the watermark—and then it only spots duplicates, not other forms of piracy such as recording a movie at a cinema. A second approach is to extract a numeric code or “digital fingerprint” from the content file itself by comparing, say, the colours or texture of regions in a frame. But this may not work if the file is altered, such as by cropping or overlaying text.

NEC’s technology extracts a digital signature that works even if the video is altered. It does this by comparing the brightness in 380 predefined “regions of interest” in a frame of the video. This could be done for all or only some of the frames in a film. The brightness is assigned a value: -1, 0, or +1. These values are encapsulated in a digital signature of 76 bytes per frame.

The beauty of the technique is that it encompasses both granularity and generality. The 380 regions of interest are numerous, so an image can be identified even if it is doctored. At the same time, the array of three values simplifies the complexity in the image, so even if a video is of poor quality or a different hue, the information about its relative luminance is retained. Moreover, the compact signature is computationally easy to extract and use.

NEC says the system could be used to automate what is currently a manual procedure of checking that video uploaded to the internet is not pirated. The technology is said to have an average detection rate of 96% and a low rate of false alarms: a mere five per million, according to tests by the ISO. It can detect if a video is pirated from clips as short as two seconds. And an ordinary PC can be used with the system to scour through 1,000 hours of video in a second. There are other potential uses too, because it provides a way to identify video content. A person could, say, use the signature in a clip to search for a full version of a movie. Piracy will still flourish—but the pirates may have to get smarter.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Making Your Media Matter Conference 2010: Participant Media and its social action and outreach campaigns

John Schreiber Executive VP of social action and advocacy, Participant films, described the social action campaigns/ NGO partnerships that Participant has developed around its films. The first film he discussed was The Informant—a departure for Participant given that it was a comedy about whistle-blowing "a decidedly unfunny and an incredible brave and difficult thing to do". Recognizing this, Participant decided to try do something serious around the film. The action it came up with was to partner with The Paley Center to have a whistle blowing panel including some of the country's most famous informants – this had such a positive response that a film/whistleblowing festival has been curated and will begin touring campuses with Informant as a central piece. Next up he described the novel way that The Visitor has been used – Participant worked with an NGO to use the film to train lawyers in how to represent detainees in bail hearings. He went on to describe the NGO partnership used for the Crazies – the Romero remake horror where biotoxins turn people into zombies. Participant worked with Greenpeace on publicity stunts featuring hazmat suited Greenpeace volunteers at cinemas where film was opening to draw attention to the Hazardous Toxin Bill, currently stalled in Congress, and the power of doing this with a male 18-24 audience who wouldn’t normally hear this message. One of the most impressive examples of NGO/film partnerships to effect change was for Kite Runner. Recognizing that Afghanistan has the world’s 3rd worst literacy rates, Participant partnered with an NGO to use the film to raise funds, create libraries and train teachers in the country: to date 87 libraries have been created and 1000 teachers trained.
As a takeaway Schreiber describes how at Participant they have identified 5 types of social action – awareness, education, action, advocacy and solutions.

Making Your Media Matter Conference 2010: the documentary 'Lioness' and its outreach

Producer/director of Lioness, Meg McLachlan, spoke about her funders and her outreach: Fledgling NYSCA, ITVS, Chicken and Egg provided $100,000 outreach funding for her film on returning female VAs. Since its release in 2008 the film has had impact in: activating a discussion on veteran health care and needs of returning women combat soldiers and is lately being used as a training tool in rural health centers. The editorial decisions that the filmmakers took ie. not taking a line on the rightness of the war gave her better access to subjects, also enabled her to go in with an attitude of discovery, but moreover has also increased the potential partnerships for the film– e.g. women groups, network of women’s VA groups, staffers on capitol hill. For Lionness’ outreach plan, traditional devices have played a bigger part --face to face meetings and bringing returning VAs featured in the film to these meetings has been very important. In getting into the Dept of Defense circles women sitting on these committees have been key, many of them having a military connection, as Vietnam nurses etc, and because of the age of these women, face time was an effective tool-- more so than say, social media. Cultivating these relationships proved to be a key move, through them the Lioness team were able to access the DOD circuit, conferences, eventually got invited onto their panels. In a later development their partners e.g. VA offices, eventually became their distribution partners. They are now at the point where they are starting to break the film into clips and where these are being used as a curriculum in North Carolina primary care health centers. McLaghlan ended with several take-aways: try embed your film into institutions. Be credible with your subjects. Be flexible in terms of opportunities – and cultivate good funder relationships.

Making Your Media Matter Conference 2010: Not in Our Town

This session was a roundtable featuring documentary filmmakers who had created content and a social action campaign around their film. First up, Not in Our Town, a documentary about the residents of Billings, Montana who responded to an upsurge of anti-Semitic hate crimes in their town by taking a stand, through a partnership of religious groups, unions, artists and newspapers people made change – one of most dramatic symbols of this when the local newspaper took decision to print a paper menorah and 10,00 people in the town displayed it in their window. Since then the filmmaker has traveled the country documenting how the film being used – igniting change in communities.
Filmmaker, Patrice O Neill talks about this as a new model – this is not outreach – rather, this is making change by showing how others have done it. She talked about the importance of partners – in her case facing history/ and PBS. There is a sequel to Not In Our Town (as yet un-named) that will focus on the Long Island murder of Marcelo Lucero and the town’s attempt to take a stand against hate-crime directed at new immigrants. She talks about the intent of her work having an impact on her aesthetics -– story told by a chorus: a community of voices – discomfort is part of the landscape. She ended with a plug for BAVC producers institute – this is an intensive program offered by BAVC that pairs a documentary with a team of developers/interactive media designers and together you work to devise/prototype multi-platform tools to support the film and actions. not in our emerged from this – a key feature is of the site is a map where hate crimes / positive actions / facing history sites are plotted, another is the bank of 35 amateur videos that are made available for people to download and use – e.g. Gunn High School – now there have been 200,000 uses of the film.

Making your Media Matter Conference 2010: Ethical dilemmas in making media

Pat Aufdeheide speaking on the Center’s new publication Honest Truths. For this publication, the Center for Social Media interviewed many documentarians on ethical dilemmas that they have encountered in their work. Though there was no common vocabulary and lots of insistence on the particularities of their situation, 3 common views emerged.

- do no harm (to vulnerable subjects)
- give viewers an honest (but not necessarily accurate picture)
- be responsible to your project/contract/vision

These 3 ethical concerns frequently come into conflict with each other.

The center’s study found that the filmmakers didn’t have a good vocabulary to describe these ethical dilemmas. Reactions to this report from the documentary community have been: “I see in this report what is wrong with my field.”

Failure to resolve these issues leads to a ducking of responsibility:
e.g. – “Discovery made me do it”

In the publication, call is made for discussions, code of ethics, standards and practices, and in view of this, the Center has been looking at where such best practice exists. One that has been v. inspiring to the Center is ‘Safeguarding Trust BBC website’ – Do check this out – it’s fascinating.

The site is an interactive guide for independent filmmakers who contract with the BBC – site gives common situations, and the ethical expectation that the BBC has of you. On the site, various scenarios are give for different types of programming, reality, nature etc and potential BBC hires record their decision – the site tells you if your decision accords with what the BBC does and why. At the conference we used clickers to record votes in real time.

Making your Media Matter Conference 2010: Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media

The third session of The Making Your Media Matter conference was a roundtable on new research and tools.
Alyce Myatt ED of Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media GFEM made a case that the biggest take aways from today for social issue media makers should be 1. establish your NGO partners from outset and 2.funders are not interested in your film per se, they are interested in advancing their cause. She pointed out recent changes in funding landscape: 1.Disappearance of big funders who might in the past have underwritten total costs, and 2. Council on Foundation’s recent focus on social justice – shows a real change from older situation where foundations not interested in funding advocacy. This said, a lot of funders don’t understand new media: though this could be changing – Myatt gave an example last year she took a handful of funders to South by Southwest Interactive sxswi --this yr she took 31 funders to sxswi – she recorded seeing tangible change -- funders began to change funding priorities to fund new media. A further change that media makers need to consider, is that today you need to have a strategy not only for production, and distribution but dissemination. Myatt stressed this as distinct from distribution—dissemination being what plans you make for people to make use of your media. Ended with a plug for a new resource offered by GFEM for filmmakers/media makers to share work in progress. She also highlighted a report just released by GFEM report just issued Funding Media, Strengthening Democracy—designed for funding community – the report (available as a download from GFEM's website) makes 10 recommendations for funding in the 21st century. Among principal recommendations is to devise a system where all grants can be viewed in real time. Funding Media, Strengthening Democracy … looks to be really useful.

Making your Media Matter Conference 2010: What Makers Quest can teach us about impact assessment

Jessica Clark Center for Social Media – project manager for future of public – spoke on new models for impact assessment. Talked about a recent action research project that she had overseen. She initially described the process – 1. Conduct 7 summits,in various cities. 2. Invite RFPs from producers for demonstration project where they were asked to use social media for impact: Result 8 multiplatform projects were funded at around $48K —one that really took off was mapping main st – Jessica and her staff were able to use this project to map the ripple of the impact. Read about projects at:

3. Best practice – tease out best practice from the demonstration projects.

What is really altering traditional ideas of impact is the notion of networks / what she describes as ‘publics’… rather than through festivals, networks are the new way that information is moving …networks also changing with the way you engage with your potential audience/disseminators during project construction/production.

Jessica was the first of the presenters to pose the question: Why assess impact?:
Came up with some familiar answers:
- to make sure you are serving your mission
- -benchmarks for strategic planning
- to be engaged with your users

She also described the elements of impact: reach…relevance…inclusion….engagement….influence

Jessica argued that what is now needed for us to assess impact is new tools

- unified social media dashboard
- social issue buzz tracker
- models for impact reporting
- a model for tracking network growth

Lessons learned:

- be solution orientated
- know what you don’t know
- seek partners
- self promote

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reel Change student takes on ABC

One of my Reel Change for Nonprofits students, attended a 911 truth commission conference in Valley Forge this weekend hoping to catch an interview with filmmakers behind the film 'Loose Change' as an exercise for class.

When he got there ABC news were there also to interview the filmmakers and later the network ran a short, selectively edited piece.

My student had filmed the entire interview and was annoyed with the way in which the ABC piece had slanted its coverage and so decided to post his version of the interview on youtube.

Upshot: he's had 15,000 views in 2 days -- in the non-profit realm 15,000 views counts as a viral hit.

Another nice tidbit: we had just had a class on film sound and seeing that ABC had a sound guy with field mixer Scott had asked if he could run a line from their field mixer to his camera -- so uncharacteristically for a youtube video -- this one has good audio!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

MacArthur Foundation series on Digital Media and Learning

MacArthur is now making 6 volumes in its series on digital media and learning series available for free download.

A great example of open access publishing.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning examines the effect of digital media tools on how people learn, network, communicate, and play, and how growing up with these tools may affect a person's sense of self, how they express themselves, and their ability to learn, exercise judgment, and think systematically.

The full text of each volume in the Series is provided for free and open access thanks to the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation. The full text of these chapters is openly available below. We ask that you complete a brief site registration process, or log in if you are already registered at MIT Press Journals. Registration is entirely optional, but we hope you will register because the information that we gather helps us learn more about open access publishing.

If you're experiencing access problems or have questions about e-access registration, please email

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Scratch Programs at Digital Media and Learning Conference

A big takeaway that I got from the 2010 Digital Media Learning conference was that the Scratch programming language seems have really taken hold for creating interactivestories/animation/and games and for people to share and remix projects.

Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at MIT It is available as a free download for either mac or pc at and it is also a web-based community where 'scratchers' can share their work and their scripting. Scratch is based on a set of programming blocks that can be snapped together in different sequences and combinations. Control structures (like forever and repeat) are 'C' shaped to suggest that other blocks should be placed inside them --different color blocks for sound, motion, operatives, variables, oval shaped blocks for numbers etc. These blocks can be used to animate any number of characters (sprites) that you can choose from a menu of existing sprites, create yourself, import or remix from other projects. You also create stages or backdrops for the action. Place a group of blocks in the scripting area of the Scratch interface, click on a group of blocks and Scratch executes the code.

I thought this quote from the developers of Scratch was interesting as it speaks to the mission of my own organization: The Jacob Burns Film Center in a way that I have not seen previously from game programs:

"It has become common to refer to young people as "digital native". Indeed many young people are very comfortable sending text messages, playing online games, and browsing the Web. But though they interact with digital media all the time, few are able to create their own games, animations or simulations.
It's as if they can "read" but cannot "write". Digital fluency requires the ability to design, create and invent. To do so you need to learn some kind of programming. The ability to program greatly expands the range of what you can create, it also expands the range of what you can learn: programming
supports computational thinking and design strategies (such as modularization and iterative design) that carry over to non-programming domains" Scratch for All in Communications of the ACM, Nov 2009, vol 52, 11.

As an example, I have attached a screen shot showing the scratch interface, 15 sprites and 1 of 45 scripts that make up an animation called Underwater Problems. There is also a link to the completed animation.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sonia Livingstone's closing keynote at DML2010

This transcription of Sonia Livingstone's closing keynote at DigitalMedia and Learning 2010 conference is from Sheryl Grant HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media & Learning Competition Director of Social Networking.

submitted by slgrant on Feb 20, 2010, 09:21 PM

Sonia Livingstone, speaking on Youthful Participation: What have we learned, what shall we ask next?

(Here's a link to her bio:

So many great constituencies here, educators, political scientists, civics, people primarily committed to young children and youth. Technologists, designers, what can be made and done, to encourage new ways of thinking and acting? My constituency originated more on the media, less on the digital. My fascination is with the shift, increasingly a thoroughly mediated and networked world, popularized by hybridized texts and forms, and socially contrained participants and readers.

Media were nouns, but as analog were replaced by digital (adjective), it seems that everything is mediated. Superficially homogenous, yet in actuality very heterogenous. Can no longer demit or bound our task. Orginally was a social psychologist, looking at media. Once interviewed people on sofa while watching television, now interviews children in their bedroom while looking at their activities online. Digital media means following it where it goes. Need a broader view, away from the screen.

Four fundamental processes at work: globalization, individualization, commodification, and mediatization (quoting someone, missed his name). Life without digital media it would not be life like we know it. Took centuries to say that about the book. What is digital media life, what could it be? Still puzzling over it.

Empirical: what's going on. Explanatory: how shall we explain it. Ideological: how should we react to it.

Need to be asking what claims are being made about digital media and are they being sufficiently well-defined? Have we examined the contrary claims and the evidence that doesn't fit? Opens up a debate about a generation of digital natives that needs to be questioned. Seeing a lot of struggles, context matters.

If we overestimate their skills, we underestimate their support. (17 year old, quoted: "With books it's a lot easier to research. I can't really use the internet for studying.") "Every time I try to look for something, I can never find it. It keeps coming up with things that are completely irrelevant."

Teens often didn't know how to change their privacy settings, unsure about what to click to manage this task. Nervousness about unintended consequences: stranger danger, parental anxiety, viruses, crashed computers, unwanted advertising, etc.)

Ask not what can or does the digital offer participation and learning, but let's ask among all the factors shaping learning and participation, among all those factors shaping, when and why and how might the digital contribute? Can we scope all other elements that frame children's learning, also methodological: how can we include those in our research?

Given all the other things going on in youth life, many not being anything about the Internet, what can be said about participation, or detraction?

Does it matter if civic engagement, participating in the Internet and social life do not come together? Does it matter that youth does not use the Internet for civic engagement if it is happening elsewhere, offline?

Seems that children are getting older at younger ages, subject to greater competitive pressures, commercialization, more expected of them younger and younger, and at the same time they are staying younger for longer. Financial independence is delayed, in a state of tension between childhood and adulthood. Expectations on them to compete and succeed greater than ever.

Digital is mediating their identities and their wider connections. What knowledge do parents have to pass on when they understand it only partially, often with much anxiety? Look wider than useful uses of technology. Childhood is becoming the last place of enchantment. Imbuing childhood with enchantment also drives the construction of children as risky and fragile. Celebrating creative and positive values, but may unintentionally keep them under surveillance. Risks have lurked, but not always spoken aloud.

Children don't draw the line where adults do. What they call meeting up with friends, we call meeting up with strangers. They might remix forms, we worry about copyright. Fused activities. Second, many design of digital resources confuse risks and opportunities in collision. Searching for teens without safe search filter on Google is quite something. We cannot draw these neat lines in online digital world. Learning involves risk-taking, to expand experience and expertise, children have to push against adult-imposed boundaries. Fourth participatory genre: playing with fire. Explore what adults have forbidden, take calculated risks to show off to others. Trying to work out for themselves what adults consider strange and dangerous. This is not so very new.

May look like young people are creating, participating, but it may be playing with fire. Those adult goals are being attained, but let's examine closely the adult structures next to or imposed upon young people. Child: create, explore, network, subvert. Child: state, school, parents, commerce.

Repeated finding: children engaged in online participation are generally the already engaged, not the newly motivated. Backgrounds of the children shape their digital use more than the digital technology affordances itself.

(Example of site for youth from UK called ePal) Producers claimed it is "about participation in the broadest sense" because services for young people "need to engage with young people in a participatory way. Such vague expectations regarding engagement contrast with the considerable planning of project funding and design. When pressed, they could not state what kind of participation they aimed for. Teenagers, not surprisingly, resist this approach and find the site "boring." In well-meaning statements as young people "need to know about a lot more these days to make the right choices.

Questions: Should digital participation:

Invite youth to use digital media in their own right, or provide a route to change some other domain that affects their lives? Reach out to new groups who may be disaffected or alienated, or to provide opportunities for the already motivated? Enable youth to realize their present rights and responsibilities, or to help them develop skills they'll need as future citizens? Connect youth to each other as a peer to peer activity or facilitate connections between youth and adults? (missed the rest).

Example of an afterschool computer club: learning by doing seemed impeded rather than enabled by a game. Software was intolerant, one small mistake and the whole game was lost, no matter how much effort was put in or whether one had understand the math. Error message was always the same, whether for a serious mistake or, frustratingly, after 30 minutes a a very minor mistake. One child hadn't read the instruction and mnissed the importance of the compass. Receiving no feedback from the game or her teacher, she gave up and played a simpler drawing game instead. A pair of boys had a different experience, after an hour of crashing, playing around, and typing in rude words, they eventually succeeded. They were pleased, they learned about navigation, direction and distance.

What should digital learning be for? Are these new ways to learn traditional curriculum or new ways to learn new things? Is the use of digital technology best for helping more disadvantaged kids, or will the already-privileged succeed better here too? How are we going to assess the knowledge produced by more creative activities, compared with tried and tested means of assessment? How shall we go beyond the findings that evaluations show little is gained from using technology in class, while more innovative uses have been little evaluated? Do we really expect schools to radically transform their teaching styles and structures, or do many parents, employers and policy makers really just want technology to solve present problems?

Quote from 2004: "Media literacy is a a range of skills including the ability to access, analyse, evaluate and prodeuce communications in a variety of forms. Or put simply, the ability to oeprate the technology to find what you are looking for, to understand that material, to have...(missed it!)

Quote from 2007: "Media literacy refers to skills, knowledge and understanding that allow consumers to use media effectively and safely." (Sorry, didn't catch references.)

So many kinds of literacies: financial, health, scientific, on and on. Where does the responsibility fall? On people if they lack financial literacy, when they lose everything in the stock market?

Conclusions: This generation is under a huge amount of surveillance. Need a wider gaze that contextualizes the uses of digital media, but of children's life more fundamentally. Careful to avoid switch from academic tower to control tower.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

DML 2010 day 2 sessions 4/5 -- computer clubhouses and scratch programs

My last 2 presentations at DML2010 might be considered a companion pair because they included the voice/ presentations of young people who participated in media programs.

First up was a presentation on the Clubhouse network – a network that offers 10 through 18 year-old young people an out of school learning environment: a place where young people use software to create media. SRI international has done a lot of research on clubhouses, have produced data showing club houses encourage increased academic skills, life skills, and a positive impact on the community.

The learning model of clubhouses was established with the founding of the 1st one in 1991, these are:

- exploratory active learning

- helping young people build on their interests

- cultivating peers/mentors/coaches

- creating environment of trust/respect – comfort in taking risks

Clubhouse (enabled with support from Intel) is now a network of 100 in 20 countries.

Young people discussed the physical space of clubhouses – a dedicated space, designed to provide a warm inviting space, computers in pods, a central sharing table, ergonomic rolling chairs.

Most exciting part of the session was hearing from 5 young people who are either going through the program or are alumnis/now back as mentors. Participants discussed how wherever they are in the country they can go a clubhouse and find the same design/layout etc. Participants also talked about having a sense of ownership and that this is a space where there is not a division between art/tech.

In the final session that I attended the focus was on scratch programs

Chair: Yasmin Kafai (University of Pennsylvania)

Participants: Kylie Peppler (Indiana University), Mitchel Resnick (MIT), Deborah Fields

(UCLA), Alicia Diazgranados (LAUSD), James Crenshaw (Brentwood Academy, Los

Angeles, CA), Karen Brennan (MIT), Nina Parks (Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA)

In this session, a group of educators, developers, researchers and

youth participants discussed experiences inside and outside of school with a focus on

actual Scratch designs and observations collected over the last four years in elementary

and middle school classrooms, afterschool clubs and community technology centers.

Best part of this presentation was hearing from 2 participants who had gone through a less structured scratch program in an afterschool setting, then a school setting and then in an online community and the cultural differences/difficulties and competencies in each.