Archive for the 'AMC' Category

The Future of Media Panel at NCMR

I spoke on a panel called “The Future of Media” at the National Conference on Media Reform last weekend.

My friend described it as “the biggest train wreck of  a panel” he had ever seen. I agree it was pretty disasterous– with a moderator who seemed to have no idea who the panelists were, much less any respect for the work we did, one panelist who had come prepared to totally call out the organizers for their race/class/gender/sexuality politics (or lack thereof) and some rowdy audience members who yelled “bullshit” repeatedly at the moderator… it was at least entertaining… and broadcast live on Free Speech TV!

This is what I said:

The Future of Media panel at the 2008 National Conference on Media Reform
June 8, 2008

To me, the question of “what is the future of media?” is only useful to the extent that it helps us answer the question, “what is the future of social justice organizing?”

In cities like Detroit, where I come from, the question of “what is the future of media?” has to help us answer the question, “what is the future of our schools?” which currently face a dropout rate between 50 and 70% depending on who you ask.  It has to help us answer the question, “what will a new economy for Detroit look like?” when our unemployment rate is second only to New Orleans, and when we live in the shadows of some of the largest abandoned structures in the world– from the Packard plant on E. Grand Blvd., to the old Michigan Central train station.  It also has to help us answer the question of how we will create safety in our communities without relying on the same institutions that are just as likely to suspend us, abuse us or deport us as to provide safety.  And all of these questions we face in Detroit are connected to  global questions about the future of climate change, neoliberal economic policies and militarism.

These are all deeply challenging questions, and I’m awed to be living in a place which is wrestling with them and coming up with some of the most innovative solutions to them, not out of some theoretical exercise, but because so many of the myths that our country is built upon have unraveled here first.

But I also feel fortunate as an organizer of the Allied Media Conference, to be positioned within this sort of node.  Passing through this node are all these people and projects who are using media as a strategy for transformation– in their own lives, their communities and the world.

So I want to give you some examples of what I think the future of media will look like based off some of the people who are coming to the Allied Media Conference this year.

In the future of media, no one will die crossing the U.S. / Mexico border because $50 motorola cell phones will have been re-wired to serve as GPS systems, and distributed to people trying to cross, directing them to water sources and shelter and altering them to potential dangers.  I’m referring to the Transborder Immigrant Tool that was developed by artist-activist Ricardo Dominguez.

In the future of media, kids will walk down the street with laser pens in their pockets that will let them write poetry on the sides of skyscrapers.  I’m talking about the work of Graffiti Research Lab in Brooklyn, NY.

And in the future of media, DIY filmmakers won’t have to worry about signing over their souls to YouTube, just to get an online audience, because open source software developers will have expanded our access to tools like MIRO— the free and open source online video distribution platform developed by the Participatory Culture Foundation.

But from my position within this little node that is the Allied Media Conference, I can also see that in the future of media, our greatest innovations will emerge out of collaboration.  Youth from Detroit will develop models of hip hop research projects which will be taken to youth media centers in Palestine, where they will replicate the process to create digital stories that draw connections between the forced removal of Palestinians from their land to the gentrification of U.S. cities.  And those digital stories will become the basis of public school curriculum in Bushwick Brooklyn.  The Youth Solidarity Network is already doing this.

In the future of media, Prometheus Radio Project will visit a city and help a group of youth build an extremely low-wattage radio transmitter for educational purposes and the following year, those same youth will help teach another community organization from their city how to build one too.  In the process of doing so, everyone will become invested in shaping the laws that restrict their community’s access to low-power FM radio.  These are only a few examples of the ripples I see extending from my vantage point and I know there are so many more.

So when I look to the future of social justice organizing and the role that media will play in it, I see two different paths unfolding.  In the worst case scenario, I can see the tools of communication we have at our disposal becoming more and more advanced to the point where they perfect the illusion of community.

Our human relationships will be replaced by Constituent Relationship Management systems (CRM) and the knowledge for how to build and maintain those systems will be increasingly concentrated in the hands of the college-educated.  Our events will get organized at the click of a Facebook invite.  We will wage political wars over ideas in the bloggosphere with strangers, while never being able to challenge the people closest to us, or ourselves, in ways that will actually transform our relationships.

But in the best case scenario, the future of media and the role it will play in our social movements will be it’s ability to expand our imaginations.  Because ultimately our imaginations are our greatest resource.  The extent to which a corporation or a government can limit or regulate our imaginations–whether a cable provider, a cell phone company, or a public school system– is one of our greatest threats.

If we can look at our cellphones, and instead of seeing an evil piece of overpriced equipment that will never do what we want it to do, but somehow we are completely dependent upon, if instead we can look at it and see a GPS navigating device– and as long as we can think to use that GPS device as a tool for liberation rather than surveillance and oppression– then we can create a new window of possibility.

It’s through these windows of possibility that we will be able to create new worlds.  With every new idea that passes through that window, the rip in our acceptance of the current reality widens (whether that’s the reality of having to pay for unreliable, corporate controlled wireless or the reality of violence in our communities).

The urgency of the crises around us demands that we start opening these windows whether we have the foundation funding or the political permission to do so or not.  So I hope you leave this conference with the feeling that you are capable of opening those windows and creating new worlds.  And if you don’t, I guarantee you will at the Allied Media Conference, two weeks from now, in Detroit.


“The best of both communities coming together”

What I appreciate most about the Allied Media Conference, summed up by Adrienne Maree Brown:

“There’s very few spaces where you see such amazing, ground-breaking, do-it-yourself activists coming together with all these young people from all these communities where they’ve traditionally been told not to do try to do it themselves or that they can’t do it for themselves. You get to see the best of both communities coming together in this space.”

And artfully conveyed by Diana Nucera:

It’s Getting Louder and Louder Out There

My good friend and co-conspirator, Diana Nucera, made this video for the Opening Ceremony of the Allied Media Conference, in the course of about 72 hours prior to the conference. I think this kind of media-making is nothing short of magic.

Excited about math for the first time ever

In doing outreach for the Popular Education Symposium at the AMC, I was checking out the website for The Algebra Project, which is based in Baltimore. I’ve known of this group for a while now, but not much more than that “they do Pop Ed stuff with math.” I think on some unconscious level I was dubious. I have always loathed math and even when I’ve advocated for “relevent” math curricula, the most I’ve been able to imagine is something tying into economics, which is far from hot. But reading about The Algebra Project’s approach to math really blew my mind:

The Algebra Project develops and implements curricular interventions that build on experiences students find interesting–and understand intuitively–to help them shift from arithmetic to algebraic thinking.

A ride on a subway, a trip on a bus, or a community walking tour become the basis for understanding displacements, while stories about “making do” help students grasp the difference between equivalence and equality. The concepts of displacements and equivalence then provide a new approach to understanding integers.

Teachers use inquiry-based teaching strategies that build on students’ concrete experiences, then coach them to construct new experiences that will help them find answers by asking increasingly sophisticated questions.

The idea of algebraic versus arithmetic thinking had just come up in conversation with ill ana the other day in the car. We were talking about identity as something that is so complicated, but so often gets reduced to the “arithmetic” thinking of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (I am asian, plus white, plus queer, minus lesbian, times middle class, divided by web radio teacher, art model, youth organizer…), whereas it should be expressed algebraically or as calculus or some other crazy thing like that.

Then I was reminded of another time when my friend used a mathematical metaphor to describe the complicated nature of feelings and maneuvers within romantic relationships. It’s never as simple as addition and subtraction.

I’m finding that math can make my heart race. WTF? Maybe it’s just the pseudo-spring.