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  • vacall 9:47 pm on March 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    JR’s TED PRIZE TALK: “Let’s Use Art To Turn the World Inside Out” 

    In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought I would post JR’s inspiring TED PRIZE Talk. In it he talks about his film Women Are Heroes as well as gives us much to contemplate regarding value of art and how it intersects with issues of social justice.

  • vacall 1:31 am on March 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Repost: Interview with Sasha Costanza-Chock 

    Here’s my latest NAMAC blog post. I have been trying to focus on media literacy and media activism with the posts. This is an interview with Sasha Costanza-Chock, my colleague at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy at USC who will be moving to MIT in the next academic year. Many thanks to Sasha for taking the time for this interview during an incredibly hectic time for him.

    Interview with Sasha Costanza-Chock (FEB 2011)

    In these first two months of 2011, we have witnessed an extraordinary sequence of events demonstrating the transformative possibilities of social media when employed in the area of social change. While it is crucial that we not erase the specific contexts of activist engagement or the diverse organizing elements involved in particular political movements and protests, it is also clear that the tools of social media have played a vital role in an ongoing series of upheavals in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Closer to home, I was intrigued by ongoing references to connections between events in Cairo and the labor protests in Madison, which circulated though a variety of social media from Flickr to Facebook to Twitter. The continued linkage of these two very different political events, albeit tenuous or indeed maladroit, illustrates both the power of the new media forms as well as the global reach of the conversation around questions of democracy and social justice.

    I wanted then in my NAMAC posting to take up the question of media literacy specifically within the context of activism and media education. As I mentioned in my last entry, I am fortunate to be a visiting scholar at USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy this year, where these issues are explicitly addressed. Even more fortuitously for this particular posting, my office partner at the IML is Sasha Costanza-Chock. Sasha is a recent Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication at USC, as well as a Knight Media Policy Fellow at the New America Foundation, and a 2010 Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. He is a community board member and active participant in VozMob (Mobile Voices / Voces Móviles) a mobile media project that supports immigrant and low wage workers in the Los Angeles area in the documentation of their own stories and communities. Sasha is also involved with the media activist networks Transmission and Indymedia (the latter he helped to organize). Next year, he will be on the faculty of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. Sasha has been an incredibly generous colleague and wonderful resource for information — both practical and theoretical — on an array of topics related to open source materials, media activism and public policy. I felt Sasha would provide a particularly unique perspective on questions of media literacy as he has been involved in this area as a scholar, activist, media maker, as well as media curator.

    VC: In your scholarly work, what comes through clearly is that the rich assortment and constantly changing digital tools we use are not necessarily democratic. That reality is something I know I have to remind myself of often because these tools have such an incredible power to connect us, to distribute information. But again, this liberatory element is not necessarily a given with digital technology, which then elevates the importance of media education/literacy. How would you describe your philosophy of media literacy? How do you approach? What do you see as key areas to consider? Is it access, practical use, or strategies of connections?

    SC-C: The conversation in media literacy has largely moved from ‘digital divide,’ where there’s a binary conceptualization of those on/offline, towards a more nuanced discussion of the multilayered barriers to digital inclusion. Most people (although not all) on earth now have *some* form of access to ICTs [Information and Communication Technologies], ranging all the way from shared and occasional (family or village) access to a mobile phone all the way to always-on broadband connectivity across multiple devices (home computer, office, netbook, mobile phone, iPad, etc). Connectivity is still vastly unequal, and the level of access is mostly determined by income (and to some degree gender, age, race/ethnicity, geography, etc). So I certainly think that issues of access are still crucial, and we need to fight for policies that will expand access at the level of connectivity.

    But then beyond that, once you have access at any level, there’s the question of learning how to use the new tools in interesting ways. Having time to do that, guidance from others more experienced, content that’s interesting and meaningful and will motivate you to learn more, and so on.

    The promise is that we move towards mass read/write digital literacies. The danger is that the spread of read/write digital literacy continues to be shaped and structured by existing inequalities and we end up with the vast majority of people mostly limited to ‘read-only’ digital literacy (if anything).

    In the past many who were interested in critical media literacy might have been satisfied with people learning how to analyze, deconstruct, and understand power and ideology encoded in texts. So media literacy just meant critical decoding. There was the whole ‘active audience’ turn that (rightly) questioned the traditional left’s conception of audiences as passive receivers of cultural texts. But that school of thought didn’t go far enough. Now that the tools of remix and production are so much more widespread, critical media literacy has to also mean we learn how to actually cut up, remix, rework, and redistribute media texts. This was always going on (DIY film and video, zine culture, hip hop) but now that it is front and center, read/write media literacy is the way to go!

    VC: That is an interesting, and sometimes scary, place for the institution of scholarship though as it would mean some very large and established intellectual divides need to go — as in ones between arts/humanities, practical/theoretical world. There is some great work being done in the areas of critical arts practice and digital humanities but I wouldn’t say we have reached critical mass in terms of rethinking those boundaries. Do you feel any particular ways you would like to redraw the institutional/scholarly map or any particular roadblocks?

    SC-C: Great question. I think communication and media studies scholars definitely need to connect more to practice and to public life. A number of institutions are trying to do this, for example, MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media, or here at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy. The Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and a number of other Comm schools are also taking baby steps in that direction, for example there’s the COMPASS internship program (Consortium of Media Policy Studies) that is supposed to place Communications Ph,D. students in Washington D.C. over the summer to work on public interest communications policy. Herbert Gans has recently published a call for the Social Sciences to transform and develop ‘Applied’ as well as ‘Theoretical’ branches and tracks for PhD students. The idea is to encourage, rather than block, the new generation of doctoral students as public intellectuals. There are excellent examples from every field of scholars whose work is grounded/rooted in community based practice but usually it happens on the margins of the institutions. So absolutely, it’s a huge challenge. How do we validate and support scholarship/practice, or rather, praxis? Some of the sciences seem to do a much better job of this, no? Maybe we can learn from them. For me, I’m increasingly interested in questions of technology design: how do we make new media technologies, software, hardware, social practices, that really respond to community needs? Participatory technology design is one way to approach this question. That’s one area I’m hoping to push much further once I get to MIT.

    VC: That really requires redrawing the institutional map from the humanities to social sciences, arts, and engineering, etc. I am wondering about these various crises facing academia right now — maybe I am just so immersed in this due to the Wisconsin situation, but — maybe there is opportunity with this to talk about the *public* role of universities and to the redraw the map as a consequence. Although right now things are in a defensive posture mode on the academia side (save what little we still have) and then on government institutional side talking about public accountability, but that typically means don’t do anything that fosters activism/democracy.

    SC-C: Absolutely, we’re living in dangerous times. The State is still in retreat and the right is going full swing to take out public investment in education, from elementary school all the way through the universities. I don’t know what to say – the best defense is a good offense? We have to use the spaces we have inside the educational institutions to develop critical analysis and a commitment to engagement/struggle in the next generation of young people. As scholars and activists, we also have to get organized and push for an educational system that we want and believe in. If not, what can I say, the market fundamentalists will rule unchecked, patriarchy, white supremacy, and heteronormativity will never be dismantled. The environmental and social costs will all remain externalized, and the planet will be completely destroyed within a few more generations…

    VC: I know in your work you discuss “transmedia mobilization” or cross-platform media activist strategies. Can you talk more about what that is and where we are with this as a strategy, especially in light of recent events?

    SC-C: Transmedia mobilization is a mash-up of ideas about transmedia narrative (Kinder, Jenkins, etc) and social movement theory (Calhound, McCarthy, Gamson, etc). I’m starting from social movements and saying “ok, here’s a social movement formation, let’s do a deep dive and talk to movement activists, networks, organizations, and look at what they are actually doing to generate and spread their narratives and ideas.” I think that if you do this, it yields a lot of rich material and insight into how movements actually use and relate to media across all platforms. To me this is much more productive than constantly asking ‘what impact does x media technology have on social movements?’ That’s where we get in the endless loop debates about the importance/irrelevance/dangers of, say, twitter to revolutionary activity. I’m just not as interested in those debates. Movements use every kind of media that they have access to: face-to-face, print, broadcast, social media, whatever. Of course the landscape is changing and in ways that increases the opportunities for movements to make themselves heard – I’m calling this the transformation of the media opportunity structure. Social movement scholars for too long have thought of the media as something static, external to movements, a given. That’s changing – not only because of social media but also because of the rise of so-called ‘ethnic’ media, the increased ease of accessing media from a home country for transnational migrants, the dropping costs of print production, lots of other reasons. I also think it’s interesting to look at how making media helps to produce and strengthen social movement identity in those who participate.

    VC: There has been some interesting crossover of activism — I think people in Wisconsin have been very explicitly inspired/empowered by Egypt and the use of social media.

    SC-C: There’s no question that social movement ideas, strategies, and tactics spread across contexts. This has always been the case. Martin Luther King, Jr. borrowed from Gandhi, the GLBTQ struggle was explicitly modeled on the Black liberation struggle, the nuclear freeze and antiwar movements drew on tactics of struggle from the Civil Rights era, and so on. Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink in Activists Beyond Borders talked about the spread of tactics across the world via Transnational Advocacy Networks that link local environmentalist struggles to each other; cultural strategies of resistance, which circulated throughout the Black Atlantic (Paul Gilroy), and so on. What’s new? Images, ideas, tactics, and tools of struggle now can spread much more rapidly and more widely than ever before because of the Internet and social media, but also because of new regional and global television networks. Probably the most important medium for spreading the current wave of revolutionary struggle across the Arab world and beyond isn’t social media alone: it’s Al Jazeera. Of course AJ is drawing content (videos, photos, contacts to interview) systematically from social media sites. But over half of the households in Tunisia have access to (illegal) Al Jazeera broadcasts, compared to much smaller Internet penetration levels. And when the net goes down, let’s not forget that a wide range of ‘small media’ (zines, especially) also were taken up by protesters to circulate the struggle. These all operate together, which takes us back to the transmedia mobilization idea.

    VC: Yes and I found the campaign here stateside with folks demanding cable access to AJEnglish interesting — and within days Roku added AJE to their streaming network as well as other cable providers picking them up. I was just so struck by folks in US knowing their mainstream media outlets were not providing adequate coverage of international events.

    On a related point, it would also seem transmedia mobilization engages a variety of strategies, including playful protest signs — as in those mocking Mubarak — it was so effective and translated so well over to US context. I have noticed in the Wisconsin protests very similar tactics. I think it is about bringing all sort of new “weapons” to bear in protest.

    SC-C: I love “Game Over Mubarak.”

    VC: I am seeing on twitter connections being drawn between Tunisia, Egypt and Wisconsin, and on one level you don’t want to present things acontextually, ahistorically but at same time, one does feel something is happening. Can you talk about the linkages a bit?

    SC-C: We’ve talked about this to some degree, but one aspect of the current cycle of struggles is the massification of electronic civil disobedience. I’m mainly thinking of what’s been going on with Anonymous. Anonymous started to become more politicized in taking on the Church of Scientology, but it’s reached a whole new level following WikiLeaks. The last few months have been amazing to watch: thousands of mostly young people getting involved in online direct action, ECD [Electronic Civil Disobedience], shutting down the websites of Amazon, PayPal, and other corporate entities that abandoned WikiLeaks with a little pressure, and then transforming that energy into participatory processes to seek any way possible to remotely support the revolutions across North Africa. The Critical Art Ensemble wrote The Electronic Disturbance what, more than a decade ago? At the time it was largely conceptual and there were just a handful of hacker/theorists/cultural workers like Ricardo Dominguez and Stefan Wray and Carmin Karasic doing this stuff – distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks to support the Zapatistas. I was involved in a Virtual Netstrike for Vieques back in 2000, I wrote about it in a book chapter called “Mapping the Repertoire of Electronic Contention.” Then for 10 years it seemed more and more evident that this kind of practice was going to remain limited to a tiny fringe, and largely as demo/design or as cultural/artistic intervention. Suddenly, after Wikileaks, Anonymous has tens or hundreds of thousands of people participating, downloading Low Orbit Ion Cannon and DDOSing the sites of some of the largest companies in the world.

    And even more exciting, that’s only an entry point – a bridge activity, because now the activity is shifting and mutating again. When Egypt shut down the web, thousands of people were coordinating in Anonymous chat rooms to gather lists of every fax in Egypt and fax in information about how to make calls to dial-up connections, voice to twitter accounts, and a range of other tools to help keep information flowing. It’s exciting and fascinating and it’s hard to know where it will go next.

    VC: I loved learning and borrowing from your wiki for the class Media for Social Change. Not only for the great resources of content, but for teaching strategies. You “crowd-sourced” the syllabus for the class, and in reviewing the process it was cleaer, you have a very open and collaborative teaching style. How do students respond to all this, because I do think it is unique style – we always hear students want more structure.

    SC-C: Well it’s always finding that balance, isn’t it? Last year the syllabus for that course was more open, and during the first session I had everyone write on sticky notes topics they wanted to cover, and tools they wanted to learn, then structured the class around the most popular topics and tools. Some students complained that there wasn’t enough structure, so this year that’s still part of the course, but half to two thirds of the sessions were already set beforehand. If readers want to see the syllabus in its current iteration it’s here:

    VC: With respect to social media – I think there is an impression that students already know all about (e.g., they all use Facebook). How would you rate student knowledge coming in?

    SC-C: I’m always surprised at how little the supposed ‘Digital Natives’ know about the tools they use on a daily basis, to be honest. Near the beginning of each semester, I usually teach my students a crash course in Rip, Mix, and Burn: three ways to download videos off YouTube; how to grab audio and music that you can use to remix and cut your videos to; I show them how to use Torrents. There are always some students who do all this stuff already but the majority, it doesn’t seem like it. Many of them also haven’t thought much about privacy, fair use, and so on; forget about Net Neutrality and media policy. Only a few have social movement experience, as well. But this has been my experience with USC students, it will be very interesting to see what the differences are at MIT.

    VC: What you will be teaching at MIT?

    SC-C: I’ve been asked to develop an Introduction to Civic Media course. This is going to draw on a range of texts across time, platforms, and geographic locations, and from a variety of social movements. I know Henry Jenkins is teaching a Civic Media course now, so I’ll look at that and draw from it. My tendency is to begin by looking at social movements and then say ‘how are they using media?’ rather than to start with a media type and then look for how movements use it. I’ll talk about movements, policy, digital literacies; there will be case studies, etc.

    In the spring, I’ll probably launch some version of the Multimedia for Social Change course that I’ve taught for two years at USC. This is the project-based, service-learning course where students are partnered with a community based organization and have to develop some type of media based project over the course of the semester.

    VC: Perhaps we should close by discussing the relationship between literacy issues and the work you have done in curating media, especially in the DIY context. Since both scholarly and artistic forms are changing and given the central role of remix as well as transmedia, a new aesthetic is coming into play, one which is especially reforming/revolutionizing the documentary format. What should the criteria be aesthetically/intellectually in this fluid domain?

    SC-C: As read/write digital literacies become more widespread, curation becomes in some ways ever more critical. But the role of the curator is also transforming, because there are new incredibly powerful search and aggregation tools, and there are crowd-sourced forms of curation (the ‘like’ button, for one). I sometimes find myself, in class, acting as a kind of metacurator in the sense that I introduce my students not just to media texts that I want them to engage with, but also to collections, search tools, and social aggregation spaces. For example, I point them to the excellent curated space of the DIY Video 24/7 programs, coordinated by Mimi Ito and Steve Anderson and others; I draw their attention to the collections at; I have them install social bookmarking tools like delicious or Zotero and share links with each other to texts that relate to the topic of our seminar. During class, I have students log in to a chat backchannel where they can pass links back and forth, and someone is usually responsible for pulling these links up on a video projector. I find it keeps them engaged and generates interesting new flows of examples between the conversation we’re having face to face and their own search practices that otherwise would be private. So, converting individual information gathering practices into shared or pooled strategies of search and curation.

    VC: One of archives that I love is Media Burn, and I am so interested in having my students find out about their site because I want them to understand this media work/struggle has a history. It didn’t start with Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert but goes back to a rich tradition including Dada, the Situationists, and then groups like Ant Farm and Critical Art Ensemble – that aesthetic heritage, that history I think is crucial to understanding both the language (there are some great models out there) and the struggle.

    SC-C: Totally. We have to historicize. Maybe that’s one of the most important roles for a curator now – to take current cultural texts and put them in dialogue with what’s come before, so that history and context don’t disappear in the blur of the Next Five Minutes.

  • vacall 8:13 pm on February 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    On Remix, Media Literacy, and Social Change 

    Hi everyone:

    Been a very crazy academic year for me, but I am finally getting a link up here on remix, media literacy, gender, and social change. Linked here is my interview with Elisa Kreisinger for NAMAC.   If dust settles, I am hoping to do an audio interview with Elisa — so much to talk about on this topic!  For our conversation, see

  • vacall 10:34 pm on July 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    ArtsJournal discussion on Arts and Activism 

    There is a great discussion going on now over at ArtsJournal on artists, arts and technology, and creative rights.    It features a diverse group of artists, media activists, and educators in a week long conversation (July 19-23).    So far the discussion has been very lively with many important issues, problems, and potential solutions/strategies out on the table.    Check it out and most importantly join in the conversation!

  • lksriv 5:28 pm on June 29, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Repost: “Transmedia Storytelling for Social Marketers: A Sample Campaign” 

    Reposted from Spare Change by Nedra Weinreich

    Lately, I’ve been talking about transmedia storytelling to whoever will listen. If you’re not familiar with this approach, transmedia refers to a story that is told on multiple media platforms, with different parts of the story appearing in different places. The readers/viewers may enter the story at various points, and may need to solve puzzles or follow clues to discover the different nodes of the story. Transmedia is different from multimedia, which would be a retelling of the same story told using different media (e.g., a movie, a graphic novel, an audiobook). Beyond using transmedia for the sheer joy of telling a story, this approach is now often used to promote television shows and movies, as well as marketing products. Want to try out a quick example of a transmedia story in action? No Mimes Media has created a 10-minute alternate reality game (ARG) you can experience online. (Hint: Look for clues to get to each of the next parts of the story and keep your phone nearby.)

    Why Use Transmedia in Social Marketing?

    For all the reasons that the entertainment education approach works to change knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, transmedia storytelling has the potential to match and exceed that success. Entertainment education-based social marketing has traditionally focused on “product placement” of health and social issues within the plotlines of television shows, radio serials, movies, video games and other individual media. When someone is wrapped up in the plotline of a show and their favorite character becomes sick or models a positive behavior, that person is more likely to remember information delivered in the course of the program and desire to act on it.

    In a transmedia story, you are immersed in the plotline either as the main character or as you get to know the characters and their world from many different angles. Often, transmedia stories are told in real-time, with the characters posting to their Twitter accounts, writing blog posts and creating YouTube videos. They may come to feel like friends, especially if the audience is encouraged to interact with the characters. This type of immersive experience can make a strong impression on knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of social norms, and can motivate action.

    What Might Have Been

    Transmedia is one of those things more easily understood with a tangible example, so I spent some time thinking about how I might structure a campaign. I remembered that a couple of years ago, as part of the Great California ShakeOut (a statewide earthquake drill), the event included a simulation game called After Shock that did not quite live up to its great potential. The idea was that during and after the earthquake drill, participants would use blogs, Twitter, video, photos and more to document what happened to them personally during the “earthquake” and how they were dealing with the aftermath. It was a fun, exciting idea, and I played along, startling my Twitter friends and posting to the blog on my account at the site. Many others did as well, with blog posts, photos of “earthquake rubble,” and other creative stories that showed they had thought through the implications of how an earthquake would impact their lives. Unfortunately, there was not much direction from the coordinators as to what we were supposed to do, and participation fizzled. (At least from my viewpoint, I didn’t see much happening on the site and did not receive any clear instructions to help me continue.)

    What’s Shakin’? Earthquake Preparedness Transmedia Campaign

    I’ve put together a sample transmedia campaign that addresses the flaws of what After Shock could have been, with the goal of motivating earthquake preparedness in Southern California. I was inspired by Gary Hayes’ transmedia worksheet (below) and the creativity of Luci Temple’s hypothetical transmedia case study based on the television show “V.”


    What’s a campaign without objectives? Here are the main ones I’d be shooting for:

    • To increase the number of people who know what to do to prepare for an earthquake.
    • To increase the number of people who know what to do during and immediately after an earthquake.
    • To increase the number of people who believe that being prepared is important and doable.
    • To increase the number of people who create a family emergency plan.
    • To increase the number of people who have an earthquake/emergency kit in their homes, offices and cars.
    • To increase the number of people who take preventive measures to secure their homes to prevent damage during an earthquake.


    In transmedia storytelling, the story narrative is often in the background or not visible at all. Designers must write the backstory and timeline, and then identify the “artifacts” (tweets, postcards, YouTube videos, etc.)  that the characters create as a result of that story. It’s often up to the participants to piece together exactly what happened, and where they might need to read between the lines.

    Here’s the basic narrative of a possible storyline (yes, it’s kind of silly), and afterward we’ll look at how the transmedia campaign could bring it into being:

    Shaky McShakerson works in downtown LA as an IT guy in the City’s Bureau of Important Processes. He’s married to Terra McShakerson, who works out of their house in Sherman Oaks as a photographer specializing in doggie fashion. They have two kids – Tembla (4) and Shaker Jr (1).

    10:36 am Tuesday morning, a 7.7 earthquake hits LA, centered in Hollywood. Shaky’s at work – he has to help out with the city’s response. Terra is at a doggie fashion shoot in Pasadena. Tembla is at preschool and Shaker Jr. is with Terra’s mother in Van Nuys.

    Shaky and Terra can’t connect with each other via phone. They had no plan for emergencies and have no idea what condition their home is in. The immediate aftermath of the earthquake is chaos: a 405 freeway overpass is down, traffic lights are out across the city, they can see smoke from several locations in the distance. Finally they are able to connect with each other via Twitter, but Terra still can’t reach her mom or the preschool.

    Shaky is part of the emergency response and is responsible for setting up a blog to keep people informed through official channels. He can’t leave his post downtown, so Terra is on her own.

    Terra jumps in the car and tries to move as quickly as she can from Pasadena to Van Nuys. She runs into many roadblocks along the way. Finally she arrives at her mother’s house, which is intact, although several houses on the street have collapsed chimneys and broken windows. She sees that her mother and Shaker Jr are fine, but she needs to get to Tembla. She arrives at the preschool and sees that it is in shambles. Everyone has been evacuated and parents are freaking out looking for their kids. Finally someone remembers to call the emergency out of state phone number that was given at the beginning of the year and they find out that the teachers brought the kids to the elementary school yard down the street. She collects Tembla, who is very upset and traumatized.

    She takes the children back home, and discovers that their house did not fare very well. Gas is leaking, and it takes a long time for her to find a wrench and the shut-off valve. The house is full of broken glass, the floor is covered with what had been on the shelves, and the furniture has traveled across the rooms. The electricity is out, and the water does not seem to be working either. Terra sets to work trying to figure out what she needs to do now and how to begin to recover.

    The days and weeks that follow include some major aftershocks, anxiety attacks from Tembla, and the realization that they should have been much more prepared. They don’t have enough food, water and medical supplies. The city is not recovering very quickly. The survivalist neighbors who they always thought were crazy for storing months worth of food are the only ones on the block who are doing well. Terra’s best friend Florence is a nurse and shares stories of what she’s seen in the hospital.

    Terra and Shaky decide to get prepared for the next disaster and put together their supplies. So when a 6.1 aftershock hits, they are ready and able to deal with it, and get on with their lives without much hassle.

    The Transmedia Campaign

    1) Billboards will be posted around the city for “Terra’s Doggie Fashion Fotos” including the URL (ads will be so ridiculous that people look for the website to see if it’s a joke). Also, street teams passing out postcards with the same image/URL at gathering places around LA.

    2) A website for Terra’s business will include her phone number (with voice mail message) and links to her Facebook page and Twitter account. The text will use earthquake metaphors as clues for what the campaign is about and provide insight into her personality and lifestyle.

    3) Terra’s Twitter account will be the main driver of the narrative (with tweets also going to her Facebook page), and here is where we will also meet Shaky and Florence via their accounts. Quite a bit of interaction will have already occurred before the campaign begins. When the earthquake hits, we can see Terra’s panicked response and her attempts to reach her family. She and Shaky reach each other via Twitter. She urges people to call her on her cell if they know anything about her mom and kids.

    4) When people call her cell phone number, they’ll hear her message about what she’s seeing on the streets as she’s trying to get to her family and her relief as she arrives at her mother’s house. She uses Twitpic to post pictures of the damage she sees all around.

    5) Meanwhile, Shaky is setting up a blog for his city department that provides updates on what’s happening around the city in terms of emergency response, as well as safety information. He invites people to post comments about what happened to them during the earthquake and whether they were prepared. He shares the “official” department website and phone hotline that people can call over the next week for updates.

    6) Once back at home, Terra tweets about the challenges they are facing and looks for information on what to do to prevent any further damage. She finds a smartphone app and companion website (created by the campaign) with earthquake preparedness information and shares that information on Twitter.

    7) Over the next week, Terra uses Twitter to give updates on what she’s doing to prepare for the next earthquake, and uploads some video to YouTube. She posts information about caring for pets in earthquakes on her business Facebook page. Shaky uses the blog to give tips on preparedness and to invite participants to a live event.

    8 ) The campaign concludes with a live event coinciding with the Great California Shakeout, where Terra and Shaky make an appearance to urge earthquake preparedness (and to take doggy fashion fotos). Those with smartphones will be able to see a simulated aftershock in real time via augmented reality, to reinforce how to respond.

    There are many more touchpoints we could add (e.g., TV, radio, live chat, etc.) but this gives you a flavor of how it might all work together. Of course, keep in mind that this approach can only work if members of your target audience are already using most or all of these media. You would need to do research with them to find out what media they use, and what their current knowledge, attitudes and behaviors are, before jumping into creating the campaign.

    Any takers?

  • vacall 3:09 am on January 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    As an artist and Co-Director of NAMAC, the National Alliance for Media Art + Culture, Helen De Michiel has been an active participant in ongoing conversations amongst diverse groups about the current state of media arts and the impact of digital technology on artists, arts practice, and culture.

    True to the spirit of Helen’s own art work, when I asked to interview her about contemporary media she suggested instead a “dialogue.” We discussed a number of issues that make digital culture “the best and worst of times” for artists, activists, and concerned citizens: technological, aesthetic, and generational divides, new forms and definitions of creativity, the shifting roles of curators, copyright and fair use questions, and the issue of “holistic literacy.” You can find our conversation here in a podcast:

  • vacall 3:00 am on January 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Institute for Multimedia Literacy   

    USC’s Institute of Multimedia Literacy was hosting one of the live streams of the Filmmaker Summit event (part of Slamdance). We had a good turnout of lively folks and we were all hard at work listening/blogging/tweeting around the conference table. You can see a repeat of our live blog here:

  • vacall 6:00 am on January 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply

    I blogged yesterday on the Transmedia Activism main site about the Filmmaker Summit for tomorrow January 23, 11-2 pm Mountain Time. Please take a look at the information rich discussion forum and contribute to the conversation:

    The streaming site can be found here

  • vacall 4:16 am on January 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ChangeMakers, We Media   

    Hi everyone — we submitted the Transmedia Activism Design Group into the ChangeMakers/WeMedia competition. Take a look at our entry; we would love to hear your comments:

  • lksriv 12:34 am on January 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    As 2009 comes to a close, we celebrate our collaboration on the Transmedia Activism site and the launch of our new transmedia design consultancy that is thriving as we turn to 2010. To mark a good year for us, we give props to some great, innovative initiatives by others working at the intersection of media, arts, culture and social change. Each of these projects immerses us in a new world through a compelling story, crosses sectors and disciplines to create a rich experience, and/or presents a new idea or solution designed to lead to positive change.

    This is not a “best of” list as much as it is a survey and an appreciation. (A list isn’t our usual m.o., since our usual pathway through ideas grows in a spherical, not a linear, direction.) After enjoying the following projects we found particularly noteworthy (presented in no particular order), please add projects and sites that inspired you.

    + 3 Generations **
    3 Generations works with survivors of genocide and crimes against humanity to provide opportunities for them to share their stories. In April 2009, the organization launched a beautiful cross media platform that is a study in storytelling as well as a tool for activism that distributes global information about genocide and details “cultural regeneration” as a crucial part of recovery process. The organization launched its new multimedia online platform to create a narrative thread that highlights our common humanity, presenting survivors’ stories, news and information, and culture-based initiatives, such as documentary film, oral history, witness testimony, creative writing, narrative film, fiction and photography.

    + Pray the Devil Back to Hell Global Peace Tour 2009 and International Peace Day
    On September 21st, 2009, individuals and organizations around the world celebrated the United Nations’ International Day of Peace. As an extension of Pray the Devil Back to Hell’s September Global Peace Tour, Fork Films, Film Spout and the filmmakers organized a series of successful community screenings to spur discussion and create support for international peace-building efforts. (Special mention to the curriculum the filmmakers created for inclusion with the DVD to support discussion and learning about women, peace and security.)

    + Hope House/Kids with Cameras House Parties **
    On October 2, 2009, 75 hosts celebrated Gandhi’s birthday by holding house parties around the world and raised more than $25,000 to support Kids with Cameras’ construction of Hope House, a facility that will provide a state-of-the art learning environment and a safe haven for up to 100 girls from Calcutta’s red light district– the area depicted in Born into Brothels– to live, go to school, and develop the strength and skills to change their own circumstances. The organization has created a thorough and easy to manage party/screening hosting kit that they continue to provide to interested donors and supporters.

    + Disrobing for Climate Change
    2009 saw a lot of people taking their clothes off to get you to act about climate change and environmental degradation. Greenpeace ( and and ( did PETA one better in getting our attention. While not always effective (we’ve heard a few people say they would support global warming if it meant watching models take off their clothes– besides being a sort of distracting, though not unpleasant visual while trying to learn about fluorocarbons), we give kudos to each for their originality, engagement and targeted action-setting.

    + Behind the Veil
    Through online videos and interviews, the Globe and Mail’s series Behind the Veil tells the story of the women of Afghanistan, who live under conditions of constant violence and repressive social codes. As the Globe and Mail editor notes, “Like us, these women hoped the intervention of the outside world would improve their lives; like us, they have been largely disappointed. In fact, for many of the women of Kandahar, what was to have been a march toward a brighter future has turned into a retreat back to the past and in some cases, back to the burka.” But the site moves beyond a mere effort to raise awareness by not presenting only all that is wrong in these women’s lives– it too creates a connective narrative thread between the women and the larger world around them by exploring “places where our lives intersect around family and work, around their hopes for the future that aren’t much different than ours.”

    + The Age of Stupid
    This was perhaps one of the most innovative and robust cross platform campaigns of the year. On May 22, 2009, The Age of Stupid team launched the “Indie Screenings” ( distribution model, which allows anyone to purchase a license to screen the film. Licensing fees are set on a sliding scale according to the purchaser’s means, and licensees can charge for tickets and keep the profits. (The film’s distribution model generated 682 screenings in the first four months and approximately £55,000 in revenue.) The film’s launch on May 22 was followed by a panel discussion about climate change, which was broadcast online. Add the green carpet, carbon footprint stats and the soundtrack that includes Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Boots Are Made For Walking, and you have some pretty good karma released.

    + The End of the Line
    This documentary’s Take Action page and information handouts at screening were direct, to-the-point and easy to follow. The question of overfishing is given its due in stark, clear terms and the solutions to that are presented in the same way. Moving beyond “ambient awareness,” the film’s engagement and action plan can claim a direct link between its efforts and the decision of Marks & Spencer, one of the largest chains in the U.K., to turn its back against unsustainable fish.

    + Resist Network **
    This initiative has created a participatory social action platform dedicated to rectifying divisions brought about borders and walls through the idea of resistance, and presents content toward the fight against systemic poverty and issues related to forced migration. The site engages participants to contribute crowdsourced ideas toward an upcoming film on the US/Mexico border wall and systemic poverty, and presents videos, art and infoactivism ideas and solutions.

    + Chez Bushwick **
    This interdisciplinary arts organization has created a cross‐sector coalition dedicated to creating and demonstrating social impact in the neighborhood of Bushwick, using cultural assets that are distributed across a variety of channels.

    + United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Mapping Initiatives
    An amazing site rich with vital information employing media-rich maps that document historical and contemporary accounts on global genocide. The site features the World as Witness, which provides citizen reports of genocide and related crimes against humanity ongoing today, using the web and Google Earth. With ongoing updates from at-risk areas, you can see on the ground reports of both who is targeted and efforts of response to the violence. The site also has Google Earth maps of key Holocaust sites with content from collection demonstrating the scope and impact of Holocaust. (This work started before 2009, but is ongoing and noteworthy — so we are including it.)

    + Human Rights Watch Multimedia:
    The organization relaunched its website this year, building on thirty years of work utilizing both investigation and targeted advocacy in defense of human rights around the world. Noteworthy for both the scope of their work and impartial reporting, their recently relaunched and more easily navigable website in 2009 sets their rich media resources squarely at center stage and presents a rich area with podcasts, audio, photo essays as well as crucial textual documentation on diverse array of topics, such as maternal mortality in India, living with landmines across the globe, Burmese resistance to government dictatorship, and Burundi’s criminalization of the LGBT community.

    + Living Galapagos
    This bilingual, interactive, multimedia storytelling site produced by students at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism explores humans’ impact on the Galapagos Islands. The beautifully made site uses a map platform to guide the user to discover the devastating results of environmental degradation, the introduction of non-native species, illegal fishing and unsustainable tourism.

    + Wasteland
    Bombay Flying Club, an independent media company in Denmark, this year launched the Wasteland project, a series of web documentaries about industrial pollution, with the first film presenting the story of illegal coal collection workers in Jharkand, India. The site is gorgeous– almost too much so, relying heavily on the seductive power of imagery over the solidity of information or ideas– but is compelling in its fully-realized storytelling elements and presents stories of people most of us (even we savvy activists, mediamakers and academics) rarely consider.

    + Digital Democracy TV
    This fledgling organization develops information and mobile- and internet-based communication tools to address the needs of vulnerable members of communities where they work, aimed at strengthening social bonds and fostering networking and civic participation. They’ve created a rich cross-media approach to engage participants, donors and beneficiaries, concentrated primarily through their video blog, broadcast online, as well as their website and social networking sites.

    + Filmmaker-in-Residence (NFB)
    A collaborative cross-media project initiated by The National Film Board of Canada, this innovative project places mediamaking into the hands of citizens. For the first project, the filmmaker is detailing the stories and challenges related to health care and is working with doctors, nurses, researchers and patients to access and create media.

    + Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films **

    Long at the forefront of innovation of documentary form in digital era, particularly with an array of tools using social media/networking or as they say “activism 2.0.” Absolutely tireless with ongoing important updates sent via website, twitter, Facebook on contemporary political issues, from health care to war in Afghanistan, Greenwald and company recently launched Brave New Educators, generously sharing footage and resources from the recent documentary Rethink Afghanistan: for university students to analyze critically and remix with complete freedom. In Los Angeles, USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy and Occidental College both partnered this fall with Brave New Films.

    + Open Youth Network
    A program of the Department of Interactive Arts and Media at Columbia College designed “to help bridge the digital participation gap by educating girls and urban youth to use emerging technologies, games and social media so they can make a better future for themselves and their communities.” It partners with community organizations, non-profit media centers, schools both in Chicago and nationally. Check out the site especially for great blogs from the youth participants.

    + Tactical Technology Collective
    This Bangalore-based international NGO helps human rights advocates use information, communications and digital technologies to maximise the impact of their advocacy, through a rich series of resource guides, toolkits, events and web-distributed videos– including the effective “10 TACTICS” site,, which details ways for rights advocates to capture attention and communicate a cause, including a film documenting inspiring info-activism stories from around the world and a set of cards with tips and advice. Chapters of the film and cards are serially released on the website every week.

    Special Mentions:

    TED (, for their distribution of video talks, which cross the spectrum of ideas dealing with technology, design, arts/culture, science, global concerns. TED talks are consistently interesting and inspiring insights into cross-sector discussion, and innovation and innovators.

    Pop!Tech (, for its dissemination of ideas via their information platform, linking an interdisciplinary and global network of those interested in ideas around the social impact of new technologies. The site features videos from broad ranging areas of arts, technology, design with special focus on innovation with concrete outcomes for positive social change. Pop!Tech, besides sponsoring a conference and platform, places great emphasis on collaboration and cross-media project-based solutions-building throughout the year through its sponsorship of innovation fellows and an innovation lab.

    Business Innovation Factory Story Studio ( Another rich collection of videos featuring stories of innovation, the BIF website is a great model of spreading ideas for social innovation with material organized by innovator, theme, and channel.

    P.O.V. ( for presenting interesting mission media and documentaries supported by a direct-action online platform which is engaging and entertaining.

    Social Edge from the Skoll Foundation for links to multiple blogs on social innovation, as well as a rich stream of information via Twitter.

    Stanford Social Innovation Review Rich with ideas and solutions-based social innovation projects, in text, podcasts and a blog.

    Changemakers site features storytelling from around the globe that is focused on grass roots, community-based change.

    Think Social non-profit initiative supported by The Paley Center for Media dedicated to advancing the use of social media in the public interest.

    And finally, a special mention to these academic projects:

    Iraqi Doctors Project university undergraduate class multimedia project led by IML Associate Director, Virginia Kuhn, and documentary filmmaker D.J. Johnson, which saw students remixing Johnson’s documentary film into a variety of audio-visual essays based on their particular academic area of study/interests. The result was a model we used in the Rethink Afghanistan remix class this year.

    Negarpontifiles from her site and twitter feeds @negaratduke, Negar Mottahedeh keeps us updated on latest news from Iran, but also all things interesting and innovative in social media and education. Oh yes, and she organizes the twitter film festivals as well, now in its second year!

    Digital Storytelling in and with Communities of Color Walt Jacobs and Rachel Raimist co-taught course produced a wonderful site that features both student projects, but also a thoughtful front page video on pedagogy of digital storytelling.  Professor Raimist, now at University of Alabama, also was instrumental in putting together a classroom/open lab  at University of Minnesota for Gender Studies, that is now named after her, Rachel Raimist Feminist Media Center

    (** Note: professional affiliation)
    (Cross-posted at

    • Zuri 6:15 am on January 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      The Galapagos Islands are the most incredible living museum of evolutionary changes, with a huge variety of exotic species (birds, land and sea animals, plants) and landscapes not seen anywhere else.

    • Kristen Taylor 4:50 pm on January 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, Lina, PopTech is delighted to be included here. All best for a wonderful 2010!

    • Dorothee Royal 4:38 pm on January 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Great post and wonderful resources – thanks for this!

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