#DigiWriMo: Stranger Danger, Will Robinson

One of my goals for #DigiWriMo is to be more engaged in other people’s blogs and hopefully to have others more engaged in my blog. Years ago, I used to participate in various blog swaps and I work as a social media manager, so there is nothing really new about this for me.

One person who has been really good at this, at least in the early moments of #DigiWriMo is Sarah Honeychurch. She’s been commenting on my posts, thank you Sarah, and responded to Joanne Fuchs tweet about blogging once a week, “I find having a supportive audience in events like #DigiWriMo helps me.”

So, I went over to Joanne’s blog, where her most recent post was Yes, Virginia. You Can Ask Your Own Questions!. Joanne sounds like the sort of teacher I would want my inquisitive eighth grader to have. Joanne was talking about helping students form questions around “letters from service men from different wars”. It fit nicely with the story I heard Arnie Pritchard tell Friday night about This Business of Fighting based on his father’s letters.

Joanne also reminds me of Paul Bogush and I wonder if they’ve met. As an aside, another participant of #DigiWriMo this year is Geoffrey Gevalt. I read his bio and looked at the Young Writers Project. It made me wonder if Geoffrey knew Steve Collins and Youth Journalism International. I sent Steve a Facebook message to see if they knew each other. They should.

All of this is prologue to the key focus of this evening’s #DigiWriMo post. The other week, my daughter Fiona texted me, letting me know that there was some guy at her school teaching the kids about Internet Safety. Now I want the internet to be safe as much as the next guy, probably more so, since my job is social media manager for a health care organization, but I often find a lot of the internet safety talks, at best, misguided. They focus on online predators and stranger danger, and less on more important issues like cyberbullying or how you can help online friends in times of danger.

Stranger danger: I’ve never met Sarah, Joanne, or Geoffrey face to face. Yet if I ever get a chance to, I will jump at it. They sound like my kind of people. I have met lots of other people face to face after getting to know them first online, including my wife. Knowing how to judge and get to know people that you meet through the media, whether it be online, or any other form of media is an important skill. It applies equally to getting to know authors, musicians, journalists, politicians, and others.

Yes, online predators are a danger, but I believe a greater danger may be accepting uncritically what various media personalities are saying. Learning how to think critically about what we experience through various media can address both of these dangers.

Later this week, I will be speaking at Career Day at my daughter’s junior high school. I will be talking about being a social media manager, and what it takes to do that well. Perhaps key areas I’ll focus on include the value of meeting the right people online, collaborating with them, and how to better judge what we consume online.

The Tragedy of The Commons, Climate Change, and Faith in the Twenty First Century

Years ago, Kim got me a shirt for Christmas or a birthday that said, “I get my news on twitter”. I would wear this to journalism conferences and it would always start a lively discussion. These days, there isn’t much new to that. On Facebook the other day, a friend shared a link to a story, How Facebook and Twitter Became Your Newspapers citing a Pew report, The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook.

These days, I get my news from many sources. I often click on links, and then leave the tabs open to come back to later when I have time. Unfortunately, I’m often very busy and the number of tabs grows until I need to clean things up.

Today was one of those days. As I read through the tabs that were open, it seemed as if there was some greater narrative there, which I’ll try to explore by looking at some of these links.

A good starting point is UMD 'tragedy of the commons' tweet goes viral. A friend shared this link on Facebook and I reshared it with this introduction:

I think the interesting question is not why the professor did this, but why it went viral. Does it say something about the 1%, about the current crop of GOP candidates? Something about the current state of our society, that this has struck a chord? ‪#‎ChooseTwoPoints‬

I receive fourteen comments and twenty people shared the post. To me, it comes down to some key issues. Many of the GOP candidates seem to be focused on Ayn Rand’s virtual of selfishness, believing that it is better for everyone to grab as much as they can. The tragedy of the commons illustrates why this does not work.

Another link I had open was David Brook’s, Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While White. He writes, “I think you distort American history” and goes on to present a vision of American History from the wealthy white male perspective. I imagine many of my friends interested in historiography rolling their eyes at what Brook’s is saying. To me, it relates back to the tragedy of the commons. Brooks is unwilling to accept that by grabbing all he can, he is in fact making things worse for everyone. He doesn’t want to hear that. Instead, as I commented on a friend’s post about the article, “Brooks op-ed reminds me of a four year old when told something he doesn't want to hear. Brooks just uses fancier words to scream out "La La La La La, I can't hear you!"” I understand the needs of papers to have short headlines, but it seems that a better title for Brook’s article would be Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While being a privileged rich white male unwilling to look critically at himself.

Another article that fits into this larger narrative is For the sake of the gospel, drop the persecution complex.

So what I’d like to suggest to my fellow Christians is that perhaps taking up the cross means laying down the persecution complex. A spirit of fear and entitlement does more to obscure the gospel than elucidate it.

Brooks, and conservative Christians seem afraid to live out the Gospel of loving our neighbors as ourselves. Instead they complain bitterly, perhaps even calling it persecution, if they are asked to make room for other people’s beliefs.

Perhaps some of this relates to the issue of climate change, and the bigger issue it represents. Two of the articles I had open were We should all worry about Climate Change, study reveals and Does Climate change Influence Death Rates in the U.S?. Is climate change an illustration of tragedy of the commons? What sort of response are Christians called to make to climate change?

Yet two of the articles I recently read seem to do a better job of relating our lives to God. They don’t directly relate to the tragedy of the commons, but indirectly seem to fit quite nicely. One was by a high school classmate, Saying Yes. Another blog post that caught my attention was Leaving a light on.

I should also do an inter-faith shout out here. As the month of Ramadan comes to an end, I think about a video a Muslim friend shared, Mercy Like the Rain.

One other link that I had open was the Poets and Writers database of MFA programs How do we write about The Tragedy of The Commons, Climate Change, and Faith in the Twenty First Century?

Thinking about the Super Bowl Ad Previews – Gender Constructs

I’ve just watched the 2015 Super Bowl Ads as listed in Variety and thought I’d look for a moment on the social constructs they are built around.

One of the biggest constructs is around gender and sex, and there are several interesting ads. At the top of the list is the Kim Kardashian cellphone carrier ad with the idea that the reason we need as much online data as we do is to look at her. Um, not.

The second ad focuses on Marcia and Jan Brady; how Marcia gets grumpy if she’s hungry and Jan gets grumpy when it’s not about her. A traditional idea. It does make sense that people get grumpy when they’re hungry, but there are probably better ways of dealing with hunger than eating a candy bar.

The car ad featuring Pierce Bronson does a great job of tweaking ideas of the suave male spy, yet another gender construct. The ad for a television show about royalty doesn’t do a good job of exploring the constructs and is fairly forgettable.

The lingerie ad is fairly predictable, and the only thing memorable is the tag line, let the real games begin.

Yet the most compelling ads in the gender construct category are Dove’s #RealStrength and Always’ #LikeAGirl

They challenge traditional constructs and present emerging constructs that are more positive.

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Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet

Today, I submitted a comment on the FCC website concerning proceeding 14-28, Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.

I wrote

To the extent that the FCC is accepting comments on Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet via the Internet itself, it would seem that the Internet is a core part of our democratic process that should be protected against discrimination or allowing one group of persons perferred access above and beyond another group of persons. As such, it seems obvious that the Internet must be considered a common carrier and any efforts to give one group of persons perferred access such as faster delivery of packets, is determinental to our democracy.

For more information about submitting comments, see How To Tell The FCC Exactly What You Think About The Proposed Net Neutrality Rule.

The FCC has extended the filing deadline since the amount of comments they were receiving crashed their website.

Diversity of Stories

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Another busy, rocky month comes to an end and we roll full force into summer mode. Last night, I stopped at the town pool to swim laps. So far this summer, I’ve swum over five miles in the town pool. On the way home, I stopped at the library and picked up a collection of short stories by Chimamanda Adichie. I mentioned her in my previous post.

She gave a TED Talk, The danger of a single story about misconceptions that can arise from hearing a single story, or single type of story. While she focused on literature, it just as easily apply to any medium. Perhaps the simplest example is the warped view people get from a diet of one cable talk news show or another. To some, this is old news as people promote studies showing that viewers of specific cable news channels are more misinformed than others.

Other’s criticize older institutions of journalism that tell us telling us “That’s the way it is” and that they print “all the news that’s fit to print”. That’s the way it is, from a particular cultural framework, it’s all the news that a certain set of editors embedded in their cultural constructs found was fit to print.

Yesterday, Google News and Facebook, using their algorithms to find things I’d be most interested in, showed me stories about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. Being interested in media, I’ve often looked at how different outlets select what stories get covered and none of this is new.

Thirty two years ago, I went to the big anti-nuclear rally in Central Park. Afterwards, I walked home to my apartment in Little Italy. In my mind, the rally was the top news story of the day. Then, I walked past a hearse outside of an East Village funeral home, with the hearse outside and the family mourning. For them, there was much bigger news.

With this in mind, I read one of Chimamanda Adichie’s short stories last night. It was about a young woman whose brother was arrested. This morning, I glanced at the headlines in Global Voices.

One of the stories that repeatedly showed up on my computer yesterday was about Facebook manipulating news feeds to study the effects on users’ emotions. It appears to have been completely legal, within the terms of service, but people question the ethics. Most of this has been around the ideas of tests on human subjects, something that is done more and more online. Yet it ties back to the larger story of how information is selected for us to view.

Recently, on Facebook, a friend posted a card which said something like, “Being creative is like having 2847 tabs open in your browser 24/7”. I had just written about closing tabs in my browser, and strongly related to this. A friend shared a link he had written a few years ago about this, The Great Media Garbage Patch.

Content is King—for a day. But eventually it takes its place among the flotsam and jetsam. Today’s treasure is tomorrow’s trash.

Kind of like Life…and Death. And new birth. The circle of life. Every new campaign (or book or poem or blog) is a challenge and a dare—to make a mark, however brief, in the face of unplanned obsolescence.

And so, another month begins. The big stories of last month are rapidly becoming the flotsam and jetsam of this month. Perhaps I’ll view this month from the vantage point of the town pool, mingled with thoughts of Nigerian short stories and see who Facebook shows this story to.

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