Maybe as a response to Kobe’s mid-game gay slur, maybe as a response to Suns CEO, Rick Welts, coming out, the NBA has launched a new PR campaign. “Think B4 You Speak” aims to “raise awareness about the prevalence and consequences of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in Americas schools. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce and prevent the use of homophobic language in an effort to create a more positive environment for LGBT teens.”
Here’s their first PSA:
This blog is a part of RP’s new media and technology for social change series, in anticipation of our new film WEB.
In the last few weeks I have read numerous stories about how social media is being used against protesters in the Middle East and Africa, so I thought it would be interesting to share these examples of the dark side of the Internet, just in case you missed them. But being the eternal optimist, there have also been some amazing uses of new and social media that are worth sharing. So here is your roundup of the dark and light sides of the Internet!
THE DARK SIDE
Uganda: Earlier this month the Uganda government asked the regional Internet Service Providers to block access to Facebook and Twitter, as protesters started employing the hashtag #walktowork as part of their protest against the riding food and fuel prices. Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director of the Ugandan Communications Commission, said to Reuters that the blame for the violence in Uganda lies squarely in the laps of Twitter and Facebook as a vehicle for allowing mass law-breaking. Ridiculous.
Syria: I can almost (ALMOST!) respect the government for getting creative with their retaliation. First, the Syrian intelligence agency set up fake accounts on Twitter (known as Twitter Eggs) that threatened and insulted anyone criticizing the government, or tweeting in support of the protests. THEN various spam accounts were created to automatically send out Syria loving and random topic tweets every few minutes with the hastag #syria, so to dilute the conversation about the protests. You can view these accounts here.
Ivory Coast: Earlier this year, the country was in deep political turmoil as Laurent Gbagbo refused to abdicate his position as president after losing the election. Displaced persons across the country used the Twitter hastag #civ2010 to locate family members, get news updates and seek humanitarian aid and clean water. But then others started using the hastag to spread messages of hate and it essentially turned into a forum for various hate groups to verbally abuse each other online, again diluting the tweet stream. A new twitter hashtag (#civsocial) was created by the community to replace #civ2010.
Cameroon: President Paul Biya tried to get ahead of the game and prevent protests that might be inspired by neighboring countries, by shutting off mobile Twitter. Which only drew more attention to the tool! As blogger Dibussi Tande noted “…even though Twitter played a prominent role in informing the world of what was happening in Cameroon, over 95% of the tweets which the international media relied on for updates did not originate from within Cameroon. It was information obtained via mobile phones, regular SMS and email which ended up on Twitter and not real-time tweets from activists on the ground. Thus, banning the Twitter short code does little to change the balance of power online.”
U.A.E: The United Arab Emirates are getting even more ahead of the game. Their Telecommunications Regulatory Authority released plans to limit access to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server system to large-scale organizations, meaning smaller businesses and organizations would need to rely on a less-secure system that is easier for authorities to monitor in the hopes of preventing an uprising. This is also very likely to also be applied to all smart phones.
THE LIGHT SIDE
Rwanda: On May 5th, Rwandan President Paul Kagame will be the first African leader to be interviewed on YouTube, through their WorldView program which launched in January of this year. Although, since December of last year he has been a twitter machine! So you could probably ask him anything on twitter and he will likely respond.
Saudi Arabia: With protests and revolutions happening in countries all across the Middle East and Africa, women in Saudi Arabia are taking this opportunity to get their voices heard and try to gain the right to vote. A statement was released in March, followed by a Facebook page and a twitter hashtag, #saudiwomenrevolution. Unfortunately the media is paying very little attention. Until today I could find only a few stories about the group of women who attempted to register to vote last week. Their applications were denied.
Chile and Hungry: Hungarian doctor, Bertalan Mesko (@berci), and Chilean Nurse, Cristina Bizama (@cristi_enf), have both successfully used Twitter to help to save lives. Cristina tweeted that there was no way to transport ready organs to patients in need, and as word got out, the Health Minister jumped in to help make it happen. Dr. Mesko is using his twitter account to crowdsource medical opinions and information. For me, this just proves that everything on Grey’s Anatomy is true.
World: I recently learned about the website IndigenousTweeets.com , which was created by a computer professor at St. Louis University. IndigenousTweets was created to not only monitor the number of languages on twitter (currently 71) but also to help protect these native languages and keep cultures alive. One of my favorite examples of how the Internet is being used to protect the uniqueness of culture.
By Tim Gauss
As Malcolm Gladwell – author of books such as The Tipping Point and Blink – finds himself at the forefront of numerous social media discussions, let us step back for a moment and focus on one of Gladwell’s erstwhile arguments. The idea that “incompetence is the kind of failure that results from not knowing enough about a problem. Expert failure –are the problems that result from knowing a lot about a problem.”
Last week I was afforded the opportunity to attend a lecture in which Gladwell established a series of examples and conditions under which the idea of miscalibration – a situation where there is a gap between how much we know and how much we think we know – can lead to catastrophic consequences. In essence, there are perils associated with the notion of overconfidence, even in a system where a person is fully equipped with all necessary tools to acquire what is perceived to be perfect information.
While this particular lecture was geared towards a visceral understanding of the financial crisis of 2007, I believe that if we extrapolate these basic ideals and apply them to current social injustices, we may find a degree to which overconfidence in shrewd business tactics, parallels miscalibrations of entire governments. In particular, I would like to establish a continuation of Bree’s Blog on the current involvement of France in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Or what Achille Mbembe, a Cameroon-born historian has stated in the New York Times, “a continuity in the management of Francafrique – this system of reciprocal corruption, which, since the end of colonial occupation, ties France to its African henchmen.”
Ivory Coast has found itself in a recent state of chaotic civil war. With political parties committing mass atrocities, France has positioned itself as the peacekeeper, using military force in arresting presidential candidate Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters in Abidjan.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been anything but shy about his foreign policy in dealing with Ivory Coast as well as pushing—with resilient fervor—for intervention in Libya. Although he has acted under mandate from the United Nations Security Council, Sarkozy has received criticism for his crude strategies in what some believe seems to mirror a French colonial past filled with dictated politics and reaped fiscal recompenses especially in African territories.
What is interesting however, is not Sarkozy’s actions in using military force to make possible the arrest of the defeated Gbagbo. Nor is it the atrocities Laurent Gbagbo has committed during his regime and against opponents with a refusal to agree to hold democratic elections. Rather, it is whether or not Sarkozy’s decisions were made with objectivity and humbleness in the face of all intel gathered. At the same time, we must examine how these actions will be viewed – largely by Ivory Coast civilians – and any potential ramifications that may develop as a result.
Cue Gladwell’s nagging voice of reason and warning: “mistakes of overconfidence are made by experts. Made by people running countries and governments and companies and armies. And those kinds of mistakes, REALLY REALLY matter.”
Has France acted with brash disregard for foreign diplomacy? I don’t have the answer and only time will tell as critics are lined up at both ends of the spectrum. What remains important – in all cases dealing with foreign invasion, genocide, financial ventures and all other social injustices – is whether or not those we put our trust in as experts or leaders, have instilled within them, some sort of humility that places overconfidence in check.
Another inspirational video from TED. American Composer, Eric Whitacre, shares the story behind his “Virtual Choir” project.
Props to the editor and audio engineer on the finished piece!
By Tim Gauss
This post is part of RP’s art and media for social change blog series.
Just how far can innovative social media and art be used to increase global awareness of social injustices that otherwise go largely unnoticed? One answer may lie in Emphas.is—a funding platform encouraging photojournalists to pitch their stories and create an open dialogue with potential investors—everyday people who simply believe in the cause without looking for financial profit. In return, these socially conscience supporters receive something more valuable—the shared experience and insight into the creative experience of the photojournalist.
Let us take for example a project proposed by Turkey based photographer Carolyn Drake – recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, the Lange Taylor Documentary Prize, and a Guggenheim fellowship. Carolyn began an in-depth photo-essay surrounding China’s “Go West” policy and the effects on the Uyghurs – a group of Turkic-speaking Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region that takes up one fifth of China’s land mass.
As a means to ascertain more control and utilize natural resources, the Chinese government has established it’s own “manifest destiny;” encouraging loyal Han Chinese to push westward. This in turn forces the Uyghurs to the fringes of their own territory – a place where cultural and religious rights are severely restricted and oppressed.
Birthed in the shadow of the Tibetan struggle for independence from China, the story of the Uyghurs is one worth shedding light on. In her own words, Carolyn “aims to challenge the politically slanted storylines by working toward a compassionate story of the Uyghurs told from inside their world.”
In a recent blog post, Carolyn has also offered a series of “rewards” dependent on the amount donated. These include signed postcards, MP3’s, hand sewn hats, pieces of Hotan jade, archival prints and even the chance to meet with Carolyn for a private workshop or lecture.
Although Emphas.is in its infancy, it appears as though it has established itself as an invaluable funding tool and people are taking notice. Recently, iconic street artist Shepard Fairey has collaborated with the Pine Ridge Billboard Project in creating limited edition prints that raise awareness for the Sioux Nation reservation camp injustices.
What truly sets Emphas.is apart is the fact that it allows for a deeper connection to the project by using a traditional social media tool to make supporters feel like they are more than casual observers.
Get involved in the story: http://emphas.is/
Full article here: http://dlvr.it/LrHGd
Acclaimed social thinker and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell continues to assert that as far as promoting activism goes, social media is not the powerful tool it’s cracked up to be. Despite recent reports that rebels in both Egypt and Tunisia relied heavily on Facebook and Twitter to communicate, Gladwell believes that the websites offer little more value than that:
I mean, in cases where there are no tools of communication, people still get together. So I don’t see that as being… in looking at history, I don’t see the absence of efficient tools of communication as being a limiting factor on the ability of people to socially organize.
Gladwell goes on to point out that social media tools might actually be detrimental to revolutions in that they offer totalitarian governments the opportunity to “spy” on demonstrators.
I have to say, I’m a Malcolm Gladwell fan. I’ve read The Tipping Point and Blink and enjoyed them both. If we were not in the midst of working on a documentary that surveys the power of the Internet as a collaborative tool, I might have to agree with Gladwell. But right now, I still think I’d have to side with Clay Shirky.