Final Project: Comparative Coverage of Tehran University Conference on OWS

Essay can be found here.

Presentation can be viewed here.

And for fun the quasi related Persepolis

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Occupy & Iran Media Visualisation: Flowers and Smart Looking Hats

To your left is my attempt at a visualization of the structure of American and Iranian coverage on the Occupy movement. The stick figures to the right in a circle are the Occupy Wall Street movement, so encircled to represent their ideally leaderless and all inclusive movement.  If this had been a more proper visualization there would have been many more, distinct, groups representing the different camps and the larger network connecting them. The smart looking hats represent professionalization, whereas the flowers represent more grassroots organization. Clouds are representative of more ephemeral networks such as Occupy. Triangles represent a more traditional top-down hierarchical structure.

From the actual Occupy movement the visualization swerves off to examine the three areas of coverage I was examining. A. USA Media — which I characterized by the infamous “basically a vegetable product” and the way in which Occupy protestors have been framed as the dredges of society who desperately need both a shower and a job. The mass media networks are businesses owned by larger corporations, as in the case of the News Corporation owning Fox/Dow Jones and founded by fan favorite Rupert Murdoch. The views disseminated from these networks then impact their viewers who then view Occupy under those same frames.

In Iran mass media is state owned and operated. Those in charge of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting are appointed by the Supreme Leader and the government. This is written into the constitution. Those who are exposed to that media can then take advantage of ‘small’ media, and engage in local discussions regarding dissidence with regime approval. In the light of the post 2009 election protests crackdown overt organizing is too dangerous. Professors and students at Tehran University can leverage the current approval of Occupy to discuss dissidence.

The drawing should probably have one more arrow, as in turn these conversations are then covered in the U.S. media framed by the American government’s relationship with the Iranian government.

Bwoooooosh: A Brief Reflection On My Year At The Center For Civic Media

I came to the MediaLab last September having never taken a class at a liberal arts college or university. My undergraduate career was at Babson College (a business school) and my graduate career has been at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design. Suffice to say, I was not necessarily ready for the learning that was about to hit me in the face.

From Fraser on Habermas to Garnham on capitalism and culture, the first few weeks of Intro To Civic Media provided a veritable baptism into a world I had not previously considered. After all, I was a business guy working in the advertising world—I should have found the readings to be threatening.

Instead, I found them to be enlightening. Moving through Jenkins, Uricchio, Cultural Labor, and Media Ownership all the way to McCarthy, Benford, and Shirky—it didn’t necessarily get easier, but it became more familiar. Being pushed outside a comfort zone in which I had developed my career for the previous seven years was why I came to grad school to begin with.

But it wasn’t just the consumption of these theories that worked my analytical muscles. Twenty three blog posts, two presentations, a six minute animation, two term papers, and over 15,000 words later, I’ve been provided an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve read in the context of my place as a designer and developer in an increasingly more complex world.

Late last night I returned from a trip to Washington, DC where I met with a team of designers at NPR, a political strategist, and a director at the NEA. Approaching those meetings nine months ago would have—most likely—provided marginally fruitful. But with what I’ve been reading about, talking about, writing about, and—most importantly—thinking about over the past two semesters, I felt more ready for the discussions I had than I ever could have been previously.

I hesitate to sway into the realm of cheesy here. I’m not really into that. But I appreciate the opportunity and insight that my professor and my classmates have provided over the past two semesters. It’s been mind-blowing. So thanks.

Bwoooooosh.

A Call For A Visual Revolution: A Tuftean Critique of Occupy and Anti-SOPA/Anti-PIPA Infographics

My final paper can be found in two formats.

Unfortunately, the exhibits/images are a bit scattered. Due to my research trip to DC, I was unable to clean them up in time to deliver the final version. I plan on doing so over the summer.

My final presentation (with notes for most slides) can be found here (6MB PDF).

A Comparative Study of Media Practice Between the Farm Worker Movement and The Dreamer Movement

On the very last day of our course, all students had the opportunity to present their work to the entire class. My final project is a Comparative Study of Media Practice Between the Farm Worker Movement and the Dreamer Movement. By farm worker movement, I largely mean the movements to unionize farm workers during the 1960s, which was spearheaded by Cesar Chavez’ United Farm Workers (formerly National Farm Workers Association). The Dreamer Movement refers specifically to a section of the contemporary immigrant’s rights movement, that is mostly led by undocumented youth who are eligible for the Dream Act.

In order to engage in a comparative study of the media practice of two very distinct eras, I first attempted to map the historical and political contexts from which each movement emerged. For example, the Farm Worker Movement really took rise as the Bracero Program, a guest worker program between the U.S. and Mexico, came to an end. There had been previous attempt by other unions to organize farm workers in the 1950s, but they largely failed because the Bracero Program ensured that cheap labor from Mexico flowed into the country, leading to lower wages in the agriculture industry.

Similarly, it is important to note that during the course of the Dreamer Movement, after the Dream Act was first introduced in August of 2001, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center occurred on 9/11, sending a shock wave of anti-foreigner sentiment and xenophobia throughout the country. This shock wave stopped the Dream Act dead in its tracks and led to the mobilization of countless undocumented youth in the Dreamer Movement. Another factor that I consider is the spillover from other social movements into each respective movement.

The other parts of my presentation included a discussion of the organization structures of both movements, a brief taxonomy of the types of media that I consider, similarities in organizing strategy repertoire, mapping media ecologies, and preliminary findings. To find out more about my project, look for a future blog that includes the final paper.

Organizational Structure of the NFWA/UFW Over Time

One of the last exercises during our Networked Social Movements course involved creating visual charts of the organizational structures of the groups/case studies that would comprise our final project for the course. Using a whiteboard and dry erase markers, students were encouraged to creatively and visually draw comparative diagrams that could shed light on each topic. My final project involves a comparative study between the Farm Worker Movement of the 1960s and the Immigrants’ Rights Movement in the new millennium.  Because both of these movements comprise vast amounts of groups and individuals, my project focuses specifically on the National Farm Workers Association/United Farm Workers (NFWA/UFW) and the Dreamer Movement. The NFWA was a farm worker union and the direct predecessor of the UFW, which was founded by Cesar Chavez and other organizers in 1962. The Dreamer Movement, is the name of the movement led by undocumented youth that are seeking to enact the Dream Act. As part of this course exercise, I was able to map out the organization structures of both the NFWA/UFW and the Dreamer movement, which help to inform my particular emphasis on media practice and how structures impact media use and consumption. The images from my illustrations can be found below, along with further explanation and analysis. However, please take note that this exercise was for educational purposes, and the final project will contain better explanation of dynamics, terms, and structures.

The picture above shows the entire visualization of the organizational structures of the NFWA/UFW and Dreamer Organization. There are many symbols in the drawings that were inserted later at the request of our instructor, Professor Sasha Costanza-Chock. These symbols were mostly presented as binaries, however hybrids also exist. They are as follows: Circle = Horizontal Organization vs. Triangle = Top Down, Cloud = Informal Organization vs. Hat = Formal Organization, and Flower = Activism vs. Gavel = Legislative vs. Flaming Gavel = Activism and Legislative. These may not make much sense now, but hopefully with examples below, they will…

NFWA/UFW

The picture above shows how in 1962, the National Farm Workers Association was mostly a top-down organization, with Cesar Chavez clearly being the leader. However, it should be noted that the NFWA was one of the first farm worker unions that actually included farm workers in the governing and decision making process, at the request of Chavez. For this reason there are arrows coming from the farm workers at the bottom, towards the middle leaderships and staff, and up to Chavez, and back down again, in a reciprocal fashion. Upper leadership are wearing hats because they were professional, who were trained as organizers. For example, Dolores Huerta was a college educated former school teacher, who was trained as an organizer. At this point, the NFWA used both grassroots and legislative means to promote change, hence the flaming gavel.

The era begging in 1966, with the Delano Grape Strike, signaled the biggest change in the NFWA’s organization structure. Shifting the conversations away from the term “union” and adopting the term “movement,” and also framing a labor dispute as “la causa” or “the cause” truly transformed the UFW’s capacity to achieve its goals. In the illustration above, it can be seen that the NFWA became inclusive of a variety of other groups, while maintaining most of the structure that was previously in place. Framed as a movement, the UFW was able to tap into the informal demographics of radical protesters and activists that were being mobilized by the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. South, The Free Speech Movement, and the Anti-War Movement. Furthermore, by opening up their ranks to students, media creators, activists, and sympathizers, the NFWA/UFW was able to find fruition in the diverse ideas and perspectives that came with that openness. This dynamic is what undoubtedly led to the UFW’s success in unionizing farm workers, notes organizer and Harvard Professor Marshall Ganz in his book “Why David Sometimes Wins.” This dynamic was new and fresh, and no other union in California at the time thought of taking this approach in building public support.  One the other hand, the shift towards a top-down model once more in the late 70s and early 80s is what ultimately signaled the decline of the UFW as a farm worker union. Not only did the UFW shift into a top-down organization in the 1980s, but it became less inclusive than before, as it lacked the farm worker member base as it shifted towards advocacy over organizing/unionizing.

An examination of the organizational structure of the Dreamer Movement will be compared to the structure of the UFW in my final project, especially as it relates to the capacity to engage in media practice.