Twenty Ten: Spotlight on African journalism

The recently launched website Twenty Ten provides an African perspective of football, its social and cultural role in Africa and the upcoming World Cup in South Africa. The site showcases photography, text, radio and multimedia content created by African journalists. I highly recommend the multimedia production Our Soweto pitch by Samantha Reinders, the photo series Arab representation by Mohamed Abdou and the radio broadcast Football and academics by Rosemary Mroba Gaisie.

Everyone is a Curator

On Saturday at Paradiso, the symposium 'me you and everyone we know is a curator' will explore the issue of quality in a time of visual abundance, in a search "for new quality criteria, new frames of references, and alternative methods for enabling connections between the virtual and the physical space of today's culture." I'll be in attendance to write about some of the lectures. More to come...

A Gathering of Women

Picture 3 Earlier this year, I became involved in the project Voices of Our Future with the organization World Pulse Media to help train women around the world to use social media as a tool for social change. A group of 31 women participated in an online training course in citizen journalism and I was honored to work with six of them as an Editorial Midwife, helping them research, write, and present their voices to a growing community.

The women I mentored came from Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Alaska, Kenya, and Saudi Arabia. Over the months, our friendship grew and I learned what citizen journalism is really about as they wrote about life in their communities and they issues they face: female genital mutilation, access to information, youth suicide, social inequality, and other subjects. Many of these women struggle to sound their voice in the face of oppressive regimes or smothering patriarchs, but they are determined not to be silenced.

On Sunday, the women submitted their final articles and I was awed by the transformation that had taken place in the period of a few months. These women are emerging writers that are eager to share their experiences of life, their communities, and their struggles and successes as women in the world. I hope you're listening.

Killed by the Internet

The internet wields its power to revive and destroy, but the destruction that it brings is not always negative. A recent article in the Telegraph looks at 50 things that are being killed by the internet. The humorous ones:

#4 Sarah Palin (I can only hope)

#22 Enforceable copyright

#34 Mainstream media

#44 Trust in Nigerian businessmen and princes

The sad ones:

#13 Memory

#14 Dead time

#50 Your lunchbreak

Distinctly German


At one time three-quarters of German television viewers tuned in. Now, when cable channels atomize viewers, more than seven million people still make a ritual of turning off their phones and getting together on Sundays at 8:15 p.m. for an hour and a half to catch the show at home or in bars, some of which, “Tatort” hangouts, receive advance DVDs so fans can pause the action before the killer is unveiled and collectively try to guess who did it.

New York Times article about the German crime series Tatort, started in 1970 and still widely popular. It's part of my Sunday evening routine and my favorite way to practice German. Es ist fantastisch.

To Take the Stage

01 02


Personas, a Metropath(ologies) exhibit by the MIT Media Lab, creates a portrait of online identities according to algorithms that scour the web. A great concept, created by Aaron Zinman, and I was eager to see how it painted me. After entering my name, a quick check aggregated relevant online data and created a somewhat vague description of a person that is associated with books, news, online, and legal. Me, supposedly. Or, at least, the online version. The beautiful 'problem' is that my name brings up many references to 'Carly Simon' or 'Cameron Diaz', but the influence of mischaracterizations is part of the whole concept. Interestingly, this depends on the analysis, for every time I entered my name, I received a different assessment. A nice reflection of the liveness of the online world.

"It is meant for the viewer to reflect on our current and future world where digital histories are as important - if not more important - than oral histories, and computational methods of condensing our digital traces are opaque and socially ignorant - for now. Fortunes are sought through data-mining vast information repositories, and this kind of data is indispensable but far from infallible."

In Latin, the word persōna carries with it a connotation of the theatre, which is often carried over into the English use of the word. The persona is the mask or character that the actor assumes before taking the stage, or our public face. As individuals living out our lives (often simultaneously) in local and online spheres, this concept enters a new dimension where the multitude of scenes requires us to approach in full character at the blink of an eye. On LinkedIn, I am a professional. On my blog, I am a curious writer. On my bike, I am a local. At work, I am focused. At home, I am everything and nothing. This fascinating and sometimes exhausting fact of life isn't anything new. Anyone who has ever read a Jane Austen book sees the extent to which social expectations dictate the intricacies of our interactions. Propriety and sensibility become attuned to the expectations and norms of society and the responses they demand. We adorn ourselves in the proper persona in order to join the dance, to take the stage, which has been set before and the lines have been memorized. As T.S. Eliot said, 'Humankind cannot bear very much reality.' So, we assume our positions, even online.

Them and Everyone Else


"Although Wikipedia has prevented anonymous users from creating new articles for several years now, the new flagging system crosses a psychological Rubicon. It will divide Wikipedia’s contributors into two classes — experienced, trusted editors, and everyone else — altering Wikipedia’s implicit notion that everyone has an equal right to edit entries."

New York Times article about the implementation of an editorial review requirement for changes made to the entries about living people.

The Longest Way to Heimat

[youtube=] As the opening frames reveal, Christoph Rehage planned to walk from Beijing to Germany (his homeland). This time lapse chronicles his journey from Beijing to Ürümqi, as part of his ongoing quest in the 'search for a place called home' that is now counting in at roughly 4 years, 7 months and 6 days. Not only is the time lapse beautiful, but the entire project is reminiscent of the (coincidentally) German concept of Heimat. The word 'Heimat' doesn't really have an English equivalent, but is usually translated as 'home' or 'homeland'. In media theory, it is often used as a reference point against the sense of absence induced by diaspora, urbanization, or personal isolation. Heimat is the ideal, the place that incurs nostalgia and is encapsulated in memories.

The Czech philosopher Vilém Flusser placed the emphasis more on the 'who' of the Heimat than the physical place itself. Although the sounds, smell, and sight of a homeland are of great importance, ultimately it is the people that make it so. I guess the beautiful thing about The Longest Way is the recognition that any search for home has to start with one's self. And maybe you will grow a grand beard and find Love (2:35) along the way.

Tangible Media and Digital Technology

New Yorker cover I recently enjoyed a Vanity Fair article by James Wolcott on the demise of public displays of cultural snobbery as "Kindles, iPods, and flash drives swallow up the visible markers of superior tastes and intelligence." Wolcott described the process of observation, analysis, and judgment we make (often mistakenly) on others and the media they consume in public spaces.

"A tall, straw-thin model glides into seated position and extracts a copy of concentration-camp survivor Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning from her bag, instantly making an onlooker (me) feel rebuked for assuming she was vacuous and self-centered based on her baby-ostrich stare."

This reminded me of a New Yorker cover by Adrian Tomine, a beautiful example of the connection strangers feel when they discover a shared sensibility, literature in this case. The awareness of a missed connection is eclipsed by the warmth of a momentary intellectual affinity.

Some may value the reclaimed storage space over the mounds of books or old records, while others resist the push to digitize their media sources entirely or partially. For my part, the convenience and accessibility of digitized information is without dispute. But when it comes to books, part of my appreciation for reading stems from the sensory experience that the materiality of the hard copy brings. Yet, electronic paper and eInk are fascinating technologies in themselves, and it's impossible to separate even a hard copy from a technological process entirely, something N. Katherine Hayles discusses in her book My Mother was a Computer. Her article on Electronic Literature emphasizes that instead of a debate over print or digital, this emerging genre deserves a discussion of its own while acknowledging its historical relationship with the print world. And we can happily keep our shelves lined with books while still recognizing a new manifestation in the field of writing.

These were some of my thoughts as I read through the article, so I was quite pleased when Simon told me about a book-sensitive reading lamp.  The lamp is illuminated when uncovered, but turns off when a book is placed over it. It's a nice example that the relationship between tangible media and technology can sometimes be reversed, with the former dictating the use of the latter.

Lamp OnLamp Off

Henry Jenkins on Participatory Culture

henry jenkins In this video, Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture and director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, discusses the role

"As we moved into the 20th Century [...] images now belong to major media companies who claim exclusive ownership of it. What we're seeing is in the digital age, as the public began to take media in its own hands and began to assert its right to retell those stories, the public are taking the media without the permission of copyright owners and innovating, experimenting, recontextualizing, responding to those images in new ways."

He continues to discuss that this participatory culture has created a complex mediascape that has the potential to further propel the diversification of the world. Phone cameras, text messages and open forums have the potential not just to upend politics, reshape entertainment, and expose the life of the 'average' person, but it also can push forward human rights by offering a platform to the most oppressed segments of society.