After a bit of a hiatus, Herb & Lace is up and running again, just in time for the new year. This month, I wrote about emerging Georgian singer-songwriter Tinatin Shurgaia, whose operatic vocals and trip-hoppy beats are currently blasting on my speakers.
I returned to Tbilisi, Georgia this week to teach a one-week digital journalism course at the Tavisupleba Media School. The Tavisupleba Media School, which opened this year, is funded by USAID and IREX and managed by Radio Tavisupleba. The school offers a one-year journalism certificate program and an internship program. I worked primarily with the school’s first class of certificate students, who are wrapping up their program this month, although I also had a chance to give a lecture to the internship students.
My syllabus focused on social media and multimedia journalism. Specifically, we covered:
Best practices for managing Facebook Pages, Facebook profiles with Subscribe, and Twitter
Using social media as a research tool
Social media workflow tools (Hootsuite) and URL shorteners (bit.ly)
Mapping (Google Maps)
Data analysis and visualization (Google Spreadsheets)
Audio sharing (Soundcloud)
Surveys (Google Forms)
Social media curation and storytelling (Storify)
We covered a lot of material in five days, especially considering that the students were completely new to social media journalism and online multimedia tools. They were thrilled to learn about new platforms for presenting their stories in a visually compelling, interactive format.
For their final projects, I asked my students to tell a story using at least one of the tools we covered in class. Here is a selection of some of their projects:
It was a delight to work with this enthusiastic group of young, budding journalists. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish as they set off on their new careers as part of the next generation of Georgian journalists. I will be returning to Georgia next summer to spend two weeks with the next class of journalism certificate students!
This week, I traveled to Moscow with my colleague Glenn Kates to train a bureau of journalists on digital reporting techniques and tools.
Yesterday, there were small opposition protests marking the 49th birthday of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s, the Russian former billionaire who was imprisoned on what most observers believe were trumped up, politically-motivated charges. We used the rallies as a way to put our trainees to practice, giving them the opportunity to use social media for live event coverage. We helped a reporter live-tweet the event with short updates, photos, and videos. We also worked with journalists back at the bureau on how to take those updates and integrate them with Twitter, Facebook, and their website.
Here’s a Storify we put together as the rallies unfolded:
Alexis Madrigal skewers the New York Times for a story claiming that e-books are inherently more distracting than paper books. (I’ve criticizedNYTbefore for their alarmist stories about technology). He takes a paragraph from the story and replaces all references to technology with references to the “analog” world:
The telephone lurks tantalizingly in reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through yelling loudly across the room to someone who might know the answer. And some of the millions of people who have ever picked up a book only to put it back down again a few minutes have come away with the conclusion: It’s hard to sit down and focus on reading.
Yep, the analog world can be pretty darn distracting, too. The different is that we tend to fixate on newer types of distraction. But this techno-alarmism makes no room for the possibility that humans can adapt and find new coping strategies. I’d say that’s a pretty pessimistic and inflexible view of human potential.
I was invited to speak at the first-ever TEDxTbilisi on February 11, 2012. I gave a talk about social media, civil society, and the dangers of making sweeping assumptions about the web. My fellow TEDsters spoke about everything ranging from winemaking to the nature of creativity. I’ve embedded my presentation here below, but you can watch all of the talks on YouTube.
After I gave this talk, I came across a manifesto by Polish writer Piotr Czerski called My, dzieci sieci–”We, the Web Kids” in English. One assertion in particular really resonated with me:
The Web to us is not a technology which we had to learn and which we managed to get a grip of. The Web is a process, happening continuously and continuously transforming before our eyes; with us and through us. Technologies appear and then dissolve in the peripheries, websites are built, they bloom and then pass away, but the Web continues, because we are the Web; we, communicating with one another in a way that comes naturally to us, more intense and more efficient than ever before in the history of mankind.
I love the idea of the web as a process; that’s the argument I was getting at in my TEDx talk. People who make all-knowing generalizations are committing the grave error of seeing the web as a static phenomenon, trapped by the limitations of the present. This has nothing to do with being a cyber-optimist or a cyber-pessimist; rather, it involves recognizing that the only constant is change.
This past week, Prague has been swept up in the 14th One World Film Festival, the world’s largest human rights film festival. The Social Innovation competition is part of One World, and focuses on the ways NGOs and activists are using new technologies for social impact. I was on the jury of this year’s competition, along with Gregory Asmolov and Ondrej Zapletal. The projects nominated this year hailed from places as diverse as the United States and Kenya, and encompassed mapping, social networking, and crowdsourcing.
Last night we were proud to announce that the winner is Liza Alert: an incredibly inspiring project out of Russia that is using online organization to find lost children. Gregory Asmolov wrote an article about this project for Global Voices, summarizing why it has been so effective:
The case of Liza Alert demonstrates the triple role of networked organizations. It includes:
Increasing transparency around a specific problem and putting this problem on the local and state agenda.
Putting the issue on the agenda and engaging people forces the government to find solutions for a certain problem thus holding authorities accountable.
If the government is not acting, people use the internet for coordination of collective actions that are able to fill the gap caused by the authorities’ lack of accountability, and solve the problem based on volunteer resources alone.
There are a lot of really interesting digital media projects out there, but sometimes they fall short when it comes to evaluating real impact. Liza Alert is a great case study in how sorts of citizen-driven, online initiatives are supposed to work.
I’m proud to announce that I am writing for a new lifestyle blog called Herb & Lace. Herb & Lace launched on Valentine’s Day of 2012 and features women from cities across the world writing about the things they love most: travel, food, design, fashion, and more.
I will be contributing every Sunday.
My first post went live today – it’s my must-see list for the beautiful city of Tbilisi, Georgia. I was invited to speak at TEDxTbilisi in February and therefore had the chance to see this lovely gem of a city. I’ve chronicled some of my favorite sights and eats from that fantastic (but all too short) trip.
Are there cases when it is not advisable to publish pictures of death and suffering? Where is the line between education and sensationalism?
I believe that good journalism challenges our preconceived notions and stirs us out of complacency. Often, that means using graphic images to shed light on the brutal reality of war, natural disasters, or human suffering. However, these images must be put into context and not just peddled for shock value.
This video is from December 2010, but before yesterday I had never actually watched it in its entirety. It was a powerful 15 minutes because I recognized some of my own insecurities in the types of behavior Sheryl Sandberg describes.
One thing I noticed, whenever the camera panned out over the crowd, was that Sheryl seemed to be speaking to an audience composed mostly (though not entirely) of middle-aged White women. To me, this represents one major deficit in the proliferation of conversations surrounding women in leadership. The discussions often feel like they are dominated by one particular segment of women, when in reality the problem goes much deeper than gender.
When I look around at my peers and feel isolated, it’s not just because I am a woman: it is also because I am Black, and mixed-race. While there is certainly a dearth of women in leadership positions (and in technology), there are even fewer women of color. For people like me, a conversation that’s focused solely on gender is missing out on a huge part of the equation.
I have a column up on Partisans about the pitfalls of the mainstream human trafficking narrative. I argue that in order to effectively combat human trafficking, we must move beyond the simplistic portrayals common in the media and popular discourse.
Currently, the dominant discourse is skewed by a semi-voyeuristic preoccupation with sex trafficking that ignores the complexities of this multifaceted, international problem. The problem is not that awareness of human trafficking is low; quite the contrary. The problem is that human trafficking is presented to the public in a superficial way, often based on flawed or questionable statistics. There are extremely negative consequences to this framing, from ineffective policies to laws that actually harm the vulnerable groups they are intended to protect.
Jim Clancy, a CNN International correspondent and anchor, had some very thoughtful comments about this issue. Check out the comments section on my article to see the conversation unfold.