Web v. Paper: On Serendipity

May 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

A few weeks ago, I attended the Women in the Forefront luncheon hosted by the Chicago Network, an organization that advocates for women in business leadership in Chicago. The keynote speaker was Ann S. Moore, the Chairman and CEO of Time, Inc.

Moore shared many wise points and witticisms in her speech, like the connection between a weak economy and searches for tuna casserole on the Internet, the importance of dinner time with family, and advised us all to get a compass in place of the clock. She lifted her glass to economic recovery, more women leaders, less tuna casserole, and more sunshine and serendipity.

She also shared her fear about the precarious state of America’s newspapers.  She reminded us that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is Freedom of the Press, and that democracy is possible only when citizens have access to information. While the Internet is a wonderful source of information, she warned that too much unfiltered information is overwhelming.

She criticized the trend of citizen journalism, saying that the sacrifices and risks that professional journalists make is undervalued. They go to war-torn countries and put themselves in danger to provide regular citizens with a complete story, while, Moore argues, most citizen journalists plagiarize their work. This is a rather harsh generalization, and while I do think that citizen journalism has a place, I couldn’t agree more that we need to protect the profession of journalism and ensure that it continues to be a viable career choice. We need to support the brave men and women on the front lines of getting first-hand accounts of world events.

About serendipity, Moore worries about the younger generations will not have the experience of reading the newspaper and stumbling randomly across stories and information. She asked us “how do you look for something when you don’t know what you’re looking for?”

This made me think of young people I have worked with in recent years who refused to read the hard copy version of their reading assignments. They complained that that got ink on their fingers! I would always counsel them that they will miss important details that they didn’t know they were looking for. Moore describes reading a hard copy newspaper as a serendipitous process, which I think very apt.

I’m always eager to learn about new technology. While I identify as an early adopter, I would qualify that by saying that I am also conservative about it. I will only actively adopt technology if I think it is a useful tool and will seamlessly fit into my already incredibly full information consumption routine.

Technology is convenient, and I admit, like those young researchers, I have become lazy in how I rely on technology to push information to me. Serendipity to me these days is reading my Twitter and RSS feeds, or listening to my podcasts. I lament that I am no longer in the habit of reading a morning news paper. I think I might go old-school, and be a minority on the bus in the morning, reading my paper with ink-stained fingers.

Crisis and Opportunity: Making Media Connections Conference

June 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

#mmc2009

I had a fantastic day volunteering at the Making Media Connections conference.  Chicago is the epicenter of civically engaged journalists, techies, and media activists. The world of journalism is experiencing tectonic shifts, being impacted by the recession and trends in technology and social media, and the presentations at the conference was all about how this professional community is responding to those shifts. It is truly at a crisis moment. I have heard that the Japanese word for crisis also means opportunity, which in this case is a very apt translation.

One of the exciting things that came out of this conference was the intersection of different professional worlds coming together that had never had the occasion to do so before. Particularly, I am excited about the non-profit and media community coming together. It makes sense that in this time of crisis and opportunity the worlds of philanthropy, advocacy, and media would connect. Out of this intersection, a creative response is growing in terms of the creation of new tools and innovative ways to use them to create social change.

There is no doubt that social media tools have the potential of being co-opted by corporate conglomerates, and to a certain degree we can only expect that to happen. The panel on media policy that I attended emphasized that we still need to focus on accessibility issues for existing and established technologies (public TV, radio, and print media), and make sure that the public maintains the ability to produce their own content and keep access to a variety of information resources.

However, there was so much optimism about the potential to use social media tools to do good and not evil, it is easy to believe that out of this convergence of activists, community organizers, policy wonks, non-profit leaders, journalists, bloggers, and many others that something really exciting and good is being born. People were able to share their challenges and successes, building collaborative solutions to complex problems.

Community activists of all persuasions need to be vigilant in participating in the process of developing media policy. The issues of net neutrality, low power FM radio, and public access TV should be in sharp focus for all of us.

These are indeed exciting times. Darkness certainly looms as people are being laid off and companies are going into bankruptcy. But hope and inspiration abound as people build their own companies, become consultants, or create innovative jobs in response to the shifting economy. I was thrilled to meet so many optimistic activists and learn about the incredible work they are all doing.

Making Media Connections: The New News

June 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

(#net2chi #mmc2009)

Last night NetSquared Chicago had a special Net Tuesday event to kick off the Making Media Connections conference hosted by Community Media Workshop. This should be a great event that addresses the incredible and fast-moving changes in the world of journalism. While this event has obvious appeal to people in the field of journalism and media communications, every citizen who is interested in journalism’s role deomcratic process will be interested in the contet of this event.

At the Net Tuesday kick-off, we had a preview of a new report that Community Media Workshop is unveiling: The New News: journalism we want and need. This thorough report compiles the results of a survey of news organizations in the Chicago area that are using social media and new technology tools to reach their audience. I believe this report is the first of it’s kind, and no doubt the list will continue to grow.

Tomorrow I will be liveblogging two panels at the conference. You can follow along here. Also follow the hash tag #mmc2009 on Twitter.

Slacktivism, Shmacktivism!

May 22, 2009 § 3 Comments

How Social Media Activists are Changing the World

I have seen and heard a lot of nay-saying lately in the media about social networking tools, to which I feel compelled to respond. Within the last week I’ve encountered at least three different critiques about tools the likes of Twitter and Facebook, accusing thier users of  “slacktivism,” like this opinion piece by John Ridley, who says that People who use Twitter are hypocrites, or the piece in Foreign Policy which claims that the tools foster “feel-good online activism that has zero political or social impact.”

To this I say “pshaw!” I can say first hand that these tools have real impact, especially when it comes to community organizing and raising awareness of issues. I work in the nonprofit world, where social benefit organizations are exploring the exploding number of communication tools available to see how they can be used to motivate people into action, whether it is getting out news, inviting people to an event, informing people of volunteer service opportunities, or encouraging folks to make charitable contributions. Getting people engaged with these tools is the whole reason they are so successful.

Last winter, I went to a rally at the Center on Halsted when Fred Phelps and his clan were in town ready to hurl their anti-gay hatred at this wonderful Chicago institution. One of the primary ways the organizers were able to get the word out was through Facebook and Twitter. Over 200 people showed up, and we successfully delivered the message to Phleps & Co that hate is not welcome here.

Right now, marriage equality activists are organizing and communicating with each other about local actions when the Supreme Court decision in California that is announced on Tuesday, May 26th. Through online tools, we are getting the word out and as a result people are going to hit the streets all over the country on Tuesday night.

Next week in San Jose, CA, people from all over the world are gathering for the NetSquared conference, which is all about the use of social technologies for progressive social change. People representing all types of nonprofit organizations that are working for environmental justice, human rights, and world peace are coming together to learn from each other and collaborate. The projects they work on include Handheld Human Rights, which uses technology tools to document human rights abuses in Burma, and PublicStuff.org, a mobile application that enables citizens to make meaningful connections with their local government leaders and hold them accountable to meet needs in their communities.

There’s also the example of the Sunlight Foundation which promotes the creation and use of online tools to improve access to government information. The Sunlight Foundation promotes tools like Filibusted, which allows users to keep track of which senators have used the filibuster to stall debate, and Know Thy Congressman, a widget that convenietly provides very useful information about any congressperson, including their voting record.

Social media is more than just Twitter and Facebook, and though those are wonderful community organizing tools, too, there are so many more under development. Activists all over the world have used and created these tools to raise visibility for their issues. These are not perfect mediums, and they are only as good as the people who use them. 

Finally, as I was writing this post, I learned via Twitter that the prolific nonprofit blogger Beth Kanter wrote a post for Mashable about how social media is changing the nonprofit landscape. Her examples further illustrate the point I am making.

Nay-sayers be darned! Social media tools are helping activists change the world.

Following the Nonprofit Technology Network Conference ( #09NTC )

April 26, 2009 § Leave a comment

At the very moment I am writing these words, the 2009 NTEN conference is getting underway in San Francisco. While I am very jealous of all of my friends who are there, I will be attending virtually from Chicago.

NTEN is a wonderful resource for nonprofit professionals, and the conference (though I have never been) is a great networking and learning opportunity. Luckily for those of us who can’t be there, we can network from here, connecting to people via Twitter and others who are liveblogging.

There are a number of ways to follow the conference sessions, which can be found here. Even if you can’t tune in live for the podcasts and vidcasts, some of the sessions will be available after the conference.

I heard recently that when you are seeking professional development opportunities that you should connect with people who are not like you, who have different strengths, perspectives and skill sets. This seems like good advice whether it’s personal or professional growth that you seek. I’m grateful to NTEN for helping to make this possible through technology tools. It’s an incredible resource and opportunity for cross pollination of ideas.

Inspiring Career Building Resources

April 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

Finding Wisdom and Opportunity Trough Information Tools and Social Networks

Inspired by people I have encountered who are using technology tools to do good works and create positive social change, I created this blog. As is usually the case with my creative process, I wasn’t entirely sure where this would lead me.

Out of an interest in gathering and sharing information and adopting new tools and methods of gathering and sharing information, I have slowly built an online identity and network. People that I connect with via online tools are in a variety of professions supporting all kinds of organizations. Many are fundraisers, like me. Some are librarians, civil rights activists, volunteers, journalists, bloggers, programmers, environmentalists, or some cross section of all of those.

I explore these tools and meet people who share my interest in using technology tools to build community and create opportunities for social action. All of this has had and indirect connection to my daily work as director of a prospect research shop for a major university, though occasionally I encounter tools and resources that I can bring to the office. For the most part, however, I have regarded this as a personal interest.

In the last two weeks, the professional functionality of my online exploration has come to fruition. Since finding myself unexpectedly in a job search, I have the opportunity to integrate the personal with the professional as I am wont to do. I am glad that I invested the time in creating my online presence, and I am grateful to my friends and colleagues who have encouraged me to do so.

For the first time, I included my blog on my resume. In getting the word out about my job search I have received communications of encouragement and opportunity through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and this blog, and I am actively networking through these tools to meet people and to connect others whom I know are like me seeking opportunities. I have found even more resources for professional development and career exploration:

I know the potential of information technology and social networks, and the intersection of the two is where creativity and inspiration generate knowledge, wisdom, and action. I find myself with the unique opportunity to learn new applications for the technology tools I have been exploring and for the skill set that I have acquired over my career as an information manager in the fundraising world. While unemployment is not a situation that I wished for, I am excited about the new road that I am on.

Following Proposition 8 Protests Today

November 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

While I haven’t been able to give as much time and attention to these protests as I would have liked, it is clear that the Internet has changed activism and grassroots organzing.

The nation-wide action was organized by grassroots movements in communities everywhere using Internet tools. I found the protest here through the Join the Impact website, which had resources and links to local websites, blogs, and Facebook pages. Word has been spread by Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed. I found many resources here in Chicago, including Chicago Against Prop 8, and the Great Lakes Against Prop 8 (GLAP8 – gotta work on that acronym).

Almost overnight I connected with old friends and made new ones, all of us in far flung locations acting in solidarity for marriage equality.

Today, I will be one of the featured livebloggers at the many rallies around the country.

All of the action and planning has inspired and reinvigorated me! I am eager to see the results of our efforts, and I will be sure to report on it here.

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