media consciousness

Open Source Search Technology

Pattern ID: 
431
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
125
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People rely on search engines to find the information they need on the web. The motivation, however, of the groups providing search engines is securing profits for their owners; other motives necessarily and inevitably take a back seat. The negative implications of relying solely on commercial search engines, though vast, are generally not recognized. If the enormous gatekeeping potential of commercial search engines is not balanced with open and accountable public approaches, the ability to find non-commercial information including that which doesn't appeal to broad audiences or is critical of governments and other powerful institutions could conceivably disappear. The privatization of the means to access information could also lead to a situation where advertisements and other "sponsored" information could crowd out non-commercial information.

Context: 

People in their daily lives need, search for — and find — a tremendous amount of information. Increasingly, they are looking for this information in cyberspace. While Internet technology has opened up an unbelievably vast amount of information and opportunities for communication for millions of people worldwide, the very fact that we are relying on technology which is out of our control is cause for concern — if not alarm. Although the application of this pattern is relevant to any system that people use to find information, our immediate attention is drawn to the Interne which is poised to become increasingly dominant in the years ahead.

Discussion: 

Access to information can be made easier; barriers to obtaining the information that people need can, at least in theory, be anticipated and circumvented. But, like the chain whose ultimate strength is determined by its weakest link, access to information can be thwarted at many levels. Although non-public (commercial and otherwise) providers of information and communication services can be "good citizens" who prioritize the needs of their users, the temptation to become less civil may prove irresistible if and when the "market" suggests that uncivic behavior would result in higher revenue. In circumstances such as those, they may decide to relax their current high standards accordingly. Big web portals are, for example, becoming increasingly cooperative with the Chinese government, presumably because of the huge market which potentially exists there. One approach to addressing this problem, an open source / public domain classification system similar to that used in the public libraries in the U.S. and other places coupled with open source, community owned and operated search engines, is simultaneously defensive and forward looking. Defensive, because it could serve as a hedge against information deprivation and commodification. Forward looking, because this approach could help usher in an exciting new wave of experimentation in the era of access to information. As the development of the Internet itself has demonstrated, the "open source" nature can help motivate and spur usage in terms of the complementary tasks of classifying information and retrieving it easily. Existing classification approaches like the Dewey Decimal System also have limitations (Anglo-centrism, for example) and approaches like Dewey are not strictly speaking in the public domain (although Dewey is readily licensable). Nevertheless the Dewey system might serve as at least a partial model. Schemes that are well-known, such as the Dewey Decimal system allow everybody to communicate more quickly and with less cost. It is the open protocol nature of the Internet that has allowed and promoted easy and inexpensive ways to not only get connected, but to develop new applications that relied on the underlying, no license fee, protocols. Computing and the potentially ubiquitous availability of online environments provide intriguing possibilities that older approaches didn't need or anticipate. The Dewey Decimal system, for example, tacitly assumes a physical arrangement of books — the code assigned by the librarian or technicians using the system declares both the book's classification and the location it will occupy in the library. Although having a single value is not without advantages, an online environment opens the door for multiple tags for a single web page — or for finer-grained elements (a paragraph, for example, on a web page or the results of a database query) or, broader-grained collections of elements. A federated collection of link servers (Poltrock and Schuler, 1995) could assist in this. As far as search engines are concerned, civil society can hardly be expected to compete with Google's deep pockets and its acres of server farms. Yet, it may be possible to distribute expertise, knowledge, and computational capacity in such a way that a competitive "People's Google" ("Poogle?) becomes conceivable. The idea of a single organization within civil society that can even remotely approach Google's phenomenal computing resources is of course absurd. But so in general is the idea of civil society "taming" the most powerful and entrenched forces and institutions. The problem here, though chiefly technological, is very similar to the one that civil society faces every day: How can a large number of people sharing similar (though not identical visions) work together voluntarily without central authority (or centralized support), undertake a project and succeed with large, complex undertakings. The "answer" though diffuse, incomplete and sub-optimal is for the "workload" — including identifying, discussing and analyzing problems to devising responses to the problems — to be divvied up — as "intelligently" as possible — so people, doing only "pieces" of the whole job can be successful in their collective enterprise. This strategy is much easier to define and implement in the technological realm. One very successful example of this is the SETI@home project that employs the "idle" cycles of user's computers all over the world to analyze radio telescope data in a search for extraterrestrial intelligence. If, for example, one million computers working together on the people's search project, could devote some amount of processing power and storage to the project, the concept might suddenly become more feasible. Although it would be possible for every participating computer to run the same software, breaking up the tasks and distributing them across a large number of computers (thus allowing us to "divide and conquer") is likely to provide the most suitable architecture for a People's Search Engine. For one thing this allows dynamic re-apportioning of tasks: Changing the type of specialization that a computer is doing to make the overall approach more effective. At the beginning of "Poogle's" life, for example, half of the computers might be devoted to finding (or "spidering") and indexing websites while the other half might work on identifying which web sites meet the users' search criteria and presenting a list of pertinent results to the user. After a week or so, it may become clear that the first task (identifying and indexing sites) may require less attention overall while the second task (handling user search requests) desperately needs more processing power. In this situation, some of the computers working on the first task could be re-assigned to the second task. Of course this situation might become reversed the following week and another adjustment would be necessary. In a similar way, the contents of indexes could be shifted from computer to computer to make more effective use of available disk space more efficiently while providing enough redundancy to ensure that the entire system works efficiently even though individual computers are being shut down or coming online all the time and without advance notice. The People's Search Engine (PSE) would make all of its ordering / searching algorithms public. Google's page-ranking algorithm is fairly widely known, yet Google has adjusted it over the years to prevent it from being "gamed" in various ways by people who hope to increase the visibility of their web pages by "tricking" the algorithm to gain a higher page rank than the Google gods would bestow. Ideally the PSE would offer a variety of search approaches of arbitrary complexity to users. Thus people could use an existing, institutionalized classification scheme like the Dewey Decimal System or a personalized, socially-tagged "folksonomy" approach, a popularity approach a la Google, a social link approach like Amazon ("People who searched for X also searched for Y") or searches based on (and/or constrained by) "meta-information" about the pages, such as author, domain, publisher, or date last edited.

Solution: 

The development of "open source," public domain approaches to information access is essential for equity and progress among the people of the world. The possibility of credible competition will serve as a reminder to for-profit concerns that access to information is a sacred human right. It would also help to maintain and extend the patterns of innovation that open protocols have made possible. Among other things, researchers and members of civil society need to work on classification systems for Internet resources. It is imperative that civil society focuses attention on open source approaches to searching, archiving and other information access needs. For many reasons, this will help in the evolving process of opening up the world of information to people everywhere.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

If the gatekeeping of commercial search engines is not balanced with open and accountable public approaches, the ability to find non-commercial information or that which is critical of governments and other powerful institutions could disappear. Open source, public search engines using open classification systems could solve this problem. This could open a new wave of experimentation and remind us that access to information is a sacred human right. 

Pattern status: 
Released

Illegitimate Theater

Pattern ID: 
621
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
123
Mark Harrison
The Evergreen State College
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Theater, viewing and participating in performances, is an ancient yet vital cultural force. Although "legitimate" or mainstream theater has traditionally been a gathering place for the exchange of ideas, it is largely irrelevant in today's world as a tool for social change. Forces which have contributed to this situation include economic factors, dwindling audiences, the talent drain to other mediums, the transformation of audience tastes and expectations as a result of film and television, and the decline of the avant-garde as alternative to legitimate theatre.

Context: 

Illegitimate Theater can be "legimitate" response in almost any setting of ordinary — and extraordinary — life. It can be practiced in any place where an "audience" might be found.

Discussion: 

"Legitimate theater" engages a paying audience sitting inside a theater with the expectation that they will watch the performance of a play or musical. These productions employ conventions normally associated with traditional theater: lights up and down, applause at the end of acts, a proscenium stage, professional actors working with prepared scripts, no significant interaction between performers and spectators.

Less than 2 percent of the population in the United States attends legitimate theater performances.

While legitimate theater has lost much of its relevance to our everyday lives, theater (or performance) in the broad sense is a fundamental human experience. As such it represents a reservoir of immense potential that a mediated experience can rarely provide: the potential for human interaction. Film and video provide a stream of images to watch, but no experiences in which the viewer can actually participate. Everyday life is often a sequence of ordinary, that is expected, events. One's life experiences easily become insulated from important world events — and the possibility of learning from new experiences as well. Ordinariness becomes a form of oppression and a steady dumbing down of society is deleterious to culture and to democracy as well. Performance provides an immediate human experience. Theater — particularly its "illegitimate" varieties — can also punctuate the ordinary and thrust new and unexpected experiences into everyday life. It has the power to bring a person into new, temporary realities in which the self is momentarily forgotten and submerged. Theater can empower the spectator with insight and possibilities.

Baz Kershaw in his insightful study of the British Alternative Theatre Movement over four decades explicitly addresses the role of theater as an instrument of "cultural intervention." His book (1992) "is about the ways in which theater practitioners have tried to change not just the future action of their audiences, but also the structure of the audience's community and the nature of the audience's culture." This pattern affirms Kershaw's observation: New theater should accompany a new society.

Other phrases — such as Theater Without Theater, Anti-Theater, Meta-Theater, The World's a Stage, Social Performance, Guerilla Theater, or Oppositional (or Radical or Provocative) Theater — are variations on the title of this pattern. Each of these alternative formulations focuses on some attributes and not on others. We use the term "Illegitimate Theater" primarily to highlight the differences between it and legitimate theater. Illegitimate theater can describe any performances in which one or more conventions of the legitimate theater are circumvented. For example, the convention of a single, discrete performance can be ignored in illegitimate theater. Thus, a "one-two punch" can be delivered, possibly anonymously: Half of the cast can "perform" — in Starbucks, at the zoo, or, even, a traditional theatrical venue — while the other half of the cast can "accidentally" encounter the audience afterwards and engage with them a second time, perhaps in dialogue, perhaps again as spectators, perhaps as actor / participants in a new performance that builds on ideas of the original one. The French group Le Grand Magic Circus devised a performance which gradually added the spectators (while withdrawing their members) at the "end" of their performance until finally the spectators were the only ones left "performing" (Bennett, 1990).

Performance is an extremely broad term that characterizes an infinite number of situations including sports, rituals, education, carnivals, politics and protest. It can encompass everyday social events such as shopping, eating in restaurants, going to parties or hanging out. Performance can be spontaneous or planned, obviously "staged" or masquerading as "real life," artistic, political, cultural. The advent of “performance studies” as an academic discipline which transcends the traditional notion of the theater has contributed to our understanding of these myriad forms.

Bertolt Brecht, the most influential artist/advocate of theater for social change, rejected Aristotelian drama (the basis of Legitimate Theater) in favor of the Epic or Dialectical Theater. His theories and plays, such as Three Penny Opera" and Mother Courage, blur the line between real life and performance, reveal the mechanics of production, present actor and character simultaneously, and employ a wide range of techniques designed to rouse the audience to social action. The venerable San Francisco Mime Troupe with performances such as Fact Wino vs. Armagoddonman, Damaged Care, and Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan, is a more recent incarnation of Brechtian rebellion. Augusto Boal from Brazil, a Workers' Party (PT) activist, pioneered "Theater of the Oppressed" and other forms of participatory role-playing theater that has helped audiences to explore and recognize their own predicaments while fostering cooperation and critical engagement.

Many public protests, especially those that include role playing, dramatic encounters, or masks, puppets and other props can be viewed as a type of performance. When Greenpeace's sailing ship "Rainbow Warrior" confronts a nuclear submarine or whaling ship, two symbolic worlds collide. Crosses symbolizing those killed in Iraq spring up in Crawford, Texas near the ranch of U.S. President George Bush; Argentine mothers and grandmothers clothed in mourning black stand before the president's Casa Rosa in Buenos Aires. More recently social activists employing techniques of illegitimate theater, have emerged to confront corporate globalization. These include the marching bands and giant puppets in the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, Reverend Billy from the Church of Not Shopping who orchestrates chain store "interventions" to "unlock the hypnotic power of transnational capital" and the "Yes Men" who have "played the roles" (as they satirically interpreted them) of various corporate and organizational officials to unsuspecting audiences around the world.

As Clifford Geertz would say — and Shakespeare before him — the world is truly a stage and everything we do in public is a type of performance. This of course means in a trivial sense that everyday life provides a venue for exhibition and self-promotion. The media exploits people's desire for "fame" (or publicity — the desire to be made publicly recognizable) and exhibits the ones it considers off-beat enough for public display, in the modern day equivalent of a freak show.

Media is more easily commodified when it assumes rigid forms. When a "package" exists, it's relatively easy — and cost-effective — to replicate it again and again with little effort or creativity. And when commercial broadcast media defines what is "legitimate", the imagination of the people decays, their capacity to create is harder to draw upon, their tolerance for experimentation and "amateurism" diminishes. Illegitimate

Theater, like other patterns in this language, has unsavory manifestations as well: burning a cross in the yard of an African-American or other ethnic minority, militaristic parades and rallies, public intimidates. Since "performance" likely predates language, its effects on people can be deep; it can unlock hate as well as love, anger as well as reason and compassion. Theater, whether legitimate or not, can be driven by emotion and therefore less analytic than many other patterns in this language. Illegitimate

Theater blurs or even negates the line between spectators and performers. In its extreme version everybody, all the time, is an actor. And "actors" in public performances can also be "actors" in social life, actors who help make things happen — for good or for ill. Although our life "in public" is a series of performances, our roles are often construed as "bit parts." But every moment is a "teachable moment;" every public appearance is an opportunity to do something new and to experience something new. Thus anybody, at least in theory, can practice the craft of illegitimate theater. The "performances" that come from this practice can be simple or elaborate, impromptu or painstakingly rehearsed. The point is to cause ripples in the everyday stream of life.

Illegitimate theater, like is predecessors "legitimate" or otherwise, can be used to provoke emotional reactions, discussion or reflection. Practiced successfully and in a great number of venues, illegitimate theater could help foster positive social change and increased democratization of culture.

Solution: 

Illegitimate theater represents a intriguing set of possibilities for interactions between people that can lead to social change. Performance as a deeply human phenomenon can be explored by audience and performers alike in our quest for a better world.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Theater, viewing and participating in performances, is an ancient yet vital cultural force. Theater — particularly its "illegitimate" forms — can punctuate the ordinary and evoke new and unexpected experiences. Anybody can practice Illegitimate Theater that causes ripples in the everyday stream of life. It can be used to provoke emotional reactions, discussion or reflection. It can even help foster social change and the democratization of culture.

Pattern status: 
Released

Everyday Heroism

Pattern ID: 
447
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
116
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

In popular media, protagonists are usually richer, stronger, and more beautiful (or handsome) than "ordinary" people. "Ordinary" people, even if they have names, are turned into stock characters. Many of the situations, moreover, in which the protagonists find themselves are extraordinary (e.g. horror, action, thriller, fantasy just to name a few genres). This approach has the effect of making people feel that their own lives are boring and unimportant. Indeed, many people feel that "escaping" into a mediated reality, whether it's television, video games or movies, is the only way to "live." This approach also distracts people from actually addressing real problems by directing their imaginations on to situations that are totally irrelevant to their own lives.

Context: 

This pattern blends fact and fiction. It addresses the stories of people and settings in fiction and non-fiction and in "real life" as well.

Discussion: 

There are no reasons why stories involving "ordinary" people in more-or-less everyday life can't be genuinely beautiful, moving and inspirational.

The Everyday Heroism pattern was inspired by this passage: "Lispector (1925-1977) is best known for short stories and novels that are structured around small, epiphanic moments in the lives of Brazilian middle-class women" (Sadlier, 1999).

Jean François Millet's evocative painting of The Gleaners (1857) shows the simple heroism of simply staying alive. Toiling under the social stigma of gleaning for their food, these three women scoured the fields after the harvest for the leftovers to which they were entitled under French law. The film "To Be and To Have" provides another inspiring example. Through a simple and unhurried portrait of a school teacher in a small French village, the viewer understands his concerns for the children in the one-room school house, his hobbies and his connections with the entire village. No matter what the movies tell us, most real heroes don't fight intergalactic evil or psychopathic killers. The real struggles are at the "human level."

Beverly Cleary, a Portland, Oregon author captures a great deal of the ordinary "dangers" that everybody must face with her wonderful about Ramona. In Ramona the Brave, when Ramona was just six, "She was tempted to try going to school a new way, by another street, but decided she wasn't that brave yet." In that same year Ramona enters a new classroom with a teacher that doesn't seem to understand her or her imaginative ways of seeing things.

Although there is no evidence that Ramona became an activist, she probably would have respected the tough position it can put people in. One takes an unpopular stand and insists that changes for the good can be made. Clearly there would be no social change without heroism — including the "everyday" kind. A small but significant piece of wisdom offers encouragement to those of us who hesitate when faced with this challenge: Speak the truth even if your voice shakes.

The Giraffe Project promotes "ordinary heroism" (or, rather, heroism by people who might otherwise appear to be "ordinary") realizing that no movement is due to a single "leader." The Giraffe project celebrates people who "stick their nose out" and has named nearly 1,000 "Giraffes" thus far who have a vision of a better world. These people have all taken personal risks to initiate an ameliorative project on a grand a scale such as replanting a country's trees or on a "small" scale such as building bridges between two hostile groups in a community.

The original introductory photograph was of Reverend Maurice McCrackin, who was still active in his 90's, is from the Giraffe Heroes Project. In 1945 Reverend McCrackin built the first interracial Presbyterian congregation in the United States. The second introductory photograph was of a young Russian man demonstrating for fair elections. The current introductory photograph is of Greta Thunberg who was just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her critical work on climate activism. The summary graphic is of The Gleaners, now in the public domain.

Solution: 

Produce — and consider — more popular media that involves "ordinary" people and "everyday" lives. Celebrate the heroes among us and strive to be one yourself. Even an "ordinary" one.

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
social
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Social Movement
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 

In the media, heroes are usually richer, stronger, and better looking than ordinary people. And the situations in which the heroes find themselves are not ordinary. This makes people feel that their own lives are unimportant. No matter what the movies tell us, however, most real heroes are ordinary. We need media that involves ordinary people and everyday lives. Celebrate the heroes among us and strive to be one. Remember: Speak the truth even if your voice shakes.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about summary graphic: 

Gleaners, Millet. Public Domain

Public Domain Characters

Pattern ID: 
731
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
115
John Thomas
IBM Research Hawthorne
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Stories are one ancient and still powerful technique for people to create and share knowledge across temporal and geographical boundaries. Stories may be conceptualized as having three major dimensions: character, plot, and environment. Traditionally, societies have used and shared all of these dimensions. Today, in an effort to make the rich and powerful yet richer and more powerful, the natural processes of creating, sharing, and building on stories has been subverted into a process of "claiming" the world of stories as private property. This limits artistic creativity and stunts the growth of collective wisdom.

Context: 

Large, powerful corporations (many recently merged) control much of the media and have a huge influence on the international copyright laws. In most cases, the characters used in movies and television shows (even if originally taken from the public domain) are restricted in terms of the ability of anyone else to use them. In fact, in some cases, people have been sued even for setting up "fan sites" for these characters as well as for using them in satire. Arguably, there has never been a greater need for collective human wisdom. Yet, the profit motive gone hypertrophic has put a host of economic, legal, and logistical barriers across possible paths of collaborative thought.

Discussion: 

Humankind has generated a magnificent pantheon of fictional and not-so-fictional characters over the millennia of its existence. Unbelievably enough, this rich legacy may be stopped cold through a transfer of the ownership of humankind's stories and images to corporate rather than shared "commons" ownership. Civil society should establish a repository of characters who are available to all without charge. This could contain characters from our pre-corporate past as well as those of more recent vintage (such as Cat-Man (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat-Man_and_Kitten) who was raised in Burma by a Tigress but abandoned on our doorstep by the corporation that spawned him. Ultimately it could even include those are now serving time, cloistered behind commercial contracts until their sentences expire. Novelists could legally allow the inhabitants of the universes they created to be enlisted in others: Cartoonists such as Matt Groening could donate Homer Simpson or a brand new type of American everyman complete with voices and descriptions of where he lived and what he liked to do. Frustrated novelists could supply names and descriptions that their colleagues could borrow for their own work. However, it is not only artists and writers who benefit from having access to stories and the characters who inhabit them. Characters can serve as sources of inspiration for all; they can give us hope in dire times; they can serve as models for ethical, effective, or clever behavior. One use of characters is to serve as a kind of "Board of Directors" that we can use imaginatively to help look at our problems and proposed solutions from various perspectives. (See http://www.research.ibm.com/knowsoc/ The Disney corporation may be the most prolific "borrower" of stories (including Aladdin, Atlantis, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Davy Crockett, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Hercules, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jungle Book, Oliver Twist, Pinocchio, Pocahontas, Robin Hood, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, and the Wind in the Willows) from the public domain; the number of stories they have added to the humankind's commonwealth is still at zero. (Thanks in part to legislation that granted Mickey Mouse another 75 years of service to the corporation.)( State of the Commons - Culture)

Solution: 

Humankind has created a magnificent pantheon of fictional and not-so-fictional characters. Sadly, this legacy may be lost as corporations increasingly own the rights. The natural processes of creating, sharing, and building on stories has been degraded into a process of claiming stories as private property. The development and sharing of Public Domain Characters can help reclaim these timeless functions.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Humankind has created a magnificent pantheon of fictional and not-so-fictional characters. Sadly, this legacy may be lost as corporations increasingly own the rights. The natural processes of creating, sharing, and building on stories has been degraded into a process of claiming stories as private property. The development and sharing of Public Domain Characters can help reclaim these timeless functions.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about summary graphic: 

Felix and Charlie Chaplin share the screen in a memorable moment from Felix in Hollywood (1923). Public Domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_the_Cat

The Power of Story

Pattern ID: 
793
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
114
Rebecca Chamberlain
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The truth about stories is that's all we are. Thomas King (2003)

Stories are fundamental to being human. How do they change as languages and cultures evolve through different communication technologies? In the age of cyberspace we often feel alienated from genuine stories, ones that we live with every day, that tell us how to become decent human beings and live meaningful lives. Corporate media exploit story patterns that evolved to pass on ethical codes, and we are trapped into thinking about products instead of reflecting on our lives. Traditional myths explored dynamic relationships between humans and nature. How can stories to help us adapt to our quickly changing world?

Context: 

This pattern addresses the concerns of organizations and individuals involved in: Education, Culture, Arts, Society, Mythology, Technology, Law, Philosophy, Humanities, Psychology, Science, Environmental Studies, Religion, Social & Political Science, and Activism.

Discussion: 

One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are also living the stories we planted "knowingly or unknowingly" in ourselves. We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaninglessness. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives. Ben Okri, Nigerian storyteller.

Patterns in stories tend to reflect the environments we live in and the communication media we use. Indigenous peoples evolved patterns in oral traditions that resonated with the voices of the land and reinforced memory and meaning. The invention of writing and the phonetic alphabet played with the way language and images could be displayed as texts. The advent of the printing press offered freedom to experiment with new narrative and poetic forms, as well as restraints, as texts and language became standardized. The structure of stories changed as they moved from the places they were told onto the printed page.

Today, can words again become "winged" as they fly through both time and space in new forms offered by electronic media? Speech is communal; it exists only as it is being shared. As stories shift and change in response to new environments and technologies, who has access and jurisdiction to manipulate them? Can these new mediums offer opportunities to engage our senses and help us reconnect to the natural world? Can this enriched experience help us reflect on the deeper messages that stories contain?

Stories are conduits or vehicles that mediate our inner and outer worlds. When we tell stories, we are connected to live events and internal dramas. Modern cultures utilize technology to record ideas or performances, and tend to value the analysis of texts, recordings, and other artifacts of expression. We cultivate methods of reflection that reinforce our capacity to respond, think, and explore symbolic messages, but our objectivity makes us feel removed or alienated from authentic experience. We often yearn for the mystery of stories to deepen our lives. Oral cultures are immersed in ritual and experience; the time, place, and context in which a story is told is crucial to its meaning. Myths, which convey symbolic messages, are also repositories or living encyclopedias of practical knowledge and wisdom gained from sustainable relationships to the natural world. Oral traditions resonate with mnemonic patterns, poetic rhythms, tones, and inflections of local landscapes. 

Richard Louve points out that studies of the songs of birds and whales reveal many of the same laws of composition as those used by humans. New scientific methods have enabled humans to learn about the intricate patterns of human and animal communication, but have not given most children a deep or genuine experience of animals and the stories or songs grounded in the natural world. This results in what Love describes as the modern child's "hyper-intellectualized" perception of nature and other animals.

Technology gives us tools to analyze and preserve traditional stories, but also disrupts and alienates people from meaningful stories that connect them with sustainable patterns in the natural world. Modern myths are often caught up in the social, political, and economic systems that our new technologies have created. Those who control the stories, knowledge, and mediums of communication wield the power.

Marshall McLuhan explores the shadow side of technological and economic success by arguing that popular culture is a source for diagnosing the "collective trance" of industrial society. Ads are a new kind of storytelling; "a social ritual or magic that enhances us in our own eyes." Rolf Jensen says, "The highest-paid person in the first half of the next century will be the 'storyteller.' Many global companies are mainly storytellers, and the value of products depends on the story they tell." Advertisers proclaim freedom of choice as the foundation of the American way of life; however, they gloss over questions of power and control. McLuhan suggests that individuals break the hypnotic trance of the media through tough-minded evaluation that probes the collective myths of our industrial folklore.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell says, "not only have the old mythic notions of the nature of the cosmos gone to pieces, but also those of the origins of the history of mankind." He suggests, that to give meaning to life, the modern person cannot simply reproduce inherited patterns of thought or action, but must create their own stories. Since many people start with seeds provided by the media, how do they proceed?

Words and stories are active agents. Ernest Cassirer says that the "word," in early cosmologies, is the primary force from which being and doing originate. Likewise, the cause and effect of media and print "word magic" in modern cultures determines our political and economic systems, and can result in nationalism and colonialism. Traditional stories and myths that have evolved from oral, consensually shared standards and beliefs that value feeling and community interaction have come into conflict with technologies that value independence, analytical thought, and scientific or secular authority. Modern civilization is faced with a split between the head and the heart.

In the Greek myth of the phonetic alphabet, King Cadmus plants dragons' teeth (alphabetic symbols) that rise up as armed men. If the alphabet could have such effects, what is the effect of modern technologies? We face the problem of how to deal ethically with the power humans have manufactured through technology. Can we recover a sense of reverence for the word without fueling tribal or national myths that sow dragons’ teeth?

Thoreau anticipated these arguments in “Walking,” when he says, “There are other letters for the child to learn than those which Cadmus invented.” Rather than learning letters in dusty schools, Thoreau wanted students to learn from wilderness. For him, mythology came close to expressing the language of nature. He advocates a kind of “tawny grammar” that celebrates what is wild and free. Through this, he says, “The highest that we can attain is not Knowledge, but Sympathy with Intelligence.”

Perhaps McLuhan suggests a solution to our dilemma when he says, “two cultures or technologies can, like astronomical galaxies, pass through one another without collision; but not without change of configuration.” Are we ready for a transformation of this magnitude? Can we connect traditional stories and myths with new technologies in ways that don’t hypnotize us into a trance, but actually engage us more completely with community and the natural world?

Solution: 

Storytelling, an ancient art, needs to be rediscovered and updated. Stories help humankind to understand, reinterpret, and reframe the meanings that under-gird their existence. Can we use new communications technologies to weave together words and images, scientific information and poetic inspiration, and incorporate multiple voices (including the larger community of plants, animals, birds, and elemental forces) to tell multi-faceted stories of our earth communities? Can stories help us to weave together the communications and global challenges that face us as we learn to live co-creatively with each other and the natural world?

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The ancient art of storytelling needs to be rediscovered and updated. Stories help humankind to understand and reframe the meanings that undergird their existence. We can use new technologies to weave words and images, scientific information and poetic inspiration, and incorporate multiple voices to tell multi-faceted stories of our earth communities. As Thomas King tells us, The truth about stories is that’s all we are.

Pattern status: 
Released

Arts of Resistance

Pattern ID: 
437
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
111
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Repression and other forms of injustice and other social ills are often overlooked, dismissed in a cursory way, or deemed to be inevitable and immutable. Even when these problems are acknowledged, resistance to them is shallow, erratic, uncoordinated and ineffectual. Although art can be used to deliver a message of inspiration and information for the disempowered, it is often irrelevant; it can be a tool of the powerful and a diversion of the wealthy. In many cases, a distracting and ubiquitous corporate media has replaced the tradition of people and communities telling their own stories.

Context: 

People and societies around the world have over the years developed their own versions of hell on earth that some subset of its inhabitants is obliged to endure. These regions exist within all societies, but vary in size and in magnitude of abuse ranging from neglect to active repression.

Discussion: 

Artists occupy a unique role in society. Through a diversity of approaches, they explore new terrains that words alone are incapable of describing. Art can address issues, help solve problems and even serve as a "public psychiatrist" that surfaces social anxieties. Art speaks to places that other languages can't and affects consciousness on a level that we don't understand and can't map. Some, but not all, artists work for social and environmental justice. Notably artists can explore ideas of personal or societal importance or they can operate within a world circumscribed by religious authorities, corporations or the art-buying public, a decidedly privileged class economically.

The "world" that "resistance" strives to understand and confront provides an exhaustible fount of inspiration for artists – professionals and non-professionals alike. The media through which messages and stories can be conveyed includes T-shirts (indeed, wearing the wrong t-shirt is an invitation to harassment, fines, and imprisonment in my regions and countries around the world) and comics and zines, opera, ballet, graffiti, murals, sculpture, film, film or many other approaches. Art can be immersive and engaging; it can help build community and involve the "audience" in rituals or processions. Art can be an invidual or collective effort, big or small, public or anonymous, clandestine and furtive, In can be created by children or by people or emotionally disturbed. The art of homeless people, refugees, or incarcerated people is likely to present a view of the world that the rest of us may not see.

Resistance art brings hidden knowledge out of the shadows. The historic roots of contemporary experience, a common theme of Chicano murals, such as those created by Los Cybrids collective, in Los Angeles and other southwestern cities in the US explore themes of identity and hybridity. Another approach is to present the reality of a situation in a documentary style, such as Walker Evans' sparse, unadorned depression era photographs of the rural poor. Another approach is exemplified by George Grosz's grotesque and piercing caricatures of militarists and war-profiteers, or Hitler garbed in a bearskin.

In the 1980s, Artists of the World Against Apartheid based in France issued a broad appeal to artists around the world to contribute anti-apartheid works of art. Ernest Pignon-Ernest of France and Antonio Saura of Spain worked unselfishly for two years to make it happen. A major exhibition was mounted in late 1983 at the Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques in Paris. Since the organizers had stipulated in advance that the art would be held in trust and given to the people of South Africa on the occasion of "the first free and democratic government by universal suffrage" as the basis of an anti-apartheid museum, the collection was moved to South Africa at the request of president Nelson Mandela.

A similar event took place in the U.S. two decades later. With the invasion of Iraq looming, first lady Laura Bush, picked an inopportune time to invite poet Sam Hamill to a special White House event, "Poetry and the American Voice," which was to celebrate the works of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes. Instead of being seduced by to the allure of power and prestige, Hamill refused Bush's invitation. Instead he emailed several friends asking them for poems on the theme of war which would be bound and presented to Bush. This ignited a poetic firestorm that claimed no national border. Inspired by Hamill's defiance, a web site (http://www.poetsagainstthewar.org) was established that provided a platform for poets around the world to express their feelings related to the impending war. The site proved immediately and enormously popular – at its peak it was averaging several new poems a minute. Now the site has over 20,000 poems online – including works by Adrienne Rich, W.S. Merwin. and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and spotlights several poems per week. The project ultimately published two volumes of poetry and an excellent documentary film, "Poets in Wartime," was inspired by the effort. Moreover, the work engendered a non-profit organization, "Poets Against War", was formed with the simple yet direct mission statement: "Poets Against War continues the tradition of socially engaged poetry by creating venues for poetry as a voice against war, tyranny and oppression."

This episode (Poets Against War) raises the general question of the role of occupational groups and whether there is an implicit or explicit obligation to help deter aggression and war. A short list of such candidates would include teachers, religious leaders, engineers, journalists, farmers, and doctors and nurses and other caregivers. A longer list would include almost everybody – for very few people in the world actually want to be within war's lethal compass, as either participant or as innocent bystander.

Another fascinating example, is the beehive design collective, an amazing anarchic and itinerant design collective that, although home-based in Vermont, travels around the world to create region-specific murals. Members often work with indigenous or other people to develop murals that capture the unique circumstances of the people who live there. The murals they develop grow organically; containing a variety of elements sinuously weaving indigenous plans and animals, historic referents, and symbols of corporate and colonial domination, with images of fanciful and realistic resistance.

Resistance art has many audiences. In the anti-apartheid movement, for example, the audience would obviously include the victims of apartheid and the supporters of their struggle. It would also include the people who believe themselves neutral of hadn't thought about apartheid from a moral standpoint and people who were actively promulgating it: politicians, policemen, the media, and business spokespeople who benefited from the cheap labor provided by the marginalized victims. Beyond that, the audience extended to the rest of the world. Many people outside of South Africa worked on anti-apartheid campaigns. Gill Scott-Heron's anti-apartheid anthem, "Johannesburg," was played on the radio in US cities, where its uncomfortable references to big segregated cities in the US like New York and Philadelphia showed that South Africa was not the only country in the world where prejudice and racism flourished.

From Goya and Picasso to Johannesburg's T-shirt artists of and anonymous graffiti artists around the world, resistance artists, generally acting on their own – have portrayed the horrors of war or other abominations. Activists in Seattle, hoping to help cultivate a supportive community network for resistance artists have convened an Arts of Resistance conference for the past two years. Through workshops, presentations, videos, and, most importantly, through face-to-face dialogue and debate, the idea that art can be socially transformative became more widely recognized and more thoughtfully practiced.

People ultimately also need to be reminded of two things – that they are not impotent and disconnected spectators but active and engaged participants in the ongoing vibrant fabric of life. Art, therefore, can tell the story of the ongoing struggle while suggesting ways for people to take part. It can also sketch out, in possibly indistinct and uncertain terms, a future that may exist, after successful struggles, where children, and their children, and their children's children do not experience the daily injury of living in an unjust and unhealthy world.

Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu, a longtime foe of apartheid, notes that when resistance art is successful, "People come to the forceful realization that they are not entirely the impotent playthings of powerful forces." According to Tutu, resistance art, whether it's a play, song or T-shirt represents, "a proud defiance of the hostile forces that would demean and dehumanize."

Solution: 

Art can convey beauty, love and joy. It can also convey justice, fairness, dignity and resistance. Engaging in art can hone creativity by encouraging exploration within a plastic medium. The future itself is a plastic medium and we will never know how malleable it is if we don't explore it. Resistance art can be a seed that helps people understand their situation and how they might work to improve it.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Repression and other forms of injustice and other social ills are often overlooked, or seen as inevitable. Art can be used to deliver a message of inspiration and information for the disempowered. Art can convey beauty, love and joy. It can also convey justice, fairness, dignity and resistance. The future itself is a plastic medium, a canvas that we all help paint. Arts of Resistance can be seeds that helps people understand their situation and how they might work to improve it.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
London Extinction Rebellion mural, purportedly by Banksy, 2019

Homemade Media

Pattern ID: 
489
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
110
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People outside the major spheres of power are often denied access to the tools and technologies of self-expression. This is often the unfortunate by-product of poverty; education is out reach of the majority of the majority of the world's population and access to media tools (including cameras, editing software, recording studios, the Internet) and other systems is often prohibitively expensive. Although this situation can be debilitating to people who are caught in those circumstances, the rest of society suffers as well: they are deprived of stories and perspectives that could enrich their understanding of the world while preparing them to become better citizens of the world — and their local community.

Context: 

Anybody with a story to tell — and this includes everybody — could benefit from this pattern. This pattern, however, specifically addresses those people with little to no access to media production of any kind. Although this pattern focuses on the people who lack the access, implementation of this pattern often requires the assistance of people and organizations who have both the resources and interest in working with people in a participatory way.

Discussion: 

The story told in the 2004 documentary "Born into Brothels" is an excellent example of this pattern. In 1997, New York-based photographer Zana Briski traveled to India to document the lives of women, children and men who lived in Calcutta's impoverished red light district. During the next three years, some of which was spent living in the brothels, Briski noticed that many of the children of the prostitutes were fascinated by her photographic equipment. Soon she started giving them cameras and helping them to use them as a new lens to look at their world. Later she organized shows at galleries for the photographs and made the photographs available on the Internet. The money from the sales is now being used to help support the children's education. While raising money for the worthy cause of education — and raising the consciousness of millions of others who watched the documentary — is exemplary, the most important outcome of the project may be the increased awareness and perception that seemed to be unlocked in the children by the acts of observing and recording their surroundings with the camera.

While the Homemade Media pattern is not a panacea it does have many possible benefits. The first benefit is of course that learning to create media helps build skills and as such may lead to employment. Regardless of that, however, it helps build confidence and self-esteem. These positive attitudes about oneself and the desire to keep persisting in the craft of creating media — whether photography, interviews, audio recordings, or newspapers — is a good defense against self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol or other drug abuse or gang activity or criminal outlets. The act of capturing an image in a camera's viewfinder or writing down fragments of overheard conversations or otherwise recording promotes the idea of reflection upon various aspects of life or the imagination.

Media is inherently shareable in some way. Photographs can displayed for viewing in galleries, printed in magazine or hung on public walls. Videos can be shown on televisions or in theaters. These can be artistic, informational, or lead to social change in some way. In any case, however, they can be used to communicate with others. Homemade Media can open up channels of communication with people, as audience or as potential partners for additional collaboration.

A few other examples can show a little more of the breadth of the pattern: Drawings of children in Darfur present the horror of genocide that is hard to shake off. Gumball Poetry (http://www.gumballpoetry.com/) allows people to buy a short poem from a gumball machine for 25 cents. One of the most remarkable projects, however, took place in Bogoto, Colombia. Film-maker Felipe Aljure developed the Rebeldes con Cauce project in which he worked with 140 young people with no filmmaking experience to help them learn how to make films (Dowmunt, 1988). Most of the students were from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. They studied film, developed outlines and created ten to fifteen minute films which were ultimately aired on Bogota's channel Canal Capital where they received "outstanding" ratings.

The Plugged In Project in East Palo Alto helped teach underprivileged youths how to create web pages that told their stories (while teaching them a skill, self-confidence, etc.) from celebrating Thanksgiving holiday with their family to witnessing the seizure of a family member by immigration officials for now have the appropriate papers to remain in the country.

The homeless newspaper movement is active in many cities around the world. Although it takes different forms in different cities, the basic model is the same: The newspaper concentrates on issues of homelessness and poverty, two subjects that are likely to be covered sensitively or in much depth by mainstream media. Beyond that the newspaper is often actively engaged in the struggle for the rights of poor people and engages poor people and their communities in every aspect of the newspaper production and distribution. The Real Change weekly newspaper in Seattle is sold by people who are homeless or otherwise in underprivileged positions for $1.00 and receive 70 cents for each paper sold.


Introductory graphic can be found at http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/bornintobrothels/
Solution: 

The Homemade Media can be applied in a million ways. Support and enjoy homemade media in your community and around the world.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Capturing an image or conversation encourages reflection and introspection yet people outside the major spheres of power have little access to the technologies and tools of self-expression. Although this can be harmful to those people, others are deprived of enriching stories and perspectives. Homemade Media helps build confidence and self-esteem as well as employment skills. Anybody with a story to tell can benefit from Homemade Media.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Kids With Cameras

Control of Self Representation

Pattern ID: 
483
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
109
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

How people are represented — in speech, story, or image — will influence to some degree how they are perceived — by themselves and others — and, hence, are treated. Africa, for example, is typically presented to the rest of the world — and to Africans as well — by CNN and other western media — not by Africans or African media. This problem, of couse, is not confined to Africa. Poor people everywhere are portrayed — if they're portrayed at all — as nameless and voiceless, rarely as people with ideas, aspirations, creativity, culture or values.

Context: 

This pattern is applicable in any setting where information about one group of people is being developed and distributed by another group of people.

Discussion: 

"More recently, in later modernity the theme of the everyday has been considerably more prominent. But this does not mean that questions about who is representing for whom and why and how have been resolved. Issues about legitimacy of representation remain crucial, and indeed I shall argue that how to articulate and represent the everyday is the main issue in the politics of culture." - David Chaney (2002)

Non-whites, convicts, the poor, sick, starving people, flood victims, uneducated, aged, rural as well as intellectuals, dissidents, gender, ethnic and other marginalized groups are often the victim of mis-representation. Their presentations are often paper-thin, stereotypical at best. (While mention of other people are simply omitted; they don't exist.) The net result is a compelling, free-floating image of "normalcy" that serves as a model to be emulated.

This pattern represents a concept that gets very little notice. After all, there is really no way to fully control your representation or what people do with it. Ultimately it’s an expression of power: Who is creating the representations, under what conditions, and how can they be maintained, changed, or challenged? When somebody else is determining how you will be represented you have been robbed of your right to defend yourself, to make your own case for who you are. On some level, it's a type of identity theft. Who you are has been determined elsewhere and stamped on you.

Why bother with representations? Is there really anything to worry about? Are there any negative implications? Yes. For one thing, there seems to be substantial evidence that people start believeing their own representations — and act according to them. Representations, unfortunately, can have exceedingly long life spans since culture tends to replicate itself. Also people individually see little reason to change the way they view the world unless there is a compelling reason to rethink themselves.

This pattern on the one hand depicts the need for people everywhere to grab hold of their own representation and challenge the mechanisms (generally of media production) that perpetuates the stereotypes. At this level of analysis the pattern recommends a more accurate and bi-directional approach to "representation" — often of entire countries, ethnic and other marginalized populations. At a deeper level this pattern seeks to remedy a problem much more insidious -- that of a steady colonization from "within."

The importance of this pattern is obvious. It's why people may be suspicious when others are talking about them. It's why big corporations and political parties spend enormous sums on public relations and "spinning" news and other information to their advantage. Corporations and government agencies have elaborate and professional strategies for ensuring that their public portrait is painted according to their specifications. Movies stars, writers, etc. have their own publicists whose job it is to bring (or push) certain information to certain people. On the other hand, powerful people and institutions also go to great lengths to keep some information submerged and hidden forever.

There are several tools for addressing these problems. People in the group who may be perpetrating the stereotypes — white males (like me) for example — have the responsibility to acknowledge these transgressions and strive to overcome them. Media literacy and media critique are two skills worth developing and media monitoring is a worthwhile way to develop a fact base that can be used to confront the mis-representers. Much of this work should be done at a community level: the analyses should be shared, for example, with the community because it's often the community that is being mis-represented. Also, as was alluded to earlier, it may even be possible that members of the mis-represented community may be unconsciously living down to the stereotypes of their community.

Media is essentially a one-way street, a mute, wall-to-wall hallucinatory enclosure. (Although people do interpret according to their own rules that the media doesn't necessarily control.) The "message" of this medium is rarely acknowledged — it is truly the fabled 800-pound gorilla. Like a voice in your head, its message is compelling and persistent. It won't go away! It sows indecision while removing individual autonomy and opportunities for authentic social learning. Yet media producers aren't necessarily evil. Often laziness, lack of imagination (cloning the popular movie), and financial decisions factor in.

Solution: 

The first step to addressing this problem is to acknowledge that it exists. Since the media (and cultural representations generally) are so ubiquitous that it's hard to believe that there is a bias, however implicit. The second obstacle is thinking that nothing can be done about this. As you dig deeper in this you may simultaneously be amazed at the extent of the problem and your desire to help overcome it.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Whether through speech, story, or image how people are represented influences how they're perceived and treated. Non-whites, incarcerated, sick or starving people, disaster victims, uneducated, aged, and rural people as well as many others marginalized by gender or ethnicity are misrepresented. One cannot fully control self-representation but it can be addressed. The first step is increasing awareness of the problem; the second is analysis; the third is action.

Pattern status: 
Released

Community Building Journalism

Pattern ID: 
745
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
97
Peter Miller
UMass/Boston
Version: 
2
Problem: 

How do activists, would-be activists, and those interested in learning about and participating in any movement or community of practice get a sense of what the best practices are, what the underlying philosophies are, who the leadership is and what they're thinking, what the key institutions and organizations are and how they're developing, what the most useful resources and tools are, and what's going on in other communities? How do people learn how to participate with a critical and reflective perspective?

Context: 

The journalistic pattern and communication tools noted here can be used in any field, narrow or wide, where public education and outreach as well as discussion and information sharing among key contributors and other participants are important to the vitality and development of the field.

Discussion: 

There are many ways of speaking to this family of problems/issues/concerns: face-to-face get-togethers, from conversations to conferences; email/discussion lists, blogs, web sites and bulletin boards; books and articles; faxes and radio—are all useful approaches. Tying into all of these, regular publications have come to serve a key role in movement-development and community-building. Tom Paine's Common Sense at the beginning of the American Revolution, arousing the colonists in a radically new "common sense" way, and The Federalist Papers, the country's first major newspaper op-ed series, designed to convince people to support the newly drawn up Constitution—these crucial works of popular journalism that helped set our country's founding are indicative of what can be found in any social and political movement, large or small, specialized or general. Regular publications that cover the events and developments of a movement are indicative of the depth of thought and commitment that people have to their work and their interest in sharing it and learning from one another. Movement/community-building journalism and their publications are most often written and produced by the actors and participants in the movement and provide reflections on the roots and meanings of specific contributions to the field; they tie particular events and achievements, programs, institutions, and actors to a wider field of interconnected activities that together point toward renewed possibilities for people creating a healthier and more democratic common world. Consider professional academic disciplines, how they all have their many journals (international, national, regional) and their growing on-line availability and distribution, and their importance to developing cohesion and direction in their respective communities of practice. Consider the situation among artists, social workers, leftists, conservatives, citizens of any size viable community. In American political life, consider the longevity of key political journals and how they have not only reflected trends and movements but helped define the movements themselves and provided an arena for its participants to learn about and from one another—that strand of radical liberalism that has characterized The Nation from its inception as a vocal anti-slavery voice, the descent from progressive liberalism to neoconservatism represented by The New Republic, the development and fracturing of the radical political culture and politics of eastern European Jewish immigrants as found in The Partisan Review, Dissent, and Commentary.

In the field of community media and technology, the Community Technology Review (www.comtechreview.org) reflects several useful pattern features of current community-building journalism:

• CTR has served as the formal and informal publication of both the Community Technology Centers' Network, www.ctcnet.org, the country's oldest and largest association of nonprofit and community organizations dedicated to providing emerging technology resources for those who don't ordinarily have effective access, and of the Association for Community Networking (www.afcn.org), the affiliation of institutions and individuals interested in developing community-wide information resources and tools. CTR has covered key directions and issues of its two prime organizational partners by placing them within the developments of the wider field of community media and technology. Thus, for example, the fall 1999 issue was a joint production of CTCNet, AFCN, and the Alliance for Community Media (ACM, www.alliancecm.org), the national association of community cable public, education, and governmental (PEG) access centers; ACM and community cable access center development receive on-going coverage. CTR has maintained close relations with the Community Media Review, ACM's official publication; with the fairly-recently established Journal of Community Informatics (http://ci-journal.net), the international journal of what is emerging as the emerging academic discipline of the field, especially outside the United States; with the Digital Divide Network, the online communication environment (at www.digitaldividenetwork.org) that has done so much to address issues involving the problem identified in its name; and with the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (www.nten.org), the association of nonprofit technology assistance providers, and has offered ongoing coverage of NTEN, Circuit Riders, CompuMentor/TechSoup and other organizations/developments in this part of the field. To the degree it is a model, CTR suggests that coverage of key organizations in a field provide a useful map that can be of assistance to both the experienced actor and the new participant looking for information and guidance.

• CTR is published simultaneously on-line and in hard copy, using state-of-the-art tools most appropriate to each environment. The developing on-line environment has been designed with open source publishing tools (Movable Type/Drupal) that provide a large number of embedded hyperlinks for readers to easily explore special areas and references in depth, extensive searching capacity throughout the archives (www.comtechreview.org/issue.php), interactive options for reader comments/additions and communication with authors and editors. Desktop publishing is tied to appropriate printer and print-on demand options for hard copy production and distribution, providing a tangible publication for those readers and occasions where hard copy availability is especially appropriate and useful. With the growing number of links to community-produced audios and videos, CTR provides an integrated multi-media platform that models a variety of approaches that can be used.

• Articles are written by a combination of recognized leaders in the field and first-time authors who have worked on innovative projects and new resources. With first-time authors, editorial staff have expended substantial time in providing writing and editorial assistance. Overall, the tone and approach towards the reader is one that assumes an interest and some familiarity with the field but one that seeks to provide explanations and meanings when technical or field "jargon" or acronyms are used; in general the CTR seeks to welcome the reader into an on-going conversation among some of the major practitioners and leaders in the field (hence the inclusion and important role of photos of authors and individuals who are participants in the events covered). In contrast to so-called "objective" or "neutral" journalism and reportage, movement building journalism engages both the producers and readers in a way that builds and strengthens their communities.

Solution: 

Develop journalism and communication venues that present news, events, and developments in a field in-depth, covering key organizations and institutions to offer a map and guide, using the most appropriate communication tools for participant leaders and actors. For those interested in using hard copy or on-line tools for community-building in a field that does not currently make use of them, discuss the situation with your colleagues and compatriots and find an associated field where such tools are used. Those who have developed them will almost always provide useful advice and even volunteer assistance.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

How do activists and those interested in movements or communities of practice get a sense of best practices, underlying philosophies, strategies, leadership, key institutions and organizations, useful resources and tools, and current work? Developing journalism and communication venues that present in-depth news, events, and developments in a field is essential. And covering key organizations and institutions can help offer a map and guide.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Peter Miller

Citizen Journalism

Pattern ID: 
805
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
91
Lewis A. Friedland
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Hernando Rojas
University of Wisconsin
Version: 
2
Problem: 

For democracy in a complex society to work well, journalism is necessary. Citizens need information about the political, economic, and cultural systems that structure their lives in order to act on them effectively. However, traditional news institutions have had major failures in their ability to adequately cover new

Context: 

Distributed information on the web opens new possibilities for citizen information. Some say that we at the

Discussion: 

The magnitude and interest in Citizen Journalism is quite new, although forms of it have existed through much of modern history. The pamphleteers of the American Revolution were, in their way, citizen journalists. Many of the newspapers that cropped up in the 19th Century were started by non-professionals, who saw a need in local communities and began publishing a mix of news, advertising, and gossip. Newspapers were professionalized in the 19th Century, leading to a relatively independent corps of journalists oriented to fact-based "objective reporting. But professionalization also discounted the underlying truth claims on one side or another and led to a decline of independent judgment and, sometimes, support for the status quo.

Beginning in the 90s, public or civic journalism constituted a major reaction to this state of affairs. The movement grew from the principle that while news organizations could and should remain independent in judging particular disputes and advancing particular solutions to problems, they ought not to remain neutral on democracy and civic life itself. About of a fifth of all American newspapers and some television stations experimented with civic journalism from the early 90s to the early 2000s, but other pressures subverted it.

By the mid-1990s, the web began to offer a different alternative. Blogging offered new networks of opinion writing, as well as criticism of traditional media outlets. Some considered it journalism, others editorializing or soapboxing. But, what was clear was that the new writing could carve out its own space of attention on the web (although it remained dependent on the reporting of the mainstream media).

Citizen journalism as a distinct movement emerged in early 2000s. Journalists like Dan Gilmor, left the San Jose Mercury News to start Bayosphere, an independent journalism blog. At the same time, political blogs grew rapidly in number and influence on both left and right sides of the political spectrum. The emerging practices of citizen journalism run the gamut from new forms of audience participation in traditional media to citizen expression in the blogosphere In terms of content they alternate fact-oriented reporting of locally based participants in the context of a global network, to self-expression of opinion. What defines citizen journalism, then, is not specific content, a given business model or a form of reporting, but rather a networked structure of storytelling that is based on the following premises: a) openness of information; b) horizontal linkage structures rather than vertical flows of information; c) blurring lines between content production and consumption; d) diffused accountability based on reputation and meaning, rather than on structural system hierarchies.

One of the best examples of a mainstream media institution practicing citizen journalism is the Spokane Spokesman Review (www.spokesmanreview.com/) which systematically incorporates the views of Spokane's citizens in every aspect of its reporting, from hard news to sports. The Review has even put its morning news meeting on the web.

Another strand of citizen journalism is a hybrid, in which professional and citizens interact in the production process. The exemplar in this realm is Ohmy News (www.ohmynews.com) from South Korea whose motto is "Every Citizen is a Reporter." Ohmy News has a paid editing and reporting staff that works on 200 plus daily submissions from citizens. More than 40,000 citizens overall have contributed to the site. U.S. Sites like the Twin Cities Daily Planet (www.tcdailyplanet.net) and the Voice of San Diego (www.voiceofsandiego.org) are seeking to replicate its success, and Ohmy News is investing in its International site. Recently, Jay Rosen in PressThink (http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/) has proposed New Assignment, a hybrid model in which citizens will submit issues and topics they want to see reported on, and professional editors will pursue the story along with citizen journalists.

The Madison Commons project in Wisconsin has developed another type of hybrid model. The Commons project trains citizens to do neighborhood reporting and gathers reporting from mainstream media aggregates it on a local web site. (www.madisoncommons.org). Another good example of academic/citizen partnerships is represented by Mymissourian (www.mymissourian.com), in which journalism students serve as editors for citizen journalists.

Finally, the blogosphere emerges as a massive example of citizen journalism as part of a large conversation that either makes or comments on the news. Of course blogs, their content, their significance and recognition vary widely, from general blogs of professional journalists like Gilmore’s to pundits on the left and right, to community level aggregators to more personal expressions (www.baristanet.com/).

Citizen journalism allows anyone who wants to contribute to public debate as an active participant. There are a number of relevant motives: the intrinsic enjoyment of interviewing, reporting and writing. The civic rewards of contributing informed knowledge to a larger public discussion and debate. And the reward of building an alternative institution, whether local news alternative or worldwide public.

First, citizen journalism offers the ability to collaborate to make many small contributions to what is essentially an ongoing conversation among many people, most of whom do not know each other than through the common project. Second, the so-called "wisdom of crowds," holds that many people know more than a few, that even experts only have limited knowledge, and that a broad open domain with many contributors will produce useful and valid knowledge.

Third, and closely related to these, is the idea of "the people formerly known as the audience." (Rosen and Gilmore). This is to say that the audience for news media (media in general) is no longer passive. Rather it is an active group that will respond in a continuum to the news, ranging from simple active reading, linking and sending stories to friends via email and lists, and commenting on stories, to contributing factual knowledge that can flesh out or correct a story, to actual writing as citizen journalists. Across all these levels of activity citizens become more engaged with their communities.

An active and engaged citizenry can expand the range of topics discussed, and improve the quality and extent of information about any given issue, by opening it up to anyone involved. Citizen journalism creates the possibility for civic action to be deliberative instead of hierarchical. By participating directly in the production and dissemination of journalism citizens help, even in small ways, to set the news agenda.

Alternatives to citizen journalism such as face to face community level deliberation exercises and electronic dialogues are both important and complimentary to citizen journalism, but they lack the fact-based component which is critical to democracy and that should not be solely in the hands of traditional media.

For citizens to use this pattern, there are a number of things they can do. They can go to websites like www.j-lab.org to find out how to begin doing citizen journalism themselves, and have access to many tools and examples. The best overall resource for thinking about citizen journalism is Press Think (www.pressthink.org) which also links many layers of citizen journalists, mostly in the U.S. Those interested in the international movement can go to Ohmy News International (http://english.ohmynews.com) or Wikinews (www.wikinews.org). There are also web resources such as the News University that where originally conceived to enhance the training of journalists, but that can also improve the journalistic skills of citizens (www.newsu.org).

There are three main challenges to citizen journalism: sustainability, inclusion and traditional journalism. Probably the biggest challenge to doing citizen journalism is sustaining a distributed enterprise that requires time, attention, and skill, from both producers and contributors/readers. A second challenge is to avoid ending up in many small communities of group monologue rather than in a broader community dialogue. And finally, citizen journalism may accelerate the erosion of traditional journalism without replacing it with a new model powerful enough to center attention on core social problems, in a society that is already highly distracted.

Nevertheless, is appears that a pattern that brings together the networked discussion of citizens in the blogosphere with fact oriented reporting will be a more fitting model to build a vibrant public sphere than the centralized and hierarchical model of the printed media and mass television that we have now (Maher, 2005). Benkler (2006) has made a powerful argument that the baseline for our evaluation should be the mass media model that has, in many ways, failed to report on the most critical issues of our day, not an idealized model of citizen journalism. Further, for the foreseeable future, they will continue to complement each other, willingly or not.

Solution: 

Build new models of citizen journalism, nationally, internationally, and locally to create new forms of reporting and public accountability. In local communities, build information commons to support the active learning and participation of citizens in changing the traditional media ecologies to ones that blend the best of citizen and traditional media. For individuals, learn new skills of reporting via the web, and become an active reader, commenter, and contributor.

The citizen journalism pattern is already being realized world-wide. Its beauty is that is only takes a sufficient number of citizens with access to technology and an interest in some story. Citizen journalism is growing daily as the increasing number of projects worldwide and the expanding blogosphere attest. Whether it will continue to grow will depend upon the solutions posed by these projects to the challenges of sustainability and inclusion. Although it is early to asses the impact of citizen journalism it would appear that in Korea it has served to open the political spectrum and in the United States to redefine the news agenda. It remains to be seen, whether, and how, citizen journalism can develop in non- democratic countries. At least in theory it could represent an important pathway in the development of a networked civil society that brings about democratization change.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Citizens need information about the political, economic, and cultural systems that structure their lives. This is usually produced by journalists — but citizens can be journalists. The beauty of Citizen Journalism is that it only requires: citizens with dedication, skills, and access to networks, and an audience for the news they produce. Citizen Journalism represents an important opportunity for the realization of democratic change.

Pattern status: 
Released
Syndicate content