Category Archives: Danielle Lowe

Affirm me, don’t enlighten me.

It’s true. Media, namely news, affirms, it doesn’t necessarily enlighten. You watch the stations that resonate with your views. In fact, I bet most non right-winged college students just watch the current presidential debates so they can play drinking games drinking each time Bachmann talks about her 23 kids.

If you’re French, you don’t want to read about freedom fries, but if you have your American flag waving and your guns on your wall, you may just get a chuckle out of this. I understand that this isn’t good. It may even be more important to educate yourself on the views that don’t resonate with you – but where’s the fun there?

I joke, but in reality, media is at fault here – not people. This is psychological, we can’t help it. The media, on the other hand, can. I must bring it to my group project here since it has been the focus for me. Search for Common Ground does just this – it takes stories that resonate with people and turn it into entertainment.

Why does Search for Common Ground do this? Well many of the same reasons other media sources do it. To increase audience and to make money. It doesn’t create false stories or “trash” tv. Search for Common Ground comes up with stories from real people’s lives of conflict situations solved peacefully and turns it into entertainment.

Instead of kicking the butt of the local gangster for making fun of your Muslim faith, an actor may respond with a witty retort or a meaningful conversation. The love stories are inter-faith or inter-racial, there are gays not accepted in the society. There are friendships between different classes and overbearing parents.

Why do people watch these? Because they resonate. You’re gay, and scared to come out. You’re black and your girlfriend’s white. Your best friend is rich and you aren’t. You like the humor. You think the main actress is hot. It doesn’t matter what you resonate with, you just do.

But Search for Common Ground is different from other media sources , it has different motives. Teach peaceful conflict resolution. Media which affirms, resonates – and this is not what needs to be changed. It is making this affirmation closer to something that can also be enlightening that needs to be worked on.

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Schizoid World

When I was in yoga yesterday my teacher, to paraphrase, told us to let go of whatever we are , mothers, fathers, accountants, sons, sisters, lawyers, students, yogis, foodies…the list went on. The point was to be in the moment and in your yoga practice; however, it got me thinking about the imagined communities presentation in class. I started to think, what commonalities form imagined communities.

People in class giggled when she said foodies, or yogis. Why was this? To be a father, a son, a sister etc… there is little need for a community. Every man is a son, and every woman is a daughter. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that in order for an imagined community to exist, there must be a need. Perhaps even a sense of minority. People giggled when they heard foody because they thought, “wow, I thought I was the only one.” People maintained a straight face when they heard son, because, well their neighbor, and neighbor’s neighbor was also a son. And again they giggled when she said yogi, because, me personally I wonder if people at work see me walk out with my yoga mat and automatically put me into this group too?

I’m taking a roundabout way here to explain my thoughts; however, what I’m getting at is that an imagined community comes around when there is a need for it. The question is: when does this need become so great that a community arises? When do you need to join the “yogi” community – and trust me, this is a community. Or the “foody” community? Is it when normal people just don’t understand?

It seems to me like if you need a community you can find it. Perhaps that idea of the melting pot isn’t so accurate. Nobody really needs to melt into a certain community; they can just moderately adjust, but go home at night to their own community that keeps them comfortable.

It’s a schizoid world out there. You can be a part of so many different communities that it’s hard to just choose three, like we were asked to do in class yesterday. Me, I’m a fundraiser, a yoga practicer and a woman. But let me tell you, I can’t tell you the number of times I accidently try to go to work in my yoga pants!

Keep Your Enemies Closer

It’s a cliché, yes, but it has validity. I thought about this when discussing internet usage in restrictive countries in class. We discussed Bingchun Meng’s piece “From Steamed Bun to Grass Mud Horse: E Gao as alternative political discourse on the Chinese Internet.” This “hidden transcript”, as professor Hayden described it, is an art form for humor, sarcasm and critical, yet teasing, analysis.

 E Gao is perhaps not as hidden as I first thought. It is a wide spread art form known by many, and I would have to assume is noticed by the government. I found this article from 2007 expressing concern in E Gao. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-01/22/content_788600.htm. If E Gao has been creating worries since at least 2007, why is it still allowed. China has no problem clamping down on public forums. Monitoring and refusal of freedom of speech is not uncommon in China. So if the government does know about this, why hasn’t E Gao been shut down?

 Professor Hayden discussed in class how a lot of things can be said in China, but as soon as they are expressed in a way to promote organization, China will begin censoring. So, assuming that this is the case, there are two reasons I can think of on why E Gao still creeps through the cracks. One, it’s not organized and causes no threat. Or, two, it’s in the best interest of a country to keep its enemies closer, and what better way than by allowing some unwanted activity.

 I found that Ian Shapiro confirms this theory in his Washington Post article “U.S. funding tech firms that help Mideast dissidents evade government censors.” As the title suggests, the U.S. is helping fund what many believe was at the heart of the Arab Spring, access to internet and in turn human rights. A non-profit organization, The Tor Project, discussed in Shapiro’s article, helps journalists, law enforcement, intelligence agencies and even U.S. and European governments with Tor for intelligence gathering, but they will not honor requests from Middle East governments that want to conduct  surveillance on their citizens.

 Perhaps this is why some Middle East governments are losing their power. If you offer no freedom you must seek it out somewhere else, and that somewhere else may be more powerful. China may be keeping its society from having the need to reach out, but still keeping a close surveillance, just as each of our accounts may be closely watched by government branches in the U.S. But do we feel the need to seek other forms of accessibility? Too many restrictions and you are failing to keep your enemies closer.

Messaging Across Professions

I’m writing this blog as I sit on a plane headed for the West Coast for a conference for work – The North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference (NACFC).   It’s an annual meeting for hundreds of medical professional involved with Cystic Fibrosis and rotates location around the country each year. Those invited include doctors, nurses, hospital/ care center administrators and pharmaceutical reps from all around the world. My job, however, is to work with a group of people not involved in the medical profession. I work with the volunteers: the parents, the grandparents, the siblings, friends and advocates of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients. These inspirational figures put their passion and commitment towards finding a cure and have funded the medical advances being discussed in the conference.

I found it necessary to draw a comparison from class to my experiences now since I am writing while preparing for the conference. NACFC is an amazing event for the CF community and it really draws on Chouliarki’s reference to messaging, concluding that it may not be about what’s in the message and instead what significance the message can have to different people and cultures.

I find this statement incredibly accurate – and important for organizations to understand. In our conference, we are delivering many different messages to a variety of audiences. Perhaps the most counter-intuitive messaging goes to the big pharma reps. The docs, the care centers and the parents want to hear updates, they want to be well informed, and most of all they want to be inspired that new drugs are being developed that will change and lengthen the lives of CF patients. The reps on the other hand, not to diminish any human kindness, often times want to know about the $$$. Why would a pharmaceutical company, a for profit institution, want to help CF, a disease that afflicts 30,000 patients, when they could trigger lung disease which affects a much larger demographic? Let me assure you, we can convince some reps. It’s not with the statement of the CF child, which trust me would most likely pull at your heart strings, but instead with what they like the most $$$. It’s called “venture philanthropy”. It’s a way of making philanthropy and investment.

After that long explanation, what I’m trying to pull out of it is that not every attendee comes to the conference with the same expectations, nor do they receive the same messaging, but they do all leave with a common goal – to end CF. Like OWS, which is much more scattered than NACFC, audiences are able to understand that there are common problems around the world regardless of the actual message. NACFC crosses occupational and country lines across a diverse group of people who leave the conference understanding the common underlying significance.

Lastly, I wanted to reference another point Chouliarki made that connects to my conference.  Chouliarki discussed the delivery of messages and how it can impact the response. To paraphrase, ‘The way I address you, says a lot about how you should respond.’ At NACFC as I mentioned above, my job is to host a few events for our volunteers and major donors. These events conclude with a dinner where we discuss our fundraising campaign with the message- ‘You helped the science discussed at this conference, and we need you to continue helping.’ If we address you in terms of thank you and “look at all you have done for us and where your money is going” – there is a hope that the response will be even more support.

Friend Me.

I have a problem. I am not disciplined enough to use social media. I know, ironic, considering I am blogging as we speak, but honestly, I have no idea how to really use it. Sure, I look at my friends engagement photos and new babies. I post a funny lyric or quote from time to time. But when it comes to productively, consistently and well, straight up remembering, Facebook and I just aren’t great friends.

 It’s funny, because me being not as good friends with Facebook makes me less good friends with hundreds of people I don’t really know and otherwise would probably not even say hello to on the street. I feel excluded from this ever growing network society.

 Though I feel excluded from this society, I feel that not being as active makes me more included to many “real” friends. I actually have to call them to see what’s going on, get together to see pictures from their honeymoon, and even send an e-mail to catch up. Yes, scary thoughts, I know.

 More concisely I am saying that Facebook makes you feel included if you use it well, but excluded if you don’t. The reverse is that Facebook can exclude you from your “real friends” because you no longer need to work as hard to keep the relationship, and they may notice.

 Interestingly however, my international friends and I have much better relationships when they join Facebook. Perhaps this is because the alternative is not necessarily a visit or even a phone call. You can start where you left off with slight knowledge of what has been going on in their lives, and for some reason, in this case, it’s less creepy.

I find the idea of how social media sets an inclusive and exclusive environment fascinating. It is not a straight answer and can change by culture, by context and by medium. I bet I’ll notice this more often and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be better with Facebook.

Where did you get your cape?

Three years ago, I was walking in Woodley Park looking for a restaurant. I walked into a Thai place and the hostess said, “I’m sorry there’s a 30-minute wait.” I then looked around, and realized that I, dressed in jeans and a blouse, was way under dressed. Everyone in the restaurant was wearing a costume. There were antennas, neon colors, tails, wings, fake muscles – you name it, it was in this restaurant. Not wanting to wait, we left to go to another restaurant. We quickly learned that Connecticut Avenue was filled with people dressed up. I wondered if it was Halloween, but no – no it was only September. We finally asked someone and learned, that the costumed individuals were in DC staying at the Omni for the comic book convention.

It wasn’t the costumes or cult-like behavior that ultimately got my interest; I’ve been to many a Phish show, it was that these people were staying at the Omni.  I spoke with two women, identically dressed up, as they giggled about where they bought their wigs. I didn’t admit that I didn’t know who they were supposed to be, but I struck up conversation and learned that one was a student and the other an attorney in Missouri.

I guess the reason why this struck my interest was because the women were ‘normal’, they had conformed to society’s “go to school and get a job,” but were dressed in neon green wigs, a cape and a red mask. This to me is the epitome of what Henry Jenkin’s describes as fan culture. These women took a media that they enjoyed so thoroughly that they created it in reality.  But, only for the weekend. After the weekend they went back to studying and lawyering. This just showed me how easy it is to produce a fan culture. You don’t need to be predisposed to cultish behavior – you just need to be REALLLY interested, and in this case, have the means to stay at the Omni.

Perhaps this is a form of hybridity. Combining reality and fantasy without driving your life into the ground due to confusion. Perhaps this kind of culture can help people who would most likely not relate to one another, have something in common. After all, culture is the glue that keeps a society together  – and makes you relate to one another. How many times do you meet someone you see on a normal basis and realize that they have a similar ancestry, or live in the same apartment building and understand the wacky 4th floor tenant, or like similar cuisines, or absolutely love comic books. These are all cultures that bring people together in a way that is not traditionally seen. Perhaps fan culture can bridge a gap that otherwise would be left untouched.

When Deregulation Means More Regulation

I couldn’t help but think about the applause after President Obama announced the America Invents Act while we discussed Siochrú and Girards regulating with the intent of social fairness. On September 16th this year, President Obama made what he considered the most significant reform to the Patent Act since 1952. Strategically timed, President Obama announced this just days after his Job’s Speech where he was busy trying to “PASS THIS JOBS BILL,” I’m not sure if that got across in his speech or not.

The America Invents Act is President Obama’s way of removing some regulation to allow for growth, jobs and U.S. competitiveness. How can America stay globally competitive if we don’t create the next light bulb? Do you think Thomas Edison waited in a virtual line of 1.2 million to get his patent?

Looking at it from this point of view, I understand. The time people must wait before their creations can become profitable may be too long – certainly slowing down growth. I’d lose steam if I had to wait three years before I could unleash my brilliance.

On the other hand – perhaps this deregulation will allow people to abuse the system? My friend works in the alarm business and his company and GE are in a battle to snag as many patents as they can. I guess in a way this is keeping in the “competitive” spirit of the Act, but I’m not so sure that this is creating jobs. “We don’t want you to have it, but we have no clue what to do with it, so let’s just play keep away.”

Of course this deregulation, may not actually be more regulating, but it never hurts to play devil’s advocate. In a perfect world, the more entrepreneurs the more jobs and hopefully with more patents, more entrepreneurs. Grassroots Business Fund and other organizations base their entire business model on creating entrepreneurs in developing countries to strive for sustainable economic opportunities. This is the “grassroots” way of growing, so why wouldn’t we try it?

Overall, removing some regulations to patenting may be great for the economy. In the spirit of Apple’s Steve Jobs, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” RIP.

Call me Illiterate.

Computer programmers use a language to communicate with a machine to get it to function in a certain way. Now, most of us don’t speak this language, but we do speak a more conversational style of computer.

Think about it, how frustrated were you when you updated to Windows 2007?  All of a sudden there was no file tab! How about when you used your first Mac – What, there’s no ctrl, alt, delete? It reminds me of the first time I tried to speak French in France. Who knew screaming “garcon” at a waiter was outdated!

If you can follow me on this analogy, it would only seem fair to compare the navigation of computer to the speaking of a language. For most of us, it is not something that came completely natural until we used it regularly. In middle school, I took computer classes and felt about as frustrated and nervous as I did when speaking French in French class. With more and more use I learned the languages, computer and French, and could use them more fluently. Just like language, when I took a retail job and stepped away from computers, I was a bit rusty when I took my office job – unfortunately just as I am with my college French.

Kids today aren’t waiting until middle school to learn how to use a computer. They are waiting until they are developed enough to be able to hold the weight of an iphone.  The generational gap is astounding. I see it in my office, and I’m sure when I’m the age of the people I’m teaching to “copy and paste”, the people in their 20’s will be talking about me in the same way. The language of computer is growing and it is necessary to be fluent in it to grow in the United States and in the world.

Of course, it’s hard for us to even imagine being illiterate. But we too learned the computer language, it didn’t just come naturally. We practiced, we utilized and we conquered. Throwing a computer into a village without computers with little guidance, is as good as throwing a Marylander into Akureyri, Iceland and telling them to speak Icelandic. Computers are a language and need to be treated and taught like one. Hopes and crossed fingers won’t do the trick.

Raise the Flag

 Off of route 50 heading east from D.C., right when you pass the Bowie Town Center exit, there flies the largest American Flag in the world. Now, of course, I can’t be certain that it is truly the largest, but since I was a kid I remember driving by this exit and thinking wow – that is one big flag. I would get that tingling feeling in my tummy about how I should be more appreciative of my country.

Now, I find that this sense of nationalism, which I referred to above as the tingling in my tummy, is something that ebbs and flows with time and current events. More particularly, highlighted in the readings, is that it is directly influenced by media.

 The media tells us how and when to feel patriotic. Patriotism, in this sense, is being defined as a cultural, more specifically, visual, representation of nationalism. After 9/11 how many people put a flag in their yard? I know my family did. After the last election, how many people waited in lines at the porta john’s at then president-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration? I know I did. Why? The media sensationalizes events.

 By NO MEANS am I belittling 9/11 or President Obama. Instead, I am saying that the firemen posed like Iwo Jima are the patriotic image related to 9/11. This is not because it had anything to do with the events, or those who died, or even World War II, it’s because the media caught this and found a way to relate it back to the American people. Those who didn’t even know of the battle of Iwo Jima now know, at the very minimum, it is a patriotic image.

 On a similar note, how many people watch women’s soccer? How many people watched the US women go into a shoot out in the FIFA Women’s world cup? The media doesn’t need tragedy to promote nationalism.

 Whether it’s Ronald Regan wearing a cowboy hat, or the biggest flag in the world displayed outside of a used car dealership in Bowie, Maryland – Americans like to feel American. We like to be reminded of our nationalism. And the media likes to get the attention.

The-world-isn’t-that-bad theory

In my line of work, fundraising, cultivation is an important tool to, well, cultivate. We start with weee little donors and hope that with our charm, business model and scientific updates, we can help our donors bloom into major supporters of our cause. This is why, for me, Gerbner’s cultivation theory makes me chuckle. Not because it’s incorrect, but more because in my business we look at cultivation as a positive tool. Something that will help us, help our cause and in turn help the donor.

 Our whole theory is, the more time you touch a donor (letters, phone calls, e-mails, visits), the more likely the donor will become a strong partner to the organization. This is cultivation. In the cultivation theory, there is a similar outcome. The theory claims that the more TV you watch the more warped your world is. Your sense of reality is affected by what you see on TV. How many people think Kazakhs from Kazakhstan look Eastern European because of Borat? Now, cultivating in fundraising should never present a false view, but it can affect perceptions like the cultivation theory claims.

 Gerbner’s mean-world hypothesis takes it a step further saying that not only can TV change your view on reality, but too much violent TV will make you scared of the world. The world may be scary, but the chance of a serial killer dressed as clown while playing the ice cream song on a harmonica, in a stolen school bus abducting you is, to say the least, unlikely, except on Law and Order, of course. Frankly, I’m much more scared of being overcharged at a coffee shop.

 If the mean-world hypothesis holds true for many people in our society, how about the good-world hypothesis? If I can convince you through cultivation, that your support could help cure a disease wouldn’t you be more willing to donate? If the more I see you, the more you trust me and the more you trust my organization makes the disease a little less scary, wouldn’t this be a well-the-world-isn’t-that-bad theory?

Cultivation may change your views on reality, but it also may build a sense of compassion that you wouldn’t otherwise have. It can be argued that cultivation can change your views; but whether it leads you to a mean, mean world, or a hopeful new beginning, that is the question.