Thursday, January 15, 2009

Partisan Scream Machine Fed to Facebook!

I finally have this blog hooked up to my Facebook account. As an update for my last post, about Facebook as a news feed, I've found some good tools to connect my content and interesting news pieces with Facebook.

Since Digg still isn't functioning with Facebook Connect, I had to find another route to connect that info to my Facebook account. I started using Twitterfeed, which is a great program that connects my RSS feeds and blog posts to my Twitter account (follow me here). The best part about Twitterfeed is that I can connect multiple RSS feeds and blogs to my Twitter account, and control the frequency of updates and volume of posts. I currently have my Digg actions, my blog posts here, and my actions on OpenCongress feeding to my Twitter account.

Seeing as I think Twitter is close to worthless without these feeds, I then hooked up my Twitter account to Facebook. Seriously, Twitter is ridiculous on its own. Twitter is like techie crack, but it's also one dimensional, and annoying. If I could just feed all my info to Facebook, I would...Anyone know a way out? hit me with it--Twitterfeed is cool--but how about Facebookfeed?


Friday, January 09, 2009

Facebook as a News Feed

I'm not updating this blog very often because I'm lazy. I can't do the constant update thing, with breaking news, etc. I'm too lazy to copy a link to a news piece, post it in this little box and make some comment.

Of course my laziness has its own (lack of) motivation. I don't find it beneficial for me personally, to rehash news that has already been reported by much more authoritative voices. Not only am I not 'on the ground' in a lot of these instances, I don't have the best insight. Besides, there are plenty of people out there doing the exact same thing...

But mainly I'm not writing these updates because the Blogger platform is already outdated. It's an antique. I've been using RSS feeds to get my news, on my toolbar, from multiple sources all in one place.

In terms of sharing news, I'm no longer focusing on acting as a news and information hub, a point I've made clear in a previous post. Instead, I'm focusing on social media. I've been using Digg and Facebook to pass around my favorite news bits and interesting links. With the many sharing options on most big media sites, I've been able to post items directly to my Facebook page or Digg them quickly and easily.

But now, two developments have made all that even easier-- the Digg Toolbar on Firefox, and Facebook Connect. The Digg toolbar is a nice, seamless improvement, while Facebook connect could change the way people use and identify themselves on the Internet.

With the Digg toolbar, I can now Digg any story anywhere on the web, just by clicking the 'digg' button just below my toolbar links. Not only that, but I can see how many people have similarly 'dugg' the piece, and how many comments have been posted. What's more, I get a pop-up update every time one of my friends Diggs a piece. It's a great way to use Digg seamlessly, while sharing your news with friends.

Facebook Connect takes it to a whole new level. Now with Facebook Connect, sites (like Digg...) can allow users to seamlessly combine their actions to their Facebook profiles. For example, If Digg ever gets their shit together and starts using Facebook Connect, not only would I be instantaneously sharing my diggs with freinds on Digg, but I'd also being sharing them with all of my friends on Facebook. All in one click of a button. This is important because now I don't have multiple communties of friends on different sites (I have Digg friends, Facebook friends, OpenCongress friends, etc, etc). With Facebook Connect, I'll be able to share everything in one place.

So don't look here for rapid news updates.

Friend me on Facebook:

Or on Digg:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Q&A with New School in Exile Participant Chris Crews

In writing my piece on the New School in Exile and New Media, I had some interesting conversations with activists, past and present. Chris Crews, a graduate student in Politics and participant in the New School in Exile occupation, knew exactly what I was getting at in concentrating on new media and activism. He gave me some great answers to a few questions and I figured editorializing would not do them justice. So here are Chris's responses in their entirety:

ZP: Do you think live blogging and posting videos of actions while inside the building, in real time, was effective in making the student voice heard?

Chris Crews: Yes, I think it was critical to have real-time media reporting from within the building. We were able to keep outside supporters, legal teams, and the media informed as things were going down, and also to challenge the claims that the administration was making. Also, because of the power of the internet and blogs, we were getting letters of support from people in Greece, in Mexico, in Puerto Rico, in Malaysia, in Finland, basically in places we would never have been able to reach otherwise. And it also acted as a check against the university police and security. They knew that if they raided the place, we would report it as it was happening, thus ensuring they could not have a free hand to do whatever they wanted.

Additionally, I think it acts as a way to tell our story that engages with the younger YouTube generation who seems unable to read newspapers and magazines, but has no problem watching 8 minutes videos and animations. So for that group, it is also a powerful medium. Not only that, it serves to document events in a way that words alone cannot. A great example of that was one incident in particular where a high-up New School security official, Jose Villegas, slammed one student into the wall and threatened a few others. We have that all on tape, and can use that to make a case for the security acting in hostile and threatening ways towards the students. We can tell the press and the public that security is over-reacting, but when we show it it is especially powerful!

ZP: Was there any threat to your internet connectivity? Did any New School representative threaten to turn off wireless connections/electricity/etc.?

CC: Actually, the biggest threat was the poor quality of the wireless signal and the lack of any dedicated Ethernet connections. A few of us even joked about demanding better internet service in the cafeteria. But to the best of my knowledge, no, there was never a threat of turning off internet access. We did discuss that possibility, and had backup plans in place should that happen, as well as a number of people who could do updates via mobiles and blackberries with dedicated internet service. So ultimately it would have been a pain, but it would not have stopped our ability to communicate. To the best of my knowledge no one in the administration threatened to turn off internet service, and I'm not even sure if they control it, or if it is an outside service provider who has that power?
(NOTE: Elisa Deljanin of The New School Free Press told me in a separate email exchange that school officials DID discuss the possibility of turning off the Wireless Internet in the 65 5th Ave building during the occupation.)
ZP: Do you think you've been able to hold mainstream media accountable in this way?

CC: More or less, I think. Obviously you can't control what gets printed, and there were some stories, the NY Post in particular being the one that comes to mind, that spin things in ludicrous ways or at least not in the ways we feel are accurate. But since we were the main ones providing the media footage, statements and pictures from within the occupation, this did give us an unusually high amount of control over our own image, which is usually not the case in situation like this, and is worth noting. And overall, I think the media has been more favorable in its coverage because there is a perception that we have really legitimate demands and concerns, that we are not just an isolated incident, and that there is a whole institutional problem at work here that is being raised. The article in the New York Times today ( is a perfect example of that.

ZP: I've been concentrating on two things in particular--one was the student response to Bob Kerrey letter calling the New School in Exile a 'security risk'. You guys then posted a Youtube video showing a security guard using excessive force against a number of students--with the message being "Who's the real threat?" Second, I was interested to see the comments on the NYtimes City Room blog posts from students getting more information out with a major newspaper. Basically then, what do you think this means for the future of direct actions if protesters are able to respond to attacks and report on police abuses in real time?

CC: I think this is important for two reasons. First, and this is definitely something that is an emerging benefit of new media technology, is the ability to get information out almost real-time on, for example, police raids or similar actions. So in the case of the Kerrey letter, we got it, were able to upload some video clips showing exactly the opposite was in fact happening, and then could use that to undermine his claims and bolster ours. That isn't something that could have been done even 20 years ago, and hardly even 10 years ago, at least not with this reach (ie. YouTube, the blogs, etc..) And as far as the NY Times City Blog, it's a mixed bag. It's a good way for other supporters to weigh in, show their support and add their views. On the down side, you get a lot of people who, in my opinion, have absolutely no idea what they are talking about and tend to leave comments suggesting they somehow know more than we do and have some moral authority over those in the occupation, that allows them to make snide and completely uninformed comments that only take away from the issue. But, as is the nature of blogs and comments, everybody gets their two cents, even if some posts are pure drivel.

ZP: I had some interesting discussions with Debra Sweet and Danny Schechter about their experiences trying to get their message out in the 1960s. They agreed that this is a clean break from their media struggles...I really think you guys were opening a new door here. What do you think?

CC: Absolutely. I'm a big media person, and so obviously I think it is a big deal. We were able to use film, printed text, e-mail, the Internet (blogs, YouTube, our web site), mobile phones and even Twitter to get information out and into the hands of others. I think that wide media saturation is critical for both creating a spectacle and for reaching a critical mass of attention than can shift the dynamics in a situation. Without all of that communication, who knows, we might have only been 30 people sitting in jail still in a New York processing facility? But we had that technology, and I think we used it really effectively, and that is a victory we will be able to learn from and build on for the future.

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Activism in a Time of New Media

Early Friday morning students stream out of a cafeteria in The New School’s Albert List Hall. Between 50 and 200 of them had been occupying a cafeteria in the building at various times during a 36 hour protest against the university administration. It’s early. The students are tired, but in good spirits after university president Bob Kerrey agreed to most of their demands, including more student voice in university affairs and the creation of a committee on Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) to oversee university capital funds. They declare victory.

But they can also claim a key victory in a less obvious battle—the battle over message. For two and a half days students reported from inside the cafeteria using text messages, email, blog posts, Youtube videos, and Twitter feeds. They responded to New York Times’ City Room blog posts with news updates and fact checks. They countered Kerrey’s labeling of the occupation as a “security risk” by posting videos of security personnel using excessive force on occupiers. They made their demands and their decisions clear and free for all to read. It was all in real time—and it was all powered by the university’s electricity and wireless Internet.

The use of these new technologies marks a new era in fighting and winning a message war during direct actions. Not only were the New School students able to quickly and inexpensively release updates and report on the scene, they were able to respond to accusations in real time, as the events were still unfolding. Getting the message out on a broad platform has never been faster, cheaper, or more accessible—and participants can do it all without leaving the scene.

This is especially important for student organizers who have long been on the margins of mainstream media. For young activists to have access to a national platform in which their voice can be heard unedited is unprecedented.

Compared to student actions in the 1960s and 70s, the New School occupiers have had a breeze. Debra Sweet, National Director of the activist group The World Can’t Wait, remembers the difficulties of message control and information dissemination in the 1960s and 1970s. “It was very hard to get on the national stage at all,” she said about actions she participated in at the time.

“We didn’t have any access to the media,” she said. “You had very primitive technology for making mimeograph fliers. And that was the main way you communicated. You’d hand deliver press releases to the news. There was no other way to quickly get the message to them. It wasn’t easy.”

Of course there was no guarantee that the information relayed to the press was being reported accurately. Sweet said, “There was a lot of shaping of the message and people were vilified.”

MediaChannel’s Danny Schechter draws the same conclusion about his experiences in student actions at Harvard and the London School of Economics. “We used to have demonstrations and we’d all go home at night and watch them do the reports on TV, which were never quite accurate.” “Today,” Schechter says, “you can see it immediately online.”

The New School occupiers could be thankful for that as they used video footage to document their actions and hold the university administration and security personnel accountable. On Thursday at 8PM, the New School in Exile, as the students called their action, posted a Youtube video of a security officer using excessive force on students, throwing one female student to the ground and almost choking another male student. This was posted in direct response to a letter Bob Kerrey sent to the press, labeling the occupation a “security risk.” In posting the video mere hours after the incident, the New School in Exile’s makeshift website stated, “We encourage the public to watch and decide exactly who is using force against whom!”

"This is definitely something that is an emerging benefit of new media technology," says Chris Crews, a graduate student in Politics at New School and participant in the occupation.

"In the case of the Kerrey letter, we got it, were able to upload some video clips showing exactly the opposite was in fact happening, and then could use that to undermine his claims and bolster ours. That isn't something that could have been done even 20 years ago," Crews says, "and hardly even 10 years ago, at least not with this reach."

Sweet asks what some student actions would have looked like if protesters had had the technologies we do today. “What if there had been real time broadcast capability during Chicago ’68?” she asks. “Especially during the various rebellions in the 60s where people were being shot down in the streets by the police. It took years to piece together and uncover what happened.”

Schechter makes the ultimate claim about the value of new technologies and accountability. He says, “Using video cameras monitors abuses and prevents them. People don’t like to be filmed while they’re beating people up.”

Crews said the use of video and other new media technologies was crucial to holding the administration and security detail in check. "It serves to document events in a way that words alone cannot," he said. "We can tell the press and the public that security is over-reacting, but when we show it, it is especially powerful."

We don’t know what violence (if any) might have been prevented by the students’ cameras. But we do know the students were quick to distribute all evidence they had to bolster their case. The New School occupiers can be thankful they were able to document instances of abuse and show clearly the posture of security forces, police, and students. Who was the aggressor? Go to the tape.

As for the actual events, the occupation was far less dramatic and violent than protests and occupations like Columbia University and the Students for a Democratic Society activities in Chicago in 1968. There is no doubt that this action was far more subdued than the 2006 student occupation of the Sorbonne in Paris.

But even as recent as the Sorbonne occupation of 2006 students were still at the whims of mainstream media. The new School in Exile may be one of the first actions in which the participants controlled the message. They were the authors, editors, and publishers of a message that found an international audience. Activists can now counter false reports and assumptions while documenting any grievances and infringements in real time.

Nixon famously claimed that Vietnam wasn’t lost on the battlefield, but instead it was lost in the halls of Congress and the editorial rooms of great newspapers. According to him, Vietnam was a failure of message control, because for the first time Americans saw the atrocities of war on the nightly news.

But now as more and more average citizens find themselves the authors of journalism, even the framing power of the editorial rooms diminishes. Those on the ground check the framing of the journalist with comments left on blog posts and links to videos. They ‘tweet’ about the conditions on the ground, and take digital photographs. And they can do it all as fast as the events unfold.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Impeach? Indict? Imprison?

For years now many have been calling for the heads of most top Bush Administration officials for their parts in a number of illegal acts, including the suspension of Habeas Corpus, illegal domestic spying, illegal detention of suspected terrorists, extraordinary rendition, etc, etc, etc. But maybe no other issue has been so hotly contested, and now blatantly admitted to, as torture.

Now the Senate Armed Services Committee has released a study revealing evidence that Bush administration officials repeatedly ignored warnings that their actions were potentially illegal and could put interrogators at risk of being charged with crimes. These warnings, of course, were ignored.

I'm not going to write a history of the implicit or explicit support for torture in the Bush Administration. At this point, all of the information one needs has come out in the press or now from the Senate Armed Servcies Committe. It's all out there.

But what we do need to ask ourselves is whether or not we want this happening in our name. Ask any soldier who has gone through SERE training if waterboarding is torture or not, and then ask yourself if we can let these crimes go unpunished. You can also read this great piece by Glenn Greenwald about the report and the rise in the number of people wanting to do something about it.

The gist of Greewald's piece is that if we hear these reports, recognize their importance, and fail to act, then we have failed to uphold the social contract and the Constitution. If we don't act, we're saying it's ok for our leaders to act with impunity. The actions of this administration are becoming far too apparent to be ignored for much longer. So since the likelihood of action before Janurary 20 is quite minimal, I'd say we need to start gearing up for action aimed at the new administration.

Shameless self promotion ahead--- One thing you can do is check out my Cafe Press shop and get some gear for battle. I've made a simple shirt with a simple message: Indict.

Of course, all money I raise is going back into this blog, hopefully to boost usability and to add new tools. But if nothing else, to get it in good working order. We can't be scared to fund independent media.

After all, as Bill Moyers stated, "Democracy only works when ordinary people claim it as their own." That's the ethos of this blog, the new media movement, and this movement to see justice served to those in positions of power that feel they are above the law.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Looking for Thoughts on Participatory Politics

The election of Barack Obama means certain areas. Yes he selected "More of the same" for most of his cabinet posts. Yes, his economic recovery package looks like the Newer Deal.

But one thing is for certain; Barack Obama has consistently been the strongest advocate for empowering average citizens through technology and the internet. His solid position on Net Neutrality serves as the best example. Obama has already started using as a forum for discussion. I'm interested to see how his administration will push this forward, how they will take in info and tips from across the country, how they will aggregate it, etc etc.

The best place to look will most likely be outside of Obama's government webpages for the time being. I'm on the hunt for the best tools and webpages that aid participatory politics. I'm looking for the sites that best act as a forum and aggregate debates in particular Congressional Districts. I'm looking for sites that best empower the citizens and build a large enough base to demand attention from Congress and the Obama Administration.

Here's a couple decent sites I've found so far:

Open Congress friend me, User Name: Zepickens
Our Presidency Friend me: Zepickens
I also use Digg, User Name: Zepickens

What I see emerging is a new, more democratic platform where citizens can contact their representatives, have debates in their communities, and be more engaged and connected to the issues that are effecting the lives of others in their community.

Give me some feedback here.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Buy Nothing Day!

Press release from Adbusters on Buy Nothing Day, the international day of resistance to consumer culture:


Now in its 17th year, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated every November by environmentalists, social activists and concerned citizens in over 65 countries around the world. Over the years, Buy Nothing Day (followed by Buy Nothing Christmas) has exploded into a global movement, inspiring the world’s citizens to live more simply and buy a whole lot less.

Designed to coincide with Black Friday (which this year falls on Friday, November 28) in the United States, and the unofficial start of the international holiday shopping season (Saturday, November 29), the festival takes many shapes, from relaxed family outings, to free, non-commercial street parties, to politically charged public protests, credit-card cut-ups and pranks and shenanigans of all kinds. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.

Featured by such media giants as CNN, USA Today, MSNBC, Wired, the BBC, The Age and the CBC, Buy Nothing Day has gained momentum in recent years as the climate crisis has driven people to seek out greener alternatives to unrestrained consumption.

This year, Buy Nothing Day organizers are confronting the economic meltdown head-on – asking citizens, policy makers and pundits to examine our economic crisis.

"If you dig a little past the surface you'll see that this financial meltdown is not about liquidity, toxic derivatives or unregulated markets, it's really about culture," says the co-founder of Adbusters Media Foundation, Kalle Lasn. "It's our culture of excess and meaningless consumption — the glorified spending and borrowing of the past decade that's at the root of the crisis we now find ourselves in."

Economic meltdown, together with the ecological crisis of climate change could be the beginning of a major global cultural shift — the dawn of a new age: the age of Post-Materialism.

"A simpler, pared-down lifestyle – one in which we're not drowning in debt – may well be the answer to this crisis we're in," says Lasn. "Living within our means will also make us happier and healthier than we’ve been in years."

Do what you can to spread the the BND message this year. Blog it, up-vote it on Digg, or slap a poster on a wall. This could be the breakthrough year when the heavy consumers of the world finally get it.

Warm regards,

The Adbusters Team

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?