Posted February 17th 2010 at 12:34 am by
in Media Mindfulness

Media Mindfulness

me dia mind ful ness n 1 : awareness of how media influences your work  2 : a meditative state of enhanced awareness, sometimes induced by finding the “sweet spot” between consuming and producing media for social change

by Fred Cavazza

Hear that twittering? People all over the urban planning, nonprofit management, international development, and community organizing fields are clamoring to figure out how to use new media tools to help reach their goals.  As excited as I am about these tools, I’m also fueled by the growing urgency of the gap between access and use of new technologies in disadvantaged communities.

Although I try to focus on media as a tool and not just an output, it’s the media that usually hooks people first.  Participatory media, also known as social media or Web 2.0, are digital media ranging from Twitter micro-blogging to Google Maps to YouTube videos.  These new media tools have different outputs, but have one key functionality in common: as users add media and interact, the aggregated content or application gains popularity and value.

But how can participatory media support (or hinder) community organizations and action researchers? My posts aim to cover a spectrum of reasons for using participatory media in the work of communities, including to document, broadcast, prompt, converse, collaborate, organize and/or mobilize.

Before we get started, here are a few confessions:

I’m an accidental media techie.  I happily hop the fence between door-knocking and Facebook groups or chalk on the sidewalk and Flip videos on YouTube.  I’ll cover some more technical how-to’s, but mostly I’m going to point you to experts or some existing sites or discussions.

Yes, I’m happy to see you but I also have a camera in my pocket. I’m constantly recording my work using online blogging and social networking tools and a digital recorder.  You don’t have to be fastidious to incorporate these tools in your work, but you do need to consider how they fit into your regular daily workflow, like any mechanism for reflective practice.

I’ve been called a militant collaborator and a serial monogamist.  As much as I see the value in the lone voice shouting in the forest, I’m more concerned with how to get the trees to answer back.  I’m interested in longer-term dialogues for unheard voices, mechanisms for organizational capacity building, and supporting rooted community anchor institutions.

Participatory media are complicated and overwhelming at first.  But so are all the interconnected conversations in communities and classrooms.  It’s a challenge to map the issues and possibilities to act under a deadline.  In an effort to be more mindful about media, my posts will discuss how both practitioners and community members can employ new media tools to make connections for themselves.  Drop a question or comment here and we’ll start the conversation.


Danielle Martin profileDanielle Martin works with organizations to create holistic communications and organizing strategies for integrating participatory media and digital storytelling tools into educational, advocacy, and development projects.  She’s a media consultant, after-school youth media facilitator, and curriculum developer.  She works with organizations such as Peace in Focus, MassIMPACT, the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club Computer Clubhouse, StoriesforChange.net, and as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer at UMass Boston’s Transmission Project.  She recently graduated as a Master in City Planning from MIT, and continues to partner with MIT@Lawrence and the Center for Future Civic Media.

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