Fair Trade and Fairphone

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A TEDTalk about fairness and products…

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Conditions for Digital Living: India, Swe, USA

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The Open Society Foundations‘ Mapping Digital Media programme has been mapping the macro framework relevant to this micro exploration — the state, conditions and challenges of digital media landscapes in some 55 countries.

The US report was published early on in 2011, the Swedish report a while ago as well, and the India report —  yesterday.  (A project to produce the Finnish report has just received funding from the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation!)

How can these reports inform the micro-level, personal or personalized reflections of this project?

First, the basic figures of internet and mobile phone penetration tell us a lot. What chart might represent what country?

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And yet, looking at the conclusions of these studies, one issue become clear: Digitalization does not bring diversity — unless we explicitly demand it and work for it, as citizens, content-creators, consumers. Another contradiction: Infinite possibilites – more of the same.

From the SWE report:

Pluralism of voices in the media is variable. On the one hand, UGC on digital platforms is increasing dramatically, both on social media and on news media websites. Th us, the number of voices is increasing and more citizens are participating in public debate. On the other hand, there is still a considerable domination by elite sources in the most important news outlets. This pattern has not changed, despite the contradictory trend on digital media platforms.

From the USA report:

Most people now have access to more information than at any previous time, but the decimation of traditional print and broadcast newsrooms and a lack of viable methods for financing in-depth reporting in the digital age means the nation is at a delicate moment in communications, news, journalism, and free speech. It also unfortunately remains the case that race, gender, income, education, geography, age, disability, and sexual orientation all continue to unjustly shape Americans’ opportunities for both accessing and being represented in high-quality reporting. …

Simultaneously, the digital revolution has upset old business models. As a consequence, there exists a looming—though not certain—market failure in the production and circulation of publicly relevant news, especially at the local level. Traditional media are scrambling to maintain balance in the new environment, but have been slow to adapt.

From the India report:

The multiplicity of television channels within a language market has not led to significant diversity; visible variations in content are more a reflection of diff erences in the dominant interests driving or owning these channels—namely, politicians and political parties, business ventures associated or affiliated with political groups, and different sections within the business community. In short, the visible diversity, especially across television news channels, indicates a variety of dominant voices. 

In/Dependence: Surviving Sandy

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In October 2012 I slept through the Superstorm Sandy while neighbourhoods a mile or two away were flooding.

Awaiting the storm the night before, I thought I was clever in evoking “Media Storm” on my Facebook status update. Merely a mediamyrsky, I wrote in Finnish. I remembered how a year prior, with the Hurricane Irene coming to NYC, among the virtually concerned was my former hairdresser from Helsinki who had styled me five years prior.

Walking the dog around the blog, I also shot this small video for my online students:

Waiting for Hurricane Sandy and Talking Public Sphere.

Such a crazy media storm it was. I followed the flooding of the subway, devastation of other Brooklynites, mean or fantastic misinformation by trolls, silly jokes and crazy rants, random acts of online kindness, and amazing mobilizations. I created this simple Storify for my students to remind us of the contradictory, messy, muddy information flood of online social media platforms.

But it was only when  taking a walk in the hood, after four days, in sunshine, that Sandy finally got to me.

Media storm isn’t the real deal.

In/Dependence. The Power of Reading

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This is the first exploration to the book emerging out from this project — much more to come.

It seems that for many, reading has become one of the escapes from the Internet. It is the ultimate sign that one has precious luxury time available for non-productive pleasure.
While eReaders are somehow ‘effective’ tools, saving space, organizing reading material, facilitating access easily, the smudgy ink of NYT, or the faded pages of an old book, become almost sensual pleasures….

Advocacy and Outreach for Digitized W. Europe and US

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Here‘s my Prezi for the MDM conference in Istanbul 11-12 July 2012, on policy windowns and collaborative research/advocacy questions regarding digitalizing media in Western Europe and the U.S.. To my surprise, the discussion focused on — public service media. How about other burning issues, in the prezi and beyond?

MDM: Biggest takeaways from ‘Mature Digital Markets’

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Below some context for digital living in the West, as depicted in the Open Society Foundations’ Mapping Digital Media‘ reports.

In terms of markets and consumption, digitalization is well underway in Western Europe and the U.S. – in many countries already at a mature stage. Digital transition of broadcasting has taken place quite smoothly. Digital divide is relatively narrow when compared to many other regions. Below is a chart describing some basic factors of digital living in the US and in selected Western European countries (the UK; D for Germany, ITA for Italy, NL for the Netherlands, SWE for Sweden).

But, as the UK report states, is the idea of  “Digital Revolution” used as an excuse for further deregulation and commercialization? How much are corporate interests driving media markets, policies, and contents? How much of digital media is elitist and fragmentary? How severe is commodification of journalism? How to use digital media efficiently for inclusive, participatory, deliberative democracy?

While nation-based media systems still largely define the state of the media in the individual countries (and old differences exist even between systems even as similar as those in the Western Europe and the U.S.), many issues are shared:

 TAKEAWAY #1: Structures = Media in the Public Interest

  • There still exists a clear, demand-driven need for public media. Further revitalization of public service broadcasting brand as public service media quality brand should be supported and further explored.
  • Free-to-air, USO TV still matters: guarantee of access and of diverse contents.
  • Clear mandates needed for “legacy PSM” to develop new digital contents and services.
  • Public media can take many forms. Lessons can be learned from the U.S. where the public media system includes broadcasting as well as community media.
    • Potential of community media recognized in the EU only recently.
  • Alternative funding models for public media and especially journalism are needed.
    • Pressures for public media in Europe to transition from license fee to budget-based state funding (politically more volatile).
    • Non-profit news media in the U.S. paving the way for new solutions.
    • Still, the key to a “quality brand” and “quality content” is the security for funding; a lesson for U.S.-based non-profit media supporters.
    • Similarly, free-to-air and must-carry principles guarantee access to public media (vs. “2nd tier” access to U.S. public access media).

TAKEAWAY #2: Content = Offering and Promoting Diversity

  • Immigration, multiculturalism, and religious diversity are burning issues for each country. Europe can learn from the U.S. community and alternative media movements, so that ethnic media promotes diversity, not fragmentation.
  • In the ever-increasing competitive news landscape, politicization and polarization of news in the U.S. (and some tendencies in ITA) should be taken seriously, and contested.

TAKEAWAY #3: Participation = Civic-Based, But Supported?

  • User-generated content important, and impactful, in all the countries. Most content is shared in the very same networks.
    • Alternative news and political content is still scarce; social networks are often gateways to mainstream media; and in some Western European countries digital mobilizing and activism is scarce.
    • In these cultural contexts, digital activism seems to flourish best when it is institutional, at least to a degree. Support mechanism for such efforts should be further explored.
    • Further debate should be encouraged about the need to discuss media-related reforms and social justice questions, not only use media as a vehicle of change. Much media activism in these countries has a basic global dimension (open source, anti-copyright, globalization – Indymedia movement, and so on). How to build bridges from the West to the rest?

MY MAIN TAKEAWAY: Media Reform and Media Justice Unite – through Research

The role of media is in transition in several ways. For one, the media are in practice more fragmented, and conceptually-theoretically less an entity than ever.  Secondly, the prospects about the power of media to create a more just, transparent, and participatory world, seem ever more conflicted.  Commerce meets cause, many alternative voices get lost in the infinite multiplicity, viral gossip often overrides calls for action.  Third, a consideration for both the structures and contents together becomes particularly important in the context where the goal is not only to study, but also to advocate, build capacity, and create better opportunities for democratic, participatory media and communication. It is also the only way to connect macro-level policy questions (and stake-holders) to the meso-level challenges of media organizations and their representatives, to the micro-level realities and practices of the people formerly known as audiences.

These macro-level trends depicted above frame our micro-level practices, as well as are influenced by them. The big challenge is to find those connections, and use them wisely, in digital living and policy-making.

Digital Human Rights Video for My Intl Comm Students

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View it here —  Storm Talk Digi Human Rights — and comment!!!

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