ICM836 Day 1 (5/30): Let’s Start the Journey!

Welcome!

Here’s a FAQ  — if I left something out please ask away below as a comment!

What is the course about?

As the title of the course depicts,  we will focus on global feminism and the media. On Friday, I will discuss this in more detail and offer some definitions. At this point, I just want to note that we are focusing less on identity and gender than to (global) development questions pertaining to women, and the role (international) communication including digital and legacy media, and different forms from journalism to PR. Our scholarly framework is that of feminist media  and communication studies.

That said, the course is not only about women. It is about sustainable development, information needs, issues of representation, and other questions that are important to our societies and the world as a whole.

What will we do?

We will take four outlooks on core issues and ideas of global feminism:

  1. The broad overview: We will look at some principles, theories, and the diversity of issues under “feminist media and communication studies”, bearing in mind international communication.
  2. The specific focus on “global feminism”: We will reflect empirical issues of global development and gender with feminist theorization.
  3. Discovering important thinkers/doers. Everyone will have one lecture duty: You will need to write one blog post, with a small assignment, about a scholar or activist in the field of global feminism.
  4. The in-depth exploration, individually but not alone: You will look at one issue in depth for your final (academic, research-based) essay. The specific topic and focus will be YOUR CHOICE. You will work on it every week, starting at Thursday 6/1. The twist: This will be a collaborative, communal effort in some sense. Your colleagues will comment your progress and help you along they way, also every week. And you will help them.

Where are we now and when will we meet?

This is my personal blog. We will “meet” here every Tuesday and Thursday briefly for a lecture briefing and/or assignment briefing.

Tuesdays entail the theoretical and conceptual briefings and examples. Thursdays are dedicated to your research project.

New assignments — actually, reflections and fact finding missions — will be posted early afternoon and you will also receive an email to notify you about them. You can complete them at anytime within the following few days.

  • Tuesday – theory assignments will be brief. You will need to complete them by the following Thursday,  midnight, so in 2 days.
  • Thursday – research assignments will be more extensive. You will need to complete them by the following Tuesday,  midnight, so in 5 days.
    • Comments to your colleagues’ research posts: asap after they have been posted but by the following Thursday, midnight.

You will create your own blog or equivalent (an online platform that we can give you feedback on) for the duration of this course (or, if you want and have one, use your existing blog).

You can use any screen name, any title for the blog, any blogging platform or equivalent, and so on.

Just a (fictional) example – to show you how it works.

On Tues 6/6, you will be emailed a written lecture posted here. You will be asked to comment on  a feminist theory: do you think it applies in today’s world.

By Thur 6/8 evening you have thought and researched about the question. You will post your reply as a comment below: I believe this theory is outdated because… When prompted by the comment function of this blog, you will use your St. John’s email address (that will be seen only by me, the admin). Then you will use any screen name, in this case, MH.

By the same Thur afternoon you have also received your research prompt-inspiration, here on this blog. It could be something like: Search for, read, and summarize 3 academic articles that relate to your research topic. What did you learn – what are some questions/points you need help with? Post the summaries on your blog as a blog post. You will work on this the following Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon and post your summaries by Tues 6/13 evening. At the same time, you will check the new research briefing of that Tuesday, and see what your colleagues have posted.

You will spend the next two days reviewing your colleagues’ work and completing the small research assignment. By Thur 6/15 midnight, you have helped your 5 colleagues by sharing your thoughts/tips with them as comments on their blogs, as well as completed the research mini-assignment.

IN ADDITION! Note that Wed 6/7 and Wed 6/14  would have been dedicated to inspiring examples of thinkers/doers: Blog posts from 4 of you.

If you are new to blogging, here’s a good tutorial about WordPress (this blog is a WordPress one):

Or, here’s a tutorial on how to make a Tumblr blog.

You can also create a Google Docs or Dropbox file — just give us rights to comment.

(More about this on Thursday 6/1. Let me know if you have any questions, below or via email.)

You will respond to the research assignments on your own blog, as a blog post.

Why these platforms?

Apart from Google Docs / Dropbox documents, these blogging platforms are public (although you can keep your identity from potential readers). Blogging is also a more informal and personal, inclusive way of communication, than academic writing. Perhaps you have heard the famous feminist saying: “The personal is political”. Here, we understand that slogan in terms of offering our views to everyone, and going beyond the format of a specific audience. While being scholarly and analytical in our thinking and referencing, we can now practice our own voice. Hence, my posts are on my own blog. I would encourage you to blog, but appreciate it if you want to keep your work just between us. In that case, create a shared Google Docs folder or a Dropbox repository (or equivalent) — just make sure we can comment your texts.

What general principles do we follow?

Some other principles that many feminist scholars practice are:

  • The aforementioned personal voice and style; inclusiveness. Open mind, acceptance and respect of different ideas and views.
  • Critical thinking, i.e., constant analysis and questioning of the status quo. Please feel free to critically examine all the readings and assignments. This, as you know, doesn’t mean constant criticism of views that you don’t agree with, but an open mind to multiple interpretations beyond the most obvious ones.
  • Situational knowledge, i.e., acknowledgement of one’s background, current personal and professional situation, and even biases that might, or do, influence one’s opinions and analyses.
  • Willingness to assist and help one another.

Please keep these in mind when completing your assignments.

Why these books?

Our course books are:

Current Perspectives in Feminist Media Studies
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (April 11, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0415754720
ISBN-13: 978-0415754729

  • This book, actually a collection of short essays to honour the academic journal Feminist Media Studies, is a great introduction to current thinking around core practices and issues. It is especially useful for our course as the texts are compact and diverse, also in terms of addressing cultural and global diversity. In other words, these texts allow us to explore many issues within our five weeks.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307387097
ISBN-13: 978-0307387097

  • This book is the opposite of the one above: It’s a journalistic exploration of global women’s issues, and solutions. And this is precisely the reason why I chose the book. These two texts show the array of approaches one can take to “global feminism and the media”. Furthermore, this book is about one of your assignments (book review). A further reason for this book? It has turned into an effective family of communication-PR spin-offs, ranging from a PBS documentary/film to its own multi-media website with educational materials, to a Facebook game. Finally, this book and the related products also showcase the contested nature of many issues, theoretical and practical, that can be labeled under “global feminism”. The authors are American journalists, and that has evoked quite a bit of criticism (as “veiled colonialism”, as one-sided, and so on). More about this later.

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What’s next?

  1. Check our the syllabus, here and ask me any questions you might have, either below as a comment or via email: aslamam@stjohns.edu.
  2. Get the books, if you haven’t already, and begin reading Half the Sky.
  3. Await for the first “research prompt” here on Thursday. I will also post a “sample profile” = instructions for your lecture duties (Wed 6/7, 6/14, 6/ 21.) (When these are posted, you will receive an email notification.)
  4. EXTRA – just FYI: Here’s a first draft of an article I am writing for the Handbook of Mediated Communication, titled Gender and the Media. We will discuss the content in the coming weeks, but if you want to have a head-start you can glance through it.

See you on Thursday!

{learning} The Art of Evaluation_#ICM820

We at #ICM820 course have discussed successful strategies of community-building as well as cases gone very wrong. But evaluating – quantitatively measuring and qualitatively assessing – successes is a tricky issue.

From a macro-level vantage point of societies and its institutions, we could ponder how to assess media systems (or, as many tend to say about the digital era of multiplicity, media ecosystems) work effectively, democratically, openly, and so on. I have collected some links to projects, ideas, and cases that aim at measuring media systems and media development from a global perspective.

The meso-level of organizations outlook would be to look at effectiveness of particular political, economic, social, etc. communities, organizations, or campaigns. Is it about eye-balls, likes/shares/follows, comments, retweets/repins etc.? Is it about the ratio between lurkers vs. active participants? Professionally, do we value media differently than we did before, in terms of it as an advertising distribution tool, a news source, a forum for debate, an entertainment source? Here are just some examples of the infinite amount of views on how to measure success and impact in the digital age:

Also:

Finally, at the micro – or individual – level: How do you (does one) measure a digital community? Usability, access, relevance, engagement/familiarity, security…?

As experts of digital communities, how do we balance structural/technological concerns, big data metrics, and individual experiences?

{research} Big Data, Big Challenges

Will Big Data save the world, as some claim?

I’m currently enrolled in two excellent online courses: Data Journalism by the European Journalism Centre (#ddjmooc) and the TechChange course on Mapping for International Development (#TC141). I’m not a journalist or a crisis mapper but both of these themes, I suspect, will be relevant to global/media development and the UN post-2015 goals (something that I am passionately interested in).

The more I learn of the amazing tools, the fascinating projects, and the impressive visualizations, the more cautious I become about the possible lack of multidimensional perspectives.

I am wondering whether we are sometimes falsely seduced by massive numbers. Given the debates about diminishing resources in journalism, can the big data be an easy — too easy — solution to research? What kind of stories are not being told? Or, given that new data is often created by the means of people’s digital activities, whom does it leave in shadows? And, crucial in all cases but very, very important in development work: How do we detect the (Western?) biases of big data?

I’m, of course, not the only one wondering. As Michael Brodie of MIT comments in a recent issue of The Economist (May 24th, pg., 16), ‘much harm is being done by people asserting causality as a consequence of data analysis. […] Big Data’s pursuit of “what” should be symbiotically linked to empiricism’s pursuit of “why”…’.

The Wired says we should focus on Long Data. I suspect the rise of qualitative approaches, as this wise blog post by an applied anthropologist also claims. Am I right or wrong? Ahead or behind the curve? What are your experiences of using / being informed by Big Data?