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



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!

How to communicate global challenges?


A team of students from COM 3102 and 3103 (International Communication) have taken on a challenge by Global Challenges Action Network (GloCha). They are to think about, and visualize, communication and marketing strategies for GloCha’s globally broadcasted TV edutainment and fundraising show on youth and global challenges, happening in the UN climate change meeting at COP22 in Marrakesh, Nov 2016.

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Some basic premises

The United Nations and the European Union organized a meeting in April 2016 to discuss how to communicate big global issues, such as the new Sustainable Development Goals, to the general public. Here are some take-aways:


In the meeting, that gathered together UN representatives, advertisement and marketing professionals, non-profits, and other experts, several issues emerged:

  • Information is not communication. Just stating the facts doesn’t mean you truly reach your audiences.
  • Action is emotional. We need to feel connection and ownership to the issue to participate.
  • Language matters. The UN, for instance, uses plenty of jargon. So, for instance, translate this:

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To this:

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  • Climate change means something different for different stakeholders — be it economic consequences, political challenges, concrete living environment… Address them.
  • Communication campaigns need to partnerships with local actors (corporations, civic groups, and/or the media).
  • Use influencers — opinion leaders for the ripple effect.
  • Youth need to be equal partners in global action and awareness NOW (no old cliches about “decision-makers of the future”.
  • Communication campaigns should utilize “human centered design” (a concept that COM 3103 has examined…)

Some resources (by COM 3102&3103)


Great campaigns:

  • An Inconvenient Truth: http://www.takepart.com/an-inconvenient-truth/film The most successful piece of awareness around climate change. Al Gore’s film pushed the topic of climate change to the forefront behind real scientific data that shows the effects of the human footprint on the environment. This documentary and the case it presents are still in the heart of the conversation surrounding climate change.
  • Global Citizens Festival: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/festival/2015/ The global citizens festival is a huge concert in Central Park focused on the SDG’s and youth engagement. The festival does this through a highly attractive event that includes speakers on issues and facts to show to the audience. They increase awareness through their ticket lottery system, everyone can increase their chances by sharing facts to their social media on the different issues the event highlights.
  • Do Something: https://www.dosomething.org/us DoSomething.org is an organization that is based in spreading awareness about issues by providing opportunities for individuals to be involved with direct service. The organization makes it very easy to go from talk and thought to action and engagement. Whether an individual has a day to serve or just an hour to browse the site the organization provides an immersive experience into issues that lead to an opportunity for already set up service, making it easier for individuals to take action.
  • Here is a campaign for (RED), which is an organization focused on reducing HIV/AIDS and creating an HIV/AIDS free future. The campaign features a plethora of A-list celebrities which I believe is a great marketing technique to draw awareness and buzz.
  •  Here is a video that is a part of a series called “Years of Living Dangerously: Why I Care.” The series speaks with celebrities who care about climate change and they speak with individuals in affected areas.
  • Doctors Without Borders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EuB6tY8yUc
    This is probably one of the most heart-breaking yet effective campaigns I’ve ever seen. For this campaign, Doctors Without Borders wanted to raise awareness of the number of deaths due to lack of nutrition. The video goes into it deeper because I don’t want to give too much away. It’s a great idea though, putting the problem right in front of people so it can’t be ignored.
  • Humans of New York: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/nyregion/a-boy-praises-the-principal-of-his-brooklyn-school-and-a-fund-raising-campaign-takes-off.html
    The success of this campaign has to give credit to the large following that HONY has but it also goes to people’s belief in this one child’s story about education, and more importantly, his principal. When I first saw this photo, I thought it was another great story, pressed like, and moved on. In a few weeks however, a large campaign had grown towards bettering the school due to the lack of funding for NYC public schools in general. People from all over the world started donating and let’s just say, they were able to surpass their original goal.


Facts – Resources:

  • Here is the link to NASA’s website dedicated to global climate change. This is a great, all-encompassing resource that features evidence, causes, effects, scientific consensus, and much more.  
  • Here is a link to a report from the UN on Youth and Climate Change. These are some of the efforts the UN has already made to include young adults in the conversation on climate change, and how successful those have been in the past.
  • Here is a pamphlet from the UN, sponsored by the EU and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, regarding youth efforts around the world regarding climate change.
  • The History of Climate Change Negotiations:

I think is a cute video and it’s visually understandable for anyone who doesn’t know much about climate change. These types of videos, in my experience at least, helps to get people interested in a topic. I wouldn’t use it for a room full of scientists but for college and high school students who are hearing about climate change for the first time, I’d highly recommend this.

*    *   *   *   *   *

GloCha is a part of a larger, UN accredited civil society organization called IAAI, headquartered in Klagenfurt/Austria (International Association for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches to Global Challenges).  Together with several UN and other partners, GloCha is planning a globally broadcasted TV edutainment and fundraising show on youth and global challenges in the context of COP22 in Marrakesh, Nov 2016.

Before that, they present their ideas and other input to the forthcoming United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Article 6 dialogue in Bonn in May 2016.

GloCha wants advise from young communication experts, you. They need suggestions, insights, ideas — big and small — for a comprehensive communications strategy for the edutainment/fundraising show, including, but not limited to:

  • Celebrity engagement and activities before-during-after the show;
  • Some pilot concepts and activities for globally feasible crowdfunding campaigns related to the show (and ultimately, related to the ways to engage youth in SDGs);
  • Anything else you think would be successful, impactful, relevant.


Who Remembers WSIS?


[Originally posted in the Media Power Monitor blog – updated version.]


A decade ago, the United Nations organized the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), a series of meetings to discuss the global role of the ITCs. The hopes were high for the beginning of true collaborations for development and democracy. WSIS created principles as well as set up action items and goals, ranging from ICT access to online ethics. Now, ten years later, the UN needs to review what has been accomplished. Last Fall, non-governmental stakeholders (NGOs) have had their second round of the so-called WSIS+10 informal consultations in New York, to point out biggest challenges and call for global action.

Cellphones may not only look very different than in 2005, but mobile devices of today can also provide easy, inexpensive Internet access, as well as offer journalistic, educational, health, and banking services, both in the Global North and South. Social media have opened up powerful avenues for social and political organizing. However, the NGO consultations last October pointed out inequities that trace right back into mass media era. We still struggle with the old school difficulties in providing access, governing the media and communication platforms, and ensuring human rights.

In terms of access, the question is not only about the so-called digital divide, that is, lack of access to the Interned and media technologies. The power to access ICTs has also a socio-cultural dimension that some call Digital Exclusion. This means that women and other marginalized groups are disregarded, or even abused, as technology users. This is clearly not only a problem of non-Western countries. Just think of, for instance, #Gamergate and other trolling activities against women in ICTs.

Additional on-going challenge is: Who gets to govern the Internet? WSIS was the first truly international gathering where nation-states, UN organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations, private sector, civil society, and media came together on this issue. It gave birth to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that has sought to operate in the same, multi-stakeholder, spirit. Yet many NGOs feel they are not given equal chances in the IGF process to have their say as the private sector, let alone the nation-states. Alone funding to participate in these meetings is an obstacle. Another problem is the lack of accurate, comparable, trustworthy indicators and data from nations. This hinders transparency of global governance. And the list of problems goes on.

The most urgent calls for action in the WSIS+10 consultations, however, comes from non-profits working with the issue of communications and human rights. Freedom of expression is threatened every day, everywhere: In some countries bloggers get jailed for their opinions; in others, academic get fired because of their Tweets. Mass surveillance is a reality. And our rights may be threatened in new ways because of ICTs. That is why many NGOs call for broadening of what we consider human rights. For instance, it is not enough that we have an opportunity and a platform to speak our mind. Do we have the competence, the digital literacy, to do so?

The lessons from WSIS and its aftermath are sobering: The same tools that can support political organizing for the Arab Spring can also disseminate the propaganda for ISIS, equally effectively. And the very same disparities that exist offline, and were pertinent in the mass media era, replicate themselves in the field of ICTs.

But it is good recognize that WSIS instituted the principle of inviting different stakeholders to discuss ICTs at a global level. As imperfect as those processes may be, they are now common practice. That alone could be called a shift in power. The more the civil society insists on that practice, and demands it to be improved, the more influence we all will have in these conversations.

The NGO consultations also highlighted the role of the organized civil society as watchdogs, of nations and of the UN. For example, a group of organizations and individuals recently pointed out major flaws in a badly researched but potentially impactful UN report on cyber violence against women, and the report was pulled, with apologies.

And, if nothing else, the WSIS+10 discussions remind us that Digital Exclusion, Internet Governance, and human rights are truly global issues that potentially impact us all. When the UN General Assembly met in December 2015 to discuss the next steps of WSIS+10,  its draft resolution recognized issues from human rights to ICT4D — as well as the necessity of the media and communication technologies for the new Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030). If even some of the recommendations are adopted, it is already a step of a more holistic global understanding of what and information society means.