Civic Media

January 18th, 2019

Hi! I am creating this blog for my Civic Media communications course. Each week I will be writing about various topics that we discuss in class. The posts will often draw connections between real world events and the topics discussed in class. As the semester progresses, I will include various forms of media in each post, such as images, videos, podcasts, etc. The topics will often pertain to various social occurrences that media plays a part of. Media can play a huge part in activism and other social causes. I am very excited for the semester and what it has to bring!

January 25th, 2019

This past week we were assigned to read an article in which women used Google Sheets as a platform to share the names and offenses of men in their respective fields known for misconduct in the workplace. The reason behind the use of Google’s software was because of its collaborative abilities in which multiple users can simultaneously view and edit the document, spreadsheet, or powerpoint. The video below explains the various collaborative tools that Google’s software offers.

These tools allowed women from all over the United States to add their own information to the spreadsheet, and to learn about dangerous men. This topic interested me, as I use Google’s software, specifically Google Docs, almost every day. It is an invaluable education tool that allows me and my classmates to collaborate on various school assignments without having to meet up in person. I had never thought about using the software as a way of social activism, and I decided to research this topic further.

Leading up to and following the 2016 presidential election, one of the largest topics of controversy was the idea of “fake news.” False information relating to the various candidates and other political topics were spread around the internet on various sites rapidly. Pretty soon, it was difficult to tell which information was true or false. As an attempt of combatting this attack on information, a college professor decided that she would create a Google Doc, titled “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News Sources,” with tips about how to distinguish and avoid these pieces of fake news. In addition to this, she also created an ever-growing list of various sites that were known for publishing false information. The professor hoped that not just her students, but those around the country would be able to utilize this guide in preparing for the election that would certainly shape the country’s near future.

February 1st, 2019

One of the main subjects of discussion this week in class was the KONY 2012 social media campaign. KONY 2012 was a campaign to bring awareness to the Ugandan rebel army, L.R.A, and their leader, Joseph Kony. Kony and his army abduct Ugandan children and force them to become either soldiers in his army or sex slaves. Filmmaker Jason Russell visited Uganda and was shocked to learn of this. What he found even more shocking was the fact that hardly anyone was aware of the crimes that were taking place. He promised a young Ugandan man that he would do whatever it takes to bring awareness to the atrocities that were occurring. Together, he and several others made a documentary as an attempt to raise worldwide awareness. They hoped that doing this would cause countries, specifically the United States, to intervene. They used the hashtag, KONY2012, in an attempt to spread their message as much as possible. The campaign went viral, and although Joseph Kony was never captured, it certainly created quite a buzz about the topic.

Not all social media campaigns aim to bring aid and hope to millions of people, however. During an NFL preseason game in September, 2016, Colin Kaepernick, as an act of protest against racial injustice in America, decided to kneel instead of stand during the National Anthem. This was seen as a huge cultural and political event, and caused quite a stir in the United States. Many people saw his decision as an act of bravery. Professional athletes have the advantage of a great platform to speak out on topics they feel passionate about, and Kaepernick was utilizing it perfectly. However, others saw his decision as an act of disrespect towards the flag, military, and country. Many players followed Kaepernick’s action and began kneeling during the National Anthem.

Kaepernick has been out of a job for quite a while now. Many argue that it is due to decision to kneel, while others feel that it is solely because of his lack of talent. Almost 2 years since the quarterback first knelt, Nike decided to release a campaign highlighting Kaepernick’s efforts.

The campaign went viral, and many people applauded Nike for commending Kaepernick’s bravery. However, others felt that Nike should spend their money promoting other brave men and women, such as soldiers.

The backlash began to spread like a wild fire. Eventually, the hashtag, BurnNike, began to makes its way around social media, as people were literally burning their Nike products as a way of protesting the company.

February 8th, 2019

Its Thursday night. You just got home from going out with friends and are looking forward to crashing hard in your comfy bed. Suddenly you feel dread wash over you as you realize you COMPLETELY forgot about that 4 page paper for history class that is due tomorrow morning at 10. You consider emailing your professor for an extension, however he has already given you one earlier in the semester and made it clear that it would be the last one. You groan as you realize how long this night is going to be. You open your fridge and pick up your favorite energy drink, RedBull. You gaze over the can and its various artworks and slogans. “RedBull gives you wiiings,” it reads. (The reason for the 3 ‘i’s is a story for a different day.) You crack it open and take a swig of the sugary, berry flavored fuel. You sit down, open your laptop, and get to work.

RedBull is a go-to method for energy utilized by college students around the world. Its tasty, effective, plus the aesthetic that comes with drinking it is a bonus. Surely it is too good to be true. In fact, it is. The drink can bring many health ailments unbeknownst to consumers.

Energy drinks are known for, well, giving you a lot of energy. However, constantly drinking these can lead to also giving you high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and anxiety/panic attacks. When you drink an energy drink, it is often because you need to be effective in getting a task done. Yet if you happen to experience these symptoms, it will cause you to not be able to focus on the task at hand at all. Energy drinks may give you the quick burst of efficiency you need, however they come along with the possibility of several symptoms that everyone should avoid.

February 15th, 2019

One of the biggest issues with the original Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial was how Jenner appeared to completely end a protest by simply handing a single guard a Pepsi. In real life that would never realistically happen. In order to make it less political/tense, I took out all scenes of a protest. I also completely left out any clip of Kendall Jenner until the very last clip. I did this to take the attention away from her and place it on the other people in the video. I feel like it ties the video together better as well as attempts to rid the video of its controversial aspects.

February 22nd, 2019

This week we discussed the protest cycle of the 1960s and how it had a significant effect on the social movements of today. A protest cycle, as defined by Suzanne Staggenbourg is “a phase of heightened conflict across the social system, with rapid diffusion of collective action more mobilized to less mobilized sectors , a rapid pace of innovation in the forms of contention employed, the creation of new or transformed collective action frames, a combination of organized and unorganized participation, and sequences of intensified information flow and interaction between challengers and authorities.” For a further understanding of what a protest cycle is, check out the video below that does a great job of explaining.

Initiator movements were also discussed in class this week. An example of an initiator movement would be the American civil rights movement. It played an important role in the diffusion of protest in the 1960s. It greatly influenced different types of movements in the future. Large cultural changes during the 1960s helped bring about the emergence of the movement. There were many factors that were of great importance to the civil rights movement, with some key ones being political opportunities, organizational resources, and cultural understandings.

Another group that made large social strides during the 1960s were students. The youth were involved in dozens of protests around the the world. The Vietnam War was at the center of protests, with the majority of students being extremely against it. The Cold War was also highly protested, as well as reforms of universities, and free speech. Students today continue to use their platforms to demonstrate their opinions on topics. As students, have you ever protested something you were passionate about?

March 7, 2019

Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, is one of the most influential and well known rappers of all time. In addition to this, he is also very socially conscious. Is has spoken out for several causes and is a well known as an activist. In 2017, Jay-Z released his thirteenth studio album, 4:44. The second track on the record is the song titled, “The Story of O.J.” While it was not released as a single for the record, it was one of the most successful and well received tracks. It garnered several award nominations, including the Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Best Rap Song, and Best Music Video. The video in question was named best music video of 2017 by Rolling Stone Magazine.

The video is shot as an old, black and white cartoon. It was modeled after the notorious, “Censored Eleven” cartoons. These cartoons featured well known characters such as Bugs Bunny, yet they also included offensive racial stereotypes. They were banned from airing on television and 1968 and have only been publicly shown once at an exhibition. The music video includes depictions of several African-American stereotypes, injustices, and oppression. In this week’s blog post, I will discuss three of the depictions shown in the video.

Early in the video, it depicts the main character of the video, Jaybo, riding a “colored” bus. This is referring to segregation that occurred where African-Americans were required to ride separate busses.

Later on in the video it shows Jaybo harvesting cotton from a cotton field. This is refering the slaves that worked in cotton fields. Cotton was a major product during times of slavery.

The third depiction shows Jaybo walking through the lower deck of a ship. The ship has slaves bound to it by slaves. They are all cramped very close together. This is referring to the Middle Passage voyage where slaves were transported across the Atlantic from the coast of Africa.

Midterm – Photo Essay

It’s a known fact that Philadelphia is the greatest city in the world. It was the first capital and birthplace of the United States. It is home to the best sports teams, the best food, and the best people. It is the City of Brotherly Love. All these facts are common knowledge. However, many people are unaware that Philadelphia is also known as the City of Murals. Often used as a method of covering up graffiti or vandalism, murals are so much more in Philadelphia. They tell stories of oppression, struggles, memories, but also victories. For our midterm, we were tasked with finding a few murals in the city, and subsequently creating a photo essay of those murals and the stories they tell.

As my train from the Paoli-Thorndale line pulled into 30th St Station, I thought about where I might begin my search for murals. I know Philadelphia like the back of my hand, however I knew I would need some help locating some murals. Luckily, using Mural Art’s Mural Finder website, it wasn’t much trouble at all. I began looking for any close to the train station, and I saw there was one just a few blocks away.

View of “Finding the Light Within” – Spencer Norris 2019

“Finding the Light Within” is a mural that spans the entire side of a building. It is located in a parking lot just off of Walnut St. The mural is very detailed and has many subjects, however the main focal point of the piece is in the center. It depicts a young man tossing a life-preserver ring to a man in a boat. According to the description of this mural, it is about shining a light on youth suicide in Philadelphia. It depicts the portraits of many victims of youth suicide. Included in a box naming the artists who worked on the painting are several resources for those struggling with depression and are contemplating suicide.

View of “Reach High and You Will Go Far” – Spencer Norris 2019
Up close view of “Reach High and You Will Go Far” – Spencer Norris 2019

After photographing my first mural, I began to work my way inward closer to city hall. I was accompanied by two of my best friends, which made the walk that much more enjoyable. We turned off of Market St where I would find the next mural on my search, “Reach High and You Will Go Far.” Growing up in the inner city can be very difficult. It is very easy for young people to lose hope and get caught up in street life. This mural is to inspire inner city youth to not lose sight of their dreams. If they work hard, they can achieve it.

View of “Finding Home” – Spencer Norris 2019
Opposite side of “Finding Home” – Spencer Norris 2019

On the opposite side of city hall, I found “Finding Home.” This mural was made in partnership with Project H.O.M.E. Project H.O.M.E. is an organization that provides services to those suffering from chronic homelessness in the Philadelphia area. Founded by Sister Mary Scullion R.S.M. (Fun Fact: Sister Mary is actually a distant cousin of mine) in 1989, their tagline is “None of us are home until all of us are.”

View of “Philadelphia Muses” – Spencer Norris 2019
Yours truly in front of “Philadelphia Muses” – Timothy Price 2019

Not to far from the last one is “Philadelphia Muses.” Philadelphia is an incredible city for the arts, and this mural represents the many different types of artistry that Philadelphia is home to.

View of “Women of Progress” – Spencer Norris 2019
Up close view of “Women of Progress” – Spencer Norris 2019

The final mural on my search came just around the corner from Philadelphia Muses. “Women of Progress,” acknowledges how much progress women have made on the crusade for equal rights. Included on the mural are unknown, and underappreciated women in history.

March 22nd, 2019

It is sort of an urban legend that humans use only around 10 percent of their brain. One might wonder the possibilities if we were able to use 100% of it. Well the same is “sort of” true for the internet. On common web-browsers, such as Google Chrome, Safari, etc, only a tiny percentage of what is on it is available to view and interact with. One might wonder how you go about accessing the remaining contents, and it actually isn’t that difficult.

Screenshot of Tor’s webpage. (2019)

The web browser, Tor, provides access to the entirety of the internet. First a little background information on Tor. Created in the mid-1990s by a group of US Naval research lab employees, Tor was made to anonymously share information over the internet. It provides anonymity by “bouncing” your IP address from various locations around the world, making it impossible to track. It certainly can be used for good. For example, someone living in an oppressive country that monitors your internet use can spread information about that regime without being tracked down. However, Tor has led to some very bad things. There is a portion of the internet that one cannot access on regular browsers, as mentioned beforehand. This portion is known as “The Dark Web.” The Dark Web is home to many things. It contains information, porn, and pirated content. It is also the home to much more serious elements, such as term papers, drugs, guns, even human beings. One is able to freely purchase these things on the dark web due to Tor’s anonymity feature. There is little governments can do to stop this. Human traffickers use Tor to buy and sell sex slaves, who are often young girls. In addition actual human beings being available, there are also videos of underage children being abused both physically and sexually. Sometimes these children are as young as 2 years old. It is both horrific and disgusting. Tor was created to be used as a tool, and has become a platform for horrific acts.

Kutcher’s address to U.S. congress. (2018)

In his address before congress on human trafficking, actor and philanthropist Ashton Kutcher described technology as, “a tool without will. The will is the user of the technology.” It is not the technologies’ fault that these acts are occurring, but rather the users. Luckily, companies like Kutcher’s Thorn are working diligently to create software to work to end human trafficking.

April 5, 2019

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles with two of my best friends. The trip was sort of a last minute idea and I’m honestly still amazed that we were able to pull it off.

We touched down in LAX and called an Uber to take us to my friend’s relative’s house where we would be staying. As our driver merged onto the San Diego Freeway, I noticed dozens of tents and makeshift shelters on the grassy medians. It looked like a scene from a music festival. However I soon realized that these people were homeless and that they were living literally on a highway. My friends and I were still trying to decide if we wanted to rent a car, so we asked our driver about how public transportation in the city was. “Terrible,” he said, “rent the car.” When we asked him why, he began to tell us how those who are homeless take shelter on just about every method of public transportation in the city. He described them as “zombies” who will not stop asking for food or money.

We decided to take his advice and rented the car. The rental place was in Inglewood, an area of the city that has somewhat of a reputation of being dangerous. As we drove through the area, I once again noticed an almost insane amount of people who appeared to be living on the street.

This past week we discussed how homeless people more often than not have some form of mental illness. With the right treatment and assistance, these people can slowly get back on their feet and go back to living normal lives. Many times, these people also dedicate their lives to assisting those impoverished, as they know exactly what it feels like to be in that situation. Recently, Los Angeles committed 4.5 billion USD to combat homelessness.

April 12th, 2019

Every freshman at St. Joe’s is required to take a freshman seminar. For my seminar, I took the class, Serious Comedy and Social Justice. The class discussed various social justice issues and how they are portrayed in comical ways in television and film. In any seminar class, students work on a semester long project on a topic of their choosing. For my project, I chose to investigate and present on the relationship between race and incarceration rates.

The topic has resurfaced as this past week we discussed injustice in the judicial system and incarceration rates. In the United States, the likelihood of incarceration is one in 17 for white men, one in six for Hispanic men, and one in three for African American men. This makes the overall likelihood of one in nine men experiencing incarceration at some point in their lifetimes.

Over half of all prisoners were living in poverty the year before their arrest, and the likelihood of them escaping poverty after incarceration is very slim. It is estimated that 14% to 25 percent of all prisoners are suffering from some sort of mental illness. These statistics represent an injustice and prejudice in the American judicial system. The definition of recidivism is the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend. The percentage of released prisoners that are rearrested for a new crime within five years is nearly 77%. The United States is making strives to lower incarceration rates, however it is still incredible high.