Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Harper's MP on Ripping CDs

This Conservative MP -  Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Dean Del Mastro, stood up in the house of commons and said that using a program (like iTunes) to rip a CD you bought so that you could listen to the music (again, that you legally paid for) on your iPod, is like buying a pair of socks and then going back to the store and demanding to exchange them for a pair of shoes, at no extra cost - "because they're both for your feet".

Idiotic! Who elected this guy? had a much better analagy, that I'll expand upon: It's like buying a bottle of wine at a restaurant, and then demanding to drink the liquid it contains from a glass of your choosing.
... except, that's EXACTLY what you're allowed to do. If you buy a bottle of wine at a restaurant, (let's say, the restaurant's house-wine that they made in-house and have the rights to),  they're NOT going to force you to drink it straight from the bottle. In fact, without asking, they'll bring you glasses, and most often even pour it for you. And, if you're an especially picky customer, you could surely demand a different type/size of glass, and the waiter would surely accommodate you without with a smile.

Here's the video of the MP:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Entertainment Value is Important - a thought on Tim Minchin

I believe that entertainment value is very important in mass media interventions. It seems to me that the average attention span of most mass media consumers is quite short, and there's just ~so~ much stuff out there, even the best intended intervention won't get much attention unless it has entertainment value.

While I don't necessarily agree with all of Tim Minchin's work, I do think that he combines comedy, music, and witty social intervention very well.

*Beware the language in the link - parental discretion advised.

I'm providing a link to his song Prejudice *, which some might see as a little irreverent, but which I consider to be a very witty examination a specific manifestation of prejudice. He is a wonderful wordsmith, and while his song may be funny, it does encourage the listener to think. I wasn't even aware of some of the forms this type of bullying took before I listened to his song.

And now that I'm done with avoiding spoilers, be aware that the next bit is one. If you're going to watch the song, please do so before reading the following.

I remember when I first heard about kick-a-ginger day... a couple weeks after it was supposed to have taken place. Admittedly I'm rather out of the loop as far as such things go, but I was shocked to find that things like that were actually happening. I was even more shocked to think how easily social networking sites like Facebook can be used to facilitate bullying. Maybe I'm just way too optimistic about humans, but the thought just hadn't occurred to me!

If you haven't heard of kick-a-ginger day, have a look at a basic news article about it on CTV here. Inspired by an episode of South Park, someone started a Facebook group encouraging members to bully red-headed classmates. Apparently many people found it to be simply humourous without considering it a form of bullying. I'm glad Tim Minchin decided to write a song to make viewers aware of the "years of ritual bullying in the schoolyard" that red-heads are subject to (among other things).

Anyways, have a look and tell me what you think of Tim's comedic comments.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spent: In the shoes of the homeless

I have always said that I really don’t like watching or
reading the news, because whenever I do I feel overwhelmed and depressed about
everything going on and how little I can do about it. But I will go through
phases of watching, getting depressed and angry at what the world is like...and
then tune out for a while. So a while
ago I was watching one of the major corporate new stations (CBC or CTV or
something, can’t really remember) and this lady
was on, talking about this interactive game about poverty that she had
created. It was one of the few times I’ve
actually seen solutions or awareness being presented in a proactive way. She
created an interactive game that simulates the struggles of homelessness. In
the game, you are given a set amount of money and asked to see if you can make
it through the month. The woman herself
was homeless at one point (not by “choice”), and through the game she hoped to
show people how people more often than not do not “choose” to be homeless, but
rather are dealt a deck of cards/forced to make decisions that eventually leave
them with no other option but to move to the streets. Being put in the shoes of a homeless person
(rather than jsut feeling sorry for them) in a low-stakes kind of way really
helps to bring a deepended understanding of not only how society works, but it
really forces you to critically analyze the assumptions and preconceived
notions surrounding homelessness. I feel like letting out a huge WHOOPIE anytime
I see people challenge the stereotypes and attempts at breaking down all the
walls and labels we have in our society, to begin to see people as people who
are all just trying to make their way through life with what they’ve been delt.

I feel that the media in a huge way
(especially in the news) perpetuates stereotypes and promotes labelling and hierarchy
within our culture.
Anytime you
put anything in a box, you will bump up against barriers. These barriers not
only separate each of us from one another, but they can cause frustration,
hurt, and anger. When these barriers are broken down, beautiful things can
happen and people can be surprised, humbled, and joyful.
Be it advertising (posters,
billboards, commercials etc) or informational/entertainment (the news—misinformation
in most cases—, reality TV, kids TV shows, movies...etc) every character and
case is compared to some deeply ingrained social label as being “like” or “not
like” the expected. There is really a
problem with expectations really when you think about it...but I feel like I am

When I played the game, I am ashamed
to say, I thought, “I can do this! I can beat it!” But as I went through the
game, making choices and clicking I noticed two things. One, that I was not able to provide for or
support my virtual children and that really bothered me. It made me think of the huge implications for
classroom teachers—Johnny’s mom may seem unavailable or unsupportive, but this
game has shown me that even the best laid plans and intentions really can go
awry...especially when money is involved. The second thing I noticed, and I always seem to come back to this, is
how annoying it is that our society is run by money. When did we let something abstract, something
we invented, control our actions and happiness? And by happiness I don’t mean “my
5 Lamborghinis make me happy” but I mean the kind of happiness that comes from
living a rich, full life...and, in our society, living with the stresses that
money causes in life seems like it’s more and more like a impediment and that
we’ve truly lost what matters. (FYI:
Just when I thought I had “beaten the game”...the prompt reminded me that this
was just the end of the month...what about next month? And what about the one unpaid
bill that I will have to pay next month?)

Please play the game and let me know
what you think!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Do you still read books?

I think this issue is very important for future educators (and society as a whole). I think it's a real shame people are not reading books as much as they used to. A lot of the kids I've worked with say they don't read for pleasure. They would rather watch a video or play on their D.S. People don't seem to have the patience for reading novels anymore. I've posted a link about this issue, and one of the men interviewed says books are inconvenient. Why read to learn about something when you can just Google it? I think society has lost touch with the idea of the process of learning being more important than simply just knowing the answer to a question.

I personally love books. I love the feel of the paper, the smell, the physical movement of flipping the pages. I know a lot of people are moving away from actual books to downloading the stories on their iPads. I cannot imagine reading a novel on a screen. It would hurt my eyes and I would lose the connection I feel from actually holding a book. I don't mind reading short articles on the computer, but an entire novel? Reading is my downtime; I use it as an escape. I already spend way too much time staring at screens. I really think as educators we need to encourage children at a young age to pick up books. We should always have books available in the classroom, even if the day comes when every child has an iPad and can download any book they want. I think if we have books available to children, they have a better chance at becoming interested in reading.

World Peace Game Anyone?

This is the link to the video I mentioned earlier in class. I chose this
video because relates to what we've been talking about in regards to what
education will look like in the future. Now, there isn't a whole bunch of
"technology" or "mass media" in the video itself, but I
think that the game created by John Hunter and constituents does send a message
(in a mass way) to the public about how kids should interact with their
education and the types of topics and skills that should be integrated and prioritized
into our education curriculum for our rapidly, ever-changing society.

The speaker touches on two very important ideas. One, that we must believe
in and support the power of children because they themselves have an untapped
agency that we must call upon and develop in order to help fix our
human-damaged world. Two, the education and content presented to these students
needs to change radically in order to create a space for them to fulfill their
agency. The way he has decided to
introduce this is through an evolving, interactive game called the “World Peace

If kids can do it, why can't we? I think one of the reasons is that kids
see things in more black-and-white and they are also much more imaginative and
creative (there is a lot of discourse out there that argues children are
"schooled out" of their creativity)

The most inspiring bit of the video I found was the potential
for educating and leanring in what Hunter had to say with with respects to “clearing
a space” for learning. Early in his
career, he asked what he was supposed to do and his boss replied “What do you
want to do?” What Hunter “wanted to do”
was impart that freedom onto his students. The anecdotal evidence he gave that highlighted some of the game’s successes
and discoveries really inspires me. It
really illustrates the ripple effect of what what one man was able to do with
freedom, and all of the lives he has touched and freed because of this. “What
do you want to do?” cleared the space no program directive or program to follow,
it gives all a chance to make meaning out of their own understanding

I enjoyed how humble and thankful John Hunter was--he truly believes
that we're all in this together and that no one will get anywhere without the
help of others. What’s more, we will be more likely to achieve an emotionally-mature/compassionate/critical
thinking mass once we see how everything is interrelated and interdependent
upon one another. Strength in numbers and strength in unity! (Not to go all V
for Vendetta on you).

I would like to know how I can get my hands on this game--or better yet,
create a "Canadian edition" of this game. And I wonder if you could modify it to
somehow include critical-thinking activities surrounding mass media
education? The possibilities and
potential seems endless! I hope you
enjoy it as much as I’s 20min well spent, and it goes by quickly. Thanks
for reading

Recycling Bottle Flash Mob

Having long found flashmobs to be one of the dorkier result of combining social media and performance art intervention, I was thrilled to see that the game is stepping up. In this ultimately cheezy flashmob, a group of people call attention to our plastic problem and to random-act recycling. And it rules.

I find this intervention interesting on two levels- first because it's appropriating for the cause of environmental justice the strange and popular contemporary practice of gathering en mass in a public place to surprise people with some kind of performance... are we seeing the flashmob as a new form of protest?

And second because of the simplicity and profundity of their "performance". I mean, it's a room full of people clapping because an individual finally picked up the pop bottle and recycled it... calling attention to how many people did not. The extreme validation applied here gets me thinking about how the necessity of recycling is common knowledge, yet is somehow not enough to actually motivate our society to produce less waste and recycle more. The abstractness of the gesture of putting something in the garbage/recycling in relation to what happens after the garbage/recycling is picked up doesn't help, and I'm left thinking, is this where we're at? That extreme forms of validation are necessary to get people recycling, because apparently caring about the environment isn't enough to actually motivate people to produce less waste and to recycle?

...If only we had to be responsible for our own waste. I'd certainly stop getting my coffee to go.

Recycling Bottle Flash Mob