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2009: A retrospective on my year of media development adventures

January 4, 2010

2009 was a banner year for me in terms of media development. It was not by any means my starting point in media, but it could go down as year in which my work achieved lift off. But all was done in the name of helping people spread information, express themselves, and/or strengthen their networks with other people to promote change. So, I thought I’d take a look back at my year in media development, get it all together in one place, take stock, establish something to compare 2010 to, reminisce a little.

Researching Extractive Industry Transparency and Journalism Development in Africa

I began the year leading a team through a study to assess needs and effective training practices to raise the level of business journalism in Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda. Our findings would then be synthesized into a report to provide training and media development recommendations to Revenue Watch Institute, which wanted to use training to improve business journalism, and promote extractive industry transparency. The best part of this project was that I got to spend two weeks in January in balmy Nigeria–a country the Bradt guide calls “Africa for the Advanced”–and meet face to face with Nigerian journalists, journalism educators, and media development experts. Lagos, in particular, was INTENSE. And fantastic. I also got a chance in this to bone up on my skills developing surveys and interview guides, building networks of contacts, designing a team research wiki, and producing a report of findings. Read the rest of this entry »

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A look at Fukuyama, social capital, and media development

December 30, 2009

I was reading Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold when I came across something he wrote about Francis Fukuyama:  “Fukuyama argues in his book Trust that there is a strong correlation between the prosperity of national economies and social capital, which he defines as the ease with which people in a particular culture can form new associations”. Huh.

That immediately struck me. The idea of helping people form new associations in the name of promoting prosperity within (and ultimately of) national economies is essentially a major driving force behind my work in media development. Reading this sentence pushed me to dig deeper. I began hunting down Fukuyama and what he had to say about social capital. I had read him before during my master’s degree work at SIPA, and remember feeling some connection then. I probably even encountered what he had to say about social capital. If so, it wasn’t till now that it caught my attention. Read the rest of this entry »

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Free Expression, mobile communications, and journalism training – A couple of weeks in the life

December 21, 2009

Well, it’s been a vibrant and boisterous couple of weeks in Lake Media Development, my hometown. I’ve been busy with a wide range of topics for a wide range of reasons. Just like the McPoyles like it. I’ve long taken the view that expression and development issues are so entwined and intermingled that any truly effective solution to them requires an expansive and comprehensive understanding of them. So, any chance I get to dig deep into new facets is more than welcome. This is the stuff that I live and breath.

Here’s a taste of the last few weeks in my adventures and explorations:

Defamation of Religions and Freedom of Expression

I’ve been reading about the Human Rights Council’s resolution 7/19 “Combating defamation of religions”, passed last spring, condemning the defamation of religions as a human rights violation. It would make sense that religion be seen as a human right, and that we should aim not to trample upon any human right. The concern, however, is that it clashes with the human right to expression. By protecting a religion from defamation, in the way that it is broadly defined in this resolution, you put the clamp on the right to question and even criticize a religion. You give a religion itself the status of having rights, rather than an individual, which has been the norm in international law. Read the rest of this entry »

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Give me some sugar, WordPress

December 10, 2009

My taste for WordPress.com is starting to sour. It’s this issue of not being able to embed javascript. It is making it so I can’t use WordPress.com for certain increasingly important purposes.

WordPress says they don’t allow javascript because “Javascript can be used for malicious purposes. Your code and intentions may be perfectly harmless, but it does not mean all javascript will be okay. The security of all the blogs is a top priority and until we can guarantee scripting languages will not be harmful they will not be permitted”.

That makes sense. Except, there’s one problem with that. More and more of what makes Web 2.0 and social media great requires javascript. Because of WordPress’s position, I can’t run a liveblog an event using CoveritLive and Twitter, which is by far the most powerful way to liveblog an event that I am aware of. CoveritLive made this liveblogging event and this liveblogging event possible. What I especially like about CoveritLive is that it makes it possible to feed in contact from other users, turning a blog into a much more social tool than it tends to be. Nope. Can’t do that. Read the rest of this entry »

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My work has always been about relationships

December 8, 2009

“It’s time I sling the baskets off this overburdened horse. Sink me toes into the ground, and set a different course”. – Phish, from “The Horse

I learned something about myself last week. Something I essentially already knew deep down, but hadn’t had the opportunity to jam into my face for several days straight. Everything I do in media, everything I do period, comes from a relationship I have formed along the way. Relationships are at the root of everything.

This might not sound like much. Of course, you might say. Sure, of course. But it isn’t “of course”. You have to experience it first hand, perhaps through a social experiment, like I just conducted, in which one group of data points in your sample place relationships at the center, and one group of data points in which relationships are almost entirely removed. Read the rest of this entry »

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CIMA: Research on International Funding of Media Development

November 18, 2009

The Center for International Media Assistance hosted a presentation of research by Anne Nelson and Mary Myers on international media development funding this past Monday. Given my never ending quest to absorb all things international media development, I had wanted to be there, but couldn’t due to lags in scientific development into teleportation technology. However, CIMA was kind enough to give us the next best thing: a streamable video recording of their event at U.S. Private and Non-U.S. Funding of Media Development.

Anne Nelson offered an overview of her recently-published CIMA report Experimentation and Evolution in Private U.S. Funding of Media Development, while Mary Myers presented findings from her forthcoming CIMA report Funding for Media Development by Major Donors Outside the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Spammers and Virus Programmers Are Worse Than They Might Think

November 16, 2009

New media, in case you haven’t noticed, have made it wonderfully and horrifically easier to send information to people you know and don’t know. The upside here is that it has been a boon to staying in touch with people, and communicating information to people who might well be interested, but might not yet be aware of you. The downside, of course, is the ever-increasing threat of spam and computer viruses.

I get that it is inevitable people will abuse the system. Some people will be able to sleep at night after a day of pummeling people’s inboxes, Twitter accounts, etc. with unwanted junk that unfortunately enough people will opt into to sustain the viability of this tactic. And, some people will have some kind of bone to pick with, say, Microsoft, that they will be able to sleep at night knowing that they stuck it to some adversary, outweighing the tremendous inconvenience it causes to otherwise innocent people just trying to get on with their lives in the digital world. Read the rest of this entry »