Don’t let your work hide on a shelf!

Messy Bookshelf

Last semester I took a course on children in international development. It was an amazing overview of some of the particular development issues that hit children – child labor, trafficking, education in crisis, early marriage, HIV/AIDS to name a few.

The final project for the course was a case study and we were partnered up with others with similar interests. My partner and I decided to focus on interventions that are in place for young disabled Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

Not only did we have to turn in a paper, we also had to present our research to the class. So, rather than bore everyone with another power point, we decided to create a website.

But not only did this give us a different way to present, it also creates a ‘living document’ so to speak. It makes the information available to others, provides resources, and gives us a way to keep our work from hiding on a shelf somewhere. Because, really, what good is it going to do there?

So check it out! We incorporated videos, photos and all kinds of links!

Feedback is welcome!!

Photo: Home and Garden Webshots

Student Pugwash USA’s Guide to the Elections

From the Peace and Security initiative:

“From Electrons to Elections” policy guide is a non-partisan resource designed to educate young voters on science, technology, and health issues and provide them with the platforms of the leading political candidates on these subjects. It engages students on the issues through interactive technologies including blogging, YouTube videos, and polls. The guide explores a wide range of issues including peace and security, energy and environment, health, and emerging technology. Click here to view the guide.

Intercultural Managment, and LiveBloggin

I am very happy to report that I’ll be attending the Intercultural Management Institute’s conference on March 13 and 14. I am looking forward to many interesting panels and workshops.I’m also excited to try live blogging for the first time. I’ll be using ‘s application. I hope you join in!

To follow along, click here.

Game Over, Change Begins

Social causes and media have a long history, and nonprofits have become well acquainted with the use of media to further their causes. Beyond typical public relations, nonprofits have increasingly turned to documentaries to help tell their story and get the issues they care about out into the public dialogue.

But at the Making Your Media Matter conference last week, hosted by the Center for Social Media, it became clear that filmmakers and activists alike are turning to more than just the documentary.

Games for Social Change

The conference started off with a great session about using games to help affect change. Although its not exactly new, its becoming a more accepted tool for advocacy and education.

One great example was demonstrated by panelist Dennis Pamielri from ITVS (Independent Television Service). In 2007 ITVS launched an interactive online game called World Without Oil. The purpose of the game was to demonstrate our dependence on oil and simulate what life would be like if that oil were to run out.

The set up for the game was simple – for 32 weeks, the makers “created” an oil crisis. Players were asked to contribute original online stories about how their lives would be affected if this oil shock were actually happening. Contributions could be poems, images, stories, videos, podcast, even cartoons- anything that showed how life would change. Each week, creators posted an update complete with gas prices and story prompts. Week 1, for example, started with regular unleaded gasoline st $4.12 per gallon. After a brief summary of the week’s events, users are asked, “How would $4 gas affect your finances?”

Each week new prompts were posted, and each week players from around the country submitted thousands of creative contributions. It was a perfect example of some of the buzzwords we hear these days – crowd sourcing, collective creativity, collective intelligence.

But what was REALLY interesting was the comments coming in to the producers telling how much the game had changed the way players were living their lives. Players may have been posting imaginary scenarios online, but offline they were making real changes. Some started riding their bikes to work, some traded in their gas-guzzlers for hybrids. Over and over again producers heard about the true impact of the game.

Isn’t that why nonprofits use media? To make an impact? To change lives?

Susan Seggerman from Games 4 Change said this is becoming the norm, not the exception. Games are unique in that they fully engage the user. Players are able to make “safe” decisions – if they make the wrong choice, they can try again. Games allow individuals to see cause and effect more clearly- something that is difficult in the linear storytelling of film. And games put the user into the situation – they aren’t just watching it, they are living it- long after “game over.”

Can you define documentary?

When I think of documentaries, I recall warm, fuzzy memories of watching Mutual of Ohuma’s Wild Kingdom every week with my family. Each episode invited us into the world of lions and cheetahs and gorillas. We all enjoyed them, but my father especially. He had studied biology in college, but never used it in life. While the rest of us were watching lions tear into zebras, Dad also had an eye on the scientists. I loved watching not only the films, but also my dad and his enjoyment.

So now, here I am studying social documentaries. And while my memories of documentaries are simple, defining documentary is anything but!

The difficulty comes from trying to represent reality. Docs are supposed to show us real life, but ultimately the product is the filmmaker’s version of reality. Edits, music, narration…all of the techniques of filmmaking affect the version of truth that is told. Do you emphasize the story? Is it all about the images? Should you recreate scenes that weren’t caught on film? Should you be a fly on the wall, and let real life play out? If so, where do you cut?

I have to confess, at the moment I’m a cinema verite fan. But that could change. I’m willing to be open.

And so, on my netflix list:

Nanook of the North – Robert Flaherty – one of, if not the first documentary. Flaherty was all about the story, and showing the pristine culture of the Inuits. He had to fudge some things to get the story right (like have people perform for the cameras a custom that they had not done in years), but that was his version of the truth. (He argued that he was showing their culutre before it had become “tainted” by the outside world).

Man with a Movie Camera– Dziga Vertov – he believed the camera could see truth better than our eyes, so he sought out to show us all the beautiful truth out there. I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear its like MTV editing, but with purpose.

John Grierson- Netflix doesn’t have any of his films -probably because they were something of an educational chore, rather than an entertaining experience. Grierson believed deeply in the power of film to create a better society. Sounds good, but theres a fine line (that he seemed to cross) between that and propaganda. Perhaps the library….

Oh, also on my list…