Considering Your Story's Afterlife

How do you sustain the conversation your story generates, and expect the unexpected?

About The Speaker(s)

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MODERATOR - Derek Williams is a 21-year-old Project Associate at the Peabody Award-winning production company, Youth Radio, in Oakland California. At Youth Radio, he co-launched a national Youth Advisory Board focused on innovations to address the country’s youth unemployment crisis. Derek has taught journalism at Youth Radio and produced stories for NPR, KQED, and The Huffington Post.
FACILITATOR - Elisabeth (Lissa) Soep is Senior Producer and Research Director at Youth Radio, the Oakland-based, youth-driven production company that serves as NPR’s official youth desk. The Youth Radio stories Lissa has produced with teen reporters have been recognized with honors including two Peabody Awards, three Murrow Awards, and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.
Jonathan McIntosh is a pop culture hacker and transformative storyteller. He has been remixing mass media narratives for critical purposes since before the invention of YouTube. Everything he makes is freely available on the internet to view, share and remix.
Joan Donovan researches global anti-capitalist movements use of information and communication technologies. In 2011, she helped build the InterOccupy.net platform, which facilitates distributed direct actions by linking networks of activists. She is completing a dissertation at the University of California San Diego on the communication infrastructure of the Occupy movement.
Wajahat Ali is the co-host of Al Jazeera America's "The Stream" -- a daily, social-media driven talk show. He is the author of the play "The Domestic Crusaders" published by McSweeney's and the lead author of the investigative report "Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America" published by CAP.
Peter Fein is a computer programmer, media hacker and Internet activist. Since 2011, he's helped keep the Internet running in the mideast and organized protests against censorship & surveillance around the world.
Jasmeen Patheja is the founding member of Blank Noise, a Indian nation-wide, volunteer-led community arts collective triggering public debate on the issue of street sexual harassment.
Luvvie Ajayi is a writer and digital strategist who believes in using the power of technology for social change. She's also co-founder and Executive Director of The Red Pump Project.

Resources

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Articles, Websites, Videos Mentioned

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Key Questions and Comments

  • (05:08) All of you guys have been involved in really interesting campaigns that unfold over time. Can you walk us through an example? What did you envision for the campaign, and what happened in its digital afterlife?
  • (06:04) What we found is--in the afterlife--the campaign basically runs itself: it goes from the people you immediately contact, past them to people you don't even know...The power of having a campaign like that is understanding that when you release it, it takes on a life of its own--and that's OK.
  • (11:35) The amount of influence you're able to have over the press was quite significant. We found a lot of mainstream reporters were remarkably lazy when reporting on digital topics...
  • (17:51) In the immediate aftermath of [Aasiya Zubair's] murder, there were these kneejerk, sensationalistic headlines...As a result of our campaign, we said 'Why don't you [journalists] try to look beyond this miniscule, sensationalistic frame and try to do something positive for curbing domestic abuse and domestic violence against all communities?' And that's what seemed to happen: it shifted to something that affected all of our communities...without the power of social media, I don't think we could have achieved that.
  • (23:45) [InterOccupy.net] sought to be a place--like an information clearinghouse--that would collect all the information, have it in one place, and be constantly issuing more and more calls for action as they arose.
  • (29:30) To echo some of the things that were already said: the media is lazy. I think that's something we need to remember as people interested in social change--the mainstream media is extremely lazy...Taking care to frame something in a careful and intentional way is extremely important because it's going to be the thing that is reprinted & reposted.
  • (31:58) The first thing that I did and the first thing that was really important to me was to understand where people were: what was the story that mainstream media was telling? Then take that story and be able to build into your own project a counter-narrative...You know what they're going to say, and then you can provide all of those counterarguments before anything goes out into the world.
  • (35:04) Whenever I writer these pieces, I realize once it's released into the internet, it's out of my control. So, within the argument/essay/piece itself, you try to anticipate and 'defend' your arguments from the haters and the 'talk back' community.
  • (38:39) One of the things that we learned from the transition from Occupy Wall Street to doing a campaign like Occupy Sandy is that you have to build quite a bit of infrastructure to make sure that your campaign does last...You have to think about your networks as something that are part of your repertoire, part of your toolkit.
  • (40:40) What role does your audience play in your story's digital afterlife? Can you think of an example where your audience made a big difference?
  • (44:03) We started identifying citizens in groups of varying communities, getting people to recognize their power and ability within change...Just getting each and every person to identify that potential, seeing that a small step can make a big change.
  • (47:31) What would your advice be to someone who is just getting started using stories for social activism? How should they get started?
  • (49:40) Respond, respond, respond! Any time someone messages you, always write back...give people as many ways in as possible.
  • (51:03) Some of you work on very contentious issues, so how do you think about (or even plan for) the possibility of surveillance?
  • (54:41) [Surveillance] is having an effect on civil disobedience, on activism, on intellectual writing. I think it's our job to be smart, to be two steps ahead when it comes to framing our content...and keep doing what we're doing; otherwise, the consequence will be a stifling of these alternative and underrepresented voices.

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