...My heart's In Accra
Ethan Zuckerman’s online home, since 2003

Sasha Costanza Chock at Sun Yat Sen University

Friend and colleague Sasha Costanza-Chock leads off the morning at Sun Yat Sen University’s conference on Civic Media with a talk titled, “Transmedia Organizing: Social Media Practices in Occupy Wall Street and the Immigrant Rights Movement”. Sasha begins with his personal journey towards a scholar of activism. He started his story with his work as an electronic musician in Boston as a student at Harvard, working to create multiracial and multicultural spaces around electronic music as a way of addressing some of the long-term cultural divides in Boston. That work led him to work on film audio for the Independent Media Center and work with Indymedia, documenting

This work on filmmaking turned into an investigation of distribution methods, which led him to work with the Transmission Network, a group focused on bringing independent media from around the world, especially to Southeast Asia to global audiences. He moved on to UPenn Annenberg, where he focused on media policy and went on to work with Free Press, an international NGO focused on participatory interventions into media policy.

Pursuing his PhD at USC Annenberg, Sasha found himself working with the immigrant rights community, a key community in LA, which has a massive immigrant population. His work with immigrant groups led to the Mobile Voices project, which has gone on to become vojo.co. This platform, which allows people to share their stories via mobile phones, is an example of a tool for transmedia activism, activism that uses a variety of media tools to seek change.

Sasha suggests that a broad view of media ecology suggests we take the new affordances of digital media seriously. Social movements have always used new media to express their identity and articulate their issues. But we need to look beyond tools and platforms, and consider the political economy of media systems. What companies are involved with these new spaces, how are they regulated, who benefits from these new systems? What are the new affordances of these tools? Who has access to tools and skills in these new spaces?Read More »Sasha Costanza Chock at Sun Yat Sen University

Crowdfunding Checkbook Journalism: Gawker’s “Crackstarter” and its implications

Toronto mayor Rob Ford is a controversial character. 2300 words in his 7600 word Wikipedia biography make up a section titled “other controversies“. These controversies include being drunk and picking a fight at a Leafs game, insulting people with AIDS, people of Asian descent, and allegedly groping a female mayoral candidate.

But all that colorful behavior pales in comparison to the accusations he’s now facing. The Toronto Star, a left-leaning newspaper that’s repeatedly reported on mayor malfeasance, reports that they’ve watched a video that shows mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine with Somali drug dealers. Star reporters Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan were approached by a community organizer from Toronto’s Somali community, who was acting as a “broker” for the person who shot the video on a smartphone, a man who alleges that he has sold crack to the mayor previously.

For Americans, the Ford story calls up fond memories of Marion Barry, the Washington DC mayor who was videotaped freebasing cocaine by the FBI and the DC police. (Good news for mayor Ford – after serving a prison term, Barry returned to DC politics under the campaign slogan “He May Not Be Perfect, But He’s Perfect for D.C.”, and retook the mayorship four years after his arrest.) But, if anything, the Rob Ford story is crazier and more complex than the Barry scandal, at least from a journalistic perspective.

While Doolittle and Donovan of the Star have seen video, but when they were asked to pay a six figure sum for the recording, they refused. Their article states unambiguously: “The Star did not pay money and did not obtain a copy of the video.”

Read More »Crowdfunding Checkbook Journalism: Gawker’s “Crackstarter” and its implications