careforflint final project

group members: Caitlin Cohen, Jana Kornely, AJ Martinez, Alec Pritchard

After the midterm, each group member began to work on the sections of the final project that they had agreed upon doing when dividing the roles. The first thing we wanted to have published was the petition, and Alec worked on creating  text for that. During lab time our whole group got together and specified the goals of the petition, and worked together to come up with a good way of phrasing our requests. As soon as the petition was online we started to spread it via social media by sharing it with our Facebook friends and sending it out via e-mail. Jana also created a Facebook page and a Twitter profile. She promoted the Facebook page in groups she was a member of and wrote private messages and public posts to other Flint-related pages asking people to sign and share the petition. On Twitter she used common hashtags when posting, retweeted other users and sent direct tweets to Flint-related users. She also took the advice given to our group during the midterm, and contacted the creators of other petitions for Flint, although most of them did not leave a website or e-mail address on change.org, so she only sent out two e-mails. Alec got into contact with administrators from change.org who sent us an e-mail offering help in the promotion of our e-mail. They suggested making some modifications to the petition (which should be done on Monday) and sending it out to 1000 of their subscribers. If that proves successful, they will send it out to all of them.

While we worked on promoting the petition, we were also busy working on the website. AJ used the wireframes to put together the different elements for the website and Jana made a few aesthetic changes and linked the different buttons to the respective part of the site. The video found on the homepage was single-handedly created by AJ as a mashup from other youtube-videos, but of course he asked the group for feedback. The texting for the website was divided up. Caitlin wrote the different texts for the “About”-section, which included the “Background”-section, the “Our Goals”-section, and also the “Health Concerns”-section. She did this based on research that we had gathered as a group before the midterm, and also supplementary research that she did on her own. Once the text was complete, Jana helped to give feedback and proof-read each section. Alec wrote the text about the petition and researched events for the “Get Active”-section. The website also features a blog for which Jana did the research and blogging. AJ made sure that the text layout on every page is visually pleasing and coherent and made modifications to give the website it’s final look. This documentation was written by Jana and Caitlin proof-read it.  

Here is our work:
website

petition

Facebook

Twitter

youtube-video

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careforflint final project

Cairo Drive

Caro Drive was a very entertaining documentary about driving in the streets of Cairo. The movie was followed by a discussion with filmmaker Sherief Elkatsha, who also visited the class earlier that day. Sherief Elkatsha repeatedly said that his film was not about the revolution, but that the revolution just happened while he was making the movie, a documentary that took him five years to produce. It is true that the revolution is not the focus of the story, but its impact on the city can still be felt while watching.

It was invigorating to see how openly Sherief Elkatsha discussed the process of making the movie and that he openly admitted that a lot of lucky coincidence was involved instead of trying to be the mysterious filmmaker with a masterplan. I think that gave a lot of the film students in the audience hope and the strength to try to go along with their own projects.

Cairo Drive

Different activist groups coming together

I think that an interesting issue the reading touches upon is the fact how in Saudi Arabia people from different groups came together to achieve common goals, but only to a certain degree. If members of different groups and from different background pursue the same goals, one might think that it only makes sense that they fight together. This was the case in Saudi Arabia when people from different sectarian groups signed the petition “Towards a State of Rights and Institutions” to demand an elected parliament and the appointment of a prime minister. Groups might have realized that they are not that different and learned to accept each other. However, significant differences might persist and a group likely does not want to be associated with another group’s beliefs and values if they do not mirror their own. The Saudi government used that to discredit and divide the activists by raising word of an Iranian conspiracy and Shiite responsibility for the movement. Sunnis didn’t want to be seen in that light and a degree was reached at which the different groups couldn’t work together anymore. The government succeeded in its attempt to stop the protests.

I can see why certain groups might feel the need to uphold their credibility and identity and how that can easily be threatened if the public learns about their collaboration with a different-minded group. However, a single group might often not be enough to bring about change so the pros and cons of the collaboration have to be weighed carefully. It should also be taken into account if the goals really are the same and which measures one is willing to take to achieve these goals. Should a peaceful group of protesters work together with a radical organization knowing that they might only reach their goal because others used violence? In some cases, a collaboration might do more harm than good, but in other cases groups are only held apart by societal constraints. People of different age, gender, religion, ethnicity, or social status are often seen as different groups merely because of outer aspects, but they might share the same values, attitudes and beliefs and might be much more powerful as a group. Moreover, if everybody believed and acted in that way, there would be less need for activism in the first place, but that is something that John Lennon already imagined years ago.

Different activist groups coming together

Reporting sexual harassment

In his text „Protest in an information society“, R. Kelly Garrett states that the internet can be used as a source of information and verification, which is especially helpful if the traditional media appears to be biased or controlled by authorities. Since the Internet does not have a gatekeeper in the way traditional media has, it is incredibly difficult to prevent specific information from entering the web. However, information found on the internet is not always trustworthy and the author highlights how easily unverified information can be spread on the Internet. One person might post something on a social media platform and others, believing it to be true, might share it, which can result in an untrue claim going viral.

The struggle of verifying information is also addressed in Chelsea Young’s text “HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harassment in Egypt”. Young explains that sometimes news articles are attached to a report to give proof of its authenticity, but that all other reports are judged for their reasonability by people working for the organization. If a report is cleared by a volunteer, it will be uploaded to the map and marked as unverified. Young states that it is nevertheless possible to distort the image by uploading false or inaccurate reports that could not be detected as such. What I found interesting is that Young did not mention the possibility of excluding reports that did actually happen and what impacts that might have. Maybe there are hardly any reports excluded, which is why she might not have considered that that could be an issue. If, however, reports got falsely excluded, the person reporting the incident might feel betrayed and not taken seriously and the organization might appear less trustworthy.

It was also interesting how Ahmed Al-Rawi wrote about who or what is blamed by different groups for the misogyny and sexual harassment happening in the Arab world. While some put the blame on improperly dressed women, others state that Islam is to blame, whereas other people say that the dress code and attitudes toward women are not part of the Quran but cultural concepts different from religion.

Furthermore, I think that raising awareness for sexual harassment does not only need to be done in the Arab world, but everywhere. I realized how UCSB is trying to create awareness of rape by including reports to the crime alert e-mails and by making the issue part of the mandatory training for incoming students, but attempts like that are not the case everywhere and “less harmful incidents” might go largely unnoticed.

Reporting sexual harassment

written by: anonymous

In Zuckerman’s study as well as in the video of the panel discussion it was taken into account whether bloggers use their real name or blog anonymously. It was said that using your name can increase your risk of imprisonment or torture if the government sees you as a potential threat. However, blogging anonymously is said to have not as much of an impact when it comes to creating a community and backing your beliefs. It is easier for internet users to trust and support a blogger that they can picture than to join the protests of an anonymous figure.

That discussion reminded me of the R-Shief lecture in which it was discussed whether research on specific users should be supported or refrained from in order to protect them. In my opinion, all bloggers should make the decision about how much information they want to reveal for themselves and I am convinced that this might sometimes be a tough decision to make.

How you want to present yourself in the online world probably also depends on your type of engagement. Zuckerman distinguishes between thin and thick engagement. The first one is a type of support that requires your physical presence at a demonstration, your signature on a petition, etc. but usually not a lot of thinking. There are others organizing those forms of activism and doing the major part of thinking for a bigger group. With thick engagement on the other hand, you have to figure out what needs to be done and act accordingly.

I suppose that people active in thick engagement are more likely to be prosecuted by the government, as they might be seen as the agitators, whereas the thin engagers might be considered the followers. The “followers” might not be as worried about using their real name because they feel less at risk, but the “thinkers” might also choose to use their real name, because identifying the source of the thoughts might make them more convincing and impactful.

written by: anonymous

Additional research to #youstink

I have to admit that I hadn’t heard about the trash crisis in Lebanon before taking this class. Since most of the information on the youstink-website was in Arabic, I did a Google search to find out a bit more about the background of the movement. The garbage crisis seemed to be the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back as the country has been struggling with other issues such as intermittent power and water supply, sectarian conflict and the inability to elect a president. The latter two seem to be part of the cause for the trash crisis and therefore make targets for protest. Some might even go so far as to say that the trash is only the cover for the other ongoing conflicts.

Until now, Lebanon’s sectarianism had never sunk so low as to include waste. One is left to wonder whether the current crisis is actually about waste or if it is a sectarian conflict fueled by other factors. – Sami Nader for Al Monitor

In his article Sami Nader poses the question whether religiously divided landfills might solve the garbage crisis, a thought that might seem absurd to people living in Europe or the USA, but apparently religion even plays a role when it comes to trash. As a person that is not religious, but respectful of others’ beliefs, I am sad to read about this. Instead of everybody working together to solve a crisis, this seems like only helping the in- and rejecting the out-group. Even if that finally leads to the removal of garbage, the way of getting there cannot be celebrated as a victory.

Another interesting paragraph that I found was in a New York Times article about the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the question on where life was worse. It is a strange question to consider which human rights violations and social issues one would rather be willing to accept.

Now, even Syrians fleeing war pronounce themselves shocked at the lack of infrastructure in Lebanon. Some of them, however, express a hint of jealousy that Lebanon’s weak state allows freedoms unavailable in Syria, where protests were crushed with deadly force. (Some Lebanese — especially those who support the government of President Bashar al-Assad — wonder why the Syrians revolted when they had free health care and college education, unimaginable in Lebanon.) – Anne Barnard for The New York Times

I furthermore found a satirical article as a form of digital activism. It appeared on a website that appears to be the Middle Eastern equivalent to the onion. The article was published a couple of days ago, which shows that the crisis is still ongoing.

Additional research to #youstink