Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Thanksgiving 2011  (sorry post in progress to be complete ASAP)

                             - Shakespeare, The Tempest

America is not Prospero, the learned wizard who speaks these lines on the way to effecting a miracle of unification in Shakespeare's Tempest. In recent years America has been anything but prescient in shaping its best future - its zenith - and today America's fortunes will indeed ever after droop. The unravelling of American politics will continue unabated; the nation will drift towards anarchy and thence to the status of a police state. It's now or never.
Now thank we all this bird

So what is civic media? If you Google civic media, you will see MIT's Center for Civic Media whose founder, Henry Jenkins, offers this definition:
Civic media . . .  refers to any use of any medium which fosters or enhances civic engagement.
This definition  Civic engagement, Jenkins might object, presupposes interaction of citizens and government. Yet for decades, American governments at local, state and national levels have been remarkably impervious to citizen input. Hence the definition of civic media I developed in the early 1990's, when I founded the Chicago Civic Media Project
Civic media is the use of any medium or media network to make citizens and government responsive and accountable to each other.
I like this this definition because it makes mutual responsibility implicit to civic media. This notion of civic media - a fancy definition is here - took shape in Chicago in the late 1980's. As an educator, I had developed the idea of media-based school reform: of ongoing media dialogues of parents, students, teachers and taxpayers working together to transform Chicago, the City That Works, into an information-age City That Educates. In the early 1990's, I expanded these dialogs to include politics and in the late 1990's settled on gangs and drugs as an ideal test issue for civic media precisely because this critically important life and death matter was taboo among Chicago politicians at election time. The pols were sweeping it under the carpet, and Chicagoans were helpless to get them to address the economic problems that underlie gangs and drugs wherever the problem exists.

[add: Chicago Shutdown project.]

All this of course was long before the advent of social networking, when the best anyone could hope form civic media was ongoing, problem-solving dialogues occurring on jerry-rigged networks in which civic media would in effect piggy-back on Chicago community and mainstream media: print, radio, TV and websites.


Well today this blog comes full circle. World events have brought it from its initial concern with the aftermath of the global financial meltdown to where the discourse of global finance stands today: in the streets of every major city in America and many worldwide. It began in March 2009 with a post about Fed Chair Ben Bernanke's suave assurance on 60 Minutes that U.S. Banks are solvent. Since then, its 55 posts have traced the evolution of financial and political discourse in America from its coverage in specialized sources to where this discourse is occurring today: in the streets. The catalyst in this transformative sea change (also from Shakespeare's Tempest) was of course the Arab Spring, which I'm proud to say I discussed here (Feb 13: on Bloomberg BusinesWeek's Peter Coy's prescient prediction that what began in Tahrir Square would spread worldwide) and here and Occupy Wall Street here (Sep 17: Occupy Another Tahrir Square?), here (Sep 28: OWS trivialized in the New York Times) and here (corporate personhood).


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