May 1, 2007
Media in Transition 5: Part IV of IV--Final Links

This post contains the final links to the collective intelligence which critiqued, discussed, and collaborated to give multiple perspectives on the Media in Transition 5 conference as it occurred here in Cambridge and through Second Life. If anyone has any resources that covered the conference not mentioned here, please post them in the comments section.

See this post about technical difficulties in viewing the conference in Second Life, and other posts about the Second Life streaming is available here, here and here. Thanks to C3 corporate partner GSD&M for hosting the conference feed through their Idea City.

There also some posts about the conference at the appropriately named Unknowledge, in that I don't know much about the blog. You can read the posts from there here and here.

The conference even inspired the launch of the anonymously authored blog an attempt, which explains its origins here and here.

And J.R. Carpenter reminds us that getting to the conference could be an adventure in itself. Look here and here.

The conference was also plugged by The Media Literacy Project.

Oh, and there's this picture of Henry, too. And there's an even more interesting picture in the material on MiT5 at the Gail Orenstein site.


On May 3, 2007 at 4:32 PM, Ron Robinson said:

Hello Henry,

Many thanks for a great conference and your personal encouragement and hospitality.

(I post these reflections at the same time that it has been announced that Barack Obama, with whom I share the same racial background, has been placed under Secret Service protection allegedly because of serious and credible threats against his life).

I realize that I made some provocative comments from the floor regarding the absence of African Americans as PI's/co-Pi's and stakeholders by both funders/foundations and academic institutions. It was not easy for me to say these things publicly (nor now, which is why it has taken me some time to work up the courage to post these reflections) especially since there were only about 3 of us Black Folks at the conference. Raising these issues often times causes us (including, our Latino and First Nation brothers and sisters) to be viewed as "devisive," and many of our White colleagues, sadly, go away thinking they were accused of being "racists" because we spoke up. Subsequently, we oftentimes are then given the "cold shoulder" by these colleagues. After all, some of them have included our communities/people as "subjects/objects" of research and/or advisers/consultants on such studies, which they may honestly feel constitutes substantive "inclusiveness" on their part.

As you pointed out in your post, based on feedback from MIT4 "We were especially urged to try to develop themes which would allow more participation from artists, educators, lawyers, activists, and policy people." I know you will agree that such a focus on "domain diversity" does not address the issues that I have raised. In this regard, I appreciate your commitment to insuring a "radical inclusiveness" in the future, which as the saying goes, "Why put off till tomorrow what can be done today." As such, may I offer a few framing thoughts pertaining to both men and women of color (and majority women more generally, who experience some of the same issues) as we move forward towards creating what I will call an agenda of "Transformative Inclusiveness and Collaboration."

First, the absence of communities of color, both women and men, makes a difference regarding how problems/issues/solutions get framed. Witness how the issue of participation was framed after MIT4 and the resulting complexion of MIT5. Both Juan and Ricardo spoke to this outcome at the Remixing and Learning Plenary, and Suzanne at the Summary Plenary (where the issue of including women was also raised). Within the academy, this ommission is a frequent occurrence and has, at minimum, the following consequences, which many scholars of color throughout the academy and beyond have discussed among ourselves over many years. We have also discussed that we should share our insights more widely, when possible, so that they might be reflected on as we move forward in hopefully inspiring our majority colleagues to embrace collaborations that are more inclusive, transformative and fruitful:

1) Our communities/people are too often not welcomed into the social/professional networks through which our expertise can be recognized, enhanced, and rewarded by stakeholder appointments/invitations.
2) Our White colleagues, both men and women, are denied the opportunity to have their own knowledge base enhanced by experiencing us as true and equal partners. This is especially poignant since beyond our academic expertise and intellectual acumen, many of us also have substantive "experiential knowledge" and the social and emotional intelligence that comes from being immersed in the communities we come from and are deeply committed to.
3) Sometimes these additional competencies are seen as potentially competing with and/or overshadowing those of our colleagues, and therefore not welcomed.
4) Because a critical mass of us are not included as vital and integral components of the Collective Intelligence circuitry, this reduces its potential power to address the substantive problems and injustices that effect the country and the world, and that disproportionately impact our communities, locally and globally.
5) As my old MIT Professor, Don Schon, used to say, how you frame a problem determines the solutions you design. Frame it improperly and the solutions you design will only exacerbate it. Our absence at the "framing table" has too often led this unfortunate outcome for our communities and people.
6) The longstanding and deep-seated stigma of our presumed intellectual and cultural inferiority to White men and women gets reproduced as we continue to be omitted as key stakeholders.
7) We have to prove ourselves in ways our White colleagues are spared just to be given consideration, let alone citation, true inclusion, etc.

Using myself as an example of numbers 6 , 2, and 3 above, I felt compelled to simultaneously obtain two master degrees from MIT (Civil Engineering and Urban Studies and Planning) in 1981. However, after many years working in the Commercial Real Estate industry, my commitment to addressing the substantive issues that inner city African Communities face, led me to pursue first one PhD, while living and teaching public high school in one of the poorest and most challenging urban communities in California, and then another PhD as well (in progress).

Too many times as a teacher I saw perky grad students from Stanford and Berkeley show up to the high school, with no connection to the community at all, to do research, with their PI's subsequently proposing "analysis" and "solutions" that did not substantively address the key needs of the kids, their community or the teachers that served them. But the "solutions" and "analysis" sure did look good on paper and Power Point presentations. Too often, people like myself, women and men of color with both experiential and academic knowledge as well as immersive commitments to our communities are seen as quaint curiosities, crazy for giving up lucrative careers to teach/research, though perhaps worthy of being contacted for some information that can be used in others' research, but not in the way that most benefits our communities.

Just how much this hurts is difficult to express. It hurts us not just as individuals, but it hurts us as people of color and our communities/people, many of whom are deeply marginalized, stigmatized and often scapegoated as the cause of the demise of the country. For example, just witness the so called "illegal immigration debate" and how LAPD dealt with protesters in Los Angeles, or how the Imus controversy has evolved. In the latter, the worst examples of commercial hip-hop and African American male rappers in particular were scapegoated as the progenitors of a culture that normalized Imus' derogatory, racist and sexist comments--not the larger context and American history that long ago normalized such discourse and social practices.

Nor were the commercial/corporate radio stations and broadcasters called to account. They will not play the great hip-hop and artists with positive messages, some of whom Craig Watkins identified in his excellent presentation on the "digital underground." Nor did the press or newscasters bring light to the Urban League's annual State of Black America Report, which came out at the same time all the negative attention was being placed and continues to be placed on Black male youth, post-Imus.

I apologize for the length of this post, but I truly hope that these opening, framing comments will be taken in the spirit of helpfulness and hopefulness with which they are offered, and I welcome any feedback that anyone is willing to offer at the following email address:

Thank you for having the courage and big heartedness to allow me to post these comments here.

Blessings and Good Cheer to All,
Ron Robinson

On May 3, 2007 at 4:46 PM, Ron Robinson said:

I also offer my post just as the Queen of England finished her speech at the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, Va. and refused to apologize for slavery.


Ron, I am assuming Henry will primarily respond on his blog, and since he is much more instrumental in the overall planning of Media in Transition (this was my first), I will let him and the community that is much more involved in that planning process respond.

But I thank you for sharing your substantial comments here as well as there. For those who haven't seen them, there is also a fascinating discussion started by Kristina Busse on the issue of gender divides at MiT5.