Blog Post #1

Welcome UGBA 192AC Readers!

This semester, I will be creating a series of weekly posts to document my reflections on class readings, class discussions, guest speakers, and inspiring content from the previous week’s class session. I will primarily be analyzing the complex relationship between social media technologies and innovative social movements. Hope you enjoy these posts as much as much I enjoy making them for you! :)

Take a peek at my first post below:

Before we get started…

What is social media — and why does it matter? In today’s technology-riddled “digital era”, it is harder and harder to distinguish what constitutes social media. Social media can range from a simple e-mail to a private Instagram post to an extremist video on YouTube! This obscurity leads to countless debates and confusion. Given these challenges, it is worthwhile to categorize social media in terms of their characteristics as experienced by users within the new media mix rather than in terms of their technical designs (Harvey, 2013). Thus, by delving deeper, we see that all social media share a key number of characteristics: feel personal, appear to level the playing field, are instantaneous/fun, proliferate organically, etc…to name a few.

Nonetheless, regardless of these details, it is clear that social media of various origins are bursting across the political landscape — with unforeseen effects. Jen Schradie’s “Bringing the Organization Back In: Social Media and Social Movements” touches upon the idea that groups with more organizational infrastructure not only build and develop more digital platforms, but they also have more online participation (Schradie, 2014). While political use of social media is increasingly ubiquitous, sophisticated, and not fully understood, electronica is still infiltrating the American political process in a way that actually re-shapes it (Harvey, 2013). For instance, people nowadays think of “data” as a harvestable crop. This crop is judged on its relative degree of “informationalization” (i.e. the ability to collect, generate, transmit, share, and/or hoard data) and its capacity to build, acquire, maintain, and deploy “Big Data”. Even more, the function of social media now expands beyond solely personal life — exploring the tensions between cultural, social, and economic change.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this high growth is the ability to measure its “real” sociocultural impact. This will be valuable information, as statistics approximate that 60% of adult Americans use at least one type of social media and 66% of adult Americans have widened their everyday use to include political activity (Harvey 2013). These concrete statistics become even more crucial when contextualized within the realm of escalating social media use. Hence, with the unrivaled prominence of social media, it is no wonder even tweets reside in the American archive of record, the public resource of national excellence that formed the nucleus of the Library of Congress.

So…what happened in Lecture 8/29?

In this week’s lecture, guest speakers Jennifer Martindale and James Im introduced the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) and discussed different ways the class could take part in their movement. Moreover, Professor Harris walked the class through the progress of his Global Lives Project, a video library of 24-hour projects that cultivates empathy across cultures.

For me, the Global Lives Project was definitely the highlight of our first class. Beyond the concept of seeing the world through a new lens, the sheer amount of thought and research put into the Global Lives Project is astounding. Thousands of applications are broken down into a master excel sheet, and only the most statistically representative individuals are chosen for each project. In addition, there are countless numbers of volunteers who film these initiatives and create the website — free of charge! Even more, the site itself is well-constructed and sends out a clear-cut message to the world: you are not alone. It is really impressive to see how individuals around the world, united under one common goal can accomplish so much — and I hope this is only the beginning for our generation. The Global Lives Project is truly a testament to Professor Harris’s knowledge and dedication to his work, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the semester!

Well that’s it for my first blog post of the semester. Stay tuned for more to come!