Hollywood, Health & Society Global Centers Mark One-Year Anniversary
Hollywood, Health & Society's two global centers marked their one-year anniversary at a news conference in Mumbai, joined by an international cast of filmmakers representing the three major entertainment capitals of the world--Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood.
In attendance at the Global Centers Summit were writer-producer Vinta Nanda of the Asian Center for Entertainment Education and director Mahesh Bhatt, who together run HH&S' joint project in Mumbai known as The Third Eye; filmmaker Aimee Corrigan of Nollywood Workshops, co-director of the global center in Nigeria called Gist; Hollywood producer and director Stuart Sender; Nigerian director Tunde Kelani; Indian director-producer Kalpana Lajmi, director Barnali Ray Shukla and producer Ravi Walia; and HH&S Program Administrator Chris Dzialo, who oversees the global centers.
"To get all three [Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood] on one platform talking about issues which concern the human race is indeed one hell of an achievement," Bhatt said. "I am certain in times to come that you will on this platform see filmmakers from all over the world.
Touching on the power of entertainment to bring about positive social change, Bhatt added: "The human race will have to deal with human problems collectively. Individually we can't do a damn thing. Only in a collective effort will we find enduring solutions."
Gist in Lagos and The Third Eye in Mumbai were launched to leverage the power of TV and film to improve viewers' lives, borrowing a page from HH&S to serve as a free resource for accurate information on storylines dealing with important health topics. The global centers draw on the resources of HH&S--which serves as the hub--and its Hollywood partners.
Top: Chris Dzialo, Tunde Kelani, Vinta Nanda, Aimee Corrigan at the Global Centers Summit.
What's the relationship between science and telling ourselves stories? Closer than you think. Read this terrific article from Nautilus. about the long, complex link between scientific progress and stories we make up.
We're awash in big data now, even as we try to clearly visualize it graphically. Perhaps a look at old data visulizations can inspire us. Take a look at this absolutely beautiful Erie Railroad organizational chart from 1855. Wow.
Much Ado About Moocs...a short two years after educators and techies embraced Massive Online Open Courses as the gateway to a new golden, egalitarian age of higher education, the cursor seems to be stuck, blinking, on the screen: a new study shows that only half of those who registered for a course ever watched a lecture, and then only 4 percent completed the courses. And a joint San Jose State University-Udacity experiment has failed completely. ThisNYTimes article explains the reboot.
There's a new tool in the struggle to get action on climate change on everyone's agenda: insurance company actuarial tables. more>>
There's no link between exposure to media violence and actual violent behavior, right? Not so fast. A new meta-analysis of 217 studies published between 1957 and 1990 suggests that exposure to media violence is a risk factor for violent behavior, much in the same way that second-hand smoke is a risk factor for cancer. more>>
Did you ever think chocolate could be entertaining, and compellingly so? Watch what some clever Germans have devised. more>>
Fox News seems to have discovered the science behind making people distrust science. A new study explains how. more>>
Do you tweet during television shows? A new study analyzes the interesting connections between Twitter and TV. more>>
Can puffs of air be the next big thing in online entertainment interactivity? Disney Research thinks so and their new tool, Aireal, is pretty dazzling. more>>
Are you still just playing Grand Theft Auto on your Kinect? Take a gander at what a dance company and engineering firm in France have been doing with the gaming device. more>>
Since the NSA leaks were revealed, "meta data" has been all the buzz. Find out what it means and what it looks like here.
If all you've got in your paintbox are pixels, can you still be an artist? The exhibit "Into the Pixel" offers some interesting answers. more>>
A mobile game that explores Jewish cultural history? Who knew? Check out Jewish Time Jump: New York and discover how augmented reality, GPS and rich source material can put you in New York City a century ago, immersed in the world of Jewish immigration and the women's and labor movements. more>>
Are celebrities now the canaries in the coal mine, alerting us to the imminent death of American culture and democracy? Author and journalist George Packer (The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America) thinks so and regards the current crop, ascending as most Americans stare at a growing abyss of economic inequality, as particularly craven: people, who've become personas, then brands, then empires. more>>
What's the latest tool for historians and other archival researchers? It's probably in your hand: your smartphone. more>>
After reading Angelina Jolie's moving and brave NYT op-ed about her recent prophylactic double mastectomy due to her possessing the BRCA1 gene, watch TV writer Jessica Queller tell her own BRCA cancer story at a Hollywood, Health & Society event.
Remember 24, the show that graphically convinced viewers, military recruits and interrogators for eight seasons that torture works? It's baaaack, next summer on Fox, and Americans will have another chance to gauge the impact of a fictional TV show on real political choices and military behavior in the field. more>>
When you're one of the biggest computer companies on the planet, what's the cool way to announce your breakthrough discovery? Watch IBM's movie assembled out of mere atoms, the tiniest movie ever, to find out.
There's a brilliant new tool for non-profit organizations: Comedy. Actor Matt Damon has launched a drive for increasing awareness of global water and sanitation issues via a funny, mock press conference about a new strategy he's adopting on behalf of his charity Water.org. more>>
What's the next, new entertainment feature for your home? Um, how about a window? With enough of these "light-taming" windows installed you could actually live inside your very own entertainment center. more>>
A wave of new research is in on the effects of violent gaming....and nothing is clear. more>>
The Chinese once turned to Confucius for wisdom. Now they study....episodes of Friends -- in a Beijing cafe that's an exact replica of the series' Central Perk coffee shop. Chinese university students watch reruns of the show to learn English and discover American culture, and to some, Chandler has become an inspirational figure. more >>
When is a video game not a video game? When it is a "notgame." Take a look at Bientôt l'Été, a new game that discards video game clichés. more>>
Most Americans think Ronald Reagan was the first actor to become President. This LA Times article, however, makes the case for an earlier White House thespian: FDR. more>>
MoMA -- home to Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and Van Gogh's The Starry Night -- has acquired for its collection the first 14 of a planned 40 video games. Among the titles now embraced as high culture are Pac-Man, Tetris, Another World and Myst. more>>
Neal Gabler on Laemmle's List: A Mogul's Heroism
Read the unknown story of the passionate crusade by Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Studios, to save German Jews in the 1930s, written by our Senior Fellow Neal Gabler. A must-read.
Then revisit the Lear Center's Warners' War project, which explored the anti-Nazi stand that the legendary studio adopted early and fiercely.
Neal Gabler: How Mickey Rooney Showed America Its Heart
Blakley at Think Again Conclave: The Social Impact of Social Media
Lear Center Managing Director Johanna Blakley will give the keynote address for the Think Again Conclave, a featured event at the 32nd annual edition of APOGEE, a technical extravaganza including over 6000 students, 100 colleges, and 80 technical events. The Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) in Pilani, India, hosts the country's biggest technical festival, which has featured talks by Nobel Laureates, CERN scientists, inventors, politicians and social activists from around the globe. Blakley will present her research on "The Social Impact of Social Media," with a focus on the current dynamics in India, where the exchange of ideas and information through virtual communities and networks has assumed unprecedented significance in the past few years. Other speakers in the Think Again Conclave include:
John Beck, Director of Photography at NASA
Dr. Anil Gupta, founder Honey Bee Network
Mansoor Khan, Director/Producer in the Indian Film Industry
Dr. Walter Lewin, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the MIT
Participant Media & Lear Center's Media Impact Project Collaborate to Measure Social Media Impact of Entertainment
Team Will Examine the Power of Storytelling to Inspire Social Change
In a unique collaboration between entertainment and academia, Participant Media, a leading provider of entertainment that inspires and accelerates social change, and the Lear Center's Media Impact Project (MIP) announce an arrangement to develop new insights about the social impact of entertainment media. The joint team will produce cutting-edge research shaped by Participant Media's expertise in social-change-oriented entertainment and the Media Impact Project's mission to assess the social impact of media.
Named The Participant Index (TPI), the research will assess the impact of both Participant and non-Participant supported projects across range of entertainment including: narrative film, documentary film, scripted and reality/alternative TV, short online videos, CSR, and branded entertainment. The first wave of research begins in the first quarter of 2014.
Harnessing the evolving tools of big data analysis, the collaborative arrangement will enable the two organizations to support and further develop The Participant Index, the new media-impact measurement system created by Participant Media with consultation from the Lear Center; TPI combines public opinion data, social media metrics and audience viewership data in a customized algorithm that assesses the social impact of a piece of entertainment media on its audience. Read the full press release
Blakley: On the Media
Johanna Blakley spoke about the future of television on Bob Garfield's On the Media NPR show, along with other distinguished guests, including Jeffrey Cole, Dick Glover, Mitch Hurwitz, Joe Lewis and David Tochterman. Listen here:
A few years ago I noticed a bunch of hashtags appearing in the "Trending Topics" section of Twitter that I just couldn't make heads or tails of. Each one I clicked on revealed a sea of black faces and I thought, Oh! This is some kind of in-joke in the African American community. When I could figure out what the tweets were about (and often I couldn't), they were often really funny, sometimes poking fun at black celebrities or taking white people to task for their ignorance of black culture and the black experience. There were also a lot of provocative topics such as #thingsblackpeopledo, which often played with sensitive racial stereotypes (think watermelon, unemployment, etc.) sometimes inverting them or re-invoking them in clever and surprising ways
This development was really exciting to me because I believe that one of the huge social and political benefits of social media networks is that diasporic communities - dispersed groups that have shared interests - can cheaply and easily find one another, exchange ideas, build community and work together to accomplish shared goals.
Fast forward to 2013: we had just launched the new Media Impact Project at the Norman Lear Center and I was looking for a way to collaborate with the Annenberg Innovation Lab, a group at USC that had been publishing some very interesting research on Twitter. I was thrilled when Kevin Driscoll, a PhD student in the Lab, told me that he was hoping to drum up some interest in researching Black Twitter. We had both noticed that academic researchers hadn't really grappled with the topic yet, even though the phrase was becoming more common in news media after Black Twitter was given credit for focusing media attention on the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis cases.
We were also a bit surprised that academics didn't seem to be responding to studies demonstrating that African Americans were seriously embracing Twitter. A research team at Northwestern found that black college students were over-represented on Twitter and Pew found that an astounding 28% of African Americans use Twitter with 13% using it on a daily basis. Just to give you some context, only 12% of whites are on Twitter and only 2% of all online adults use Twitter in a typical day.
So we put a great team together very quickly, including USC Annenberg professor Francois Bar, who has done some fascinating work on political sentiment on Twitter, and PhD students Alex Leavitt and Dayna Chatman, an active participant in Black Twitter. But we immediately struggled with our research approach: if we wanted to learn about the Black Twitter community - the basic who, what, where, when, why and how of this online phenomenon - how on earth we were going to go about it? It's rare that people use the #blacktwitter hashtag to opt in to that ongoing conversation, and there wasn't an obvious list of sanctioned hashtags that we could follow since those conversations tended to be driven by current events. Nor could we use any standard Twitter metadata, like geographic locations or demographics to isolate this community and study it. (Just in case it wasn't obvious, not all black people are "members" of Black Twitter and not all participants in Black Twitter are black.)
But we did know that the TV show Scandal - Shonda Rhimes' outrageously over-the-top political melodrama starring Kerry Washington - was a big hit in the Black Twitter community and that it had a reputation for being the most live-tweeted TV show on the air.
The operative word for us was live. That meant that U.S. members of our amorphous Black Twitter community were tuning in, in real-time (in three time-zones, of course) once a week to communicate with one another about the show and potentially anything else that might be on their minds.
Here's an excerpt from our white paper describing what we decided to do:
From October 3 to December 12, 2013, we tracked the activity of any user tweeting about Scandal, and logged their Twitter conversations and user metadata. With this collection as a starting point, we have begun to map out the relationships among users who "live-tweet" Scandal in an effort to identify subgroups of users that interact with one another outside of their shared interest in the TV show. From there, we hope to identify particular cliques of individuals that identify as part of Black Twitter to further explore their engagement with the show and each other on Twitter as well as their offline participation more generally in black culture and politics.
Of course we weren't simply interested in how this audience was responding to a TV show (though that response has been absolutely fascinating -- that's a subject for another blog); the real target population here wasn't viewers of Scandal, it was participants in Black Twitter. We were treating the live broadcast of that show as bait for our real quarry. And the bigger goal for the Media Impact Project was to develop a technical toolkit and a repeatable methodology that would allow any researcher to better understand how traditional and new media platforms can be used for community political engagement and how that engagement can affect public discourse and news cycles.
Too many social media research projects focus on one platform, effectively ignoring the cross-platform nature of media engagement. This project allows us to study how stories told in traditional media can not only ignite social media conversation but also trigger the appearance of an entire community looking to re-connect, on a weekly basis, around a cultural touchstone.
Scandal is an especially juicy example of a show that pointedly engages in hot-button political topics and actively encourages fans to engage in conversation about them. Several of the members of the show's cast and writing staff (including Rhimes and Washington) live-tweet the episodes, and the promotion of the show is often tied to the vibrant Twitter experience that fans can have if they watch the show in real time (which advertisers LOVE). After the penultimate episode of season three last week, the teaser for next week was: Watch live Thursday, or hate yourself Friday.
Stay tuned for more research findings from this project. And be sure to tune into the much anticipated season finale tonight. Our team will gather to monitor in real time the live-tweeting of the East Coast broadcast, 7pm-8pm PDT. If you get hooked, don't worry about waiting until next Fall to re-join the conversation. Hard-core Scandal live-tweeters have already set up asummer schedule!
Z Holly, the former vice provost for innovation at USC and host of the first TEDx ever, sure knows me well. A newcomer to the prestigious TTI/Vanguard Board, Z thought I would be good fit for their next conference on Embracing Blur.
Um, she couldn't have been more correct. I have long been fascinated by the interplay between representations and reality (my last TEDx talk dealt with this pretty directly). And I'd venture to say that the majority of my work at the Lear Center explores the cultural and commercial ramifications of this blur.
What Z didn't know was that my dissertation was actually about "betweenness" - something I saw as a key formal and thematic characteristic of avant-garde modernism. Many of my friends and colleagues wondered how a high-theory English PhD ended up in a think tank studying the impact of media, but it all seems quite rational to me: isn't the key formal and thematic characteristic of 21st century media the blur between representation and reality? What we considered avant-garde in literary Paris at the turn of the 20th century is the (often unacknowledged) cultural dominant of contemporary global pop culture.
A flood of technologies is washing away traditional boundaries between work and play, companies and governments, war and peace, near and far, virtual and physical, society and the individual. In its wake, a global nervous system is emerging as we connect billions of people with each other and with billions of newly smart objects. This unbounded organism is developing an unsurpassable intelligence, resistant to human control. Where is it taking us? Can we hope to understand it, control it, contain it?
Z had to warn me though - there's one thing about this conference that is very atypical: every attendee (and there's over a 100 of them) has a mic and can interrupt you at any point during your presentation.
Of course I said yes, and I'm so happy I did. Not only were the other speakers amazing (more on that shortly), but the audience was filled with "Big Gets," people you'd kill to get at your own event.
One of my favorite speakers at the event was Larry Hunter, a computational biologist at the University of Colorado, Denver, who also turned out to be a fantastic drinking buddy. Larry has a deep background in computer science and molecular biology, and this has led him to create some very smart open source software that allows us to move beyond
Those who tell the stories rule the world, it's said, but it's hard to tell a story unless you know the ending.
We don't yet know the ending of the climate change story. The beginning of the ending, though, happened in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, where delegates from 37 industrialized nations and the European Union agreed to the binding greenhouse gas reductions known as the Kyoto Protocol. This is the best that the people of the world have been able to do so far to prevent our own extinction. Unfortunately, the Kyoto emission cuts didn't go into force until 2008; Canada, one of the world's biggest oil producers, wouldn't sign it; the U.S. didn't ratify it, nor did Australia, one of the world's top coal producers; China, India and the rest of the developing world weren't covered by it; and its limits lasted only until 2012. The result of the treaty was that 20 percent of the growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide since people lived in caves occurred between 2000 and 2011.
When 2012 arrived, the world, meeting in Doha, gave itself an extension until 2020. But because China (now the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the U.S.), India (in third place), Brazil and the developing world were again given a pass, and the U.S., Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine didn't sign on, the caps currently in effect cover only 15 percent of the world's emissions - making way for last year's news that for the first time since millions of years ago, the concentration of carbon dioxide blanketing the earth had hit 400 parts per million.
So when 2020 rolls around, and the Kyoto Protocol expires, what plan will be in effect for the decade beyond? Scientists say our fate will likely be sealed by 2030: "Another 15 years of failure to limit carbon emissions could make the problem virtually impossible to solve with current technologies." These coming 15 years of negotiation and enforcement are arguably the most important 15 years in human history. If we want to have a meaningful agreement in place for 2020, a plan that the U.S., Russia, China, India and the rest of the developed and developing world will commit to, and that will actually move us back from the brink, we better move our global ass.
Adam Amel Rogers
Adam Amel Rogers is Project Specialist at the Lear Center.
On January 20, publicist Howard Bragman sent a text to Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler that read, "The eagle has landed." The moment had arrived - standout NFL prospect Michael Sam was ready to come out.
Zeigler penned an exclusive look at the behind-the-scenes collaborative process that then led up to the public announcement, which was executed seamlessly.
This polished coming out scenario is the result of years of preparation for what this moment would and should be like. There have been numerous events and discussions about the gay/sports intersection throughout the years, including the USC Sports & The LGBT Experience conference that I co-directed last October.
I have spent many years daydreaming about what the player would be like and I even conducted a content analysis of how Hollywood has portrayed this moment. Thus far, Michael Sam exceeds all expectations. I love that he is the toughest guy on the field and that he isn't from some progressive oasis, he is from a small conservative town in Texas. I also love that he was openly gay at the University of Missouri, in the Southeastern Conference - a place and a conference that is not typically known for being LGBT friendly.
In another conference session, I had the honor of interviewing former NFL running back Dave Kopay, who was the first professional athlete to come out after retiring in 1975. Dave never thought it would take this long for an active NFL player to follow in his footsteps, but when Sam gets drafted, I'm sure it will be worth the wait.
Kopay, along with other gay athletes like former football player Wade Davis and baseball player Billy Bean were able to spend time with Sam before his coming out. They and other trailblazing athletes shared their experiences with our conference attendees and it is comforting to know that Michael Sam will be armed with their wisdom as he embarks on this trying journey.
Now it is up to the NFL to live up to the example put forth by Sam's University of Missouri coaches and teammates, who not only dealt with having a gay teammate, but they made a national title run with one. So instead of pretending that Sam isn't as good as he was a week ago and hiding behind words like "distraction" and "media circus," executives should be figuring out how the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in college football's best conference can improve their team.
3 Great Films for Teaching About Globalization & Modernization
Eileen Mattingly is Director of Education for Journeys in Film. This blog is cross-posted at Edutopia.
With the advent of modern mass communication and world tourism, dramatic change has come to nations and cultures which had previously seen little change for centuries. Each technological or social innovation has brought unexpected and unintended consequences. One of the challenges of teaching global issues in middle or high school is helping students grasp abstract economic concepts like globalization and modernization. A well-chosen film, watched actively and with supporting curriculum, can make the difference in helping students understand how these abstract processes work out in human terms.
Globalization is used here to signify the worldwide integration of previously distinct cultures and economies and the consequent exchange of products, ideas and methods of operation. In such a globalized world, many of your students will eventually enter jobs that will require knowledge and understanding of other cultures.
A simple exercise will show the extent of globalization: assign your students to go through their closets at home, looking at clothing labels and listing the countries where the clothing was made. Or send them to the supermarket to see how many imported products they can find. (As I write this, there are strawberries from Chile, cheese from Ireland and bananas from Nicaragua in my kitchen. The scallops in the Chinese-style stir-fry I plan for tonight's dinner may be from Peru, Mexico, Canada, China or Japan.) Or have students scan a major newspaper. A recent scandal for the winter U.S. Winter Olympic Team's fundraising mitten sale revolved around the fact that the mittens were made in China rather than in the U.S. And of course, we are all aware of the credit card security breach at Target late last year, resulting from malicious code allegedly written by a 17-year-old Russian and allegedly sold to Mexican scammers, among others.
All these examples come from the United States. What has happened elsewhere as a result of globalization, to a greater or lesser degree, is termed modernization. New technologies seep into, are welcomed by or forced upon traditional societies, with a consequent influence on traditional culture. Japan's adoption of Western weapons during the Meiji Revolution or Peter the Great's modeling Russian palaces after French architecture are classic examples of rulers forcing modernization upon a sometimes unwilling populace. Today, proponents of political revolutions and even terrorists rely on the growing availability of social media technology to overthrow governments.
Journeys in Film
To help your students grasp these terms, consider showing them engaging feature films from other countries. Three outstanding films, suitable for secondary classrooms, will engage students, teach them about three great traditional cultures, and illustrate the impact of globalization and modernization. Journeys in Film, a nonprofit educational publisher, has created interdisciplinary lesson plans aligned with the Common Core and available as free downloads to help you share these films with your students.
The Cup (1999) is based on a true story about Tibetan monks, refugees living in a Buddhist monastery in the foothills of the Himalayas. Fourteen-year-old Orgyen, obsessed with Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, is determined to bring television to his monastery in time for a World Cup soccer game. The film demonstrates to students that even remote regions and traditional cultures are no longer completely isolated. The filmmaker has been careful to introduce other examples of modernity slowly entering the monks' world -- the Coke can which has replaced the traditional vase on the fortune-teller's ritual altar, for example. Download lesson plans at Journeys in Film.
Scott McGibbon and Matt Rose
Scott McGibbon is a Project Specialist at the Lear Center; Matt Rose is Program Manager at Hollywood, Health & Society
Climate change, the looming tragedy of our lives, is happening at a speed and a scale we can barely comprehend. This threat is as dangerous to human life, liberty and happiness as either WWII or the Cold War in the last century. All of the current science indicates we face a verydarkfuture indeed. Insert joke here.
Wait - there's nothing funny about climate change. But perhaps comedy and laughter will be essential tools in getting everyone to pay attention to climate change, helping us face the culture and lifestyle changes that are imminent, and allowing us stress relief and a bit of, you know, joy, in grim times.
Russell Brand, in his recent manifesto, took pains to point out that "Serious causes can and must be approached with good humour, otherwise they're boring and can't compete with the Premier League and Grand Theft Auto."
So what's funny about climate change? Well, what was funny about Hitler? Or total nuclear annihilation? In WWII and the Cold War, plenty of effort across Allied culture went into new weapons, new ways of thinking and just plain hard work and fighting, but there were many times when situations were so grim and hopeless that only humor, often gallows humor, made getting through a day possible. Witness this historical humor:
Hitler is funny here:
And later, also funny here:
You want Cold War yucks? Watch this:
So which comedy writers and performers today can see that "climate" has a funny "K" sound built right in? Where's the sharp, wickedly funny PSA campaign or regular sketch on a TV show that will help us focus on this issue and entertain us as we leave behind outdated ways of living and behaving on this beautiful blue planet?