Entertainment-Education and Sesame Street

In his report on the “family tree of development communication”, Waisboard mentions Entertainment-education as a strategy to bring about behavioral change. This change in turn is what is supposed to drive development (versus change brought about only by changing the system).

An example of an entertainment program that at the same time is educational to invoke change is Sesame Street. Aside from teaching the ABC’s the idea behind the program is that the muppets can address problems within a particular culture without putting blame (or shame) on a specific ethnicity or group of people. The Sesame Street Workshop is an NGO that takes that idea and applies it in countries that have faced some type of conflict or are in transition. By working with a country crew on the ground that assesses specific issues kids in a country in transition face, a team creates story lines, cultural specific puppets, and a movie set where the local sesame street can be taped. Specifics the team has to keep in mind are: are there cultural minorities? Is the language of the minority different and if so how can that be addressed in the show? What problems are children in the country facing? How can those problems be approached in a childlike yet educational and entertaining matter?

A big issue was the introduction of the first HIV-positive muppet. Especially in the US this raised concerns as media and parents were wondering what values their children will be taught. Only when it became apparent that this muppet will not appear in the US-show did the wave of concerns and protest subside.

There is a documentary out there on the Sesame Street Workshop. Watch it over the break, it’s worth it!

Though this is slightly unrelated, I thought you might enjoy this cookie monster “share it maybe” song. 🙂 Something to cheer you up during finals week.



the cnn effect revisited

The readings about the CNN effect and if and to what extend it exists brought it down to one point for me: The CNN effect worked in the early 90s because the circumstances were right. People got their fast information from TV reporting, the more balanced (but late) version from reading the newspaper. Internet did not exist as a mean available as it is now to quickly check facts, background info, or to look at the most recent grueling war video on youtube. Technology changed and hence the CNN effect is not measurable anymore because the viewer does not just rely on TV anymore.

Livingston writes about the many changes in technology that ultimately also changed reporting and the way news is gathered. The rise of the cell phone – which is now equivalent to having a small computer at hand that can get you the information you need right now – gave way to a new reporting style, but one the networks are only catching up on now (with iReports, live twitter and facebook feeds, sending in questions via FB or T etc.).

But unfortunately, before realizing that new technology might be key media outlets dependent on advertising revenue resorted to sensationalism in hopes to keep viewers watching. This resulted in the now biased reporting you see so often. The viewers want something they feel comfortable with yet at the same time, as Powers and El-Nawawy pointed out, if balanced reporting is consumed it informs a balanced opinion.

This leaves me to question why did reporters give up the most basic aspect of their reporting (balanced and unbiased reporting, that is)? Is it just the money? Is the industry so corrupt that you only have the “shallow reporting” way to go because no one will report a “balanced” story? Does it really need a “special week” as CNN has resorted to, to touch on some topics more in depth. The advertising for those weeks leads me to believe that viewers need to prepare for such type of reporting or otherwise they will not be able to comprehend the shift to “investigative” journalism.

I guess where I am getting at with this blog post is that traditional media missed the technology train and now they are trying desperately to get back on. Unfortunately, all this running after the train has resulted in some losses, among them balanced reporting. Can it be recovered? Well, I don’t know. The fact that Powers and El-Nawawy saw a change in viewer’s perception gives me hope that not all mankind is doomed. But at the same time it is up to us viewers to demand balance and investigative journalism that helps inform our opinion not perpetuate our believe system.

Fair use, who cares?!

Last week and also today we talked about copyrights, the fair(y) use of material and how copyrights are affecting the use of material other than your own.

In 2006, a new party was founded in Germany, named DIE PIRATEN (the Pirates). While they did not garner too much attention for years, things changed in late 2010. Suddenly, the party had found it’s voice (coinciding with the occupy movement) and demanded full transparency on the political process, the abolishment of intellectual property rights, and other before unheard of demands. The party organized itself online, opening its deliberations up for public online debate – everyone could participate and make suggestions or just be a silent reader.

2011 really was the year for the party. Membership skyrocketed and had there been country wide elections the party would have surpassed even well established parties. Surveys indicated that the Pirates most attracted young voters who wanted to see a change in the way secluded politics was run. However, with the soaring membership came problems. The volunteer party leadership had more than their hands full in organizing the crowds, setting agendas, planning campaigns, and discussing issues.

One ticket the party ran on was the abolishment of intellectual property rights. The party argued (though it is probably more correct to say individuals within the party argued as no formal party lines were established) that people download and used content anyways so why criminalize the massive amount of users? Artists and others creating the content in discussion argued vehemently for their rights to their ideas and their right to be paid for anyone using their creative results (songs, movies, books etc.).

In 2012 the party has seen a significant decline in membership and buzz around them. This is due to the lack of novelty (their transparency approach is now known, discussed, and “accepted as weird but normal”) but most importantly due to the inability of the party to organize itself in a meaningful and sustainable way. The Pirates still remain at that grassroot level democracy but cannot find a way to turn that democracy into one that is conducive to a productive political process.

On a side note, one of the very vocal advocates for no intellectual property rights has recently published a book. That book showed up as a copied version on several websites being available for free to the public (as intended by the party line). However, the author (and Pirate) sued the websites because she felt her copyright-rights were infringed and she does want others to pay for reading her work. It’s funny how the tables turn once you’re on the other side of things and realize that there is a (monetary) value that is attached to creative output.


Note: I tried to find some info on this in English. Once I have it, I will post the links in this article.

Media networks, oppression and globalization all met on one day in October 1989

Hanson wrote about China and its attempts to block out its citizens from having access to the internet and other modern and global means of communication. Chinese find a way to circumvent the constraints as best as they can so they too, can be a part of the globalized society. This made me think about the government enforced regulations on TV consumption that I grew up with.

I was born and raised in East Germany. In order to make a phone call one had to go to the post office and apply to make that phone call. You had to tell them whom you wanted to call and where and usually a casual “And why if I may ask?” was thrown in there as well. Then when it was your time to make the call you went to a booth (still in the post office) and placed your call, knowing full well that it was being recorded and/or live listened to by some government official, always ready to pulling the plug if you said something you shouldn’t have.

There was one state TV station. You could receive West German television in most parts of the East but your TV had to be tweaked a certain way. The more tricky part was keeping your kids from going into school or pre-school telling all about that West German TV show or cartoon characters they saw the night before. Teachers and educators had to report families that watched West German TV and that information was then used by the Stasi to implicate the families.

Before the wall in Berlin feel there were months of demonstrations all over East Germany – that mostly no East German knew about since the government tried its best to hide these events from its citizens. On October 9, 1989 over 70,000 people marched peacefully, but in fear of being imprisoned or shot, through the city of Leipzig. The fact that this demonstration would take place spread through informal channels of communication (word of mouth, leaflets) and people who came to Leipzig just for that event were not certain what would await them.

At the same time globalization was visiting the city of Leipzig in the form of an international trade fair. Journalists from across Europe and the globe were in the city to report on the trade fair – officially. A West German TV crew was hiding thoughout the city and taped demonstration footage with the intent to air it on the West German prime time news show (Tagesschau). Despite tight security and a struggle to smuggle the tapes outside of the country it worked. On October 10, West Germany, the world but most importantly East Germans (secretly watching West German news) saw what was going on in their country.

[Original footage is shown around minute 1:15]

I am wondering how East Germany would have restricted access to other means of communication such as internet or cell phones. Private telephone lines were very much restricted, in order to own a car you waited about 20 years, compared to other goods a TV was outrageously priced. Communication (via letters) was restricted to the point that every mail was opened if it was deemed suspicious or unusual (by whoever), often times not passed on or packets were sent on empty. Whatever was the content of your mail (sending or receiving) was part of the Stasi file that was kept on most citizens. How would the internet have been handled? I feel like we would have lived like North Koreans – no phone line = no internet. Or maybe communication from the bordering countries would have had a spill over effect and smart phones and other media would also have (secretly) found its way into our daily life until people felt they could take on the government and demand freedom.

Seeing how even Russia struggles with freedom of speech and access I am glad the unification of Germany came when it did. It is one thing to live oppressed but another to know what you are missing out on.