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Ethan Zuckerman on civic engagement

It’s easy to find alarming evidence that we’ve lost our way when it comes to civics in the US. But longtime global activist and MIT prof Ethan Zuckerman says there’s a lot to get excited about too, if we’re willing to think in new ways about what it even means to be civically engaged in the digital age.

Ethan’s working with a group of scholars and practitioners (I’m one of them) to track how young people are expressing voice and exerting agency in public spheres through participatory politics. Registering to vote or campaigning for a candidate are obvious and important political moves. But so is appropriating Occupy for hurricane relief, mobilizing Hunger Games fans to organize for real-life civil rights, or producing a libertarian music video professing a crush on the economist Friedrich Hayek, (thanks Liana Gamber Thompson).

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But here’s the rub. If we’re willing to take this expansive view of civics, how do we start to make sense of what any given activity really achieves in the world? When does “voice” make a difference? That’s the question Ethan took on this week in his keynote, How Do We Teach Digital Civics? at the Digital Media and Learning conference in Chicago. He offered this diagram as a way to map actions into one of four quadrants.

Want to figure out where your own civic moves fit in the mix? You can watch Ethan’s whole talk here. It’s an attempt to envision an approach to civics that engages young people’s imaginations and networks rather than telling them what to do.

"Pre-gaming" leads to riskier behavior and more alcohol consumption, groundbreaking study finds

A Swiss study has found that "pre-drinking," "pre-funking," "pre-gaming"—basically, the ritual among college-age young adults of drinking before you go out to drink, leads to "excessive consumption and adverse consequences."

Pre-gaming didn't have a name when I was their age; it's interesting how the phenomenon (is it even a phenomenon?) has become a media meme this year. This NYT story is another example.

I realize the newly-released study provides citeable evidence about a behavior with dangerous consequences, but the results are kind of like, yo, thanks, Captain Obvious.

"Increased drinking was associated with a greater likelihood of blackouts, hangovers, absences from work or school or alcohol poisoning. Pre-drinkers were also found to engage more often in unintended drug use, unsafe sex, drunken driving or violent behavior."

Sounds about right. More in the LA Times.

Some justice at last, for space-loving teen podcaster paralyzed by bullies

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Photo : an iPhone snap I took of Sawyer (L) with space journalist Miles O'Brien (center) and astronaut Leroy Chiao (R) during the STS-135 SpaceFlightNow live launch webcast. This shot was taken minutes before the shuttle took off from launchpad 39A.

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One of the bright spots in attending NASA shuttle launches last year with Miles O'Brien and the SpaceFlightNow webcasters was meeting a teen space enthusiast named Sawyer Rosenstein (web/Twitter). The 18-year old runs an awesome space podcast, does space education work with children, advocates for science and space awareness, and lots of other cool stuff. We invited him to write a guest feature for Boing Boing, and it is one of my favorite guest posts ever.

Sawyer is physically disabled, as a result of a brutal bullying incident at age 12 that followed many other bullying incidents in school—he reached out to administrators for help early on, and got none.

Today, 6 years after the sucker punch that permanently changed his body, Sawyer received some justice. A $4.2 million settlement with the school district governing the middle school where the attack took place. His family also reached a private settlement with the attacker's family.

That money won't erase the physical challenges. It won't undo the suffering he has endured. It won't make the countless surgeries he's gone through, and may yet again, go away. It won't ensure that the kid who bullied him doesn't harm someone again (the bully received only a few day's suspension after the attack). But as someone who is now personally aware of how much it costs to need ongoing medical care in America, I think it's great that medical bills will at least be less of a problem in his life, even if not fully covered.

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After pepper-spraying incident, UC Davis redesigns website

Link. They might want to rethink that motto, however. (thanks, @justinq!)

Police officer pepper-sprays seated, non-violent students at UC Davis

[Video Link, by terrydatiger, and Video Link 2, by jamiehall1516]. At the University of California at Davis this afternoon, police tore down down the tents of students inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, and arrested those who stood in their way.

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