May 30, 2005
# Free Wireless, Good Times?

Victrola, a coffeeshop in Seattle, has decided to turn off the wireless access during the weekends to balance out the inundation of non-tipping, lingering, rude wifi-heads (in addition to the more appreciative customers). (via kellan)

The ensuing discussion included this suggestion:

Hey, you could always go wired on weekends. It would be sort of retro, you know, in keeping with Victrola's theme. Put an eight port hub in the middle of the coffee table in the back, and make all of those antisocial net junkies (like me) sit next to each other on the couch-- that would solve the sparsity problem that's created by lone laptop users monopolizing four-person tables.
Some small-town bars (I've heard it's more common in Europe) have a big round table that--it's understood--is where you sit if you just want to chat with folks who are there while you have your beer, or whatever. This kind of thing seems to be a natural fit for people with laptops. There's something a little more balanced about working next to a whole bunch of people who are all working on their laptops, and occasionally bantering about something geeky, as opposed to sitting at one's own table, engrossed in the solipsism of the screen. Restricting laptop use to a certain section or a big table might have interesting social results (and would also keep any given coffeeshop from degenerating into a sea of self-centred laptops.

(I'm writing this from the Bridgehead Café in Ottawa. Good coffee, free wireless, and so far, a good laptop-to-people-ratio: 2:14 right now.)

posted by dru in culture
May 23, 2005
# Day Two, a week later

I never posted an update from the second and third days of the National Conference on Media Reform because I had begun work on a more complete critique of the organizing. A week later, I've finished:

Media Reform and Media Revolution: A Critique of Free Press and the National Conference on Media Reform

Send comments to dru at dru dot ca.

posted by dru in activism
May 14, 2005
# Media Reform Conference: Day 1

[Cross-posted to the Dominion Weblog]

After spending a long, sleep-deprived day of attending workshops, hearing speeches, and putting a whole lot of faces to a whole lot of names, I now must attempt to say something about what's going on at the National Conference on Media Reform.

Right now, I'm sitting in a session on holding the media accountable, where David Brock just used the word 'blogosphere'. Ugh.

But here are some of the overall themes:

  • 2,000 people (and apparently hundreds were turned away) came to Saint Louis to attend a conference on media reform. It's pretty incredible.

  • "We're winning." Speakers keep saying this, citing a list of victories, like when public pressure stopped the further rollback of media ownership regulations. I don't know if this is really true, but it seems incontrovertible that the media reform movement is gaining momentum in a pretty serious way.

  • What's in the movement?
  • The "echo chamber". I think it was Naomi Klein who said it first, but people keep repeating it. Apparently, the problem isn't that the news isn't out there. Said Klein: "We have more than enough damning facts to bring down this government... every week. What we lack is the amplification." And again: "Every day, we hear a story that, if amplified, could bring down the government". So there has been a lot of talk about how to do this...

  • ...which set things up nicely for Independent World Television, an effort to raise $25 milllion to start a progressive global television network led by Paul Jay. What seems to be setting the effort apart from any other pie-in-the-sky idea is that Jay (who used to produce Counterspin) seems to be very well connected, and plays the visionary role well. But the real test will be whether they can gain a big audience once they start to produce a show and put it out there. (Check out Evan's thoughts on IWT.)

  • Despite some efforts by the organizers to keep things diverse on the panels, the conference is very white, and (right now, for example) David Brock is getting all kinds of questions, and people are basically ignoring the Youth Media Council person.

  • I ran into Brian and Jessica from New Standard News, who are writing hard news every day.

  • I chatted with a bunch of Indymedia types, and I'll repeat what I've said before about the structure and idea being resilient. There's a second generation of folks getting involved, and some of the old school is figuring out how to deal with burnout. And IMCs are buying buildings left and right. Philly has a building St. Louis has a building, and Urbana Champaign just bought the post office!!

  • Juan Gonzales gave a good talk at the Corporate Media panel, drawing attention to some mostly-unknown history of media reform movements. Some of the overlooked examples he pointed out: C Everett Parker of the United Church, who led a grassroots movement to revoke the license of a KKK-controlled TV station in Mississippi and did other good work; The Cherokee Phoenix, which was the first Native American newspaper, founded in 1828; The Freeman's Journal, the first black-owned paper, founded one year earlier; the fact that the first Chinese-language daily newspaper was founded in Sacramento (though I can't find anything with a brief google). Gonzales talked a lot about organizing media workers, of which there are, by his count 300,000 in the US. He also warned against the easy "we are winning" rhetoric: "Capitalism has not survived for so long because it is foolish".

One good quote, from Norman Solomon, speaking on efforts to fight the Republican efforts to push PBS to the right:

If I'm starving, and have some crumbs, then I'm going to be pretty angry if you take those crumbs away. But I'm not going to say that it's my dream to get the crumbs back.

posted by dru in activism