Theoretically Speaking

Behold beautiful Colorado and its magnificent autumn aspens! Actually since moving here I haven’t made it out of my house very much. I took this picture at the end of peak color. There was a patch of trees in the back of some condominiums off of I-70 and after snapping the shot I was soon back at home studying.

This is my first quarter of graduate school at the University of Denver. There’s a dent in my couch where I’ve been sitting for the past two months trying uncomfortably to balance my laptop and overambitious workload.

I’m getting my masters degree in International and Intercultural Communications from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the school of Media, Film, and Journalism Studies.  Things have changed a lot since I graduated with my bachelors in 2003.  For one thing everything’s digital.  All of my readings are .PDF files and I didn’t buy any textbooks. I was studying them all on iPod until my left eye started to spasm around midterms.  Also professors love doing powerpoint presentations.  Maybe they’re trying to get attention from all of the students who are updating their Facebook statuses in the middle of class.

I don’t really know where my degree will land me.  Hopefully, I’ll have a job coming out of all this to at least pay off the obscene amounts of student loans I’ve taken out.  At times I feel like this is all a formality to match up my resume to the qualifications of the help wanted ads I come across. I think about the subjects of my documentaries like Zsolt who dropped out of high school or Paul Laffoley who got kicked out of Harvard and get envious.  Why should I be paying to study when I could be making movies or having adventures somewhere out in the mountains?

The truth is that there is more to my decision to go back to school than to getting a piece of paper with the word Diploma printed on it.   The last few years have been crazy and I came to academia to make sense of them.  Why did the people I encountered during my Peace Corps service act the way they did?  Why did I waterboard myself?  Why is my blog called Media for Social Change and how can I create more?  Of course when you really ponder them, questions beget more questions.  My favorite class reading so far has been on how to start a peasant revolt.  It gave step by step directions on how to influence the masses and sway social movements towards favorable outcomes.  Yet, is that knowledge necessarily a good thing? Who do your actions ultimately benefit?  There’s a subjectivity when you judge social change.

In Uganda the mayor of my small village would ask me for advice and I wouldn’t hesitate in giving some.  In school I don’t always know the answers to the questions that my professors ask about the Third World.  It’s humbling.  Even more so is reflecting back on my experiences in light of what I’ve learned in the classroom.  Does international development really help the people it intends to serve if it comes from the outside?  I don’t always think that’s the case.

How to use media to make development more participatory and empowering at the grassroots level has become my knew research question.  If the answer isn’t fully there yet I intend to invent one in time.  I’ll always make documentaries.  They bring awareness to a cause and filmmaking is my passion.  However, I believe that real social change will come from social media as it becomes increasingly accessible for the bottom billion to log onto the Internet with mobile devises.  I hope that through this blog and through other avenues I can help make this happen.

In the meantime, I’ll keep posting different projects that I’m working on.  These will include papers that I’ve written on the media and the developing world.  To start off here are a few links to my entries on my International Communications class blog (yep, classes have blogs now).  Over the next few weeks I’ll post some of my longer pieces.

What’s Monsanto Been Up to Lately?

The Merchants of Cool

The Right to Remain Silent

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