May 22, 2012

Catalyzing action for Internet freedom

Reps from 40 countries descend on D.C. for Google conference

JD LasicaIjust arrived in Washington, D.C., for a conference with the goal of protecting freedom of expression on the Internet. Organized by Google, Internet at Liberty (they could have done better on the name) will “explore the most pressing dilemmas and exciting opportunities around free expression in the digital age.”

As the conference site says, “Today, more than any time in history, technological and political forces are colliding to draw lines about how the Internet functions. … The conference will explore creative ways to expand the free flow of information online” with global activists and representatives of academic centers, corporations, governments, the media and NGOs.

Certainly, Google has a business stake in a free and open Internet — an Internet that does not become balkanized as a result of attempts to bend the content citizens can see to reflect governments’ narrow, parochial interests. But here is an example where Google’s interests and the public’s interests sync up perfectly.

A gathering of Internet freedom organizations

I’ll be running the conference’s social media track (disclosure: Google recruited and paid me to organize it). Look for two days of workshops that will cover strategies and tools to advance cause organizations’ advocacy campaigns. Our charter is not to discuss only Internet freedom issues but any strategies, tactics and tools that can help change-makers using social media succeed. The plenary sessions Wednesday and Thursday will be live-streamed while the workshops will be video recorded and put online at a future date, I’m told. Follow the hashtag #InternetLiberty. Continue reading

May 24, 2011

Highlights from Media That Matters 2011

bald-eagle-copyright 2011
Photo of a bald eagle I took on Friday while kayaking (copyright 2011 by JD Lasica)

JD LasicaThe most sublime media conference that you’ve never heard of takes place every spring in Hollyhock, a tiny town on the remote island of Cortes in British Columbia. Just getting to the place is a bit of an adventure.

Last week was the 12th gathering of the invitation-only Media That Matters, one of a series of conferences/retreats that take place in Hollyhock (another one is Web of Change), a pristine outpost where activists, artists and some of the earth’s last flower children have gone to revel in nature, self-actualization and the Great Woo.

Unlike other conferences I’ve attended, I did no live-tweeting and took almost no notes, because it was all about being in the moment. Indeed, I co-led a long breakout session on Hype-free Engagement, with Nicole Sorochan and Leif Utne, with 5 minutes’ notice.

To get a taste of the conference, check out my Flickr set.

Notable quotes & takeaways for media activists

Media That Matters brought together filmmakers, media activists, journalists and educators in a refreshing torpedo-the-silos way. I got a deeper understanding of what goes into the documentary film process and even learned about a handful of social activism sites I hadn’t heard of before. Here’s a brief glimpse of some highlights:

Documentary filmmaker Velcrow Ripper (photo by JD Lasica)

• I was honored to be one of 30 people given the first glimpse at “Evolve Love,” a still-in-progress film by the Canadian filmmaker Velcrow Ripper about love in the time of climate change. He finished this first cut just a few days earlier, and it’s absolutely fantastic — beautiful, heart-tugging and powerful. Look for it in spring 2013. Among those interviewed are 350.org founder Bill McKibben and author Don Tapscott.

• Velcrow, who now lives in Brooklyn, introduced me to Pond5, which his team relied on for the film. The firm offers stock video footage, sound effects and production music, all royalty-free at low prices, and it gets 5,000 new media items per week.

Bill Weaver, who founded the gathering, carried us through this remarkable journey with grace, humor and wisdom. He may be expanding the Media That Matters concept to other venues, so stay tuned for word about that.

• Bill quoted a colleague thusly: “A great friend is someone who stabs you in the front.” Almost worthy of Lao Tse.

• Another one from the 60-years-young Weaver: Don’t call it retirement, call it refirement.

• And Mr. Weaver did manage to quote Lao Tse: “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

• I owe an immense debt of gratitude to social entrepreneur, eco-activist, documentary filmmaker Nicole Sorochan, who drove me and Mother Jones publisher Steve Katz from Victoria to Duncan to Campbell River on Vancouver Island before we scooted over to Hollyhock via water taxi. Nicole drove me back as well while I heard more about her fascinating Save Mary Lake project, one of the finalists in the Social Media Camp Westies awards.

• Louis Fox, co-founder of Free Range Studios, gave a terrific presentation of the six steps involved in Media Alchemy. I hope his team finishes up the ideagram so we can circulate it among social cause organizations.

• Nikos Theodosakis took me aside and showed off his brilliant idea for introducing young students to the concepts of geography, the global village, farming and entrepreneurship through the use of Kiva.org. Continue reading