Welcome to Acadia (another secessionist movement on the Atlantic Coast)
So Cascadians, where are you? Are we Cascadians part of the realization that the Amerikan Empire must be Balkanized to save us, the planet.
Welcome to Acadia
by Paul Bass
Paul Bass Photo New Haven, Connecticut.... United States of America? How 20th century! Get ready to join the soveerign nation of New Acadia. The media "giraffe" behind this revolution (pictured) let me in on all the plans at a summit on the future soul of the news biz.
June 29, 7:38 p.m.
The media revolutionary is 38 year-old Rob Williams. He spilled the beans on the brewing plot late last night in a dorm here at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. We're all here for a four-day conference bringing together people trying to figure out, and create, the new Internet-driven media of the 21st century.
"Giraffes" refer to people who stick their heads above the crowd to look forward. Or something like that.
I've discovered four species of giraffes here:
Species one: Old-media types trying to figure out how to save their dying newspapers through web sites that imitate the energy and innovation of lone ranger dot-coms and dot-orgs. (Lost cause.)
Species two: "Stand-alone" and "hyperlocal" journalists who put out one- or three-or-four-person news sites on the web. It's news, delivered the old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting way, combined with new ways for readers to contribute (instant comments, editing, submissions, typo-catching) or link to other information elsewhere. Several dozens of these sites have sprung up in the past year. The New Haven Independent is one of them.
Species three: Activists who want to change the world by using Internet technology to make and deliver their own "citizen" news, with the goal of organizing people to advance an agenda.
Species four: Academics who study all of us.
Rob is squarely a member of species three. He's here with 21 high schoolers. Half are from Vermont. Half are from Jordan, the Middle Eastern nation. He takes the group all over the world to study issues. Then he's teaching them how to prepare digital news reports about it all. That's why they're here. (They're showing some of their work tomorrow morning.)
They were all hanging out in the second-floor common area of Gorman Hall last night, talking about the future of, well, the world, and journalism. Around 11, most of the kids went off to their rooms to unwind before bed. Rob hung around in one of the comfy chairs and told me about what else he does. Besides teaching history and "media literacy," he edits a web site and quarterly newspaper (The Vermont Commons) dedicated to "independence" for the state of Vermont. He also distributes bumper stickers (pictured).
After a while, he spoke of the larger goal: secession.
How close is that goal?
Closer than you think, he revealed. One poll showed 8 percent of the People's Republic of Vermont in favor of leaving the Bush Empire. If you figure that only between 25 and 33 percent of the Colonial public supported the American Revolution... and if you take the lower of those two numbers... "We're one-third of the way there."
Next step? Get the idea passed by Vermont politicians, who will press the case in D.C.
And then? Rob has drawn a map. It includes the New England states. New York City's in there, too. So are the maritime provinces of Canada. The name is all picked out: New Acadia. Has a ring, doesn't it? I'm down with it.
The plan isn't fully drawn yet. "I don't know what we're going to do about Quebec," Rob confessed. But the general principles are intact: returning to the values of Town Meeting-scale democracy and small-scale entrepreneurial business. Efforts to patch together an America based on those values are a waste of time; no dying empire resuscitates itself. The American empire, he said, is hopelessly "corrupt and ungovernable."
Hard to argue with that.
This afternoon I happened into a more nuts-and-bolts laboratory for the third Giraffe species. It was led by someone who's becoming familiar to politics-watchers back home in New Haven: Aldon Hynes (pictured). And one of his topics was exhibit A for the instant new influence of grassroots citizen media on social-change politics: the Ned Lamont for Senate campaign.
Hynes lives on the web, 16 hours a day. (He does have a wife and a daughter, believe it or not.) Besides blogging and leading conferences, he currently works net-side for Lamont's insurgent challenge to incumbent Sen. Joseph Lieberman in a Democratic primary. Legions of citizen bloggers have organized support for Lamont, across the country, and developed surprisingly creative and effective homemade vidoes which they exhibit on the web. Hynes showed some of those videos at the conference. One particularly skilled videoblogger, "CT Bob," worked with a trailer from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" to produce one of those videos. His version is about "Mr. Lamont."
Hynes showed a "Nedheads" section of Youtube where 174 people have produced campaign-related videos, some from TV footage, some from events they shoot live, some from scenes they create themselves. The "Nedheads" Youtube group has 744 members.
I've been agnostic about some of the citizen media movement. I think it often sounds better in theory than practice. Most people would rather have a trained, skilled full-time journalist go find out information about their government and police and courts for them while they work at their own jobs all day. But it's become clearer to me that video is an exception. The tools are cheaper, and everyday people are having an impact. Just in the past few months Youtube has become somewhat of a household name and enabled citizen video-producers to reach, at times, millions of people past the filter of corporate media.
In the workshop here, Hynes focused on convincing people to start posting videos, even if they're low-quality at first. "Shoot stuff with a cellphone. Yeah. It's low quality. It won't be that great. But it gets people over the hump. 'I can shoot video!'" Then he talked specifics with people: The pros and cons of Youtube. The videos come out grainier on Youtube. Although you can reach a lot of people. On Youtube, there's less ability for other people to take your video and rework it into something new of their own -- a goal of the true netroot ethic. Hynes suggested an alternative: The Creative Commons, where you can set the parameters of how people use your work. You can grant permission only to nonprofits, for instance. Or you can insist on receiving credit.
The activist video model extends beyond electoral politics, of course. Hynes just came from a "Games for Change" conference in the Big Apple. He and others are working on video games that promote positive cultural and social values.
There was plenty of shop talk, technical talk about gizmos and Mac versus PC set-ups. But the basic message: Anyone can do it. And should do it. It takes hardly any money. So here's Hynes' most important suggestion: Visit this website to learn how to get started.
Sign Up for Email AlertsEmail This Story
Posted by: Scarce | June 29, 2006 11:32 PM
A couple of minor quibbles:
--"Hynes showed a "Nedheads" section of Youtube where 173 people are producing campaign-related videos, some from TV footage, some from events they shoot live, some from scenes they create themselves."
There are actually 174 videos there now and 744 members of that group from all over the United States and probably around the globe.
---Aldon Hynes is actually pointing to a video made by Bob Adams of "Ned Lamont & David Sirota speak" at the Atticus bookstore in New Haven in your photo. Bob did make the video you mentioned ("Mr. Lamont Goes to Washington.")
Btw, this is Ned Lamont's latest ad, released this afternoon.
The group URL is:
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article