MySpace Protestors, Myanmar Bloggers and the Diverse Media of the Future

By Vinita Srivastava

Vinita Srivastava, an assistant professor of journalism at Ryerson University, is no old-school j-prof. A children’s-book author, culture writer and founding co-host of radio programs Masala Mixx and the Asia Pacific Forum, she teaches innovative courses on global multimedia reporting at Ryerson. She also directs, a project that’s all about putting media power in the hands of marginalized youth.

At We Media Miami, Vinita will speak about media literacy in today’s world, at a Wednesday panel chaired by John Bell, who heads Ogilvy’s Digital Influence team. Today Vinita tells us what her current media passions are and what she hopes to gain from coming to We Media Miami:

What role does digital media play in building transnational networks? Despite the realities of the digital divide—marked by the disparities of access by both race and class—the potential of the Internet to facilitate progressive networks burns like a bright flicker of hope. As technology and and easy web tools become more available, resistance movements and alternative global media networks appear to strengthen. They may be momentary flames, like the 100,000-strong MySpace protestors last year in L.A. or the tiny circle of bloggers getting photos out of Myanmar. Yet they provide much-needed alternative voices in an increasingly consolidating media world.

At the same time, many are left out of this new global civil society. I advocate for multimedia journalism training for youth in under-resourced areas. Such training provides participants with the tools necessary to tell their own stories and thereby help correct distorted perceptions of their communities in the mainstream media.
What might an intercultural exchange among marginalized youth in global cities, aided by technology, do for the self-image of such disempowered youth? Could they gain a greater sense of community ownership, agency and civic participation? Research shows that media literacy affects levels of civic participation; engagement with media production may encourage participation in public debates and decision making by young adults.

At We Media Miami I hope to connect with other digital-media practitioners and researchers interested in how digital media can empower youth. I also hope to internationalize my media empowerment project, at the Ryerson School of Journalism. Several months ago, Verse City and Young People’s Press offered journalism workshops to marginalized high school students through the university. Our project also received funding to build a multimedia education centre for youth, in partnership with East Metro Youth Services, a community youth-services agency in the suburbs of Toronto. The end goal is to see a more diverse student body in terms of race and class and, in turn, a more diverse media producing more inclusive news.

As a former researcher for the New York Times and a digital journalism professor, I feel hopeful about the web and the innovations it brings us. I spend many late nights hunting for do-it-yourself tech tools—incredible tools that were unimaginable just a short time ago. I love tools like, which lets me build Flash applications quickly. Lightstalkers and Facebook allow me to stay in touch and feel part of an international community, whether my colleague is in New York, LA or Bombay.

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