Monday, December 28, 2009

Pursuit of Happiness

Richard Layard
Originally uploaded by Andy Miah
This blog has been rather quiet - or to be more honest - dead for some time now. My apologies for that. One of my New Year´s resolutions is the following: one post and one post only per week.

The new focus: things making us happier. That takes me back to the name of this blog. My favourite word in the Dutch language, kiplekker, basically means chicken licking good.

I finally made my way through economist Richard Layard´s (pic) classic Happiness: Lessons from a New Science (2005). Layard´s basic argument is that the obstacles we once had for using people´s feelings as a measure of societal success are more or less removed. Brain research today gives us enough evidence to measure happiness and well being. This provides us with an opportunity to move further from economic growth and behaviorism that have driven politics for ages now.

Layard stresses one of the things that we work with a lot at Demos Helsinki: that even if all the material things are well, we are more affluent than we have ever been, that does not result to happiness. In a way we as societies are failing the ultimate test: are we building societies where people do well? Every day greater numbers of people feel like they lack a sense of self, skills to deal with their feelings and a sense of relevance in relation to others. Layard puts special emphasis on issues such as helping the poor of the world, reducing unemployment, treating mental illnesses, finding new measuring criteria next to economic growth and supporting family life as ways to happier societies.

So the blog goal is now set for 2010: once a week a post over a phenomenon, project, advertisement, person, website, sports club that is enough reason to get excited about. There´s one more criteria.

The things covered need to answer YES to the following:
Does it create happiness?
and NO to the following:
Does it harm others?
And finally YES to the following (question taken from Charlie from Make Nubs):
Is it fresh?

More to follow.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Immigration is a question of resources

We at Demos Helsinki (together with the centre liberal think tank e2) organised this week a future course for Finnish decision makers on immigration policy and the future of Finland. By focusing on the year 2030 we wanted to stress the fact that diversification will happen and it forces the society to rethink both cohesion and welfare. Detaching the participants from the current challenges, starting from 20 years from now and then counting backwards demonstrated well to them that change is possible as well as needed. Already in 2025 Finland is expected to have 500 000 pensioners and 300 000 immigrants more than currently.

We asked the twenty participants to narrow the outcomes into statements, which will be developed into a larger publication during the fall. Here are the outcomes:

It´s about resources.
Immigration cannot be solved purely as a question of attitudes and tolerance. It is fairer for all to talk about resources and needs. Immigration is already part of Finnish reality. Immigration will not save nor destroy Finnish welfare state but it offers a possibility for starting a rethinking process on welfare.

The work place needs to change.
Change is needed more in the work place and in professional communities than in the individual immigrant. Transformation training is needed in organisations faced with diversity. In order to open up the strong Finnish social networks we need financial support for extracurricular activities (sports, hobby clubs) around and within culturally diverse companies and public organisations. In order to speed up change, affirmative action can be used as a tool in recruitment for professions such as police officers and teachers (encounter professions).

We need a joint, hopeful future.
There is need for an inspirational concept of a Finnish future that is based on rights, responsibilities and goals of a better shared daily life. The best possible brand for Finland is created through happy people and communities. We need stricter equality politics in order to build a shared and fair future.

We need to learn Russia.
Understanding Russia and Russian are crucial for understanding immigration. Finland has already loads of unused competence on the issue, mutta purely mobilising that is not sufficient. There is a need to update the stuffy and narrow ideas of Russia into more exciting ones.

Politics of experimentation
We need courage to live with uncertainty. We need to openly acknowledge that we do not know what works. We need more research and more experimental politics. We need to support also unclear organisations.

Good Finland, happy families

We need to bring families to the core of diversity politics. Finland needs to strive to be the place for the happiest childhood on the planet without forcing families into uniformity. Schools need to be used as buildings and communities for parental volunteerism and non-governmental work such as hobbies, sports and clubs. Taking part in pre-school education only part time of the week needs to be possible in order to support various ways of combining work and parenting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Are You Being Served?

Originally uploaded by ariadust
The encounters with America´s service culture from the last couple of days that do not stop baffling me.

1. Gas Station
As we pull out of the car wash at Shell, a Mexican man steps in front of the car. He takes his cloths and swipes the car windows clean. He does not speak a word of English. As he finishes, the driver opens the door and hands him a couple of bucks.
"Is this guy working for Shell", I ask from the back seat.
"No, no."
"So are you obliged to pay him, like can you drive just by?"
"You can but that would be rude."
"So Shell is fine with him being there?"
"I guess, he might be like a friend of the owner or just someone needing to make a living."

2. Taxi
"You know the flat rate, yes? 45 dollars to the airport, 5 dollars for tolls", the driver explains as we head towards JFK. "And of course the tips", he says with a grin. "Tips are important."
The man turns up to be Ukrainian and to put it mildly, social. He tells us about vodka drinking, holidays at the Krim, complains about New York drivers - whilst constantly jumping the line and causing near-death experiences for us all in the back seat. He just does not stop talking.
This turns up to be the worst taxi ride during our couple of days in New York. We take a deep breath as he unloads our bags.
We tip him 10 dollars. "You have to", I am told.

3. Clothing shop
A young man walks over to me as I go through the pile of pique shirts.
"Hi, how are you? Let me know if you need help in finding your size. If you wanna try on those shirts on your hand now, I can just go and set up the changing room for you. My name is Mark."
As he heads off to set things up, another salesperson walks up to me and starts:"Let me know if I can help you in any way, we have more sizes in the back."
"Thanks. Your colleague was actually helping me already."
I end up buying one of the shirts and head to the register. The chirpy sales girl calls me to her.
"Hi, how are you? Having a good day?"
"Yes, thanks, you."
"Great, great. Did you find everything OK? Was someone helping you today?"
"Uhm...Yes, I think his name was Mark."
She glances down to the staff list next to the register and puts in the code. "Great, thanks. Here´s your bag and have a good one!"
At the door a lively woman greets us farewell. "You guys have a great day now."
I am being told outside that Mark just got a commission point for my shirt.

4. Restaurant
A young African-American woman greets us and checks that our reservation is OK. "Welcome. My colleague will show you to your table. Have a good evening."
The white young man dressed in a skinny suit walks us over to our table and seats us - and leaves. Another man dressed in a light blue pique shirt comes over. "How are you all doing? Good. My name is Miguel and I will be your waiter tonight. Here are the menus. Would you want something to drink to start with?"
"Just ice water, thanks."
As Miguel sets off, another Latino man walks over and silently fills our water glasses. As he sets off, another Latino man comes with the forks and knives. In the course of a dinner two other Latino men pass by to fill glasses and clean finished plates. Midway through the dinner a white woman in her thirties dressed in a Hillary-like pantsuit stops by to check that everything is OK. The skinny white man walks around with a notepad, looks at our table and makes some notes as my dish is delayed.
I taste my dish. The duck meat is lukewarm. I feel embarrassed to bring up the subject to the restaurant staff but my American dinner companions encourage me. "You´re paying for it." The previous evening one of them asked to change the ordered dish as she was not fond of the taste. The waiters did this enthusiastically, without charging extra.
They holler Miguel over.
"Everything OK here?"
I go red and feel uncomfortable but cannot escape anymore.
"Well, uhm...sorry to bring this up but my dish feels kind of lukewarm, like it is not straight from the over hot."
"Oh, I am terribly sorry. Let me just take it back to the kitchen."
"Sorry to bring this up."
In the end of our dinner the restaurant fills up and the Latino men - including Miguel - run around like crazy. It takes ages for Miguel to bring our invoice. During all this time the woman and the man at the door look incredibly bored with nothing to do - right next to our table. The young man notices the delay and writes something on his notebook.
We leave a 15% tip.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

This clip is insane

I don´t know whether to feel sorry for CNN´s Anderson Cooper for having to try and make sense out of Sarah Palin´s PR officer Meg Stapleton or for Ms Stapleton having to explain the actions of her erratic boss. But one thing is for sure: this 5 minutes 49 seconds only proves that no normal logic works for Sarah Palin as a politician.

Next move: we just sit and wait for Levi Johnston´s tell-it-all book on the Palin family.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Doctor Will See You Now

Geert Wilders
Originally uploaded by dmatsui
Having met several Dutch friends over the last two days, there´s been one issue popping up in every chat: the success of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders and his party PVV. The question is what explains his growing success and what is the needed response.

In the European Parliament elections Wilders´ PVV grew into the second biggest party winning certain key areas such as Rotterdam and The Hague. These are also the cities with some of the highest numbers of people of non-Western descent. His party has now 4 seats in the European Parliament, which is one more than the Greens, the Social Democrats or the two Liberal parties. He is serious business.

His biggest target are the Muslims in the Netherlands. He has has for instance suggested a 5-year ban on non-Western immigration. He has publicly confessed a hatred of Islam.
Wilders´ agenda is largely similar to many other populist parties. His party is basically built around him as the undisputed leader, he makes a clear distinction between himself and "The Hague elite" and says the country has drifted into an "anything goes" sort of cultural relativism. He calls for tough measures and wants the country to declare openly an Judao-Christian value basis.

In the discussions I have had, I have heard different analysis of his support. I find all of them intriguing as they call for different solutions. As one knows from medicine, one needs to identify the illness correctly to ease the pain. There´s no need for surgery, if the problems are psychosomatic.

Analysis 1: The people voting for Wilders are ignorant and only if they would understand that immigration is beneficial for the Netherlands, we would all be better.
Solution: Isolating Wilders from the other political parties and increasing contact between groups.

Analysis 2: Wilders´ support builds on disappointment on one´s fellow citizens. The people voting for him feel like they have been left behind not only by the government but also the people who are doing better.
Solution: The elite needs to sharpen up and use emotional strategies to build a sense of belonging stressing to themselves and to the disappointed people that we are a whole and that we have responsibility for each other.

Analysis 3: We are in a culture war. Wilders represents a different society model, which gains support from a large part of the society. Similarities can be found from the US on issues such as euthanasia, abortion and race.
Solution: Both sides need to sharpen up their argumentation. Wilders´ great challenge is creating an intellectual basis for his policy as the party matures.

I don´t want to take a stand on the matter apart from ruling out number one. I sense an undemocratic flavour in it and find it disturbingly arrogant. I am all for increasing contact but it cannot start from the notion that the other side is seen as a victim of false consciousness.

In some ways I find the emotional aspect quite appealing. A lot of people are feeling scared even when they cannot actually give the fear a name. And for a person in panic, the newcomer is an easy scapegoat. Large parts of the population feel a risk of losing all their life is based on. We as a society need to take these fears seriously. Fear needs to be tackled not only with rationality but with emotion.

This situation should be seen by all parties as a possibility to be clearer on what kind of future you are fighting for. If we really are in a culture war, it is time for everyone to get more clever, sharper and more active. The good thing is that at least until now this dissent on the current rule is channelling largely through elections.

Despite which explanation one follows, one thing remains. It is all about bringing politics back to politics.

Monday, June 22, 2009


The newspaper has been taking a bad beating lately. On Twitter I get daily tweets on this and that more or less informed thinker stating that in a couple of years the US will only have 2 newspapers left or that the medium as a totality is already beyond saving. It is time to pull the plug, they say.

I understand that argument to a certain extent. Newspapers as they are now are terminally ill. They have allowed themselves to turn into public broadcasters and forgotten that they have a role and responsibility in supporting, inspiring and building a community. They´ve turned into broadcasting media when people want largely the opposite. They have by and large raised themselves above the readers and cut down the return channel.

Building a community does not mean cutting down on journalistic standards. It also does not mean becoming more entertaining or shallow. It means having greater understanding on the people you are serving. Yes, I think journalism largely is a service job. This means newspapers need to take a fresh look on the competencies needed within their staff. Delivering the requested amount of characters on time is just not enough.

Unto Hämäläinen from Helsingin Sanomat has been lately an excellent but rare example of what being a good journalist today means. Whilst writing in-depth, well researched articles for the printed paper, he has hosted a popular yet analytical blog around elections which has gathered a constituency of commentators ranging from the Prime Minister to MPs or regular citizens. This has allowed the newspaper as well its community to gain a better understanding on the various sides of politics.

I would wish that newspapers would take use of the more emotional aspect of why we pay the annual fee. We buy a membership in a community and we wish to be recognised.

I would love them to emphasise that in the era of immediate TV and online coverage, the printed papers do not compete with being fastest but being the most complete and the most reliable. They are like that professor in our family who can explain a complicated subject in a coffee table. They can paint the big picture, show links and the people behind the actions in ways that most media is unable to.

But even more importantly, they have a role in setting the discussions at work, in the families or in the parliament. They introduce subjects to their community - often ones that the community is not expecting. A good newspaper surprises you daily when you find yourself reading something that you did not know that you were interested in.

I mean just from yesterday: ´diversity of Finnish forests´ would not have never emerged to my Google search bar.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Shaken, Yet Still Standing

Yesterday´s elections were quite exciting, I have to say. It is always fantastic and good for democracy when things get shaken. Here a few observations:

- True Finns: Most of Finnish media is making the wrong analysis on this political party. Putting the party leader Timo Soini and his folks in the same category with the Dutch islamophobe Geert Wilders is a misrepresentation of the truth. The policy and popularity of True Finns works much more on the anti-establishment card than on xenophobia. This is quite obvious when you listen to them in debates. The party has a natural attraction amongst poor pensioners or unemployed youth - people feeling abandoned by the illusion we call the welfare state. Taking these fears and this anger seriously is a difficult challenge for the rest of the parties.
And let´s face it: how low would the voting rate have been WITHOUT True Finns? The fact that people wish to express anti-establishment sentiments and disappointment by voting is something we should take joy from.

- SDP: That old poster in the picture tells it all. SDP´s slogan: We will make some noise on your behalf. A political party unable to provide a role for the citizen deserves a defeat. As someone wrote on Facebook today: the problems of this party-turned-institution are the same as the Lutheran Church´s. And it is not saved by recycling Blairite slogans from 1997. Defending the System goes down badly at a time when people are seeking for a sense of involvement and belonging. Yes We Can is not only a disguising slogan for old politics, it means that you actually involve people in making change happen. It is a new way of doing politics and calls for a new way of building trust and communities. If they have the courage, this is a great opportunity for Social Democrats: empowering the people in the margins to be change makers in their own lives.
And let´s face it: we have come far from the 1903 goal on the separation of church and state when the leading man of the Social Democrats is a priest who is not even a member of the party.

- Greens: Good tail wind, have to give them that. I am not really interested in the boxes provided by other parties for the Greens: garden party of the right or the new Communists? This discussion does not really solve anything and is purely an intellectual masturbation exercise of political hacks.
If I would be making strategies for the party, I would try to find ways to diversify the party´s image from the current one: an upper middle-class smart party posse setting themselves above the rest of the society. The Greens should listen carefully to the increasing comments on arrogance and inability to understand other view points. Softening of actions, image and policy might be worth considering.

- National Coalition (Kokoomus): Kokoomus is still the biggest party in Finland although they did not make their target of keeping four seats. The party ran a campaign relying highly on the youthful Minister of Finance and the Minister of Foreign Affairs (neither of whom were running). They ran a campaign focusing on good mood, simplifications and happy-happy-joy-joy - an exemplary campaign of the republic of entertainment.
But the party stumbled in the last weeks when some candidates pushed some content to the surface which did not fit the party line. Cartoon TV ads do not explain away candidates calling immigrants social bums or questioning climate change.
This is the destiny of all parties controlled by spin doctors: there comes a point when you need to realise that you just cannot control it all.

All and all, the results tell a good story. The parties which have invested in their local actions and on bringing new people in did well in these elections. The ones at a loss with their objectives were punished by the voters. This is what we call democracy.

Friday, June 05, 2009

It Doesn´t Take A School

Fist of Fury
Originally uploaded by Jam Adams
Today´s visit to Heureka children´s science centre reminded me that many character problems start occurring way before school. It does not take a school to create a bully.

I was playing with these gigantic soft building blocks with my 3-year-old nephew when this approximately 5-year-old kid turned up - with his Mom. He started ripping toys from my nephew, got intentionally on his way in the slide and spent most of his time just beating stuff up.

I gave him nasty looks so he understood to move away but he kept testing the limits. The mother was standing next to this kid, checking her mobile and flicking through the photos on the digital camera. The kid kept running around, jumping recklessly on the pillows and destroying the constructions built by others. The mother witnessed the situation but did not act upon it. The kid had a similar look in his eyes as the jerk sergeants during my military service. He knew he was feared - and was loving it.

I can´t see into this mother´s head. But I can´t accept her actions. Maybe she was just glad of her child not being the "weak" one being bullied. But without intervening she was teaching her son that this kind of action is OK with strangers. She was teaching her son that this is how you get things through.

The situation made me sick and I lured my nephew out of the room with the power of ice cream. The mother was upholding the "boys are boys"/"real men" attitude, which prevents boys from going to hobbies such as dancing, makes them scared of showing weakness or sadness and locks them up in tightly framed expectations where violence is the only allowed method of proving your masculinity.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Connecting The Dots

~ The American Dream
Originally uploaded by Mackeson
Last weekend I met my great aunt for the first time. There is a reason why: she left Finland in 1957 first to the United Kingdom and then continued to the United States. She was telling me how it is still difficult to connect the dots between the Finland then and Finland now. She left a country of muddy roads and arrived to one of Nokia, to put it bluntly.

I was struck by the Finland she was telling me about. She told about a school that did not accept her due to her religion. She left a country traumatised by war and where she was told several times that she did not belong. She left the country and her family for a better life, with no knowledge of English and no relations waiting in the other end.

The reasons for migration have not really changed in 50 years. But it seems to surprise some people here in the receiving nations that millions decide to leave all they have for a chance of a better life. People risk everything they love for some undefined dreams. For a promise with no money-back guarantee. It seems to surprise people even when the story can be found from each family.

It is surprising and - honestly - disappointing how we here, in a country that has transformed from a departure country to a receiving country, have continuing difficulties to comprehend that the people wanting to move to Finland share largely the reasons of those relatives of ours who left for Sweden, Germany, UK or the US. Paradoxically the other group - the ones who left - are portrayed as heroes when the the others - the ones arriving - are characterised as social bums. It is not only my great aunt who has difficulties connecting dots. Making this historical link might help understanding the transformation we are in as nations.

Something else has also stood the test of time: desire. Most people are not striving for something bizarre and condescending like tolerance and understanding. They are seeking for voting rights, good future for their children, a home, a job and some friends. Not tolerance but bread and freedom.

Oops, I think I just defined the American Dream.

Monday, May 25, 2009

StrangerFestival 2009 is looking for video artists and professionals to conduct video workshops!

StrangerFestival is an international festival for young videomakers & fans and is an initiative of the European Cultural Foundation. In collaboration with our partners we will organize video workshops in more than 15 countries for young people in summer 2009. Do you wanna come and help us out?

For the StrangerAcademy we are looking for video artists and professionals who can come up with a concept and conduct one of the 3-day video workshops or want to be a professional in the LAB assisting the advanced participants in realising their assignment.

An important part of StrangerFestival is the website,, which is a living archive of videos sent in to our competition.

From 14-17 October 2009 StrangerFestival will take place in Amsterdam in Studio K, consisting of the 3-day StrangerAcademy for creative young video makers (14-16 October), the StrangerExpert meeting for professionals in the field of media and youth (16 October) and the StrangerAward Ceremony and closing party (17 October). Young video makers and professionals from all over Europe and beyond will get together during these days and participate in the workshops and expert meetings offered during the event.

StrangerAcademy will be a place where more than a hundred and fifty young video makers between 15-25 years old from all over Europe can develop their video making skills.

The StrangerAcademy will be divided into two levels: beginners and advanced.
For beginners we will offer several 3-day workshops where the planning is set from beginning to end so the participants have a fixed schedule where they are guided step by step making sure they create new work, learn the basics of video making and get the opportunity to work closely with each other.

For the advanced participants the approach will be different. We will create a LAB, a creative space, where technical equipment, professionals in editing, filming, sound, concept building etc. are present to assist the participants in making their video. Certain renowned organisations will give these participants the assignment to make a video for the company which the participants need to finish within the three days.

If you are interested in conducting a workshop keep this in mind when writing your application:
• The budget for this year’s StrangerFestival is very limited.
• ECF will take care of all technical equipment and workshop space
• 3 facilitators per workshop, ECF is in a favour of workshops with a peer to peer education element
• The workshop should be easy to follow for people who do not speak English very well

• The workshop can be on any video genre (documentary, animation etc)
• Workshop focus should be on skills development and collaboration between participants
• Topics should relate to StrangerFestival competition categories: about me, creative/arts, change the world.

• Results should be: new content (videos between 1-5 minutes) per participant or per team

If you are interested in being one of the professionals in the LAB this is the sort of profile we are looking for:
• (Artistic) video education background

• Good working knowledge of cameras and editing programmes

• Good knowledge of English
• Good communication skills
• Ability to work under pressure

• Flexible and willing to improvise

• Capacity and commitment to work with youngsters on an equal basis

• Sensibility to respect various cultures and group processes

If you are a workshop organiser yourself or if you know people who might be interested in this call, please forward the message. If you wish to join in, you can ask for the application form from Giusy Chierchia at gchierchia (at)

Monday, May 18, 2009

It´s Live!

Finally, after months of work, my company´s website is live. Thanks a lot to Sasha Huber and Kryptoniitti for the brilliant work in putting it together.

The idea for the site was to give a clear idea of my professional experience and what I wish to do in the future. It was a conscious move to make it bilingual as I want to keep on doing work both in and outside Finland and in Finnish as well as English.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

10 Second Johnny

This guy on the video, Johnnydurham19, is coming in a couple of weeks to a video culture symposium at the University of Arts and Design. I will be moderating a session there - with Johnny and others - on why non-professionals make and watch videos. Should be fun. Thursday 28 May at the University of Arts and Design Helsinki.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Demos Helsinki

Finishing my first week at Demos Helsinki as a project manager and researcher. It´s been brilliant. It´s like a dream come true to be part of a team for three days per week. It lets you be really part of a thinking and working community and still leaves leg space for writing and other stuff.

Demos UK, Demos Helsinki´s sister/brother/associate in London, just turned 16 and celebrated this with a new video on their focus on power and with a new website.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Other Iran

Iran: A nation of bloggers from Mr.Aaron on Vimeo.

This video is a skillful and important reminder on how we need to make the difference between a country and its leaders and remember diversity when we talk about a country. Something to keep in mind whether we talk about Russia, the US, Iran or Finland.

It also makes me think of a book I got from Reza Abedini on Iranian contemporary graphic design. Reza´s book shows how there is another layer of graphic reality next to the government-controlled images we see in the news every day. Videos like these are truly empowering. Thanks, Charlie.

Monday, May 04, 2009

That´s Not Me

Le Chauvinist
Originally uploaded by John.P
"I am not on my way home to beat my wife but to take care of my children."

A comment thrown into the air by philosopher Jukka Relander tonight made me think. I was attending a Green Party meeting as part of a journalistic assignment and managed to catch part of the debate led by Relander who chairs the Green Men. With the comment above Relander was referring to the problem-oriented discourse on men and on something very wise said by Amu Urhonen - one of the candidates to chair the Council of the Green Party for the next two years.

Urhonen assessed that many men do not recognise themselves in the descriptions of men in political debate. Some of the roles thrown easily around are the sleazy middle-aged man and the underprivileged, alcoholic construction worker beating his wife. If a man resembles one of the groups only in terms of looks, political language forces them into a claustrophobic corner where they end up having to defend themselves against perceptions of a chauvinist and sexist cave man without any evidence that they personally would be guilty of such disapprovable action. It´s like the old tricky question:"When did you stop beating your wife?"

Most of these categorisations are done unintentionally and thrown around without really careful thinking. Urhonen reminded the Green politicians of their responsibility in choosing their words and stereotypes carefully. She managed to formulate in 60 seconds one of the core problems of the equality debate - both for women and men. I mean how many women have been pushed to choose between Virgin Mary and Maria Magdalena.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What Did You Do Daddy? from John Belflower on Vimeo.

I have been looking for a brilliant video blog and now I found it. Charlie and others have put together a great blog gathering Nubs. For those who don´t know what nubs are (me an hour ago), here´s the Make Nubs description: Nubs are short videos that explain or bring an idea to life. Check the blog for more, great stuff. For instance the Obama music video from MC Yogi is brilliant.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gem in Kamppi

I love these moments. When you think you know your city to the last stoney and then you bump into something quite amazing. It kind of feels embarrassing to make this discovery only now but better late than never: I visited Amos Anderson´s Art Museum for the first time in my life today.

I went in due to the Riiko Sakkinen and Jani Leinonen exhibition. I was not expecting much but wanted to base my opinion - some people would say for a change - on real experience. Well, I was not blown away. The exhibition kind of demonstrates how difficult it is to shock with anything anymore. I felt I had seen this stuff before.

But taking the lift upstairs to the 5th floor made my day. Amos Anderson has made a deal with a set of corporate collections and in this manner able to bring into daylight wonderful works of artists like Magnus Enckell and Helene Schjerfbeck, which normally only decorate a company office or are locked in a safe. Of course most of the exhibition was kind of boring for anyone who has visited Ateneum but in the middle of it all were the subtle and delicate portraits of Helene Schjerfbeck and the strikingly colourfully radical Enckells of boys on a beach. Amos Anderson deserves recognition for making these works available for us all. If you ask me, Enckell and Schjerfbeck are some of the best art this little country has to offer.

A great invention for Amos Anderson is also reserving the red brick attic for contemporary art. Maiju Salmenkivi´s Pasila painting is such an explosion of colour that it made me return for a second glance. Tiina Heiska´s somehow photographic bedroom scene painting is simultaneously sad and sensual. Amos Anderson´s Art Museum shows that next to publicly funded art, this country needs also philantrophists with taste.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

One Less Device in the World

Originally uploaded by amsterboy
I had a big interview to do today and was about to buy a new voice recorder. Kind of came to the conclusion that the old C-cassette machine was in need of pimping up. After seeing the prices of the Olympus machines, I decided to check whether Apple would have microphones to be used in iPhone or iPod. The nice guy in the store recommended that instead of buying a microphone and a recorder, I should just download the free iTalk software from App Store.

Tested it today and it works perfectly. Sound quality is good, it does not use a lot of battery and the files are easily transported to iTunes for further use. And what is most important, I did not need to buy more gadgets as Apple and its friends had solved the issue for me - free of charge.Thank you, Mr Jobs.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We Need A Project

Originally uploaded by amsterboy
I saw this fridge magnet on a notice board at the University of Arts and Design today. It was apparently a response to a request to join a project. It made me think of some meetings and seminars that I have attended where a new project seems to be the goal of the work, not actually solving a problem in the organisation.

Quick translation:
"Coupling phrases ´higher education institution´ and ´design project´ causes such a bad disgust in me already that huh-huh (editorial note: Finnish expression for exhaustion). On one hand it may up to the fact that I am myself in such a shitty school but still it makes me doubt. It feels that all the time one designs the design of design but nothing concrete or useful is never achieved. But maybe I am in a shitty school and that one is a really nice project. That´s all from me. - Paavo"

However, looking at the issue from the positive side, it is a sign of healthy self-criticism that this quote is as a reminder in the coffee room.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - concepts and arguments

One - not that serious - explanation to what I do for work. This time in the form of a video. More details shortly at Thanks for the video tip, Paul.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stranger´s Back

Fourth day in Amsterdam. If I would need to name one thing why this city if amazing, it is its Spring. The whole city is blossoming - something that we will get only in like a month in Finland. It is clear that it is still my Second City.

I just facilitated a a great two-day meeting with TheStrangers, the advisory group of StrangerFestival consisting of young video makers. Above one of them, Nerimon, talking about what we do. After this weekend I am quite convinced that the festival will be awesome this year. The deadline for entries is 15 August but this year it is wise to upload early as one video is picked every month as a monthly winner and the maker is invited to Amsterdam.

A bit more about Amsterdam. Cycling around this city, it is easy to understand why people love it so much. I do too. Amsterdam is the best city in terms of doing things in human scale. I wish more cities could give you this amazing feeling that the city is open for you, it is there for you and it is playful.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Power of Both

This is where broadcasting meets the wonders of the Internet. Without this strong programme concept and reality television, Susan Boyle would never have emerged into the public sphere. The drama building before her singing is something that TV professionals can do so superbly. That´s talent.

But without the Internet and YouTube, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore would never have become fans of this English lady or she wouldn´t have become a world-wide phenomenon. Currently at 12 million hits. I love TV, I love YouTube and there´s no contradiction there. I think writing of television as a medium is just bull crap.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Made It To The Cover

Volume Magazine issue 19
Originally uploaded by amsterboy
The Dutch magazine Volume has published an article of mine on how the logic and networks of youth cultures provide an inspiring model for European cooperation. Volume is an independent quarterly for architecture to go beyond itself and is a cooperation between:
Archis Foundation, Amsterdam
AMO, Rotterdam
C-LAB, Columbia University New York

First time I made it to a cover of a magazine. Here´s a teaser on the article:

"Several youth cultures show how difference can be a prerequisite rather than an obstacle to interaction. By giving serious attention to interaction practices in transnational youth cultures we could actually find answers to many of the diversity problems with which Europe currently struggles."

Volume can be bought from selected bookstores:
NAI Publishers

Monday, April 13, 2009

Real TV

Some people use Easter for quieting down - I did not. In the midst of Bree van de Kamp -like cooking and baking (muffins and what have you), I managed to accidentally bump into an episode of Skins on SubTV. I had forgotten how bloody brilliant this Channel4 teenage drama actually is. Thank you, Sub, for the reruns.

Skins is amazing and quite unique as its handles teenage angst and torment in full honesty and without irony. It reminds everyone what kind of an emotional rollercoaster it is being young and there is often very little the parents can do. It reminds one of the importance of handling the emotions of teenagers with care but also shows how smart they already are. Not a kid, not an adult - Skins captures well that tripping in and out of adulthood.

Here´s a clip (Channel4/YouTube apparently does not allow embedding)from this Friday´s episode where the class practices Osama - The Musical. It shows well how frank Skins is - maybe too frank for some. The writing of this programme is quite amazing. As it was pointed out to me while watching, could you think of a US series where teenagers sing:"Then came the day Osama blew us away and now I know how I feel."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Donate Here

Some advocacy organisations just get it better than others. WWF - the people who brought us Earth Hour. Via: Deceptive Cadence.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Institution First

Day 7/365
Originally uploaded by Timo Kirkkala
Today´s Helsingin Sanomat writes that the parliamentary committee reforming the national public broadcaster YLE is most likely going to suggest that YLE will be financed in the future through a separate YLE tax. Unlike the current license fee, this compulsory tax would be collected as part of the normal tax collection. It would not go into the government´s total budget but straight to YLE. Journalist Teemu Luukka writes:"It is not likely that the committee will suggest radical changes into (YLE´s) duties."

I had yesterday lunch with a Danish friend of mine. She is one of those social entrepeneurs like me, i.e. people searching for new solutions to current problems. She said that her current interest is in using standard design techniques also for the planning of public services. This would mean bringing the problem and the end user into the core of the design process. As she pointed out, the common public service design process works like the YLE case: how do we fund an existing institution in the future.

When the design process starts from the institution, we are already kill a big majority of good ideas even before they see the light of day. When we take an institution and its current structure for granted, it is hardly surprising that we do not find very good solutions.

Everyone following media discussion today would know that public service communications needs rethinking. This is not an issue of organisational reform but an issue of citizenship - what kind of information and analysis do we need in order to play our role as citizens in a better and more informed manner? Getting stuck on the word broadcasting avoids looking into a landscape of new tasks, new actors and more flexibility. Now the fix is making a poorly functioning funding system compulsory. So it´s band aid instead of recovery process.

The private media corporations (Viestinnän keskusliitto) have been calling for Finland to follow the BBC Trust´s example in having an independent body supervising YLE. When the reform is prepared by a parliamentary committee, this is very unlikely to happen.

Although I am somewhat skeptical to the total agenda of the anti-YLE campaign of the private actors, I would strongly support an independent supervisory board. I believe it would strengthen YLE´s role as a supervisor of the ones in power, which would need to get its legitimacy not from decision makers but from people directly. It would make clearer that we as citizens have rights to proper critique and information and this might someone work against those in power. That sometimes the benefit of the state and the benefit of the people are not equal.

An independent body would also widen YLE´s stakeholder basis, help its directors in creative thinking and in the end - provide better public service media for us and help us in doing our share in a democracy better.

Monday, April 06, 2009

One More For The Road

Making mine a double
Originally uploaded by Liesel's Easel
Flying domestic is not something I do often, I think actually four times in my life if I count the return flights to Kittilä last week. And as before, flying domestic with someone non-Finnish makes one take another perspective as one tries to explain the behaviour of one´s fellow citizens.

Already on the flight to Kittilä, it was pointed out to me that the Finnair flight attendant allowed a Finnish man visibly drunk to occupy the seat in front of the emergency exit. I was informed by my company (someone who knows more about flying than anyone I have met) that this actually counts as a violation of airline protocol.

On the way back it got worse on the plane. The positive side was that we got to test the new Finnair Airbus 330-300, which will be used for flying to New York. It was the first week of the plane and things looked brilliant. The revamped Finnair colour scheme makes the cabin seem much more spacious and the new seats make you keep a good posture.

But as the plane was filled with Finns ending their one-week holiday either in Ylläs or Levi, it smelled like the empty bottle room of Alko. Big portion of the customers were visibly drunk already when boarding the plane. We actually changed our seats on the last minute due to the odour created by the people behind us. I managed to catch the frightened looked on a face of a young father who was forced to sit with his one-year-old in the middle of the Boozy Family. And the 5 euro charge for alcohol on domestic flights did not stop the people from boozing up more. I mean hey, last moment of holidays.

I am not blaming the cabin crew for slacking, I am sure they do not love the drunks in the back of the plane anymore than I do. After moving back to Finland from the Netherlands I have been in quite a number of situations where I notice how differently people and institutions tolerate overuse of alcohol in public transport, at stations not to mention restaurants. The Finnair case seems to be just another example of Finns looking the other way when the drunk is making another situation uncomfortable - or even risky as in the case of the emergency exit - for the rest of us.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Once Were Consumers

olimme kuluttajia
Originally uploaded by amsterboy
The pamphlet Olimme kuluttajia (We Were Consumers, Tammi) published yesterday by Aleksi Neuvonen and Roope Mokka of Demos Helsinki lays out four scenarios for 2023. The book takes scarce resources and higher price of energy as matters of fact and looks at our future within this context. It quotes on one hand Hannah Arendt in advocating that true freedom is not the freedom to own but the freedom for meaningful and public action and on the other hand scientists that we have reached the climax in the amount of core resources. If we do not change our way of living, in 15 years the climate has warmed up to the extent that certain parts of China and the American East Coast are starting to be unbearable to live in. The book follows the line of thought in the public debate now that the recession could actually be an opportunity to reboot.

The theme spreading across the book is the way we tackle climate change. According to Neuvonen and Mokka, most of us wish that there will be a day when we will be told by The Leader what not to do and until then most of us continue flying and buying in the current accelerating speed - fully aware of its consequences. The reaction is the same as a child who covers his eyes and ears to avoid the bad news. According to the book we need to recognise our role in change for as long as we wait for our elected leaders to make that switch, we are somewhat doomed. Over the last few years politics has actually taken its lessons from consumerism - politics is more a service industry answering people´s wishes than about ethics, ambitions or doing the right and responsible thing. This is very clear in political rhetorics of today. Therefore that SUV will only be banned when the big middle class takes another turn in its consumption. The book is a rare but realistic call for individual responsibility together with others.

The scenarios see control rising as we fight for limited resources. Control is also one of the ways to make people change. Rather than listening to our neighbours through the wall, in 15 years we can follow the ecological footprint of our neighbours from a public record Wastebook. In a world of less, we will surely make sure that our neighbours will not be free riding the system. This has been happening already in some countries in smaller scale for instance by people reporting their neighbours to the authorities when they do not recycle their trash.

The book claims that have moved from Social Democratic I Need Politics to more Centre Liberal I Want Politics. We are seeing the emergence of I Can Politics but the true change happens when we make a shift to We Can. When the media, corporations and governments take a bigger role in showing us the interconnectedness, we move from rights and responsibilities to virtues and pursuing truer happiness through responsible action and more meaningful human relationships. It moves discussion from what I want to what we can do.

This liberation from consumerism and move towards citizenship is quite inspiring and Case Obama is a good example of how it functions as a rhetorical tool. But I end up thinking, after reading the book, what happens when the resources really start running out. What are the arguments for building trust? The book paints a relatively beautiful picture of collective action but I feel it slightly - maybe for the argument´s sake - downplays the conflict and difference of opinion on the tools to make the switch. Politics is about deciding on those alternatives. It is not a question of The Good vs. The Bad but different strategies maybe even towards a shared goal. Does the urgency make our political system more responsible or more vicious What kind of leaders to we get, wish and deserve?

Olimme kuluttajia makes a convincing case that we have no alternative but to change. But I recognise I am already somewhat in the inner circle of this stuff. Reading it makes me reorient my professional focus to enhancing those positive developments and using my writing skills to formulate those attractive arguments to convince ever bigger parts of the population. This requires reaching over the aisle and bringing the engineer, marketeer and politician to the same table to build that map of interconnectedness. And yes, this is terribly exciting.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Who Wants To Be A Journalist

Originally uploaded by amsterboy
Last Friday was a good day. I met deals on a couple of work projects, had great breakfast in superb company and ended the day by visiting Sanoma Corporation´s media education space Piste.

I have been mongering (is that a word) about the state of media education for ages. I feel that it more than often focuses on protecting young people from "the media", treats children and teenagers and imbeciles, forgets the role of amateurs in creating media content and forgets notions of critical reading. Good description of the current debate here. For all this, it was great to visit Piste and see that someone knows how to do it.

Sanoma Corporation has build a sort of a mini-Helsinki into the basement of its headquarters. The participants are divided to teams with some of them working for the quality daily Helsingin Sanomat and some for the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat. They all get mobiles, maps and guidance from an editor. All teams working on the same story and in the end they need to decide within their team on the angle of the story, on the headline and the photo.

Piste emphasises the key things in journalism:
- that good journalism requires dedication, persistence and investigation. You need to keep calling people, checking information given to you and making sure that you make good notes.
- it shows the essence of team work and clear division of tasks.
- it strengthens understanding that journalism is very much also about choices in terms of angle. That even if you have the same information, the story is different in Ilta-Sanomat and Helsingin Sanomat. Piste also demonstrates well how different the story seems with a different headline.

The great thing is also that the groups are led by real journalists who can through their own work show what all these issues mean in real life. I am sure this makes the visiting teenagers listen much more carefully. Our guide for instance was telling how you need to constantly make choices for instance around the school shootings on when to publish the name of the shooter or a certain photo. She also shed some light on the collaboration with the police and fire department.

I would be surprised if someone after Piste would not want to become a journalist. Piste demonstrates superbly how fascinating the job really is and how top quality media education really is done.

Friday, March 20, 2009

StrangerFestival Is About This

So, my former colleagues had put a clip from the StrangerFestival DVD online. I actually like how in this interview the background thinking of the project comes across.

And yes, someone should have told me to control those hands while I speak....I know, I know.

You can order your own copy of the DVD with this interview and much more from stranger (a)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Dagens Nyheter
Originally uploaded by Henrik
I sat the last two days in a seminar by the Nordic Culture Fund on diversity and Nordic cultural work. On the last day we ended up in a heated debate in our workshop on whether being Nordic is an identity and how does that come together with goals of inclusion and integration.

I said first in the discussion that I would see the Nordic countries rather as a natural area of collaboration rather as an identity with historic routes. The ethnic-cultural-historical argument for the Nordic countries easily stands in the way of true equality and integration. The links are obvious to those Europeans who claim that we share the same values and a history.

I realised towards the end of the seminar that my idea of the Nordic region was something special and I feel parts of it can be explained through the Finnish language. I realise that I have grown up with an idea of the Nordic region as something where peace and justice prevail. This is something I picked up from school, not that much which country oppressed which Nordic country at which time and who really had the vikings.

I was brought up with the idea that the Nordic identity and aspiration can be explained through actions of people like Anna Lindh, Olof Palme, Martti Ahtisaari or Hans Blix. That Finland was on its way to being Nordic. That Nordic means also peculiar people who do not fit to all conventions and who dare to touch our sensitivities like Tove Jansson, Lars von Trier or Ingmar Bergman. That Nobel Peace Prize illustrates Nordic actions by Nordic and non-Nordic people. That being Nordic means believing in the human being, having a clear sense of ethics, trusting your neighbours (passport-free border-crossing for ages) and working for the benefit of mankind. That here in the North we give from our own when we have enough. That Nordic is something we need to work for - hard. And more often than we would like to admit, we we fall short in living up to those noble ideals. That Nordic is not a state of being, it is a responsibility for action. And that of course we should not claim to own this package of ideals but that the combination of them makes our life up in these circumstances worthwhile.

I wonder if this articulation of the Nordic identity could also function as a tool for integration and inclusion. It may sound slightly naive but it gives me a sense of direction and a reason for optimism. In term of integration we wound need recognise those beautiful ideas, make concrete the individual and societal work needed to make our way towards them and be honest about the shortcomings in terms of greed, protectionism and selfishness. Of this we have a tremendous amount of examples from the last 20 years.

That we would consciously shift our focus to what we can become at our best and to our personal responsibility rather than obsessing over a shared past. The Nordic Dream seen here would be very different from the European or American one.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Public Service

Finland´s had a heated discussion around public service in the last few weeks. The commercial media corporations have filed a complaint to the European Commission competition authorities asking whether the national public broadcaster YLE is stepping beyond its limits when it offers its news content to be shown on commercial screens for instance in shopping malls and at the airport. The CEO of Sanoma Corporation Mikael Pentikäinen compared the situation to a market square where one baker offers their bread for free. YLE´s CEO Mikael Jungner compared the action to branding and described the financial potential of the work as minimal. Curious to see what happens. Sanoma Corporation and the others have suggested the creation of an independent body - like the BBC Trust - that would set and control the boundaries of public service broadcasting.

Entertainment has been one of the issues on the battlefield - whether public service broadcasters should do entertainment or leave it to the commercial competitors. Watching Sweden´s SVT´s work on the Eurovision Song Contest (they call it Melody Festival) shows how an innovative public service broadcaster can turn European cooperation amongst public service broadcasters into a national megaprojects reinvigorating areas by taking the semifinals to different parts of the country. It is entertainment but entertainments with a special value. Corny, camp but brilliant. In Sweden the national finale is the main thing, not how the Swedish entry ranks in the European arena. I kind of like that.

Watching this programme and looking into the issue of commercial screens, I must conclude that I do support the idea of an independent expert body to control, set limits and open new areas for public service communications and press work. I feel this would make YLE stronger, release YLE from (unnecessary) parliamentary control and also serve the society and the license fee payers better. It might help us in really articulating in a clearer way what is actually the public service in public broadcasting. BBC says:Educate, Entertain and Inform - I would go more for something like Empower, Encourage and Represent (I wrote about this issue in this blog in September).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Oops, Stockmann

Originally uploaded by shuyipeace
Toby makes in his blog the revelation of the day regarding intercultural communication. Finnish department store Stockmann has decorated their most prominent window at the flagship department store around sports with the slogan: V for Victory. The window´s major photo illustrates the victory sign made famous amongst others by Winston Churchill (pic) and Richard Nixon.

Or - as Toby well points out - that is what they were supposed to do. In the picture at Stockmann the hand is turned the other way than Churchill´s - i.e. in the picture the palm faces the person showing the sign -, which translates in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and a number of other places as Up Yours or F--- You. I am just waiting to see the confused English couple on a holiday in Helsinki standing in front of the display.

Oops. Well, it´s not like they would be selling S/M-themed puzzles in the toy section or something. Oh sorry, that happened already.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Great DVD

After months of work, StrangerFestival DVD is out. This is kind of the conclusion of the first year of the biggest project I have ever initiated so it feels awesome.

The DVD includes interviews with makers, all the best videos, all the methods used at the festival - and all this in Dutch, English, German and French. Highly recommended. If you know schools, cultural organisations or NGOs that could use it in their work. Order the DVD - for FREE - by sending an email to stranger (a) or find out more information here. (And yes, the interview on the promo was filmed after four cups of coffee and 1o minutes before the opening).

Risks of Freelancing

Working from home - or just having a lot of time at home - has clear risks. One is that you can get occupied with the most bizarre things. But let´s face it, this is pretty funny. (Source: Charlie, not the one on the video)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Face The Music

Great ad by Demos Helsinki and advertising agency PHS as part of Ilmastotalkoot (Climate Action) on the impact of travelling. Apparently Finnish TV stations did not want to show the ad due to the risks it could cause for travel and airline ads. The advertisement won the Audience Prize in the Voitto competition for the Best Ad of the Year. (Source: Markkinointi ja Mainonta)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Random Quote of the Day

Vesi Mies! / Water Man!
Originally uploaded by hugovk
Theatre Director Leea Klemola is currently directing a version of Alban Berg´s opera Lulu for Kokkola Opera. In Klemola´s version Lulu is not a sexy, vulnerable woman manipulated by men but a hairy woman from the circus who loves to get laid. In the interview Klemola talks about her perception of men:

"Nothing beats Finnish men! I can say that we were just ice fishing yesterday that I love Finnish men who are too noble to beat you, when I should probably be hit, when foam comes from the corners of my mouth and I say that once again me alone here all blah-blah! I would hit someone like that! The women that Finnish men tolerate, would never be tolerated in France! I would never marry a Frenchman, I would rather shoot a bullet into my head. Or maybe I would marry but at least would not do any art there."
- Vesa Sirén, Helsingin Sanomat.

How is that for a statement?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Minorities in the Media

Henry Jenkins
Originally uploaded by Joi
"One is tempted to argue that African-Americans (and other minorities) enjoy greater opportunities to communicate beyond their own communities now than ever before. But we need to be careful in making that claim. Recent research suggests that there are far fewer minority characters on prime time network television shows this season than there were five years ago. There remains an enormous ratings gap between white and black Americans: the highest rating shows among black Americans often are among the lowest rated shows among white Americans. The exception, curiously enough, are reality television programs, like American Idol, which historically have had mixed race casts.

We've seen some increased visibility of black journalists and commentators throughout the 2008 campaign season -- and they may remain on the air throughout an Obama administration -- but we need to watch to make sure that they do not fade into the background again. But, if we follow your argument, even those figures who make it into the mainstream media are, at best, relaying critiques and discourses which originate within the black community and at worse, they are involved in a process of self-censorship which makes them an imperfect vehicle for those messages.

The paradox of race and media may be that black Americans have lost access to many of the institutions and practices which sustained them during an era of segregation without achieving the benefits promised by a more "integrated" media environment. And that makes this a moment of risk -- as well as opportunity -- for minority Americans.

I suspect we are over-stating the problem in some ways. There are certainly some serious constraints on minority participation in cyberspace but a world of networked publics also does offer some opportunities for younger African-Americans to deliberate together and form opinion, which we need to explore more fully here."

In the quote above, MIT Professor Henry Jenkins brings together the two issues that I am focusing on at the moment: future of media and diversity. Jenkins upholds his reputation as a critical, academic but enthusiastic researcher. In his blog, Jenkins is currently engaged in a debate on the future of African Americans communities online with Dayna Cunningham, the Executive Director of the Community Innovators Lab at MIT. In her first post, Cunningham described how the black voice is disappearing from the media sphere:

"However, I would argue that today, black politics has largely been reduced to the electoral and legislative spheres; African American media too often promote black celebrity and individual advancement, and along with much of the black civic infrastructure, rarely focus on freedom discourse as a means of exploring strategies for collective political action and accountability to black interests. Perhaps only the Church has survived as an independent space for black voice--and even the Church is sometimes compromised by "prosperity gospel" preachers who have little time for freedom discourse."

Jenkins answers well to the concerns expressed by Cunningham and acknowledges the risks posed by the fact that online it is very difficult to contain ideas in a certain context. There are still two chapters to follow in their discussion, I recommend staying alert.

Monday, March 02, 2009

This Is The World That We Live In

I understand that the intentions behind this disclaimer were noble and educational but something in it just feels bizarre. Like the notion that as a friend of a vlogger, I would need to inform them if I watch their vlog. And that vlogs are like secret diaries.

I disagree. When you publish something online, you theoretically and sometimes also in practice publish it also to your uncle and aunt and your neighbours. I mean the potential of them finding a piece which does not carry your real name is often very but that goes beside the point. The responsibility does belong to the one publishing, not the one watching. I have been surprised to hear that some people read this blog but now I keep it in mind. At least in my case this realisation has actually made it easier to talk about a number of issues also face-to-face and in public. Personal often is public and at least political.

(Thanks for the link for this video, M)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Spreading Meanings, Not Viruses

Don't Flu Yourself
Originally uploaded by daviddaneman
Last weeks have been quite exciting in terms of finding a new way of working. Going from an office job to freelancing has meant learning a new sense of pace. All the things I do currently are assignments where my work is measured on the originality of the ideas I produce, not based on the hours I spend at the office. It has also meant that I need to learn a new way of implementing reading and browsing as an essential part of my weekly routine. They count in the end much more than coordination meetings. It is fun - I give you that -, but it is also work.

I have developed a completely new way of using the Web. At the hectic office I used the Internet mostly like fast food, like media snacks (munched easily with increasing frequency and maximum speed – like chips – a description from Miller in Wired) between emails and phone calls. Now I take daily an hour or two to go through a dozen or so blogs, mark interesting stuff on Delicious and develop a more systematic way of finding content. Finding content that matters takes time and diligence.

The best thing I have discovered is Henry Jenkins´ blog. MIT´s Media Professor Jenkins focuses on what people are doing with media rather than on what the media is doing to people. His approach is critical but enthusiastic and he does not shy away from using very current examples for making his case.

His 8-part essay If It Doesn't Spread, It's Dead is something I would recommend for everyone working with brands and media culture. Jenkins sees consumers as empowered and intelligent species using media for their own purposes and goes beyond the discussion on virals. He talks about the spreadability of media – that citizens spread and reform content rather than passively carry a virus. That spreading media is an essential part of reputation management online. Just think of your own Facebook usage – what you link and post tells your “friends” a lot about who you are.

A statement by Jenkins that is highly useful for instance for my work with StrangerFestival: loss of producers´ control over meaning is a precondition for circulation. Spreadable media memes have to available for remixing before transferring so that people can use them for their own purposes to recreate meaning. As John Fiske puts it: this is where mass culture turns into popular culture. From a producer´s point of view creating media content that “sticks” on people would be wonderful but today´s successful content is one that spreads, shapes and puzzles. Which is actually quite liberating and empowering if you really think about it.