Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘activism’

29 JUNE, 2009

Data Visualization: The Colors of Democracy

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What dots and colors have to do with the war on political corruption.

You know data visualization is big when you see it on one of those 4 x 6 postcards distributed in bars. In Bulgaria.

Spotted recently: The Colors of Democracy, a flyer displaying voting results by party affiliation for Bulgarian Parliament elections since the fall of Communism.

The Colors of Democracy

The Colors of Democracy: Voter color preference in Bulgarian Parliament elections.

It's time to vote again on July 5. Don't act rashly. Think!

Each dot represents the official color of a specific Bulgarian party — the visualization clearly shows the declining grip of the conservative party (in red), the one most closely aligned with Communist ideology. More importantly, it shows the proliferation of alternative viewpoints and the diversification of the political landscape — a sign of hope in the dialogue on democracy.

The postcard — printed and distributed independently by Bulgarian designer Mihail Mihaylov — is part of a PSA campaign aiming to combat the vote-buying allegations plaguing the upcoming Parliament elections, encouraging people to vote based on judgment, not incentive. Political analysts have estimated that up to 12 million BGN, roughly $8.6 million, have been allocated to vote trade, a devastating slap in the face of democracy.

The back of the card reads, “Vote by conscience! Your vote is not for sale.”

This is important for two reasons. For one, it’s a timely dialogue to be had, in light of the recent unrest surrounding the Iranian elections — a gory example of vote fraud and the severely undemocratic ways in which protests against it were handled.

Secondly, it’s uplifting to see a thriving undercurrent of grassroots democracy activism among a nation slammed by The New York Times as a country whose entire political system is one big money-laundering machine for the mob.

The paradox, of course, is that the people this messaging is likely to resonate with are probably those already aligned with the very platform of the PSA campaign and thus least in need of an intervention. But that’s the fundamental folly of all cause marketing, so we’ll have to take it for what it is.

18 JUNE, 2009

Independent Film Spotlight: Future Weather

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How a 13-year-old is giving Al Gore a run for his money, or why indie is alive and well.

Video week continues with something from the depths of indie: Future Weather, a sweet coming-of-age film about the relationship between environmentalism and social hardship — a brilliant addition to our earth-centric essential viewing recommendations.

Laduree is a 13-year-old girl who, in the midst of a forestry experiment, realizes she has to take action to save her hometown from global warming. Except in the process of this epiphany, she gets abandoned by her mother. Tossed over to her grandmother, she is thrown into a depressed rural community.

As Laduree faces her uncertain future, she reimagines her life as a public service announcement, translating her own reality of family struggles into our collective one of environmental apocalypse — a compellingly fresh angle on the sustainability dialogue, if we ever saw one.

Future Weather, from Philadelphia-based duo Jenny Deller and Kristin Fairweather, is a finalist in the Netflix Find Your Voice competition. It is also the winner of Showtime’s Tony Cox Screenwriting Award. Production — sustainable by design — is slated for this fall, with the film set to hit theaters next year.

17 JUNE, 2009

Clay Shirky on Social Media, News and the Democratic Process

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The news on news, or what Twitter has to do with democracy.

Today’s continuation of video week is a particularly timely piece of sociocultural commentary — Clay Shirky’s TED@State talk about how cell phones, Twitter and Facebook are changing the world. Timely not only because those of us in the modern democratic world are completely immersed in these technologies, but mostly because we’re beginning to see them as tools of citizen activism and freedom of speech in areas where the democratic process falls short — most recently, the case of the social-media-powered Iranian national strike.

Media, the media landscape that we knew, as familiar as it was, as easy conceptually as it was to deal with the idea that professionals broadcast messages to amateurs, is increasingly slipping away. In a world where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap, in a world of media where the former audience are now increasingly full participants, in that world, media is less and less often about crafting a single message to be consumed by individuals. It is more and more often a way of creating an environment for convening and supporting groups.” ~ Clay Shirky

Although the idea isn’t new to those of us who have been paying attention in the past couple of years, Shirky contextualizes it in a way that points to the ever more rapidly impeding end of top-down news, which is in turn effecting the next big leap in the evolution of politics.

Watch, appreciate the era we live in, and go tweet about it.

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