2021

Photo by: JC Gellidon (Unsplash)

 

The TB ‘health crisis’ in Latin American jails

 

High rates of tuberculosis (TB) in Latin American prisons are subverting efforts to control the disease in the wider population, and constitute a “health and human rights crisis”, a study warns.

According to research published in The Lancet, TB cases in the region’s prisons rose from five per cent of the total reported cases in 2011, to 11.1 per cent in 2017. The incarcerated population in Central and South America represents one per cent of the total population.

“The health and human rights crisis of tuberculosis among PDL (people deprived of their liberty) and their communities demand urgent action and sustained attention from ministries of health and justice and the global medical community,” the study’s authors warned.

“There is growing evidence that incarceration puts people at higher risk for diseases and that this risk extends to neighbouring communities,”

Katharine Walter, epidemiologist, Stanford University

In Venezuela and El Salvador the problem is particularly acute. In Venezuela, in 2011, 1.8 per cent of reported TB cases were registered in prisons, but in 2017 that percentage rose to 15.5 per cent.

In El Salvador, 225 TB cases  – 11 per cent of the total  – occurred in prisons in 2011. Six years later, 1,889 cases  – 51.5 per cent of all reported cases – were found among detainees.

In both Central and South America, the increase in the disease among prisoners surpasses advances in tuberculosis control achieved among the general population, the study found.

This high incidence of the disease in prisons also increases the risk of TB beyond prison walls, to prison workers and the families of detainees, researchers warn.

Epidemiologist Katharine Walter of Stanford University, USA, co-author of the study, said: “There is growing evidence that incarceration puts people at higher risk for diseases and that this risk extends to neighbouring communities.”

Latin American prisons – described by Walter as “inhumane” – are overcrowded and poorly ventilated, with prisoners often lacking access to proper healthcare and nutrition, the study notes, providing perfect conditions for infections to spread.

“The most direct way to cut the over risk of TB infection in jails is reducing the growing number of people incarcerated in these settings with a high risk of transmission,” Walter added.

Drug resistance also poses a risk if the situation is left unchecked, the study warns. It notes: “Although Central and South America have not yet been affected by high rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis in prisons, as seen in many Eastern European countries, the current trajectory suggests that drug resistance should also be closely monitored.”

Sociologist and epidemiologist Maria Belen Herrero, who did not take part in the research, said the highlights “a real problem, which is the situation of TB in prisons and the need to address the problem urgently”.

However, Herrero, an Argentinean researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), says TB among prisoners “is an important aspect but it is not what ends up explaining the situation of the disease in the region.”

TB is a disease “strongly determined by the social context and by living conditions and often the result of the occurrence of TB cases in jails is a reflection of all this and it is not so much the origin of the problem,” Herrero added.

Zulma Rueda, co-author of the study and epidemiologist at the University of Manitoba, Canada, believes that to solve the problem we must understand that imprisoned people “are human beings and TB cannot become part of their sentence”.

More investment in TB programmes, greater political will, financial support for research, and effective treatments against the disease are crucial, she said, as well as addressing the stigma often associated with TB.

“Many studies have reported how stigma and discrimination become a barrier to seeking timely care, following the treatment, and getting successful results,” Rueda said.

 

 

By                    :                            Nicolás de la Barrera

Date                :                             April 28, 2021

Source            :                             SciDevNet

https://www.scidev.net/global/news/the-tb-health-crisis-in-latin-american-jails/

 

 

Aliens in Their Own Land: COVID-19 and Economic Exclusion

 

“I was always trying to gauge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in society, but I could only analyse it from afar. And akin to what happened when one does research using an existing dataset, I never really knew the degree to which COVID-19 transformed society. But my travel to Indonesia gave me clarity”, writes Namira Samir (Founder, Director, and Editor-In-Chief of The Justice Institute (JUSTIN) (thejustin.org))

The Indonesian Government stipulated that Indonesian and foreign nationals who arrived from abroad must be quarantined for five days – with Indonesian students and migrant workers to stay in a Government-managed quarantine facility in Jakarta. To exit the airport, I had to wait with other Indonesians for almost two hours before being allowed to exit Soekarno Hatta International airport and get on a bus that would drive us to the quarantine facility.

When we arrived, we had to join the bus queue and wait for a while before it was our turn to get inside the facility. During the waiting period, a number of merchants went inside the bus and offered their products. They cautioned that we would not be able to find what they offered inside the facility. I came to know later on that not all of their words were accurate – for what they uttered were best identified as marketing strategies.

The sellers marked the products at two to four times the actual market price. The application of the law of demand and supply here was supported by heightened fear which propelled some people to purchase what the sellers offered. 

Inside the facility, I found out that there is yet another new market. It resembles a small town where you can find a grocery shop, food vendors, SIM card vendors, and even travel agents. These economic actors behaved akin to the informal economic actors just outside of the quarantine facility. The law of economics is at play here. When there is limited to zero competition, the market players can monopolise the market by controlling the price without losing demands.

The sellers inside and outside the quarantine facility belong to the informal economy. They are part of the statistics which you often hear contribute to a large degree to the world’s economy. For them, the quarantine facility is not merely a market opportunity; it is also their survival instinct.

However, not all informal economic actors can take advantage of the quarantine facility. Only merchants who reside near the facility can directly benefit while the rest of the informal actors have to endure life post the COVID-19 pandemic. I also learned first-hand how the street vendors outside of the facility were being stigmatised of COVID-19 exposure. They were considered as ‘dirty’; that buying anything from them is dangerous because we do not know how the products are being produced or cooked or prepared. 

The Government’s decision to open a quarantine facility created a new market – but it also promoted exclusion to certain actors who do not meet the criteria imposed by certain people. As a result, they could only sneak in a short time span to sell their produce. In times of COVID-19, everybody suffers. Nobody wants to be exposed to COVID-19, but no one wants to be excluded from opportunities either. If COVID-19 were to remain with us forever, how would we prevent the permanent exclusion of actors in the informal economy?

Economic exclusion might simply be an unintended consequence of protecting lives. However, once the unintended has been identified, it needs to be addressed. It seems to be a universal practice in both developed and developing world that controlling COVID-19 transmission becomes the sole priority that blinds policymakers of the consequences of their policy on access to opportunities.

So, another question that comes to mind would be, did the economic actors inside the facility serve as the unintended positive consequence of a Government-managed quarantine facility? Or was it a planned intention to include ‘some’ informal economic actors? If the new market inside the facility was carefully planned, then it failed to bring about inclusivity in policy because the new, short-period market outside the facility does not have the same ability to benefit from it. This phenomenon invites us all to rethink the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on lives. We should not merely think about protecting our lives but also others by ensuring their livelihoods’ sustainability even during these strange times.

The market opportunity that arises because of the quarantine policy has an expiration date. When the vaccination strategy works and life turns into the new normal, the informal economic actors who benefitted from the quarantine facility have to once again grapple with reality and find their new market. Meanwhile, the negative impact of economic exclusion on the rest of the informal economic actors persists.

Nobody should feel like an alien in their own land. Being alienated can somehow play with your mind. For instance, the way street vendors sell their products on the bus during the queuing period by combining truth and false might have been the outcome of economic exclusion. If they were not being stigmatised and excluded from participating in the new market, the competition would have been fairer and what we might witness is a more collaborative effort between the economic actors inside and outside the facility.

Market is supposed to promote freedom, not to limit it. Rather than keeping the division between the market in and outside the quarantine facility, why does not the Government formulate a policy that benefits every party? For instance, by enforcing a maximum period of which an informal economic actor can trade in the market. When the time limit ends, other informal economic actors can also make use of the new market. 

COVID-19 won’t be the last major problem that humanities will have to endure, not even the last disaster of our generation. It is therefore imperative for us to pick measures that calculate the reality of all parties – the low-risk population, the high-risk population, the employers, the formal workers, the informal workers, the migrant workers, the rich, the middle-income, the poor, among others. But if what is adopted instead allows exclusion, then we, as humanity, have failed to do good and good only.

 

Namira Samir is Founder, Director, and Editor-In-Chief of The Justice Institute (JUSTIN) (thejustin.org). She is currently pursuing a PhD in Development Policy & Management at Global Development Institute (GDI), The University of Manchester.

 

By                   :                        Namira Samir

Date                :                        May 13, 2021

Source            :                        LSE Blogs 

https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/seac/2021/05/13/aliens-in-their-own-land-covid-19-and-economic-exclusion/

 

9 tips for effective collaborations between journalists and academic researchers

 

In 2013, Timothy McGinty, then the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, launched a task force to begin testing untested rape kits in the Cleveland area. From 1993 through 2011, about 7,000 rape kits had gone untested.

McGinty invited Rachel Dissell, then an investigative reporter with the Plain Dealer, and Rachel Lovell, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, to observe the task force’s work.

Dissell had reported on untested rape kits in Cleveland since 2009, while Lovell and other researchers were there to help prosecutors parse data and identify trends.

Hundreds of rape convictions from cold cases followed.

So did a years-long partnership between Dissell and Lovell.

The reporter and the researcher sat next to each other during task force meetings and compared notes. They asked each other questions that spurred new reporting and research directions. They met for dinner to process what they were learning. They explored themes and patterns across cases, like rapes alleged to have occurred near transit stations, which law enforcement officials had overlooked.

Their interactions throughout the 2010s informed both Dissell’s reporting in the Plain Dealer and Lovell’s analyses of task force cases. But it wasn’t until their March 2021 paper in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice that they shared a byline.

We recently spoke with Dissell and Lovell to find out what they learned from each other and how partnerships like theirs can inform the public in ways researchers and reporters can’t on their own.

These 9 tips, adapted from the paper with permission, can help other reporters and researchers get their own collaborations off the ground. Such collaborations can enhance public understanding of complex, traumatic and consequential topics.

1. Move beyond quick, one-time interactions.

Reporters and academics typically have one-off interactions. An academic develops research, sometimes for years, on a topic they’re passionate about. The work is published in a peer-reviewed journal or as a working paper. An editor or journalist thinks the work could be useful or interesting to the local community. The journalist interviews the researcher, produces a story. The interaction ends.

Partnerships — or even researchers and reporters checking in with each other once in a while — can inform the public in a more nuanced way than researchers and reporters can on their own. The relationship becomes an ongoing conversation rather than a transaction.

If the relationship builds to a true partnership, with reporter and researcher regularly checking in and sharing ideas, it will be helpful for both parties to understand their respective institutions’ ethical guidelines. They should discuss when to talk on and off the record, whether and how they will share credit and the extent to which they can share data and other information.

2. Do the foundational work needed to foster collaboration.

It takes time and consistent communication to build mutual trust and an effective working relationship. Both reporter and researcher need to commit to accuracy, appreciate each other’s craft and put egos aside to discuss alternative or novel approaches to find answers.

For Dissell and Lovell, this foundational work happened organically and informally during Cuyahoga County task force meetings.  

3. Researchers: Get to know reporters and do your homework.

Journalists are generally well informed about what’s happening in their community or coverage area. That doesn’t mean journalists will be as informed about academic research. If researchers — particularly those working on applied topics that directly influence policy — want their work to have a positive real-world impact, they should proactively reach out to local reporters who cover the same topics.

(Applied research seeks to solve real-life problems. Basic research seeks to advance scientific knowledge but might not have immediate practical applications.)

Researchers at colleges and universities who are having trouble connecting with reporters can turn to their institution’s media relations office for help. They should take advantage of media trainings, offer their expertise to reporters and offer reporters access to research behind paywalls.

Researchers can reach out to journalists at any time — they don’t need to have specific work they want covered before contacting reporters. In fact, they’re more likely to get their work covered when it’s ready if they build relationships with reporters beforehand.

4. Respect roles and rules.

Reporters and researchers have broadly the same objective: to advance public understanding and knowledge. As Lovell and Dissell write in their paper, researchers and reporters, “share the goal of disseminating what they have learned and employ similar information gathering methods, including interviewing key subjects/stakeholders and collecting and analyzing data.”

But reporters and researchers have different ways of achieving that end. For example, reporters must ask hard questions, hold power to account and meet tight deadlines.

Applied researchers must balance maintaining objectivity with fostering relationships with practitioners in the field — for example, advocates at non-profits who work with sexual assault victims and survivors — according to contracts and data use agreements.

For a reporter-researcher partnership to be successful and enhance public knowledge, reporter and researcher need to be aware of and respect their different roles.

5. Communicate openly and often about goals, concerns, deadlines and dissemination.

Reporter-researcher partnerships can be fruitful, but there can be challenges. Reporters, for example, often work under tight deadlines. They should remember that researchers aren’t usually used to quick turnarounds and don’t use concise language. Reporters should “be patient with researchers’ jargon-y windedness,” Lovell and Dissell write.

Trust can be built over time with clear communication about how each side will use information, and any ethical concerns. They should have pragmatic conversations about deadlines, research embargoes and confidentiality agreements with subjects.

6. Take time to relax — and brainstorm.

Casual conversation can pay off. Lovell and Dissell write that some of their best ideas for research topics and journalistic angles “came out of unstructured conversations led by curiosity, which often involved meeting up for coffee or wine — a key ingredient for good journalism and valuable research.”

7. Acknowledge, and talk about, the emotional toll the work can take.

Researching and reporting on traumatic events can lead to secondary trauma — trauma that arises from engaging with victims and survivors who directly experienced trauma.

Secondary trauma can crop up at unexpected times. Lovell recalls feeling anxiety walking through a parking lot, even though there was no threat, because the experience reminded her of a rape report that began similarly.

Be kind to yourself and seek help, if needed. For Dissell and Lovell, their partnership itself served as an outlet to talk through secondary trauma.

“The main mechanism for people to deal with secondary trauma is having a mechanism for processing it,” Lovell says. “And it’s literally being able to verbalize it.”

8. Try to anticipate the unintended consequences of widespread coverage of trauma.

Problems in institutions that prevent citizens from achieving justice, such as law enforcement agencies that don’t test rape kits, deserve attention.

But know that reporting on and researching crime can be re-traumatizing for victims and survivors. For Dissell and Lovell, revealing problems with their local criminal justice system was important. But it was equally important to highlight ideas, lessons learned and solutions that might lead to measurable change.

In a 2019 special investigation for the Plain Dealer, Dissell follows the story of Sandi Fedor, a rape survivor who sought justice for herself after police dropped her case without telling her.

“The persistent problems within the city’s sex crimes unit span decades,” Dissell writes. “Sandi’s story reveals the human cost of those failings for her, the detectives assigned to work the cases and the Greater Cleveland community.”

9. Seek funding for researcher-reporter partnerships.

Dissell and Lovell happened to be covering and researching a topic their respective employers were willing to pay for. From day one, they talked about writing a book together. But they haven’t had the time — or funding — to make a book happen.

“Funding would certainly go a long way to sustain such efforts,” they write.

Numerous grants for journalists that can be found via a simple web search. The NewsLab at the University of Mississippi maintains a list of fellowships and grants. The Global Investigative Journalism Network has an extensive roundup of national and international grant opportunities. The Solutions Journalism Network, the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors also offer reporting grants, fellowships and training resources for organizations and individuals.

 

Clark Merrefield joined Journalist’s Resource in 2019 after working as a reporter for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, as a researcher and editor on three books related to the Great Recession, and as a federal government communications strategist. He was a John Jay College Juvenile Justice Journalism Fellow and his work has been awarded by Investigative Reporters and Editors. @cmerref

 

By                             :                      Clark Merrefield 

Date                         :                       May 24, 2021

Source                      :                      The Journalist's Resource 

https://journalistsresource.org/criminal-justice/partnership-journalist-researcher-9-tips/

 

To achieve press freedom, we must rewrite journalism

 

It is time to liberate our media systems from the political and economic forces that have long subtly controlled them

Monday will mark World Press Freedom Day. It’s a moment to celebrate the work that journalism does in holding power to account. It’s also a moment to raise awareness of the dangers facing journalists in many countries. At least 1,400 journalists have been killed for doing their job in the three decades since the first World Freedom Day in 1991. Many of those were killed by their own governments, or by organised crime groups linked to political elites. This year’s coverage will focus on this violence, and on the culture of fear it is intended to promote. And this is right and proper. As long as people can’t go to work without fear of violent retribution there is a pressing need to bear witness.

But for those of us lucky to live in countries where journalists are not regularly subjected to official harassment, intimidation or worse, it is useful to reflect on the state of press freedom in what is hardly ever referred to in our major media as the imperial core. Here, the threats to journalism are much less cartoonishly obvious. Even state repression has an almost cryptic quality. No one can draw a straight line from the fact that Julian Assange has done more to embarrass Anglo-American power than anyone alive and the fact that he is now in the UK’s Belmarsh prison. And while in 2013 employees of UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ did turn up at The Guardian to make sure some sensitive hard drives were smashed with hammers, for the most part that paper is on cordial terms with that same state.

Repression in the West for the most part isn’t a matter of gangsters and uniformed goons. The media systems that regularly reach mass audiences operate as a collaboration between profit-seeking institutions and state and parastatal institutions. These collaborations, which feature in our media commentary about as often as talk about an imperial core, deliver accounts of the social that reflect the various interests and concerns of the participants. Facts that aren’t useful to those who wield power are sometimes suppressed outright but they are mostly just finessed away. ‘Everyone knows’ some things, that just don’t ‘cut through’ with the public, until it’s time for one actor or another to make their move.

In the past few weeks in the UK we seem to be seeing one of these shifts in the state-media complex. In 2019 ‘everyone knew’ that Boris Johnson was unfit to be prime minister. But when there was a left-wing Labour Party to be defeated it could be filed under things that ‘everyone’ didn’t mention. Journalism in a system like ours is intensely social in part because it is important that everyone is up to speed with a consensus view on what is and isn’t newsworthy. Needless to say, individual workers for the most part have very little say in how this ongoing account of the social is put together. As sociologist Pierre Bourdieu put it, “journalism is a very powerful profession made up of very vulnerable individuals.”

A few journalists have immense freedom, in the sense that they can say and write what they like, confident that it will be published without alteration. You can’t buy their spontaneous enthusiasm for what editors and producers find useful. You just have to promote it when you find it. Meanwhile most journalists know very well that there is a vast distance between what they think in the privacy of their own skulls, and what they must produce if they are going to keep paying the mortgage. At times it can seem that the business end of mass media journalism is made up of intelligent people whose days are filled with the self-conscious production of inanities, working alongside a gilded handful who combine rigorous incuriosity and moral insanity.

This blend of freedom and constraint reproduces a vision of the world that is often and for many people much more persuasive and plausible than what makes the news in more straightforwardly repressive regimes. And this matters a great deal. For one thing, the coverage in the core is often vitally important in maintaining the viability of regimes that are both Western allies and vicious dictatorships. We read about attacks on journalists in Colombia, Iraq and Saudi Arabia but are not usually reminded that the US and UK states are funnelling arms and expertise to those nations at the same time that they are briefing journalists about the uncertain progress of human rights around the world. Our media leaves us in a state of guilty innocence. We don’t know what the governments we vote for are doing. But who else is responsible for these deaths, if not us?

 

Journalism is too important to be left entirely in the hands of journalists. Billionaire owners and political insiders know this all too well

 

Over the past decade Western state-media systems have been knocked off balance by the emergence of new, massive digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. One sign of this new instability is the relative ease with which we can now find criticisms of prominent figures in the media, and of the structural connections between supposedly independent institutions and political operators. We don’t have to idealise the internet to acknowledge that accredited speech can be challenged and ridiculed in ways that were simply impossible in the print-broadcast era. This is metabolised by those who predominate in public speech as Twitter mobs, extremism and conspiracism and a restoration is being attempted. Leading figures like media mogul Rupert Murdoch are pushing the platforms to channel revenues to ‘trusted’ publishers like his. Meanwhile, the platforms themselves will be tasked with policing content that Murdoch, the former owner of the News of the World, considers ‘scurrilous.’ A future is visible in outline, in which criticism can be safely returned to the margins. Indeed, the technology might prove useful in finding a sweet spot for dissent, at which it can be held up as evidence of the system’s pluralism and tolerance, while remaining powerless in the face of the imperial agenda.

Press freedom has always been understood as requiring more than freedom from direct aggression. The 1991 Windhoek Declaration, on whose anniversary World Press Freedom Day falls, states that ‘by an independent press, we mean a press independent from governmental, political or economic control or from control of materials and infrastructure essential for the production and dissemination of newspapers, magazines and periodicals’. Meanwhile Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which forms the basis for Windhoek, establishes our right to ‘receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ It is the economic weapon that overwhelmingly denies us this right. The vast majority of us simply lack the material means to play a meaningful part in the construction of our shared understanding of the social world.

This will only change when we move beyond a narrow focus on violence and begin to establish methods for funding our media systems that recognise their inescapably constitutional status. To put it another way, if we want to establish the freedom of the press from political and economic control, we must build forms of public power that can overmatch both. At a minimum, this requires two innovations in the structure of the state. First, we must insist on individual, egalitarian and universal control of state funds intended to subsidise journalism. Second, we must establish representative citizens’ panels tasked with investigating matters of general concern and publicising the results. Journalism is too important to be left entirely in the hands of journalists. Billionaire owners and political insiders know this all too well. It is time the rest of us wised up.

This might sound impossibly distant and unlikely. But it could not be more pressing. We are in the early stages of a climate catastrophe that was effectively marginalised in news coverage from the 1960s onwards. We are still living with the consequences of wars started with the enthusiastic support of our major media. Our economies are hobbled by a financial collapse in 2008 that those same media neither predicted nor understood, and by a disastrous policy response that our media accepted without question. A system that cannot accurately describe its own nature cannot begin to describe how repression in other countries is underwritten by our own. Until we have substantially liberated our own media systems from the forms of subtle control that distort its coverage and confound our understanding, the murders and kidnappings will continue.

 

By                            :                      Dan Hind

Date                        :                      April 30, 2021

Source                    :                      Open Democracy 

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/achieve-press-freedom-we-must-rewrite-journalism/

 

Photo by : Dim Hou (Unsplash)

 

Multicultural education: How schools teach it and where educators say it falls short

As American public schools have grown more diverse, educators have introduced multicultural education programs to help kids understand and appreciate the differences among them — differences in terms of race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual identity and other personal characteristics.

Multicultural education, broadly, is a range of strategies educators use to help students “develop a positive self-concept by providing knowledge about the histories, cultures, and contributions of diverse groups,” according to the nonprofit National Association for Multicultural Education.

These programs, which vary by state and even within individual school districts, “should directly address issues of racism, sexism, classism, linguicism, ableism, ageism, heterosexism, religious intolerance, and xenophobia,” the association explains on its website. One goal of multicultural education is developing the attitudes, knowledge and skills students need to function in different cultures and join a global workforce.

Below, we provide a sampling of academic research that looks at how multicultural education has changed in recent decades and inconsistencies in the way today’s teachers teach it. We also included studies that reveal problems in how U.S. colleges and universities train teachers to do this work.

At the bottom of this page, we added a list of resources to help journalists better understand and contextualize the issue, including federal data on how student and teacher demographics have changed over time and links to organizations with expertise in multicultural education.

It’s important to note there are significant differences between multicultural education and anti-racist education — two types of education discussed with greater frequency in recent years. Unlike multicultural education, anti-racism education focuses on race and race-related issues. Anti-racist teachers “create a curriculum with black students in mind” and “view the success of black students as central to the success of their own teaching,” Pirette McKamey, the first Black principal of Mission High School in San Francisco, writes in The Atlantic.

Many educators and researchers argue that schools serving predominantly white communities benefit tremendously from multicultural education. Sheldon Eakins, a former teacher and school principal who founded the Leading Equity Center, writes about this for the Cult of Pedagogy website:

“It’s not uncommon for White people to say, Oh, I’m just White. I don’t have a culture. We need to teach our White students about what their cultural background is and their ethnic backgrounds so they can understand and think about their language and religions going back to their ancestry. Lessons on their culture may help them start to understand how privilege and White supremacy began.”

At the same time, Eakins and others, including education professor Wayne Au of the University of Washington Bothell, have criticized multicultural education for falling short in preparing youth to confront and dismantle racism.

“Yes, multicultural education is important, but in the face of the hateful violence being visited on so many of our students and communities, it is simply not enough,” Au writes in a paper published in Multicultural Perspectives in 2017.

A brief history of multicultural education

Thirty Years of Scholarship in Multicultural Education
Thandeka K. Chapman and Carl A. Grant. Gender & Class Journal, 2010.

This paper offers a broad overview of what multicultural education is in the U.S. and how it changed over three decades. The authors rely on academic research to chronicle the trend, beginning in the 1960s, when scholars argued that the histories and contributions of people of color should be part of the public school curriculum.

Thandeka Chapman, a professor of education studies at the University of California, San Diego, and Carl Grant, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explain how multicultural education evolved to include discussions about gender, physical disabilities, age and sexual identity and orientation.

The authors also describe how critics of the trend actually helped it.

“Advocates used these attacks to develop more meaningful and appropriate ways to help teachers and students in classrooms,” Chapman and Grant write. “These criticisms of MCE [multicultural education] have further advanced discussions of equity, equality, and social justice in ways that would not be possible if opponents had remained silent.”

Challenges in teaching multicultural education

Multicultural Education and the Protection of Whiteness
Angelina E. Castagno. American Journal of Education, November 2013.

In this yearlong study, the author spotlights problems in the way an urban Utah school district teaches multicultural education. She finds that instead of dismantling “whiteness” — she defines this as “structural arrangements and ideologies of racial dominance within the United States” — multicultural education, as offered in this school district, protects it.

Angelina E. Castagno, an associate professor of educational leadership and foundations at Northern Arizona University, writes that her findings should not be surprising considering the teachers she observed and interviewed “were predominantly White, middle-class individuals who, for the most part, have little reason to disrupt the status quo and the current relations of power.”

“Most educators are well intentioned and want what is best for their students, but whiteness is protected despite (and sometimes through) even the best intentions,” Castagno writes. “Part of the problem is that most educators are not aware of whiteness. But in addition to this lack of awareness, most educators are also invested in the status quo of whiteness.”

She notes the importance of getting a better understanding of how teachers are teaching the topic.

“All teachers, administrators, multicultural education scholars, and teacher/administrator educators need a better understanding and awareness of how multicultural education is understood by teachers in schools across the country,” Castagno writes. “While there is much research highlighting the efforts of some teachers who seem to have embraced more critical forms of multicultural education, these teachers probably do not represent the majority of teachers in most schools.”

Problems in how colleges train teachers

Supporting Critical Multicultural Teacher Educators: Transformative Teaching, Social Justice Education, and Perceptions of Institutional Support
Paul C. Gorski and Gillian Parekh. Intercultural Education, 2020.

This study looks at how college instructors teach multicultural education to students in the U.S. and Canada who are studying to become schoolteachers. It finds that college instructors who teach a more conservative version of multicultural education perceive their higher education institution to be more supportive of their work.

The researchers analyze data collected from a survey of 186 people who teach multicultural education to future teachers, conducted in 2015 and 2016. Researchers recruited participants by reaching out to instructors individually and by posting invitations on social media platforms used by instructors. About 90% of survey participants taught at institutions in the U.S.

Instructors answered questions related to the ideological approach they took in their multicultural teacher education courses — whether they took a conservative, liberal and critical approach.

The authors explain that the conservative form of multicultural teacher education, or MTE, “is assimilationist; it prepares teachers to help marginalized students conform to ‘mainstream culture and its attending values, mores, and norms.’” Meanwhile, liberal MTE “prepares teachers to celebrate diversity but, like conservative MTE, fails to prepare them to understand or respond to ways power and inequity are wielded in schools,” write Paul Gorski, founder of the Equity Literacy Institute, and Gillian Parekh, an assistant professor of education at York University. “Critical MTE prepares teachers to participate in the reconstruction of schools by advocating equity, confronting issues of power and privilege, and disrupting oppressive policies and practices.”

Gorski and Parekh find that multicultural teacher education classes “tend to have a conservative or liberal orientation, focused on appreciating diversity or cultural competence, rather than a critical orientation, focused on preparing teachers to address inequity.” That might be because instructors believe their institutions are less supportive of courses that take a critical approach, the researchers write.

“Our results indicate that multicultural teacher educators’ perceptions regarding whether the values they teach in their MTE courses are supported by their institutions is correlated with the criticality with which they design and teach those courses,” Gorski and Parekh write.

Instructors who take a conservative approach “pose no real threat to the injustices MTE ought to disrupt, perceive significantly greater institutional support for the values they teach in their MTE courses,” according to the authors. “Contrarily, those who employ a critical approach perceive significantly less institutional support.”

What We’re Teaching Teachers: An Analysis of Multicultural Teacher Education Coursework Syllabi
Paul C. Gorski. Teaching and Teacher Education, 2008.

This study, which Gorski also authored, looks at course syllabi to see how U.S. colleges were teaching multicultural education to future teachers. Even though it is an older study, it offers insights into how colleges approached the issue at the time. The gist of Gorski’s findings: “The analysis revealed that most of the courses were designed to prepare teachers with pragmatic skills and personal awareness, but not to prepare them in accordance with the key principles of multicultural education, such as critical consciousness and a commitment to educational equity.”

Gorski analyzed 45 class syllabi from college courses designed to train teachers in multicultural education. Of them, 30 were undergraduate courses and 15 were graduate courses. Gorski finds that “only twelve syllabi (26.7%) seemed designed to prepare teachers to be what might be called authentic multicultural educators.”

Social Foundations and Multicultural Education Course Requirements in Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States
Richard Neumann. Educational Foundations, Summer-Fall 2010.

In this study, Richard Neumann, a professor of education at San Diego State University, looks at whether teacher colleges in the U.S. require students to complete coursework in multicultural education. The key takeaway: At the time, fewer than half of the 302 universities studied required students wanting to become teachers to take a course in multicultural education.

Among programs that train students to work as elementary school teachers, 45% required at least one course in multicultural education. For programs that train secondary school teachers, 45% required students to complete at least one multicultural education course. Neumann learned that a larger percentage of public university programs required a multicultural education course than did programs offered at private universities.

Self-Efficacy and Multicultural Teacher Education in the United States: The Factors That Influence Who Feels Qualified to be a Multicultural Teacher Educator
Paul C. Gorski, Shannon N. Davis and Abigail Reiter. Multicultural Perspectives, 2012.

This paper looks at which educators feel most qualified to teach multicultural education to students studying to become teachers. The analysis, based on a survey of 75 college instructors, indicates that Black educators tend to feel less qualified to teach multicultural teacher education courses than their counterparts of other races and ethnicities.

Heterosexual educators felt more qualified to teach multicultural teacher education courses than their LGBTQ counterparts, according to the paper, of which Gorski is the lead author. The other two authors are Shannon N. Davis, director of the PhD program in sociology at George Mason University, and Abigail Reiter, an assistant professor in the sociology and criminal justice department of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

The study also indicates that instructors’ experience working in schools — as elementary, middle or high school teachers — or their work as education activists “had no significant influence on their feelings of being qualified to teach MTE [multicultural teacher education] courses.”

Key resources

  • This May 2020 report from the National Center for Education Statistics shows how student demographics have changed over time and are predicted to change by 2029.
  • This February 2019 report from NCES finds that in fall 2015, the majority of white public school students were enrolled at schools where minority students comprised 25% or less of the student population.
  • This September 2020 report from NCES examines public school teacher demographics. More than three-fourths of teachers working in U.S. public schools — 79% — were white as of 2017-18, the most recent academic year for which the federal government has complete data.
  • Here is a list of the country’s top education schools, ranked by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Kansas State University’s Tilford Group is a research organization that focuses on multicultural education.
  • The National Education Association, one of the nation’s largest teacher unions, offers educators various types of training through its Center for Social Justice.
  • The nonprofit National Association for Multicultural Education provides a range of relevant resources. The organization’s president is Lisa Zagumny, who also is the dean and director of doctoral studies at Tennessee Technological University’s College of Education.

 

Denise-Marie Ordway
She joined Journalist’s Resource in 2015 after working as a reporter for newspapers and radio stations in the U.S. and Central America, including the Orlando Sentinel and Philadelphia Inquirer. Her work also has appeared in publications such as USA TODAY, the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Washington Post. She has received a multitude of national, regional and state-level journalism awards and was named as a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2013 for an investigative series she led that focused on hazing and other problems at Florida A&M University. Ordway was a 2014-15 Fellow of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism. She also serves on the board of directors of the Education Writers Association. @DeniseOrdway

 

By                            :                   Denise-Marie Ordway

Date                        :                    January 25, 2021

Source                    :                     The Journalist's Resource

                                                      https://journalistsresource.org/education/multicultural-education-schools/

 

Are the social sciences and humanities positioned to meet key employment skills?

A new report explores the foundational skills today’s employers need, and the disconnect with what universities say their programs offer students.

A few years ago, our research team started work on a platform that offers innovative pathways to bring social sciences and humanities

researchers’ expertise – from philosophy and sociology to psychology, history, anthropology, cultural studies and beyond – where it is needed in the community. This project has been one way to reflect on a range of questions that go to the heart of the work universities do. One question, in particular, has kept resurfacing. What are the skills that make a social science and humanities (SSH) education valuable?

Outside the academic “ivory tower,” SSH tend to suffer from perceptions and value judgments that are often prejudicial and inaccurate, like calling a humanities degree a “barista degree” or assuming that the research is “really just common sense.”

In a report last year, the University of Toronto’s Jonathan Turner and I discussed how to leverage SSH talent, and how universities can support its development meaningfully. A number of recent reports and news articles cite prominent industry leaders who associate the future of a strong and resilient workforce with the social sciences and humanities (and sometimes arts) degrees precisely because they see valuable skills as their focus. Our new report, “Foundational Skills and What Social Sciences and Humanities Need to Know,” seeks to gauge employers’ skills needs to understand how SSH departments are positioned to meet them.

The report should be of interest to a broad range of people beyond those in industry who are worried about hiring a real-world ready workforce. It was designed also for deans, and department and committee chairs who make decisions about curriculum and programming in universities. Those who are in senior leadership positions and whose role it is to support student success and meaningful learning must also take note, as should government agencies responsible for supporting the development of emerging talent under increasingly complex conditions.

The report starts by drawing a picture of employers’ claims about what skills are needed and focuses on the claims about “foundational skills” specifically. These are the “soft,” “social,” “human,” “transferable” and/or “global” competencies that are increasingly associated with a social sciences and humanities education. We wanted to develop an analytical framework that could be expanded and used to help articulate the value of foundational skills in the context of employment. This is particularly relevant with increasingly frequent workforce disruptions. It allows employers to think about the concrete skills their employees need for their organization’s success. The framework also gives graduates tools to explain how the skills acquired through their education can be used and applied in various contexts.

Then, we set out to examine how Canadian universities promote social sciences and humanities programs to prospective students. We gauged the disconnect between employers’ needs and social sciences and humanities’ self-perceived ability to meet them. Predictably, SSH generally consider that it falls within their purview to help build the skills employers identify as central to innovation and adaptability, for instance. This includes critical thinking, effective problem-solving, creativity and analytical skills.

However, we were surprised to discover that the skills associated with social, emotional and ethical intelligence such as judgment, integrity, teamwork, self-management and intercultural awareness were almost completely overlooked, as if SSH degrees did not cultivate those skill sets.

One reason for this disconnect may be the gaps in our understanding of what the industry actually needs (as opposed to what they say they need, which is not based on data and evidence, and uses analyses that are often unreliable), and the nature and value of foundational skills and how they can be fostered. This represents a problem.

In order to make responsible and informed decisions, stakeholders across the board need to be equipped with the evidence and adequate conceptual tools to reflect on these questions. That is part of the reason why we need more research on all aspects of these issues.

But knowledge gaps are not the only factor when it comes to the disconnect between employers’ perceptions of their skills needs and social sciences and humanities’ apparent lack of readiness to fulfil these needs.

One obstacle might be cultural. Social scientists and humanists are understandably wary of being perceived to be the means of corporate gain. Another obstacle might have to do with what faculty members see as the role of academia, and they are right to exercise caution when it comes to making decisions about their programs that might affect their capacity to fulfil their mission. But this does not mean that SSH faculty should in principle be opposed to helping students hone and perfect foundational skills.

Just like SSH research, SSH graduates often end up shaping the public and not-for-profit sectors. They will find employment as civil servants, not-for-profit managers, judges and policy-makers. We must expect that whatever the positions in which SSH graduates land, foundational skills will be an ingredient of organizational efficiency. In order for economic, social, legal and political institutions to create and further the conditions of a fair and inclusive society, it is necessary to secure the participation of individuals who have the competencies for the relevant roles. This is directly relevant to SSH’s mission.

With this in mind, it is important to emphasize the importance of so-called “collaborative skills” that overlap substantially with those we use to describe social, emotional and ethical intelligence. They include teamwork, effective communication, self-management and intercultural awareness. Employers need employees who have these skills whether they operate in the private, public, or not-for-profit sector. Graduate students and researchers in social sciences and humanities also use these skills. Collaborative skills, however, are effectively amongst the hardest to foster meaningfully, and their development needs to be supported in ways that complement individual supervision.

The misalignment between SSH’s understanding of what employers need and what employers say they need raises a number of questions. Many of them point to missed opportunities to take control of the narrative around talent and re-affirm the academic mission, while at the same time securing the support of unexpected allies.

 

Sandra Lapointe is professor of philosophy at McMaster University and project director for The/La Collaborative, an initiative dedicated to fostering better partnerships and talent-building around social science and humanities knowledge.

 

By                     :                Sandra Lapointe

Date                  :                February 2, 2021

Source              :                Policy Options 

https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/february-2021/are-the-social-sciences-and-humanities-positioned-to-meet-key-employment-skills/

 

Welcome to the age of hysteria

In the 1980s hysteria stopped being treated as a medical disorder. Since then, it has become the business model of the neoliberal age

n 1980, hysteria died. That was the year it was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) handbook and ceased to be considered a medical condition. But we need only look around us to see that hysteria has never been more alive – just consider the run on toilet paper at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Or the consumer hysteria every Black Friday, or the overheated discussions taking place on Facebook and Twitter every day.

We all recognise hysteria – the display of over-the-top emotions – when we see it. In fact, no sooner than it left the DSM handbook, hysteria seems to have migrated to every other sphere of our lives. No longer a medical condition, it is our era’s defining sociological phenomenon. What lessons can hysteria teach us about the societies we live in today?

Sociological key to the world
Medical and historical researchers, psychoanalysts and philosophers, religious and gender studies scholars, as well as painters and writers, have all grappled with hysteria and tried to unravel its mysteries. From ancient Egyptian times until deep into the 18th century, hysteria was diagnosed as a convulsive disorder affecting women, caused by a ‘wandering womb’, which was believed to move freely through the body all the way into the head, emitting toxic fumes that led to hysteria.

Sigmund Freud's work popularised the study of hysteria from a psychoanalytic perspective. Ideas like the Oedipus complex – in which hysterical behaviour is caused by a girl’s guilty feelings about her sexual attraction to her father – have become irrelevant. But a theory of Freud’s that still resonates is that hysteria is caused by traumatic events that cannot be put into words and are expressed instead through bodily complaints.

In the 1970s and 80s, feminist thinkers such as Hélène Cixous and Luce Irigaray turned sexist views of hysteria on their heads, rebranding hysteria as a female system of meaning outside official languages and cultural conventions. They considered hysterical symptoms to be a rebellion against the social and institutional order that restricts women’s freedom.

Although there are countless possible explanations for hysteria, we tend to ignore the sociological link between individual stories and the big picture. Yet hysteria has as much to do with wider political, economic and cultural changes as it does with the individual. Examining the hysteria we are seeing now and how it is being fuelled by societies that not only encourage and enjoy but also abuse and reward it, can tell us something about why people seem increasingly to fall prey to it.

A ‘black plague of degeneration and hysteria’
In 1892, the Austrian physician Max Nordau wrote in his book ‘Entartung’ (degeneration) that the growing number of cases of hysteria were down to exhaustion caused by the rapid development of modern society. He argued that Western society was haunted by a ‘black plague of degeneration and hysteria’.

Nordau described an unhealthy fin-de-siècle (end of an era) feeling marked by the acceleration of technological change. Age-old traditions and stories were being pushed out by new media such as the telephone and the telegraph, which brought together people who had previously been far apart. Daily life was further intensified by the invention of the steam train, the gramophone and film, as well as the spectacular growth of cities, all of which put people in touch with new sounds, images and worldviews.

Everything that had once been small and familiar became large and overwhelming, creating a void of security and belonging, against which the body revolted through hysteria.

Who am I, where do I belong?
We are again seeing a steep decline of a primal sense of security, the social glue of society. Globalisation has cranked the speed of life into a new gear. In many countries, Anglo-Saxon neoliberalism has replaced social democracy since the 1970s, leading to a loss of solidarity and over-individualisation, raising questions such as: who am I, where do I belong, how important is my culture?

At the same time, there is ever less space in our societies for community or communal identity. Corporate chains have replaced social meeting places, ranging from public libraries to corner shops. These ‘palaces for the people’, as sociologist Eric Klinenberg calls them, reinforce public familiarity in a neighbourhood by allowing people to make connections, help one another, and offer refuge to those who feel excluded or diminished elsewhere.

The lack of a sense of belonging – often accompanied by feelings of fear, frustration and anger – is a recurrent factor in outbreaks of hysteria. In that respect, life has arguably returned to how it was in late-19th-century Europe. Not that society is the same as it was at the time of Nordau – too much has changed since then – but there are undoubtedly some very striking similarities.

Twitter goes bankrupt without hysteria
Where hysteria used to be a medical condition, we can now think of it as our era’s business model. It works by playing on these feelings of lack and insecurity. Social media is probably the most obvious case in point. Facebook’s business model is focused on offering a platform to frustration and anger, emotions that are infectious and in combination with uncertainty often lead to extreme reactions. The more hysterical your post, the more clicks and views you generate and the greater the advertising revenue for Facebook. This also goes for other social media including Twitter, which would surely go bankrupt tomorrow without hysteria.

Facebook and Twitter are increasingly viewed as addictive, and with good reason. Research shows that the chemical dopamine, also known as the happy hormone, is released in our brains when we are successful on social media. Getting lots of likes or followers activates the reward circuit of the brain, while uncertainty strikes when we are unfollowed on social media, making us feel empty.

War on everything
The same is true for politics. We might not think of politics as having a ‘business model’ as such, but politicians constantly draw on society’s potential for hysteria, ‘selling’ citizens both the hysteria itself and their solutions to it.

Take the issue of public safety. Citizens are liable to get incredibly worked up about the issue of security and respond with vehemence to what is seen as a non-committal attitude to crime characterising their country. As a consequence, political discussions about public safety tend to end in the unanimous conclusion that more decisiveness is needed to solve all problems for good.

Such policies are spoken of in hysterical terms and with a preference for a macho military vocabulary: ‘war on coronavirus’, ‘war on drugs’, ‘war on terror’. Former President Donald Trump threatened to send in the military to quell the unrest in American cities sparked by the brutal killing of George Floyd by police officers on 25 May 2020.

Once the diagnosis of a ‘law and order problem’ has been made, we are flooded by a veritable tsunami of new punitive measures – only for the cycle to be repeated. Any politician suggesting that crime rates in Western countries have fallen spectacularly for years or that it is impossible to create a risk-free society, is accused of ‘looking the other way’.

The experience economy
It’s possible that a void, or a feeling of lack, is inherent to the human condition. Indeed, it’s this sense of lack that has driven human development, bringing us wealth and progress. But the market economy thrives off and magnifies this feeling of a void in our existence that cries out to be filled. Nothing is ever enough: four words that summarise today’s neoliberal economic order.

The experience economy, which is based on the premise that reality is the way people perceive it, expertly deploys advertising and exposure to stimulate consumers’ desires by creating a feeling of need. The launch of every new iPhone sends us running to Apple Stores in a crazed frenzy, even though everyone knows the difference between the old and new versions in no way justifies the expense.

“I can’t get no satisfaction,” as a wise man once said. Even if we obtain the thing we desire it will only satisfy us temporarily because no single object, experience or person can fully satisfy the lack that lies at the root of our desire, which is constantly recreated in the consumer economy.

Getting hysterical about hysteria
When exploited as a business model, hysteria brings misery. But hysteria can also have the power to turn the world upside down, just as the hysterical, uncontrolled laughter of the Joker in Todd Phillips’ film becomes a call to finish off today's rampant neoliberalism after the Joker loses his medication and counselling because of budget cuts.

In the 19th century, women started politicising their bodies to revolt against the suffocating conventions of the Victorian era. While this ‘hysteria’ led to many of its 'sufferers' being institutionalised, it also produced social reforms aimed at giving women the same rights and opportunities as men. The tightly laced corset disappeared, making space for more liberal views on marriage, sexuality and the right to work.

This is not hysteria in its most destructive, sinister form, in which people tear off their clothes and pull out their hair. I am talking about a constructive hysteria which sets things in motion. Constructive hysteria is an engine for change, a way of making a contribution to the world. It acts for the greater good rather than out of self-interest.

House on fire
It seems to me that certain issues should be treated with a little less hysteria, while others could do with some more. No one is raising the alarm over the fact that 14.3 million of the UK's 66.4 million inhabitants live in destitution, including 4.6 million children. Nor does anyone seem too worried about a large part of this group being homeless.

At the same time, eco-barbarism is running rampant. Roughly 1,000,000 of the estimated eight million plant and animal species on Earth are threatened with extinction, in many cases within a time frame ranging from a few years to a couple of decades. As journalist David Wallace-Wells puts it in his bestseller ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, ‘Here, the facts are hysterical.’

While the planet is hurtling towards its demise, the debate about global warming revolves around how much it will cost to go on living the way we are now, and includes painstaking calculations of exactly how much money needs to be spent on measures to preserve the planet as well as our lifestyles. This reduces an ecological issue to a bookkeeping problem, to be resolved by a flight tax here, an energy subsidy there. The real issue, that we need to develop a completely new ecological awareness as well as a new and more inclusive understanding of such matters as 'damage', 'care' and 'responsibility', is not addressed.

You could argue instead that the sheer scale and disastrous effects of both issues should justify a hysterical gesture – one fueled not by profit and power but by the human need for survival and togetherness. Silence and inaction are no longer options. We do, after all, live in a hysterical world – and we know it.

 

This article is adapted from the new book 'Hysteria: Crime, Media, and Politics' (Routledge 2021)

 

By                 :                   Marc Schuilenburg

Date             :                    April 16, 2021

Source         :                    Open  Democracy 

                                         https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/welcome-age-hysteria/

 

In Latin America, mental health can only be achieved through collective memory               

Conflicts throughout history have an impact on mental health

The debate on mental health is very important in the Latin American region because of the entire history of socio-political conflicts, criminalized and persecuted social movements, militarization, civil wars and other events. Most Latin American societies—if not all—need to participate in exercising collective memory, since this can represent a significant step for restoring the damaged collective identity.

Socio-political conflicts leave serious consequences on societies, and it is not something that only affected the country long ago or in its recent history. The entire person, family, and collective history of losses leave wounds that often cannot be healed—and in most cases, are not even treated. As a result, a collective identity is imposed by the official truth, which is established by “the winners.”

The French psychologist and sociologist Maurice Halbwachs argues that everything we call memory has a social component. He explains that even our most personal memories “are related to all the material and moral life of the societies to which we belong.” Following this premise, all these conflicts that have impacted our countries are part of our memory and also have an effect on our collective identity.

In circumstances where repression, mourning, and the imposition of self-censorship are prevalent, one of the techniques most used by both the victim and the perpetrator is silence. People are forced to silence dissent, protest, opinion, and based on that, the perpetrator builds their official version of how events happened without taking into account the stories of the victims.

On the other hand, the official narratives stemming from places of power are reproduced by other people who want to obtain more power; they reproduce discourses, or create new ones, that blame the victims for what they suffered and thus revictimize people without even knowing their version of events.

This situation gradually impacts the social fabric, polarizes society, and also marginalizes and even criminalizes the victims. This, for example, was the case in Nicaragua in 2018, when the state criminalized protesters against the Daniel Ortega government to discredit their cause. This leads to more trauma, mistrust, and of course, chronic grief as experienced by families and victims during the genocide in Guatemala. 

Giving real meaning to our stories
When discussing the need for collective memory, I do not mean the gathering of information, speeches, or songs. I am referring to a resignification of all this information in order to be able to gradually incorporate it into our daily lives and provide a new meaning to an event, even if we have not participated directly in it.

An example of this is the colonial settlement: indigenous and Afro-descendant groups, with their identity and historical experience, counteract the official account of the settler and offer a different perspective which modifies in the present an event that we know from the past, as the Nicaraguan anthropologist Maria José Díaz explained to me during an Instagram Live discussion.

According to the Nicaraguan historian and researcher Margarita Vannini in another Instagram Live, the resignification of a historical event, the narration of truth, and dissent from the “official lie” that creates a hegemonic state provide a sense of dignity to the victims of traumatic events. This is because the damage suffered during these events is no longer private, there is the possibility of social recognition of the events. Therefore, this represents a first step towards improving mental health.

We must also stop classifying victims only as such because they are people who have had their human rights violated, they had to stay silent and move on as if nothing had happened. Therefore, undermining one person's agency or identity when we refer to them only as a victim is also a form of revictimization.

It is not about accepting forgiveness as a middle ground or for reconciliation. The search for truth must not be negotiable and cannot be forgiven when the perpetrators do not even take responsibility for their actions or for their participation in human rights violations.

Policies of erasure and instrumentalization of memory
It is very clear that when a large group of people seeks to establish strategies to exercise collective memory, those in power will seek to suppress this narrative because their goal is oblivion and for their version to remain unique and indelible.

This is the case in Nicaragua, where the state maintains that the 2018 protests were an attempted coup instead of valid anti-governmental demonstrations. Researcher Vannini argues that the state does not succeed in any way in imposing actual oblivion — it can only establish public policies of erasure that highlight the story of the winners and obliterates the victims. A clear example of a policy of erasure was when the Nicaragua state removed crosses at a roundabout in the capital, Managua, that were placed to honor the memory of the youths killed by police.

On the other hand, those in power or aspiring to power reproduce and distribute a version of the past event and its remembrance. It implies using the victims (survivors or not), their stories, and their traumas to identify themselves as “representatives” worthy of respect for their social conscience. This strategy amplifies revictimization.

Collective memory for mental health
Our individual and collective history is not a static point in time and space, but a dynamic process that can be redefined and interpreted in another way. Remembering to provide social recognition to these events should be a practice that we incorporate into our daily lives in order to dignify our identity that has been violated and to fight against an imposed lie. Examples of such recognition are the October 12 “Day of Indigenous Resistance” instead of Colombus Day, the Latin America and Caribbean Network of Sites of Memory, or more recent initiatives, such as “AMA y No Olvida (LOVE and Don't Forget)—Museum of Memory against Impunity” promoted by the Asociación Madres de Abril (the “Mothers of April” Association) in Managua, Nicaragua.

Latin American societies have a history full of events that brought losses and mourning—many of these prolonged or chronic—and this has been achieved through the imposition of silence. Therefore, we cannot understand our mental health without our individual history, which in turn cannot be conceived outside the collective history of the societies in which we live.

 

By                           :              Joel Herrera

Translated by         :              Teodora C. Hasegan 

Date                       :              April 12, 2021

Source                   :              Global Voices

https://globalvoices.org/2021/04/12/in-latin-america-mental-health-can-only-be-achieved-through-collective-memory/

 

Book Review: New Pandemics, Old Politics: Two Hundred Years of War on Disease and its Alternatives by Alex de Waal

In New Pandemics, Old Politics: Two Hundred Years of War on Disease and its AlternativesAlex de Waal offers a new political history of epidemics, identifying and critiquing a repeated mobilisation of the ‘war metaphor’ of pandemic disease to show our persistent (mis-)framing of biological illness. The book is an extremely comprehensive and fascinating history of previous epidemics, their metaphors and manifestations, and a highly thought-provoking read in our current times, writes Hannah Farrimond

New Pandemics, Old Politics: Two Hundred Years of War on Disease and its Alternatives. Alex de Waal. Polity. 2021.

Alex de Waal both starts and finishes his new book by outlining the challenge of writing about an ongoing pandemic; details date, policies change and recommendations look naïve. Despite this disclaimer, however, de Waal’s New Pandemics, Old Politics holds up remarkably well to the current historical waves of COVID-19 because, in identifying and critiquing the ‘war metaphor’ of pandemic disease, he has touched on something enduring about our persistent (mis-)framing of biological illness.

This book is essentially a political history of epidemics, with a whole heap of lessons for today. De Waal’s basic thesis, outlined in Chapter One, is that using a war metaphor story, which starts with an invading pathogen which has to be fought on the ‘front-line’ and is eventually solved by a medical miracle such as drugs or a vaccine, is misguided. Metaphorical thinking is prevalent in times of crisis; we clutch at coherent stories to make sense of chaos. War metaphors are also favoured by those who fancy themselves as ‘Great Leaders’, as a way of subjugating competing political, scientific and business forces and as a method of controlling the narrative.

De Waal points out, however, that metaphors affect what we think and do. The military metaphor facilitates actions that would be inappropriate in peace-time. One, for example, is the pressure for consensus; dissenting or alternative voices are seen as detrimental to the ‘war effort’. Similarly, the need to act as one nation, rather than selfishly, is hammered into the population. Intrusive or surveillance measures are justified in war. Those advocating for democracy and social justice can be positioned as ‘saboteurs’ if they dissent. Finally, the war on disease narrative is also a ‘script for conquest’ (11), a colonisation of the world through Western biomedicine which is not sensitive to either human contexts or the natural world.

Having laid out his primary thesis, de Waal then proceeds to analyse major chapters in the history of epidemic disease, particularly cholera, influenza, HIV/AIDS and Pandemic X (an imaginary ‘Big One’), pulling out their political and narrative significance. Giving each of the epidemics a character, he describes cholera as a pantomime villain: naïve, gross and savage in its effects on the human body (Chapter Two). Cholera represents the start of the war metaphor, through the ‘battle’ of Robert Koch, the German microbiologist whose triumphant discovery of the cholera bacillus put to rest, once and for all, competing theories of transmission.

However, the story of the war metaphor is not a simple one. In Chapter Three, de Waal shows that in many ways, the influenza pandemic of 1916-18 does not follow the triumph of the typical war against disease. Characterised as ‘The Joker’ who played the deadliest pandemic trick ever, it arrived, unexpectedly, at the end of World War One, killed between 60-100 million people, and left, lacking any triumphant medical victory. The more interesting question, for de Waal, is why this story is so quietly told: perhaps through collective shock, a lack of fit with the optimism of the American Roaring Twenties or its representation as a failure of science which took decades to isolate and vaccinate against it. The reason remains unclear.

The ongoing story of HIV/AIDS, in Chapter Four, is also more complicated than your average war metaphor can capture. HIV/AIDS is described as a ‘shadow’, invisibly transmitted, waiting often years or even decades to emerge in its more fatal form. De Waal writes extensively about the long history of HIV/AIDS viral development, and its entwined history with colonialism, for example, through the mobilisation of immigrant workers away from families, creating the necessary ‘webs of sexual interaction’ which drive HIV/AIDS. De Waal also identifies ‘the activism of gay men that made AIDS exceptional and created an entirely new model of emancipatory public health’ (136), such as through campaigning for inclusive policies, changing trial protocols and shaming pharmaceutical companies into lowering the price of anti-retroviral therapy drugs, reconfiguring HIV into a different type of chronic illness entirely. HIV/AIDS is thus not an ‘outbreak’ story in the classic mode, having neither a clearly defined beginning nor end, and containing a multiplicity of other stories within it.

Reading these chapters provides many lessons in relation to COVID-19. I was put in mind, during the cholera chapter, of contemporary debates about whether COVID-19 is aerosolised or primarily droplet-based, and the profound implications for public health of this knowledge. The story of influenza reminds us that people’s responses can tend as much towards collective forgetting as remembrance. There are clear parallels between the emancipatory public health of HIV/AIDS and the activist-led movements to medically recognise Long Covid. De Waal’s book is most valuable as a tool for making us think through today.

Indeed, de Waal’s last chapter is on COVID-19. In some ways, what de Waal says when he gets to the ongoing pandemic is relatively limited, because as he himself acknowledges, policy recommendations would date. This does mean, however, that we cannot really see what removing the war metaphor would look like. This difficulty, of what to do instead, is not a problem unique to de Waal. Susan Sontag, in her classic text Illness as Metaphor, states that medicine should avoid metaphors when speaking about disease, but that doesn’t really take us anywhere, given both authors have established the human need for stories. One suggestion de Waal does make is that we might develop an emancipatory public health, which is less focused on individual pathogens and more on the conditions in which such pathogens flourish: particularly social injustice, and our own (unhealthy) manipulation of the natural world. He is, of course, correct: we created the conditions in which COVID-19 is now flourishing and our lack of preparedness, well-articulated in the Pandemic X chapter of this book, is acute. That does not tell us, however, what to do today.

The other fly in the ointment of de Waal’s theory is that, unlike some of the epidemics he details in this book, such as influenza and HIV, it looks very much like COVID-19 will conform to the classic ‘outbreak’ storyline: in the endgame of medical vaccines. The emergence of medicine’s ‘silver bullet’ is going to reinforce the war story, not challenge it. Politicians are already using vaccine saviour stories to block out other less palatable ones.

For me, the book provoked thinking about WHY we are still stuck on war metaphors to describe our tricky social problems: we have had ‘The War on Drugs’, ‘The War on Poverty’ and ‘The War on Terror’. Even climate change has to be fought. Perhaps it is a question of who is using the metaphor. For example, less masculine and aggressive terminology, such as sports metaphors (the ‘Team of Five Million’), has been used to motivate action against COVID-19 in New Zealand by the female leader Jacinda Ardern.

To conclude, de Waal’s book is an extremely comprehensive, fascinating political history of previous epidemics, their metaphors and manifestations, and as such, a highly thought-provoking read in our current times.

 

Hannah Farrimond – University of Exeter
Dr Hannah Farrimond is a Senior Lecturer in Medical Sociology at the University of Exeter, UK. She investigates the psycho-social practices of legal substance use, in relation to tobacco/nicotine, alcohol and pharmaceuticals, in order to create greater visibility of ‘hidden addictions’ in policy and public spheres. Recent work is focused on Covid-19, stigma and public health.

 

By                  :                Dr Hannah Farrimond

Date              :                 May 16, 2021

Source          :                  LSE Phelan US Centre

 https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2021/05/16/book-review-new-pandemics-old-politics-two-hundred-years-of-war-on-disease-and-its-alternatives-by-alex-de-waal/

 

 

Massive migration promotes the early spread of COVID-19 in China: a study based on a scale-free network

Abstract

Background

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic met coincidentally with massive migration before Lunar New Year in China in early 2020. This study is to investigate the relationship between the massive migration and the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic in China.

Methods

The epidemic data between January 25th and February 15th and migration data between Jan 1st and Jan 24th were collected from the official websites. Using the R package WGCNA, we established a scale-free network of the selected cities. Correlation analysis was applied to describe the correlation between the Spring Migration and COVID-19 epidemic.

Results

The epidemic seriousness in Hubei (except the city of Wuhan) was closely correlated with the migration from Wuhan between January 10 and January 24, 2020. The epidemic seriousness in the other provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions was largely affected by the immigration from Wuhan. By establishing a scale-free network of the regions, we divided the regions into two modules. The regions in the brown module consisted of three municipalities, nine provincial capitals and other 12 cities. The COVID-19 epidemics in these regions were more likely to be aggravated by migration.

Conclusions

The migration from Wuhan could partly explain the epidemic seriousness in Hubei Province and other regions. The scale-free network we have established can better evaluate the epidemic. Three municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin), eight provincial capitals (including Nanjing, Changsha et al.) and 12 other cities (including Qingdao, Zhongshan, Shenzhen et al.) were hub cities in the spread of COVID-19 in China.

 

Song, WY., Zang, P., Ding, ZX. et al. Massive migration promotes the early spread of COVID-19 in China: a study based on a scale-free network. Infect Dis Poverty 9, 109 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40249-020-00722-2

https://doi.org/10.1186/s40249-020-00722-2

 

Date  Published:             10 August 2020

Journal:                           Infectious Diseases of Poverty

Source:                           https://idpjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40249-020-00722-2#citeas

 

How COVID, lockdown and isolation has fuelled our interest in the lives of others

 

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s evident how profound the worldwide social impact of the pandemic has been. Reports have looked beyond the science to the effects the pandemic has had on individuals, accounts of the impact on everyday life and the ways in which ordinary people have responded to these extraordinary times.

Some of these narratives have become sensations, read and shared and heard across the globe, revealing the lives of people coping in remarkable situations. The story of Tom Moore is one example: the former army captain who at the age of 99 walked 100 laps of his garden to raise money for the NHS.

This simple act ignited an international response that connected his modest private aim of raising £1,000 with those of the wider public, who sought some alternative focus and a beacon of hope during a time of crisis. The result was more than £32 million being raised for the NHS, and Tom Moore being given a knighthood.

In such times we should consider the link between what the American sociologist Charles Wright Mills called “private troubles” and “public issues”. Wright Mills challenged us to explore the aspects of social life that are considered to be individual in relation to the broader structure and organisation of society. We are social creatures, our individual and social lives inextricably interconnected, and Wright Mills encouraged us to consider these links. Today’s focus on individual lives is perhaps even more pertinent given that our social lives under lockdown have become constrained for so long.

Historically, biographies and autobiographies are how lives are recorded. These tended to be only of famous or infamous individuals, although diaries such as those of Samuel Pepys and Anne Frank capture the experience of ordinary people living through significant events.

But there is now greater interest in lives hidden from view, such as those who overcome adverse childhood experiences and eventually triumph: growing up in poverty (Kerry Hudson’s Lowborn), or in care (Lemn Sissay’s My Name is Why), life in a criminal gang (Allan Weaver’s So you Think You Know Me?), or a life sentence in prison (Erwin James’ Redeemable), explorations of race and class (Akala’s Natives), autism (Donna Williams’s Nobody Nowhere) or alcoholism and homelessness (John Healy’s The Grass Arena). These autobiographies recount the individuals’ lives while highlighting the social, cultural and historical context in which they are lived.

Today, diaries are often kept not in the traditional sense but through social media posts and profiles. Our fascination with other lives has grown exponentially with new media that provides greater access to and insights into people’s lives (or versions of them). It’s also seen through the proliferation of celebrity and pseudo-reality programmes such as Made in Chelsea, competitive social experiments such as Love Island, and fly-on-the-wall television documentaries such as Hospital and the Educating… series.

Living through the pandemic

Once the initial shock of the pandemic settled into a “new normal”, attention shifted to the lives of everyday people. This mirrored what happened after 9/11 where, once the enormity of the situation and its implications had sunk in, the experiences of those affected became the focus. Television programmes such as Isolation Stories explored life during lockdown, and documentaries such as Panorama have explored how it has changed us. The rise of mutual help groups is one example of how people have contributed to their local communities.

The circumstances presented us with unexpected heroes, illustrated in the July version of British Vogue that featured a community midwife, a supermarket worker and a train driver on the cover. Editor Edward Enninful said: “I can think of no more appropriate trio of women to represent the millions of people in the UK who in the face of dangers large and small, put on their uniforms and went to help people”.

The isolating nature of lockdown and social distancing and uncertainty over how long it may continue has prompted consideration of how to better understand ourselves as individuals and as a society. There has been growing concern for those surviving the pandemic through poverty, domestic abuse and other combinations of inequalities. We cannot assume we know other people’s experiences of the pandemic, and while we have been constantly reminded that “we are all in this together”, we know in reality that experiences can be very different depending on circumstances.

The government’s requests for us to take responsibility in order to keep others safe, for example through staying at home or wearing masks, has highlighted those who behave appropriately. Outrage has been directed at the irresponsible behaviour of others, from stockpiling toilet rolls and medicines, or spending the day at the beach – or, as with the prime minister’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings, driving across the country at the height of lockdown.

One significant record of individual lives during this time is the online book of remembrance hosted by St Paul’s Cathedral, where families and friends can post photographs and a short text about those they have loved and lost to COVID-19. It provides a public space to share their private loss and very brief accounts of those they have lost.

By collecting and analysing the stories of individuals we can challenge assumptions, and give visibility to those who are marginalised. We can explore their differences and similarities, their experiences, and the impact of these experiences on them. These are the records that in the future will allow us to look back and reflect on the present, and the significance of the events of this pandemic for history.

 

By          :     Anne Chappell (Senior Lecturer in Education, Brunel University London)

                    Julie Parsons (Associate Professor in Sociology, Plymouth University)

 

Date       :    January 23, 2021

Source   :    https://theconversation.com/how-covid-lockdown-and-isolation-has-fuelled-our-interest-in-the-lives-of-others-144033

 

Can academics and journalists collaborate on big data projects? The SilverLining Project wants to find out

 

The internet was made for transactions. Whether it’s photos of grandkids or a pallet of toilet paper, the internet connects people who have something with people who want it.

That includes illegal goods and services. In hidden corners of the internet called the dark web, users can buy and sell anonymously over encrypted networks.

Hackers regularly break into private databases owned by companies and governments, and hacked data often circulates for sale on the dark web. Gary King, director of Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, launched The SilverLining Project in mid-2020 to squeeze a little light out of the darkness.

“We noticed in the media there’s more and more spectacular break-ins and people stealing data and putting it on the dark web,” says King, an expert in big data analysis. “We were wondering whether we could create some good out of all this bad.”

The SilverLining Project seeks to advise academics who want to use data on the dark web for scholarly analysis without running afoul of the law and university rules.

King also is eager to work, collaborate with and provide technical expertise to journalists who receive large data leaks. He worked closely with the Freedom of the Press Foundation to create the first SecureDrop site for a university. Major news outlets regularly use SecureDrop to receive information leaks. Data shared via SecureDrop is encrypted and subpoena-proof.

“We will never scoop journalists or get in their way,” King says. “We also can provide value to them. We have skills in automated video and text analysis and the technology to deal with big, messy databases of emails and all different types of data formats. We can absolutely give those tools to a journalist who might be interested.”

I recently spoke with King about why journalists might consider working with him — and how he has worked with news outlets in the past to understand journalism’s widespread effects on the national social media dialogue. Our conversation has been edited for clarity.

Clark Merrefield: What’s your SilverLining Project elevator pitch, particularly for journalists? Why should they share data with you?

Gary King: The data, in itself, is incredibly informative and that’s why people are upset when it’s stolen. So we wanted to know: Is there some legitimate way to create public good from these data while also not encouraging people to hack in any way?

These data we are talking about, the leaks and various things, are often stolen from companies or governments. So what these criminals do sometimes is they steal data and put in on the dark web, which is like the regular web except it’s impossible to know where anything came from.

One of the things we do to acquire data is to look around the dark web and see what’s there. And then some subset of that [data], we’re allowed to look at to see whether we can create value. A second approach is that major journalism outlets — The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal — have SecureDrop sites, which is about the most secure way of transmitting data from one person to another without either knowing who the other person is. So, if you want to be a whistleblower and leak information to the Times in the most secure way, you send it to their SecureDrop site.

We are just releasing this project now and we are starting to create good relationships with journalists. There are gains from trade. We can amplify their work and create long-term value over and above what they are going to be writing about right away.

CM: Talk about encryption — how can potential newsroom collaborators be sure their data is secure and that you won’t share their data with other news outlets?

GK: We did research, looked into and eventually created the first SecureDrop site for a university. We worked with the Freedom of the Press Foundation to modify the SecureDrop site so that it would work within a university setting. That means if someone wants to send data they can send it to our SecureDrop.

So the third way we acquire data is we work with people we know. And we can sign [non-disclosure agreements] and agree not to scoop [journalists]. The interesting thing is that we can’t step on each other’s toes. If a journalist got a big leak of data and sent us a copy, it would be illegal for us to take that data, in most cases, and give it to their competitors or anyone else.

And our goals are different. [Journalists are] interested in breaking the news. We’re interested in creating long-term value. So if a journalist receives a dataset, they will publish something from that immediately, or work on it for months and release it as soon as possible. For us, we are probably going to work on it for years and nail some kind of particular generalization that might be hard for journalists because they don’t have those types of skills and those types of goals.

We will never scoop journalists or get in their way. We also can provide value to them. We have skills in automated video and text analysis and the technology to deal with big, messy databases of emails and all different types of data formats. We can absolutely give those tools to a journalist who might be interested.

Imagine a journalist who receives a leak of some data. They could share it with us and we could show them better ways of analyzing it and better ways of finding what they want to find in the data. We would not publish anything until they’re done. But they would get our help in analyzing, and how to systematize the data, how to make it machine actionable.

More and more journalists are becoming great data scientists and producing great data visualizations. At worst, they would give us access to the data and we would produce some value in the longer term. If you gave me the data and at some point we have some great finding, we will tell you about that before anyone else. You would get the exclusive on that. To be fair, it might be a year or two — that’s the way we work.

If we work together, we won’t hurt you, and can’t hurt you, and we’re likely to be able to help you. I feel like it’s our responsibility to work with journalists if they want to work with us.

CM: Can you talk about an example of a journalist or newsroom you’ve worked with and how that went?

GK: We don’t have anything that’s public, so that’s the end of my sentence.

I will say, a more general point I should have made before, it’s called The SilverLining Project and the subtitle is “Finding social good in the clouds on the dark web.” That’s the idea. This bad stuff is going to keep happening unless we discover some way to stop it. But it seems to be happening more and more. There’s a question as to whether we can do better. So for an academic to say, “Hey, let’s collaborate,” that’s what we do. Science is a team sport. Journalism is a team sport within an organization but not across organizations, except in some instances. The Panama Papers was a big collaborative, so journalists are getting more collaborative across organizations. Collaborating with us is even easier because we’re not competitors at all. What we’re going to do is amplify their work and produce more value than what they were doing previously.

We also have tremendous experience in dealing with the most sensitive data there is. Data that if I made it available, people would die within minutes or hours or days — like [information from] students who would interview known terrorists. We’re not making that available. We are not allowed to hurt our research subjects no matter who they are. We have procedures to protect data as good as anybody. So you can trust us with the data.

CM: Bylines and proper credit are big deals for journalists. How does that work for journalists who want to collaborate? Do you expect a co-byline?

GK: We would be open to that, but it’s not necessary. If you call me up and ask for [analysis] methods advice, that’s for free. Unless it’s going to take hours and hours, that’s free. And I’ll learn from that, too. Students and colleagues all over the world do that with me regularly.

Sometimes, I learn the structure of the data and I realize it is a particular data structure where there’s no methodological solution. And, for me, that’s really great because I’ll develop a methodological solution for it. And I’ll realize that the unusual structure of the data you have, actually that exists elsewhere and we never really realized that was a thing — but now we have a solution for it.

Understanding the problems you run into, that’s really useful information for me. I’ll write a technical methods paper about it and you’ll use the method we developed to do what you do. And if you want to thank us, that’s fine. And if you don’t, that’s OK.

In academia the coin of our realm is not writing newspaper articles. Having an article in Science or the American Political Science Review would not be the coolest thing to [a journalist]. You get your byline.

CM: A few years ago you came out with a paper, “How the News Media Activate Public Expression and Influence National Agendas,” in Science. You recruited 48 small news outlets to write and publish articles on topics you approved on randomly assigned dates. I’m curious how you persuaded these news outlets to write about topics you approved?

GK: It seems utterly impossible any journalist would do it. What we as academics wanted to know, and what these journalists wanted to know, was, what is the effect of the media? Turns out that’s a very difficult thing to study because, for the most part, the media is not trying to influence people — they are trying to stay in business. They follow people. If people get interested in that thing over there, the media run in that direction. If they don’t follow, they go out of business. But, sometimes, they might also have an impact on people. So when things are going in both directions, it’s difficult to parse out which is doing which. The only way to break into that is to intervene — is to control what is published.

If there were no requirements at all, we would randomly assign to the media outlets what they would publish and when. Just like the vaccine trials, they are randomly assigned whether you are getting the placebo or vaccine. It’s very important to do that. The gold standard is random assignment. That’s simple and straightforward. We need total control over what’s published. And if I explain that to a journalist, they’ll say, “OK, I will never work with you.”

So we had this impossible-to-satisfy constraint. The academics and journalists both needed absolute control over what’s published and when. But just because it’s impossible doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

Here’s the setup: we got the 48 media outlets and they understood what I just said, the constraints, and they also had a goal, which was the same as ours — they wanted to know what impact they were having.

So what we did is we first, as the investigators, chose a subject area — a big subject area, like the economy. And then we would ask for volunteers, among the 48 outlets, for three or four that might want to write on that area. If they had no expertise on the area, we would say that they’re not in our experiment. So we had total control. But, of course, they could still do [stories on the topic] if they wanted — so they had total control.

Then we said, “Pick an angle.” So suppose they picked whether Uber drivers in Philadelphia were worried about driverless cars. If the specific angle was not within the big area, we would say, “No, that’s out of the experiment.” But, of course, if they still wanted to do [the story], they could still do it. But it wouldn’t be in the experiment.

Next we would say, “The story can be any type of story.” It can be deep, investigative journalism. It can be opinion. Except it has to be something that is not breaking news that you have to publish today. It has to be something that’s OK to publish next week or the week after. If they chose something that’s breaking news, we’d say, “OK, you’re out of the experiment.” But, they could still do it.

They would then agree on one thing. We, as the investigators, would pick a two-week period for them to publish. A lot of news is quite predictable. We know there is going to be a jobs report on a particular day. We would predict what news would be released during each two-week period into the future and find a pair of weeks that, to the best of our predictive abilities, didn’t have a big event related to jobs. [The project] was done during the Obama administration. So, if Obama was going to give a big speech on jobs, we wouldn’t use those two weeks. If a jobs report was going to come out, we wouldn’t use those two weeks. We would then flip a coin and the outlets that got heads would run it in the first week. If tails, they would run it in the second week, not the first. That’s the one thing they agreed to do. We get total control over what’s published and when. Because of flipping the coin, we can figure out what the effect is. If there’s breaking jobs news, they can cover it. They can do it, but they just wouldn’t be in our experiment. Those were the procedures. Both sides, at the end of the day, could say they had total control.

What we’re trying to convey in The SilverLining Project, like what we did with that project, is we’re not scary and we’re not trying to violate your journalistic integrity. That would be bad for you. That would be bad for the science as well.

CM: So the topline finding from the Science paper was that Twitter posts increased about 20% on a given topic after the news outlets published their stories, resulting in about 13,000 more posts for a week on the broad policy area. Were those social media posts meant to be a proxy for audience engagement?

GK: We thought of the results as the ability of three or four media outlets to set the national agenda. There was a big area like jobs or the economy, and then there was the causal intervention, the vaccine. And the vaccine was writing about Uber drivers in Philadelphia. We did it in lots of different subject areas. Overall, the effect was the discussion — the agenda. The focus of people’s attention switched from one subject to another. And then more over the rest of the week. If they published on Tuesday, its 20% [more Twitter posts] the next day and then it’s a little less and less throughout the week. If you pile those up, it’s like a 62% increase in the national discussion. Who would have thought these little media outlets could have such a big effect on the national discussion?

CM: How did newsrooms use the findings? Did they affect their ongoing discourse with their audiences?

GK: I think they liked the results. I know they use them to justify themselves to their supporters and funders and boards. Now they have real scientific evidence. We may continue to learn about which types of interventions by the media might have bigger effects. Could you get that 62% up even higher if different media outlets published more together, or more on separate topics rather than the same, or if they published above the fold or below the fold, or using particular language? There are other things to study.

CM: Anything else you’d like journalists to know about The SilverLining Project?

GK: The main thing is we would love to talk to journalists and find ways to make your work have more of an impact. Maybe we can help you and you can help us and we can do something together.

 

By           :                  Clark Merrefield

Date       :                   January 22, 2021

Source   :                   Journalist's Resource

                                   A project of Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center and the Carnegie-Knight Initiative

                                   https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/news-media/silverlining-project-big-data-dark-web/