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New stories from the field that are inspiring us.
Quick announcement, citizens: Our first Summer Session was such a smash that we just had to make a sequel! 😎
Join us on Wednesday 8/23 for New_ Public Survey findings, a town hall Q&A with the New_ Public team, and some chill fun and games. Don’t miss it.
Hi! I’m Esther.
Hello everyone! This is Esther, Digital Content Producer and New_ Public’s newest full-time member.
I’ve been getting to know this team over the past few weeks and it’s got me thinking about all the onboardings and introductions happening in this age of remote work.
I like to think we’ve worked around the limiting factors of being in far-flung corners of the world pretty well, but I’d also venture to guess that this is far from the typical experience. Fostering engagement and community in online spaces is hard work, notoriously so, but somebody’s gotta do it!
Let’s do another show and tell.
This week, my new teammates discuss the Options™ available for communities and program stewards, online and off, in creating and maintaining the spaces they inhabit.
I’ll kick things off with a rundown on the phenomenon that is Barbenheimer.
“Barbenheimer’s Rising Tide Seems to Lift All Boats at the Box Office” from NPR’s All Things Considered; “Barbietopia” from the podcast Binchtopia
Esther, Digital Content Producer
I have been obsessed with the Barbie movie as of late. It’s already broken box-office records and is interesting in and of itself for bringing feminist and existentialist talking points to the mainstream while being thoroughly entertaining (💖 Greta Gerwig), but what does its success and the success of its marketing signal for the future of movies and theaters as an industry?
Psst! By the way… This, and other things my teammates and I have been into, are all linked on our Are.na group. Check it out and add some links yourself!
Now to the rest of the team. Let’s take a look at what they’re reading!
“I Love All Corgis with Dr. Eve L. Ewing” from the podcast Normal Gossip
Adriana, Head of Community Lab
Anonymity can be a useful tool in ensuring the safety of an online community’s members, but what happens when the trusted stewards of a community are not who they appear to be? On Normal Gossip, host Kelsey McKinney and guest Dr. Eve L. Ewing explore these questions through the tragic tale of the moderator of a Dog Spotting Facebook group.
“Basically, one of the moderators is not quite who she's appearing to be. She’s pretending to be a dog owner, and you have to be a dog owner to be in the group. So it was a crisis of how she felt like she belonged.
But she was also a stickler when it came to what photos people were posting, and she had taken all these donations, and she's the main moderator. The dynamics of how the community took her down, but then she was struggling with the idea of not having a dog and this whole identity.
There should be mechanisms for the community to check their moderators and have ways to keep them accountable, and also for the norms to evolve. And maybe it is about allowing people who aren’t dog owners, to make room for these folks.
These people are really highly motivated, and they're able to find solutions and be motivated in ways that I don't think money could do. And it's really interesting now that we've been talking to so many builders and stewards, how that is persistent. They're all volunteers and they're all super passionate, and you couldn't replicate it if it wasn't volunteered.”
Alt Text as Poetry
Ricki, Operations Manager
Tools for accessibility online are often neglected or treated as an afterthought. But can those same tools be used to enhance online experiences for disability communities? In this project, artists Bojana Coklyat and Shannon Finnegan attempt to make alt text a site for creative expression.
“Alt Text as Poetry is this project that these two artists/activists started that focuses on web accessibility, specifically through the lens of alt text, which is just a written description of an image that makes visual content accessible for those who are blind or low-vision.
Alt text has been around for a while, but historically the approach to it has been just doing the bare minimum and checking off a compliance checkbox.
So their point of view is to approach it more thoughtfully and creatively and to embrace the full expressive potential of alt text so that those who are disabled can not only access digital spaces, but that they want to, and that it's a good experience.
One point that I like that their workbook digs into is playing around with subjectivity and audience, because traditionally alt text takes a more objective approach, which can actually play into existing power structures. So they have some interesting exercises, and I would just encourage you to explore.”
My Neighbor’s Garden by Sheila Pepe
Liz, Head of Business Development and Strategy
Discretion is usually needed to build safe online spaces for a community to gather and speak openly. In her largest piece to date, Sheila Pepe uses crochet to examine women’s historical use of craft as a cover for convening with each other and discussing subversive topics.
“Sheila Pepe is a queer artist who's been working for a long time. And she usually uses crochet to create these wild, chaotic, beautiful installs in gallery spaces. But in thinking about the scale of a park and the volume of crochet that would be needed, she's like, ‘I need to bring people together to do this with me.’
And so she put out a call on Instagram for people who are in New York. And they had these circles of women—I think mostly women—just crocheting and co-creating this exhibition essentially with her.
And there was a great quote: ‘There is something about a crocheting circle where stitches are shared along with information that might be useful. And this practice taps into the long history of women convening under the cover of creating craft to talk about issues of the day.’
On that front, it had me thinking about some of our conversations about community-building and associational spaces, and the fact that sometimes you can't lead with that intention. There's privilege and there’s safety implicit when you can lead with that intention.”
“Justine Bateman: Pulling AI Into the Arts Is ‘Absolutely the Wrong Direction’” from the podcast TV’s Top 5
Meghan, Program Manager, Public Spaces Incubator
A.I. is one of the major points of contention in the recent strikes across the Entertainment Industry. What does A.I. mean for the future of worker’s rights and creative industries? In this interview, Justine Bateman talks about A.I.’s destabilizing influence on the Arts, and how its use privileges profits over people.
“I've been interested in this conversation that's been happening in the entertainment industry around the use of A.I. in the arts.
Justine Bateman's been a leading voice and in that discussion and debate. She wrote an op-ed related to the writers’ strike that's going on right now in Hollywood, and one of the sticking points for why they haven't been able to come to an agreement is because of the AMPTP not wanting to bend to some of the demands around the use of A.I. in writing.
The fact that they're really holding out on how A.I. is going to be used in writing is something that's scaring people because they're like, ‘Well, if you're not willing to hear us out, what are you already doing that we're not aware of?’
And [Justine’s] argument is that she feels like A.I. should be used to solve problems that humans can't, and that the entertainment world is not a world that needs A.I., that the use of it is more related to capitalism and people wanting to make more and pay people less. And if it's used, it would credit writers in certain ways, which in turn would impact their compensation.
It's an interesting discussion that's being had that I think is important to pay attention to.”
New faces, and a few more links.
Welcome to our park, new Fellows!
The New_ Public team continues to grow! We’re proud to welcome two new Fellows:
Jasmine Mangat, our Product Partnerships Fellow;
and Leila Kashani-Sabet, our Community Fellow.
For the next five months, our Fellows will be providing valuable support for New_ Public’s field building initiatives, and they arrive with fresh perspectives worthy of their own show-and-tell.
Here’s one from our Product Partnerships Fellow, Jasmine:
The Information Maintainers: Information Maintenance as a Practice of Care
“A portion of a moderator’s job includes information maintenance. They often create records of community rules, reading lists, and norms. Whether or not they record the information, they also keep track of the community’s evolution, how different members interact, and past conflicts. This report highlights the work information maintainers have to do, the challenges they face, and frames this work as a form of care. What sorts of tools and design patterns can we imagine that support the information and care work of a community steward?”
We have so many incredible and talented people working at New_ Public, and it’s our honor to share their voices with you in this newsletter.
Visit our website to meet our team of over 20 people supporting our quest to build a better internet.
Finally, we have a few links from our community members that we think you’d find interesting.
KQED Forum is a daily public media call-in radio show that we can’t recommend highly enough. In fact, if you listen in this Thursday, August 10 at 9am Pacific time, you might just hear from our Co-Director Deepti Doshi! Mark your calendars.
And if you haven’t checked out the four published papers in Science and Nature from a massive study led by our co-founder Talia Stroud, they are an absolute must-read. Here’s Talia to tell you all about it.
And that’s it for this week! Next time, we’ll take a look at designing online discourse for a new democracy.