The links in this week's newsletter were submitted and contextualized by a few of the students participating in our Fellows Edition of the Media Genius Master Class. Each example relates to poylculture, the underlying theme of our first session. Learn more about the program here
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A Case for Optimism

Last week we kicked off our first Media Genius Master Class. We welcomed 92 students from 78 colleges and universities across the Americas, EMEA, and APAC for an interactive discussion on media and culture. The group was chosen specifically for their unique perspectives on media and how it can be used as a tool for activism on important issues. 

The first session focused on diversity and polyculture — the first of five topics in our annual study guide. We covered the transition from a homogenous monoculture defined by the TV age to a splintering of niche interests reflected on the Internet.

Our guest speaker, media theorist and author
Douglas Rushkoff, looked at polyculture through the lens of "Team Human" and use of technology to better serve humans. “The technologies are tools. As [Marshall] McLuhan or [John] Culkin would say, we create our tools and from then on, they create us. So first you learn how to use the tool and then you kind of remake the world."

Our fellows are positioned to do exactly that. The energy and intelligence in the discussion was inspiring. Much like teens on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement or TikTokers who organized to influence a presidential rally, these students have media knowledge and passion that will change the world. The links below reflect the range of stories that piqued their interests, and ours.

Even in the face of epoch-making issues relating to racial conflict and coronavirus spikes around the world, I felt optimistic last week. As I often learn from my own college-aged kids, the next generation of leaders have ingrained activist and media sensibilities that together bring new leadership potential to the table. I'm thankful for the positive, can-do ethos and fresh insight this generation will undoubtedly bring to the industry.  

Chris Perry


As always, if you find this newsletter valuable we would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them here.
What We're Reading
From Asia to Africa, 'Sesame Street' Special Tackles Coronavirus Pandemic
By Jill Serjeant and Nathan Frandino, Reuters

"Sesame Street is adapting its programming to the current needs of society and using its platform to teach kids how to deal with their feelings about the global pandemic. After a successful special in the US, Sesame Street is adapting this concept for Asia, Africa and the Middle East by launching ‘Elmo's World News’ in 13 languages."
Submitted by Emma Bannen, University of Alabama 

The #VogueChallenge Is More Than a Hashtag
By Janelle Okwodu, Vogue

"The #VogueChallenge is a viral campaign that imagines what a more diverse fashion industry would look like. Individuals of various races, ethnicities, genders, and religious backgrounds have shared their own version of the well-known Vogue cover to challenge the under-representation of people of color in the publication and the fashion industry more broadly. American Vogue engages with Polyculture here by highlighting these images and recognizing the exclusivity of its publication. However, many continue to criticize the performative nature of Vogue's activism given the lack of progressive action that persists on their covers and within their workplace."
Submitted by Veronica Coles, University of Toronto 

Skittles Ditches the Rainbow to Celebrate the LGBTQ+ Community for Pride Month
By Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN

"The well-known vibrant and colorful packaging that one usually thinks of when the candy comes to mind is now white and lacking all color to honor the symbolic rainbow flag that represents the LGBTQ+ community. Skittles has previously taken similar actions during the month of June to celebrate Pride, and has donated a portion of their sales to an organization that would directly benefit the community."
Submitted by Samantha Tush, Saint Joseph's University 

Here’s How Nickelodeon and Other Kids’ Media Supported Black Lives Matter
By Lizzy Francis, Fatherly

"In a display of support for the movement, Nickelodeon went off air for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on #BlackoutTuesday and aired a video ‘I Can't Breathe’ with a man breathing in and out the for the entirety of the video. The video ended with a call to join Color of Change, a nonprofit civil rights organization and then displayed the ‘Declaration of Kids' Rights’ which was originally created 30 years ago."
Submitted by Lucia Petruccelli, Roger Williams University 

Consumers Put Brands that Stand with BLM Under the Microscope
By Ace Metrix

"This article highlights two examples of polyculture: McDonald’s and P&G’s Black Lives Matter ads. Both companies attempted to use their platform to speak out about the importance of the movement. Yet, the two used different tactics. McDonalds chose to make a video stating their values, condemning systemic oppression and violence, and announcing that they would contribute to an organization that fights such things. P&G’s was more of a call to action to white people to do their part and help the fight. This article also goes over varying people’s opinions about each ad, and whether they found it exploitive or empowering."
Submitted by Kelsey Watkins, Furman University 

Dancing Bodies That Proclaim: Black Lives Matter
By Siobhan Burke, The New York Times

"Hip-hop dancer and scholar MiRi Park has created a public Google document listing occurrences of dance as protest in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement. This article illustrates how dancing has become a mode of resisting oppression in this particular context. Through street performance, dancers are advocating for Black lives and honoring their cultural traditions as symbols of resistance. These manifestations not only 'call attention to the work of Black artists at the heart of the dance and entertainment industries', as the article mentions, but represent a creative and authentic form of activism that recognizes important aspects like identity and heritage." 
Submitted by Ana Velasquez, Queens College, CUNY

'Pull Up or Shut Up' Campaign Urges Beauty Brands to Reveal Staff Diversity
By Chrissy Callahan, TODAY

"A great example of polyculture is the #PullUporShutUp challenge started by Uoma Beauty’s CEO Sharon Cuter. This challenge urges brands to share the number of Black employees they have working at their company. The challenge pushes brands to go beyond the black square, be uncomfortable and start the internal conversation around D&I  practices. Brands such as Milk Makeup and Glossier have participated in the challenge; citing the change that’s required in their companies and pledging they will push themselves to do better."
Submitted by Laura Moy, DePaul University 

Valence Announces Funding Network to Connect Black Founders
By Ben Bergman, dot.LA

"This article details the inaugural funding network of Valence, the first professional network that connects Black founders and entrepreneurs. The funding list includes investors at top firms like Sequoia Capital, Accel and Upfront Ventures. The startup launched last year and aims to even the playing field with the goal of exponentially growing the number of Black-owned startups that get funded."
Submitted by Caroline Wohl, University of Southern California

Emerging Technology
Apple and Google Tweak Maps, AI Assistants to Back Black Lives Matter
By Jeremy Horwitz, VentureBeat
"Established platforms like Google and Apple are using AI to assist in the Black Lives Matter movement with satellite technology in maps features as well as through applications like Siri."
Submitted by Hallie Distel, University of Michigan 
Deep Take
How to be "Team Human" in the Digital Future
By Douglas Rushkoff
Humans are no longer valued for our creativity, says media theorist Douglas Rushkoff — in a world dominated by digital technology, we're now just valued for our data. In this passionate talk, Rushkoff urges us to stop using technology to optimize people for the market and start using it to build a future centered on our pre-digital values of connection, creativity, and respect, a sentiment he also expressed to our students on Wednesday. "Join Team Human. Find the others," he says. "Together let's make the future that we always wanted."
Copyright © 2020 Weber Shandwick

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