July 23rd, 2014

Media’s backhanded compliment to the disabled

We’ve all seen inspiration porn before. You can especially find it in classrooms and locker rooms and Public Service Announcements posted on the streets of major cities and in airports. I admit I wasn’t aware of the term until David Kleeman of PlayCollective tweeted out this TED talk from Australian disability advocate Stella Young:

I’ve seen plenty of inspiration porn in my lifetime, and Ms. Young is right. It does remind me that, however bad a day I’m having, it could be worse. I could be paralyzed. Running is really a challenge for me, but how much more awful would my life be if I couldn’t use my legs at all? Thank goodness I’m not physically disabled!

I believe that, if you’re not disabled and you’re being really honest with yourself, you’ve had these thoughts too. Inspiration porn is a backhanded compliment, perhaps meant to congratulate a person for overcoming adversity but which actually limits a person’s achievement to being a function of his or her adverse life circumstances.

But what Ms. Young points out is that it isn’t necessarily your fault. As far as much of the media are concerned, disabled people exist to warm our hearts and teach lessons about perseverance and inner strength; they’re not here to teach calculus, run corporations or cut hair. Perhaps even worse, media relegation of disabled people as objects of inspiration sends a subtler message about where they “belong.” All of this is a great disservice not only to people who are disabled in some way, but also to people who are not, and who then move through the world with expectations about normalcy and how it can never apply to people unlike ourselves. There is utility in being reminded to count our blessings when times get tough, but must it be done at the expense of others?

The reason for David’s tweet in the first place was to solicit thoughts from the Twitterverse about how disabled people should be represented in media for kids. Send your ideas to @davidkleeman, and share them with us in the comments!

Emily Long
Follow The LAMP on Twitter: @thelampnyc
Follow Emily on Twitter: @emlong

July 21st, 2014

5 Simple Questions to Encourage Student Voice in the Classroom


By Rebecca Alber for Edutopia. Hat tip to Rhys Daunic/@TheMediaSpot for the find.

July 17th, 2014

The LAMP brings Media Breaker to Summer Quest Maker Party

Did you see a massive mob of maker teens heading to the Bronx Library Center today? They must have been going to Mozilla’s annual Summer Quest Maker Party, celebrating making and media. Of course The LAMP was on hand with the (newly enhanced!) Media Breaker pop-up lab for makers to create their own remixes talking back to commercials, news clips, music videos and more! We hope to post projects soon, but in the meantime, here are just a few pics from the day:


July 16th, 2014

Remixing with Media Breaker Keeps Getting Better

We’ve had a busy summer here at LAMP HQ, running workshops, redesigning the website and getting ready for the fall. But, thanks to your feedback, we’ve also been working on enhancements to the Media Breaker to make remixing and talking back better than ever.


Click to start remixing right now!

The password prompt is gone, which means that finally, anyone and everyone can access the tool. Once you sign in with your email address, you’ll have the option of taking a tour of the Media Breaker, so you can get started with the most basic functions. We’ve also added a link to Clip Converter to help with grabbing source material, and you can collapse the sample videos at the top of the screen. We’ll also be testing other planned enhancements to the Media Breaker with a group of high school students, which means the tool will just keep getting better.

So get going! As Weird Al Yankovic has been showing us all week – or really, for longer than lots of us have been alive – remix is loads of fun and a powerful way to harness pop culture. Just for fun, here’s our favorite video from him so far:

July 14th, 2014

“I am not a shopaholic. I am helping the economy.”


Waiting on the G train platform: “I am not a shopaholic. I am helping the economy.”

Back in 2001, I was working on yet-to-be-elected Bill de Blasio’s first City Council campaign. The primary for this campaign – which in New York City is essentially the general election due to the fact of there only being Democratic candidates running – happened to take place on September 11th, 2001. I was in charge of the polling sites in Carroll Gardens, which sits just across the river from the Financial District. When the towers fell, the ash cloud crept across that body of water and covered us in a grey, dusty residue. Being a transplant from Colorado, I had a bunch of family and friends reaching out to me, asking what they could do to help us here in New York City.

I honestly didn’t know what they could do. We turned to our elected leaders for their advice, and I’ll never forget what I’d thought I heard President George Bush say:

“All Americans need to do to help is to reach into their wallets and pull out their credit cards and keep the economy moving.”

[Turns out he never said this - exactly.]

At the time, this seriously disturbed me. Rather than ask Americans to volunteer in their communities, read books at their local school, clean up their parks, volunteer at hospitals, our only agency was to be nothing but consumers. That stuck with me for several years following that horrible day.

As I witnessed several of my friends and family rack up massive amounts of personal debt, accumulating things that they saw as evidence of their success and entitlement, I started to wonder from where these unnatural appetites came. When I scrutinized my environment, I saw that media played a major role in preying on our insecurities and competitiveness, driving us to buy plastic trinkets we didn’t organically and naturally need.

I felt that if there was a way to reveal the tricks and persuasive tools media employ to convince us that we aren’t whole without that new off-the-rack suit, perhaps we wouldn’t go into so much debt. Perhaps we wouldn’t think so poorly about our love handles. Perhaps our no-longer-in-fashion duds wouldn’t end up in a landfill. This is where The LAMP was born. (Ah, the irony – if I’d been more media literate, I might have looked more closely at the source of the quote. Of course we’d still have The LAMP, but with a different story.)

I was reminded of this just recently when, while waiting on the G train platform, I caught sight of a young lady’s t-shirt that read: “I am not a shopaholic. I am helping the economy.”

Even if President Bush never said these words exactly, the interpretation grew out of the spirit and response to horrifying events, and landed as a slogan on this young woman’s clothing. If you can’t find your purpose, surely there’s a way to buy it.

– D.C. Vito
D.C. Vito is the co-founder and Executive Director of The LAMP. Follow The LAMP on Twitter: @thelampnyc

July 11th, 2014

In Sunday’s World Cup Final, Beware the Honey Shot!

You know how, during sports games, the camera occasionally cuts to fans in the stands? Ever notice how many of those fans happen to be gorgeous young women? It turns out there’s a name for that camera move. It’s called the Honey Shot.

While we’ve certainly been aware of the periodic Jumbotron focus on hot fangirls, we never knew the phenomenon had its own name, much less an inventor. Andy Sidaris, as detailed in this Slate article, was breathtakingly forthright in his ogling of female sports fans and encouraged generations of television sports viewers to expect nothing less from his broadcasts than cleavage and crop tops.

As our Education Director Alan Berry pointed out, the Honey Shot is just one example of why we need more women working in media – women currently comprise less than 4% of professional Directors of Photography and camera operators in American film and television. When we watch the World Cup final on Sunday, we may find ourselves grateful that FIFA finally allowed goal-line technology, but we’d be far more grateful for increased diversity in the production crews that bring us the game in the first place.

July 2nd, 2014

Always Gets in the Feel-Good Marketing Game with “Like a Girl”

Not one to let Dove corner the market on PSA/commercial hybrids, Always is getting in on the game. The same company that makes an array of feminine hygiene products recently released a video challenging the “like a girl” stereotype, by asking males and females (though looks like mostly females) to act out what it means to run like a girl, throw like a girl, etc. Take a look at what happens:

Here are a few things I found notable about this video:

- The older the subject, the more likely she was to act out a stereotype. Why?
- The little boy who doesn’t seem to think his sister counts as a girl.
- What footage is missing? At the end of the video, the same people who re-enacted (and re-enforced) a stereotype talked about how untrue the stereotype is. And yet that stereotype was the first thing that came to mind for them when prompted. What took place between the time when they were asked to run like girls, and when they were talking about how pejorative it is to say someone does something “like a girl”?

I wish, so badly, that somebody else made this video. The point about stereotypes is well-taken, but I wish instead that it came from somebody, or some entity, not trying to profit by calling attention to the meaning behind a phrase heard daily on playgrounds and practice fields. Like the Dove ads, this commercial also takes emotional manipulation – a common if not mandatory marketing practice – to another level by aligning it with a cause. True confidence doesn’t come from Always anymore than it comes from Dove products. I hope that, for most people, the takeaway from this video is not that Always equates empowerment, but that we should question stereotypes and realize when we’re relying on them. Otherwise, they won’t get thrown at all.

Emily Long
Follow The LAMP on Twitter: @thelampnyc
Follow Emily on Twitter: @emlong

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