Category: September 27 (page 1 of 4)

Revolutionary Cartoons

Before Khalid Ali’s lecture on his artwork, I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about how a political cartoon can have potency in a revolutionary context. However, after listening to Mr. Ali’s talk, I gained a newfound appreciation for the medium of political cartoons as vehicles for change, and I learned a lot about the history of the Arab Spring revolutions as well.

 

What was great about Mr. Ali’s work was that it was not artistically overdone, pretentiously intellectual, or needlessly complicated in any way. Each piece of his political cartoons were simple, straightforward, easy to understand, and had a self-contained message that was simple to digest. Artistically, they were simple enough for other revolutionaries to recreate. For example, his piece depicting the Egyptian president was easy enough to reproduce and had a punchy, potent message. This led to his work getting picked up by other protestors, and eventually spray-painted in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

 

I think Mr. Ali’s perspective as a cartoonist also gives him an interesting point of view regarding his own role in revolutions. His work blurs the line between propaganda, art, intellectualism, and politics. Part of why his works were so successful during the Arab spring was because it was one of the first large-scale popular uprisings that took place over social media and used viral media tactics to spread its message. For a political cartoonist like Ali, this is a unique opportunity, because the revolutionary medium through which the uprising took place was one already saturated with the traits of a uniquely technological environment. In an internet medium like facebook or twitter, a slew of content is constantly vying for a users’ attention, and content like political cartoons are perfect for it because cartoons can convey a simple yet potent message in a visual medium, which allows them to keep the users’ attention long enough to deliver a revolutionary message in a short span of time.

 

One point that Khalid made about the Arab Spring in particular stuck out to me as insightful. He was asked the question, “Has the Arab Spring failed?” which he responded to by saying that revolutions take time. I thought this was particularly insightful in light of the many pessimistic interpretations of the Arab Spring uprisings. In our modern age of instant gratification and fast-paced lives, it is easy to assume that because the Arab Spring did not achieve its proponents most lofty goals, it was a failure, but I would agree with Mr. Ali in stating that in order to have a revolution, you must also have patience. Expecting a revolution to be easy and quick is almost always unrealistic, especially when things are made messier with violence from opposing regimes. Instead, I view each positive change of the Arab Spring as a small success in and of itself.

 

Overall, I think that political cartoons are a uniquely powerful way of expressing revolutionary thought. They may not have the intellectual depth of a revolutionary speech or manifesto, but their easily digestible messages are potent tools for spreading ideas and allowing revolutions to go viral in the new age of internet-fueled activism.

Courage Power and Publishing

This was easily my favorite discussion so far because not only was it extremely applicable to the present, not just because the material was so applicable to the present and the global importance of the material as well as its nature, but because the Q and A was so lively and interactive. I felt the Kahlil was great in that was firm in this responses, if there was a question that had a hint of ignorance or privilege he would certainly address that, but he did it in such a way that it was educating ignorance rather than attacking the individual for not understanding or knowing something factual or fundamental about a subject.

Social media and the ability to express opinions is such an important forum in that it gives people wide reaching capabilities. It is important to note that people includes everyone, meaning that those with less resources have at least somewhere close to those with greater means to access the air waves or the social media atmosphere to publish their ideas. In countries where media and news is restricted, flows can slip through the cracks of security, areas such as North Korea for instance, and become the bedrock of what could become macro revolution. The time in which this information can be shared is instantaneous, meaning that within minutes or even seconds, media can reach hundreds of thousands of people, which in turn can share the information through their own networks. One of the reasons why people feel as though race-relations in our country is so bad is because the constant monitoring of social media for news and current events. From the perspective of many, race relations have always been bad, and often times the consensus is that they have been worse. It is the amount of attention and coverage of the evidence of police brutality and systematic racism that has brought this issue back to the forefront of our national discussion.

I think in beginning to understand Khalil Ali’s background, I asked myself a couple of questions: Could I do what he has done? What responsibility do I have to myself, my family, and my country, and how does one begin to fathom weighing the value of your own life? Khalil laughed when he told the story about how he was detained at the airport, but the terror must have been there, and I do not know if there is any better sense of the level of nationalism in a positive sense than what he is doing. In thinking about his perspective, not only is he an incredibly talented artist in that he provokes thought in a way that is focused and both subjective and objective, his art represents courage in a way that art does not usual represent. It is literal courage, not existential courage, that Mr. Ali’s art represents. I have such an unbelievable amount of respect for what he does all the time, as well as the courage of his family and friends who support him, because there are far stronger men than me that would not be doing what he is doing.

Virtual Revolutions

Khalid A. Ali’s Q & A was by far my favorite of the presentations so far in this course. His discussion on the impact of social media in contemporary revolutions was both informative and relevant. I had actually seen that cartoon before (the play on words with Mubarak in Arabic Script) so that was what first got my head perked up that evening.

Artwork can be such a powerful motivator of revolution, not just in the Arab world, but in the United States and the rest of the world too. We see political cartoons in newspapers and magazines and react instinctually to them and form opinions based on those reactions much more readily than we would to a written story. Not just that, but artwork is easier to share and gather interest among people, visually, especially in this day and age. Someone is much more likely to retweet a cartoon of an orange blob (trump) dropping a globe off of a cliff than someone is to read and retweet an article titled “Debate shines American politics in a negative light.” There can be some concerns, of course. Certain individuals look at art and react with violence – see the murder of Charlie Hebdo. In displaying an opinion in such a visceral way the reaction is often visceral and hate filled. Not to say that Charlie Hebdo did anything wrong – art is a medium of free speech. Certain individuals like those that killed him still have a long way to go before they completely understand and respect the concept of free speech in art all throughout the world.

The second thing I wanted to talk about was the idea of “going viral”. This concept is a new one – that people can have a spotlight on them through social media or otherwise for 60 seconds before the world turns to the next tragedy or social issue. It’s very difficult to combat that inclination, what with the low attention span of the average person today. How can we make sure each issue, each artist, is given full voice to speak of an issue, not just for the moment that people find their cartoon interesting, but in the days and weeks following? Do they simply have to suck it up and pump out more great work? That must be difficult with such a crowded field of cartoonists. I think the only way to really meet the dilemma of the “going viral” world head on is to change the media’s procedure as it relates to covering issues, asking them to go beyond the surface and not just request 60-second basic interviews with artists who clearly have a lot to say. That is definitely easier said than done, though.

Regardless, I loved the talk this week, and I hope to hear more of Ali in the future!

A Social (Media) Revolution

The Arab Spring was a violent, frightening, yet uplifting period of revolution in The Arab world that lasted for more than a year. Filled with numerous civil wars and protests, civilians participated in extreme demonstrations of their frustration, such as Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in attempts to show the governmental intrusion and affliction he faced. This action carried across multiple Arab nations over a short period of time, with multiple Arab civilians following suit with similar actions. However, this period of revolution is so notably remarkably for another reason – the amazing and innovative way in which social media was used as a news network, connectivity platform, and artistic platform for expression to effect change across Arab states and globally. Artist Khalid Albaih does exactly this, using his political engagement and creative ability to produce works of art that create global waves.

        “Revolutions take time, especially with a population that’s already broken,” said Albaih, referring to the various Arab nations in 2010 who prompted revolution. Dependent on the youth, revolutions are born from educated intellectuals fighting within the system and rebelling against an existing power structure. In extremely politically established states such as Tunisia, revolutions are such a rarity due to the fear and danger of governmental response. “If you start a political group under a dictator, you’re either with them or completely crazy.” In this case, many Arabs were “completely crazy,” revolting against long-established power. The work by Albaih is so innovative because of the non-violent, individualistic yet far-reaching power of his pieces. The messages transmitted through his work were not only felt in the first-degree by Arab protesters, but also by global entities like the US and Europe, free from the chokehold of dictatorship. “Social media is the newest dangerous weapon,” says Albaih, as with such a majority of global youth being so present on social media, the weapon of revolution is not limited to those in the country in which change occurs.

One piece of Albaih’s talk that stuck out to me, in particular, was his discussion as an artist with work “going viral.” As a photographer myself, having covered journalistic topics whether it be news or music, I have seen a few pieces of my work “go viral” and then quickly die down days or weeks later. Albaih shared how this can be dangerous to artists specifically, as it quickly gives the artist a lot of power and over a short period of time, however equally quickly dissipates. Albaih’s goal as an artist to make long-lasting work, with global reach and impact is one that resonates with me personally, as social media does truly offer a platform with unlimited scope and possibility.  

How to Spread Idea’s

Facebook is changing the way humans receive news. As the new generation grows up in the internet age, and forms habits based on current technologies, Facebook becomes the base camp of internet information consumption. This change comes from Facebook’s specialized feed of information, which is made up mostly of friends photos and specialized media. This specialized media is made up of articles and videos posted by friends from credible and non-credible news sources. because of the variety of the Facebook’s news feed, it easily becomes the most efficient and enjoyable news source. Due to the fact that everyone uses Facebook and it is extremely easy to share with friends, the platform becomes an amazing way for activists like Khalid Albaih to spread there word of reform. The visually based feed always for Khalid to share his cartoons with thousands of friends instantly, or even share them to a group full of people from certain locations. All it takes is one captivating cartoon until the user has clicked on it and is  learning about the social movement Khalid is pushing for.

Although Facebook’s sharing power is amazing for positive social movements like Khalid’s, and a relaxing time online, it can also be a bad thing, giving people false/bias perspectives. Most of the news that comes up on your Facebook feed is not from the sources that you “like” or follow, but from other people who shared the information. Everyone has friends that want to be or are activists, and so many of these people are sharing information about controversial issues that people are aware of. Therefor the information that is posted is not intended to spread word of this issue but to force an opinion on it, and often, a very biased opinion. Personally my Facebook feed is infested with biased opinions on controversial issues. These sources often seem to quiet official and always have the intent of hooking a young Facebook reader, when the bias is so great Fox news and CNN might as well be the same. One could say that Khalid’s posts are one sided, however the intensions behind the posts are deep with the intent to make the world a better place, and the majority of the world will always support him as he marches forward to bring more freedom to the world. Facebook is amazing way to share idea’s for the masses, however we must be careful in recognizing what is important and what is not.

Means of Mediums

The art of communication is one of the most important dynamics concerning the connection between individuals. You could argue that without proper communication civilizations wouldn’t be able to exist. With this in mind, it is crucial for the livelihood of communication to have different forms and means of existence. Whether in the tangible form of words, or in an abstract form that can only be felt or experienced, proper communication has an innate ability to get a point across, evoke emotion, and spark imaginations.

 

Great people in the history of our world have used literary communication for as long as they have had it at their disposal. Some use speeches, others use letters. The use of communication through a vernacular language is so undervalued in our society because we have had it so long. But even if we did not have this technology we would still be able to get our ideas across effectively simply because communication through words or even sign language isn’t our only means of communication.

 

So how would we communicate if we couldn’t use words? The answer is communication through expression. Individuals can communicate moods, ideas, and attitude through expression either audibly or visually. When it comes to auditory communication, musicians and composers can play their instrument in one way to convey a sad feeling and in a different way to signify a feeling of triumph. Whole genres of music are created based on the feelings that is associated with the composition of the piece.

 

When it comes to visual communication the saying is; a picture can say a thousand words. A picture’s ability to literally be translated into words shows just how versatile communication can be. With every stroke in a painter’s brush, every line from an artist’s pencil, the visionary etches a word or two onto the canvas. Whether intentionally or unintentionally they are conveying a message that can be interpreted in an infinite amount of ways. A photographer does the same thing, but instead of using a pencil or a paint brush, they manipulate the lighting, change the angle, develop the image, all to tell the audience something in a beautiful way.

 

Even more telling than a picture however, is expression through one’s body or facial expressions. A person can tell a lot about what their thinking and how they feel just by their facial expressions. People express different body language that reflect the emotions they are feeling. Perhaps even more expressive than body language, is expression through bodily contact. Whether it’s someone’s touch or someone’s force, bodily contact often expresses things that words cannot.

 

Just Do It

No matter how much I’m doing, I never feel like I’m doing enough. I always think about everything that I could be doing instead of focusing on how full my plate already is. It’s easy to lose motivation when you don’t see the results of your work, this happens to me often. However, Khalid Albaih’s talk inspired to me to just do it; to continue whatever I’m already doing and to involve myself in other movements no matter how small my contribution may be.

As an artist whose political cartoons have gone viral, Albaih once also felt as if he wasn’t doing enough for his community during times of crisis. With most of his work online, he wasn’t directly involved in protests or policy change, but his art had a much larger impact than intended. Much to his surprise, his artwork started popping up in random places all over Egypt, both as a sign of resistance and recognition. This shows that even the smallest of contributions to a movement can carry immense power. Albaih’s work being posted throughout the cities of Egypt is  almost a parallel to the use of the Mockingjay symbol in the Hunger Games. People can unite through his art, building community,  and can also use his works to represent their reality: both physical and emotional. It goes to show that you don’t have to be on the front lines to galvanize people to revolutionize, you can sit behind a computer screen and have a profound effect.

After realizing this, I started to think, what can I or we, as a Colby community, do to create change even it seems small? The most obvious to to use our privilege for good and not evil, to speak up for the voiceless, and to protect the liberties of others. This privilege I speak is not solely related to finances or social class, but also on nationality and location. Albaih said that in Egypt, “they break you without giving anything back. No healthcare. Nothing.” As Americans, we have many liberties that we often take for granted, which needs to come to a stop. We need to start thinking “how can I use this service to make a difference?” Also, Albaih mentioned that the rhetoric “you could be president one day,” is unheard of in Egypt, due to political corruption which leads to presidents who stay in office much longer than they should. Showing that even small children musing over this potential careers are more free than others, which many would never think of.

In Egypt there are people literally lighting themselves on fire because of how distraught they are with the current state of affairs and the constant presence of injustice in their community. In America, we have people who won’t even light a fire under their own asses to help others. Do you see the disconnect? There is so much more that we need to do and that we can do. No matter how large or small the task, just do it. It’ll make all the difference.

 

 

The Paradigm Shift from Darwin

Janet Browne began the discussion by noting that Darwin himself foresaw the rise of the revolution that would stem from his discoveries. He “dimly [foresaw] a revolution in natural history” that would result from the scientific community’s and public’s acceptance of his work. Darwin did not, however, understand the shift that his discoveries would bring not only in science, but also in economics, political theory, business theory, and even culture.
Today, Darwin’s theory of natural selection, or descent with modification, has support of the scientific community and even the Catholic Church. This theory has played a key role in the direction of scientific research since its amalgamation with genetics. The idea of the “survival of the fittest” and concepts of natural selection have been applied to economic, political, and business theory, which dictate the market and financial status of the many nations. Darwin has also become an icon of classic scientific discovery; towns, mountains, buildings, cafés, and even twitter handles have been named or created in his honor. Darwin’s wife and children worked to establish the legacy of Darwin that we know today. Darwin’s funeral reflects his importance to Britain. Despite being an agnostic scientist, he was buried among the heroes and religious icon of Britain in Westminster Abbey–this established his status as a kind of secular saint. In 1885 a magnificent statue of Darwin was erected and moved into the Natural History Museum of London, where it presided over a cathedral-like room and an altar-like platform. Fifty years after Darwin’s death one of his descendants organized a commemoration event with a famous geneticist to promote Darwinian science as the field of genetics began to gain popularity. In 1950 UChicago held a celebration of Darwin with a panel of the world’s brightest biological scientists. Today, ideas of Darwinism persist in science, economics, political, business and culture.
Darwin precipitated the idea of natural selection, or descent with modification, when reading an economics book. He delayed publishing this concept for years out of fear of how society might react. When he finally did publish, the scientific community did not immediately accept his work; in fact, many people vehemently rejected the notion that humans were related to apes. In 1925 a teacher was prosecuted for having a textbook that mentioned the concept of evolution–this case, the Scopes trial, represents the resistance to natural selection that remained many decades after the theory had been accepted, and even celebrated by the scientific community. Some may argue that the Darwinian Revolution wasn’t really “Darwinian.” During the period of Darwin’s greatest discoveries other scientists were exploring similar ideas. Some argue that if Darwin and had existed another person would have made the same discoveries and drawn the same conclusions–in other words, Darwin was not unique; he was just the first to make an inevitable discovery. People may also argue that the introduction of natural selection and evolution did not really cause a revolution. Darwin’s ideas were not really globally accepted until the 1940’s. The world’s most famous revolutions did not occur overnight; many of them took years or even decades, so to say that Darwin’s ideas took too long to catch on ignores the timeframe about great revolutions. His ideas also resulted in the paradigm shift from God as the creator of man to descent with modification. This shift directs modern scientific research.

Chaos, Art, and Other Thoughts on Observing a Volcano

Some years are more important than others.  That’s just the way history works. 1945AD, 0AD, the ones where something so monumental to the way humans after will live happens that it gets put into a multiple choice test as the right answer in some high school kids history class.  1816, is not one of those years.  However it’s a fascinating year to look at for study as it seems to offer 200 years on a remarkably similar situation in which the world was and currently is in environmental, societal, political, and historical contexts.  Why is this?

Well as professor Wood pointed out the parallels between the world two hundred years ago and the world today is remarkable.  The biggest threat to the way we live is environmental today, as it was in 1816 with the eruption of a volcano.  Because of this, peoples have been displaced and threatened, find themselves refugees, and largely the political and intellectual debates of the time surround this.  In 1816 a volcano erupted causing global temperatures to plunge and crop yields to plummet.  In 2016, the industrial world set up by humans is causing global temperatures to rise, and extreme weather events, directly impacting the industrial world have caused destruction across the world.  People, which is what these events really have to do with each other, are effected in the same way.  The most vulnerable to these events, often the working class and impoverished suddenly have their lifestyle’s attacked; they are victims, forced from living their way into the life of refugees.  Thus, the parallel is there, prof Wood urges us to learn from 1816 to try and handle our present day better.

Wood infers that the art of the day is our key to this.  He examined Frankenstein as being perhaps the tale of a monster created by society.  He pointed out the parallels between the way the monster is viewed in Shelly’s novel and the way refugees are looked at by people.  He argues that the fear of otherness is what’s relevant about the story.  His example is very well articulated and brings to thought a question for today.  What does the art and rhetoric of this time say about the climate and the people affected by it?  That is ultimately what Wood questioned.

This is a tough question for someone living in the year 2016 to answer completely.  Certainly the upcoming election will tell us a great deal about what the collective mass feels about global warming and the refugees of war and weather.  We can look at art, but it’s worth mentioning that it has taken a considerable amount of time for Shelley and Lord Byrons works to have been read critically like Wood does.  Perhaps, a good place to start would be here on Mayflower Hill, or slightly down it more specifically with the Oak Fellow, Khalid Albaih, and his political art.  The point is that the environment changes the course of human lives, and the place where we show that is in our art.  Ultimately that is what taking a analytical look at the eruption of Tambora in 1816 tells us about today-that’s why it is a “Revolution”.

Black hat chat rooms

The Internet is a black hole. You can do anything on the Internet, from gambling, to TV, to reading. You can find anything on the Internet, from groceries, to cars, to guns. You can also write anything on the Internet. With so many mediums to express written word, the Internet is an incubator for all people (good and evil). Forums and blogs allow for people from all walks of life to write about and discuss topics of personal interest and importance; may that be something relating to food, or something related to the annihilation of millions of Jews. The Internet is a place with virtually no laws, and no rules. The only conceivable practice of governance is physically preventing one user from seeing the content of another user, and this is by no means an easy task. With the rise of IP blinding schemes, and other various algorithms that increase online privacy and anonymity, there is no way to identify who writes what, and for what purpose. There are even black market social engineers who are paid exorbitant fees to try and sway voters in political elections.

 

Khalid Ali is a famous political cartoonist who was a pillar in the Arab Spring. Ali gave one of the most informative, personal, and engaging lectures/panels I have ever heard. He spoke with knowledge, experience, and passion. For Ali, the Internet was a visa to various countries that he would normally be unable to visit. Through chat rooms, he met people who shared similar social and political ideals. Governments with a strong stance on censorship and anti-freedom of speech reviewed and redacted all literature and press, frequently viewing it as propaganda. Ali even said that the governments try to bankrupt newspapers and magazines by censoring after materials have been printed. In other words, money and time is wasted on pieces of writing and art that are deemed unfit for the public. The internet was the way around this. The uninformed government didn’t censor these chat rooms, and this, according to Ali was their mistake.

 

Facebook became the face of a rapidly growing revolutionary movement. Millions of people could share stories and views that were uncensored and unprosecutable. Cartoons, Ali’s cartoons, became the face of a movement. Even though Ali was not currently present during a time of protest and struggle, his art was there. Pieces he posted on Facebook, hours later would be converted into life size graffiti on walls. “People take my work and use it for change,” Ali says. Cartoons were a way for people to visualize change without having to understand context. Grafitti was the expression. Ali ended his talk by speaking about how collective online groups allow for the most rapid and impactful change. He also said that anyone can start a revolution, which was inspiring.

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