Mobile tech + democracy = awesomeness

So I’m in this class called mobile journalism, and we’re doing a lot of cool stuff.

Liveblogging Arianna Huffington was only the beginning—we’ve Skype’d with people in Africa and Japan on the same day about how they use their phones, Skype’d with Kevin Thau, a VP of Twitter about (what else?) the future of Twitter, and now we’re designing the mobile presence of Chicago News Cooperative, the new nonprofit heavy-duty reporting outfit that covers the city for the New York Times.

Also my fridge project is for this class. Orion Magazine, whose photo project was inspiration for mine, has tweeted about me TWICE THREE TIMES. They’re my favorite mag and have been called the most important environmental magazine, so you should know I’m psyched. Feel free to follow my prof, Dan Sinker, on Twitter.

But interestingly enough, today I felt compelled to post because of the textbook for this class—Mobile Design and Development by Brian Fling. An excerpt:

The Estonian government will be putting the concept of media context to the test in their 2011 parliamentary elections, allowing citizens to vote for their leaders using SMS. In this case, the government can tabulate results instantly. But imagine a day when citizens can vote on local or national issues in real time, eschewing having to wait for traditional media to report on the effect of their vote, instead seeing the results in real time, as it happens.

There are already many opting to use the mobile media context in order to be heard. On the immensely popular television show American Idol, more votes were cast using a mobile phone in 2009 (178 million total text message votes) than votes cast in the 2008 presidential election (131 million ballots cast).

If that doesn’t deserve an “OMG,” I don’t know what does.

My idea: direct democracy. I think it’s possible with saturation of mobile.

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Fridge project, follow me elsewhere

The inside of my fridge, shot with my cell phone.

For Mobile Journalism class I’m embarking on a project to photograph my fridge at least 3 times a week. It was inspired by a similar project in Orion Magazine. Find my work at

Also, a warning: I don’t often update, as you know. But I do update my Facebook and Twitter feeds several times a day. If you want to keep closer tabs on me, I suggest you check there. (My Twitter’s overarching theme is the environment, but I also inject thoughts about journalism, food, and communications tech. Naturally, Facebook’s a bit more about my personal life.)

Jensen nonviolent, after all

Art I made for the large open wall of my apartment. The metal numbers were someone else’s garbage. (My Dad’s, in fact.)

This month Derrick Jensen took a step back from his usual extreme tone in his Orion Magazine column. (Orion represents the literary and philosophical side of the environmental movement.) Normally he advocates a revolution in order to address environmental problems. With this most recent column, he (finally) clarified that he doesn’t mean violent revolution. At least necessarily.

A little background: Jensen doesn’t think the status quo can fix our problems, and I agree with him. The current system of the world’s governments, the massive corporate influence, the wealthy nations’ addiction to consumerism and the poor nations’ inability to climb out of poverty will more or less continue as-is, because those who could change things are too invested in the system to substantially change it.

But I’m also staunchly non-violent. So while Jensen may have softened up a bit from his normal tone, expressed in great pieces here and here, he still means business. I’m sure he’s enraged as much as I am that there weren’t enough limousines in Denmark to accommodate the climate conference at Copenhagen. The conference campus was fairly walkable, I heard.

The limo thing is but a humorous representation of the leaders being invested in the current system. Like a Ponzi scheme, they continue playing the dangerous game because to try to fix things is to admit your own stupidity. I highly recommend this piece, which compares the global economy with a Ponzi scheme.

Light green, dark green, in between? Off the deep end?

Flickr CC photo from nickwheeleroz

Flickr CC photo from nickwheeleroz

Someone recently asked me this question: Do you think we should change our lifestyles to be more environmentally friendly? Or are you more dark green, like we should drop everything we’re doing and start completely over, radically changing our entire lives? Or are neither of those solutions?

The questioner is a smart cookie, and loves the earth as much as I do. It wasn’t really meant to be a trick question, but it kinda turned out like one. I answered something like this:

“Personal changes will only take the rescue of our planet so far. I guess you would call me very very dark green, in the sense that neither of those are solutions. Our societies need to uproot the entire culture, specifically corporate and governmental, in order to revamp them for a healthier earth.”

(Don’t you love how articulate you can be when you’re recapping your own words later in writing?) I went on:

“I’m the kind of guy who thinks true revolution is in order. And I mean revolution on the scale of battling the greatest injustices of all time: Czarist Russia, Nazi Germany, Antebellum America. I’m not comparing the evils of those regimes with the evils of destroying the environment, because they’re very different. This current evil is much more subtle and complex. But destroying it will take just as much political, cooperative will power as destroying those examples I gave.

“Lots more otherwise-mild-mannered people feel the same way. The innocent nature mag ‘Orion’ has recently ignited generations of thrift-store green kids and sweater- and birkenstock-wearing nature writers and philosophers. I’m thinking ‘V for Vendetta.’

“Did you know something like 20 or 25 percent of all water and electricity are used by people individually? The rest is used in the corporate, government and agricultural worlds. Most of it could be quelled if it weren’t for mismanagement. But no one’s standing on the street corner or making movies about the gross overuse in those sectors. It’s gonna take the toppling of a way of life to put us in equilibrium with nature.

“Of course I don’t see us ‘dancing naked around campfires’ again. We’ll find ways to maintain a goodly amount of our technological and social advances while not screwing up nature. But some of it has to go, certainly. And some of it we should be thankful to lose.”

The questioner was of the same persuasion. Except he had formulated all this himself, without the help of Orion magazine. I told you he’s smarterer than me.

Check out these three articles, rightly in the group of most-read articles on Orion’s website. They’re the paragon of so-called environmental writing at this point, as far as I’m concerned.

World at Gunpoint, or, What’s Wrong with the Simplicity Movement

Forget Shorter Showers – Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change

The Gospel of Consumption – And the Better Future We Left Behind

Best of Twitter 6: Links to others’ green stuff part II

Flickr CC photo from bestfor / richard.

Flickr CC photo from bestfor / richard.

RT @Greenmoms In bad economies businesses need work and people need services, but both are short. Enter bartering. 12:36 PM Apr 14th

If we could suffice with 1948 levels of consumerism, 40hr workweeks could be 13.5hrs. Fascinating. @Orion_Magazine 1:21 PM Apr 14th

And is your college ranked on A thoroughly researched project, it would seem our school would fail, like most. 8:53 PM Apr 29th

RT @greenbiztweets Tricks of the Trade for Landing Green Jobs 5:04 PM Apr 30th

It’s all but proven: antibiotics/factory farming is the direct cause of swine flu (and bird flu, really): 1:06 AM May 2nd

RT @thegoodhuman EPA identified 44 “high hazard” coal-ash piles across the US but isn’t releasing where they are 2:12 AM Jun 16th

RT @thegoodhuman: New blog post: The Top 100 Corporate Polluters In The United States. 10:11 AM Jun 16th

My anti-consumer mentality prompts me to shun the new iPhone, but makes me want it. Heard of GoodGuide? 12:48 PM Jun 16th

Is your beloved hometown company really a dirty polluting scumbag? Find out with a ranking of companies: 10:51 PM Jun 20th

RT @Orion_Magazine Wireless technology harmful to health I’m skeptical but open to the possibility .12:40 PM Jul 1st

This NYTimes article did a good job explaining electromag dangers. I love Aptera so I sent it to ’em: “Solutions?” 12:46 PM Jul 1st just signed up. It’s cyclists volunteerin to host each other @ home 4 free. Showers & beds/yards 4 camping go a long way. Jul 2nd

I hear sometimes beer and dinner are involved. If everyone were this hospitable, the world would be an entirely different place @warmshowers Jul 2nd