Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science

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Protest in Boston Massachusetts, March, 2017.

This article was Co-Written between Jing Ke and Samantha Logan for a class project.

Science is a march of progress that is tidally locked with nature.  Gradually, with every step, medical advancements and scientific knowledge teach us more about the world we live in.  Each advancement builds on prior knowledge and progress that creates other, potentially greater questions about nature.  For every scientific discovery and resulting advancement, the course of nature adapts, things change, and society must discuss whether that advancement is truly in our, or the world’s best interest.  No greater example of this cycle is more suitable to illustrate it then the Anti-Vaccination and Anti-Antibiotics movements.

This blog and the project attached will illustrate one very simple fact:  The medicinal miracle of vaccines and anti-biotics has been met with greater viral and bacterial threats in nature.  For humans to remain healthy and for devastating diseases to stay cured, every person must understand our dependency on vaccines and anti-biotics.   We must also understand the recursive role nature takes in this cycle. To elaborate on this we will start with a primer on vaccines and anti-biotics.  Then we will discuss the cycle of science and nature, and finally the recent trends against science that want to disrupt that cycle.

How Viruses and Vaccines work

In science, part of the cure against diseases and viral outbreaks are the bacteria and viruses themselves. One way of discovering a cure for or developing resistance to these foreign entities is to disassemble the virus or bacterium being targeted and create a harmless version that is still identifiable by your immune system and introduce it to our bodies via a vaccine.

These changed versions of the viruses or bacteria train your body so when the real deal enters you do not fall ill, because your immune system will already identify the unknown intruder in your body and eliminate it.

Scientists have also developed ways to target the pathogen itself and prevent the bacteria/virus DNA from being replicated, thus stopping the spread of the bacteria/virus itself. Other cures have been made where they directly target the cell wall of the bacterium and rip it apart, causing the bacterium to die out.  Both of these solutions are however more expensive and harder to implement than a vaccine.  Each of these solutions over time create resistant strains to the method used, and the only way to prevent this is to get them all before they have the chance to mutate and evolve into a resistant “super-bug”.

When bacteria constantly encounters lethal antibodies in your body, there is a more likely chance that one bacterium will develop resistance and it won’t be long before the entire strain becomes immune to the antibodies. Bacterium can pass on their immunity by interlocking their proteins and then transferring plasmids (bits of dna carrying proteins) between not only their own species of bacteria, but other strains as well.  If a developed anti-biotic that targets the bacteria is not present until the very last one dies, the chances a bacteria pass on it’s resistance skyrockets. This is why doctors tell you to take all of your anti-biotics until they are gone – not just until you feel better.

The Anti-Vaxxer and Anti-Anti-biotic Movements

The vaccine and anti-biotics processes have been known to science for a very long time.  The first smallpox vaccine was created in 1684 (via historyofvaccines.org – seriously check their site out!)  and the first anti-biotic, Penicillin, was created by Alexander Fleming in the 1940s.  Since then huge diseases have been largely cured or rendered ineffective to the population such as Denge fever, Yellow Fever, Measles, and more, but that does not mean those diseases are gone.  We co-habitate with them and they continue to grow and evolve with us.  The most primary example is that of the Zika Virus which evolved to create an outbreak fifty years after it had been known to humans according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The required vaccines doctors ask children to take are vital to the continued life of people all over the world over a very long time, but recently, due to a fake news article connecting the vaccines to autism (historyofvaccines.org), parents all over the world have been swearing off vaccines.  Anti-biotics have also been proven to mess with the pro-biotic bacteria that keep us healthy in our bodies and failure to use them properly has created a great fear of “super-bugs”.  These movements are advocating a life in an environment where we are not immune to the regular viruses and bacteria so we do not spawn greater threats.  The flaw in this argument has to do with the cycle of evolution, and our interference with it.

The Evolutionary March of Science and Nature

As stated in this blog before, these viruses and superbugs are not affecting our bodies due to our immunities in vaccines and thorough use of anti-biotics, but that does not mean they are gone.  It means they exist around us and simply do not harm us.  Any Darwinian Evolutionary scholar worth their salt will tell you that viruses and bacteria evolve very quickly and their hosts are not just humans.  The plague was carried on rodents and Zika is carried on Mosquitos.  These viruses and bacterium will continue to evolve whether we are there or not, and they remain dangerous to us.  The catch however, is when we STOP vaccinating, or we don’t take our anti-biotics seriously we accelerate their evolution instead of stunting it.

We will conclude this blog with a second critical fact.  Our first fact was that this cycle exists and at this point stopping the cycle is a terrible idea. Our second fact, is that stopping this cycle will do nothing to help humanity.  These medical advancements have saved countless lives over half of a century, and if we stop the cycle, these bacterium and viruses will continue as they did prior to vaccines.  People will die.

We implore you.  Continue the cycle of science and nature, keep us one step ahead, and do your responsibility as an adult.  Wipe down your house’s surfaces, vaccinate your children, ensure they take all of their anti-biotics, and take them to get regular checkups.

This blog is a part of a series! Check out the others here!

  1. What does Perpetual Motion, Sisyphus, and the Anti-Vaxxer Movement have in common?
  2. Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science
  3. Rome built in a day:  How we made a Sisyphus machine
  4. Nevertheless She Persisted: The Cycle of Science and Nature

 

Work Cited:  Continue reading “Behind Pandora’s Box: Why Anti-Science Can’t Stop Science”

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What does Perpetual Motion, Sisyphus, and the Anti-Vaxxer Movement have in common?

My time in New Zealand is coming to its end! Already we are so close to the end of the semester and this blog,  albeit forced,  has been a learning experience in patience, creativity and keeping my mind open enough to learn.

This semester’s work is coalescing in what I feel will be a powerful project in visual public discourse.  The assignment I am introducing to you now requires that we make a public piece about an issue of social importance to myself and my partner.  I’m very excited about this!

I am happy to announce I will be working with my partner, Jing, to make a perpetual motion machine similar to the Sisyphus Machine in the video below.  But this box is not simply a toy.  It will be a powerful statement.  Using what we have learned from Mirzeoff, experts in visual communication, and our extracurricular passions thus far, Jing and I will use this machine to make a valuable point about human intervention in nature.

This blog will be regularly updated to reflect the project as well as educate people further on the subject so that we can help inform the public as to the roles of science and medicine in the world today.  Look forward to the following:

  1. We will outline how we got the idea in this blog below.
  2. Our next blog will include research on the anti-vaxxer and anti-biotic rejection movements we have today and why they may have occured.
  3. Then we will post a detailed step-by-step description of the boxes creation.
  4. Finally one last blog that will serve as our public artist statement!

Where did we get such an idea?! 
Prior to joining design school Jing was a pre-med student with an avid love of human physiology, science, and biology.  My freshman anthropology teacher was also a medicinal anthropologist and I developed from her an interest in human evolution and anthropology of medicine.  As an activist and a trans person my own healthcare is also in danger in the united states because I am on Medicaid.

So when Jing brought up the issue of anti-biotics breeding super bugs, evolution marching forward because people don’t know how it works, and scientific research always needing to be cutting edge, I immediately jumped to the rejection of these ideas in the public space; most predominantly in the anti-vaxxer and anti-biotic movements.

Jing and I wanted to illustrate the idea that science and nature tend to perpetually leap frog.  If we are to stay ahead we must always be jumping; every day pushing science higher like Sisyphus!

We talked for hours about how we would illustrate these ideas on the sides of the box similar to the Sysiphus machine.  We want to simultaneously show humans success over dangerous diseases and what losing ground in those successes means on and around the box.  So for each side we will illustrate a concept:

  1. One side we show the discovery of penicillin.
  2. On its opposite the atrocity of plague, yellow fever, and Hepatitis.
  3. We will show on the length side of our box the evolution of humans riddled with death a people fail to realize evolution is a story of bottle-necks.
  4. On the back side we will tell a story of success over the past several generations due to vaccinations antibiotics.
  5. On top of the box will be the machine and the world from the perspective of a virus or bacteria.

We hope you look forward to the development of this project and hang tight while we create it over the next few weeks!  (that’s such a short amount of time!)

See how the Sisyphus machine is built!

Work Cited:

Continue reading “What does Perpetual Motion, Sisyphus, and the Anti-Vaxxer Movement have in common?”

On the Communication Capacity of Online Networking Sites

The notion that World of Warcraft players are anti-social is not a new one (Snodgrass et al, 2011).  The notion that online social media has reduced millennials’ communication skills is not a new one (Sinek, 2016; Conover, 2016).  The idea that people have lost the ability to connect with others due to progressive reliance of online interaction is not a new one (Valkenburg & Jochen, 2007). Each instance has been arguably falsified in academics (Conover, 2016; Mirzeoff 2015; Castells, 2010), but for many years still these arguments have illustrated a growing concern for how digital media negatively impacts the way we communicate (Mirzeoff, 2015). Many myths surrounding the online world’s inability to facilitate good conversations have propagated. Today I would like to counter this notion of online communication being poor. I invite you to look at online communication and the structures of online mediated spaces in a new way.  Sites of communication online are complex structured mediums where the site’s capabilities set the tone and level of conversation in the same way a political conversation in 7/11 is different from one at an academic institution.

In this blog will be two positive examples of online communication sites whose wealth of tools offered to users produce excellent communication environments.  My argument is in combination with better understanding of what our sites’ structures do to discourse, and a vested awareness in how communication online works, we can make great communities that transcend the limited social media capacities of common platforms today, and improve the level of discourse on and offline.

Communication in the early days of the internet – BBS Boards
To make my point strong we go back to the beginnings of the internet with rudimentary HTML (Hyperlink Text Markup Language) topic boards put up before social media was a pipe dream in the mind of programmers (Castells, 2010).  For those not familiar with internet history, the military created a rudimentary web called ARPA NET in the 1980s which was used for scientists in military and universities to collaborate online through BBSs or “Bulletin Board Systems” (Castells P. 36-82). BBSs allowed researchers to connect with and discuss complex topics with each other; BBSs supported rich conversation.  It has stuck around in modern forms as well.  It is popularly seen to have “rudimentary” functions as it’s not all that pretty, but most systems involve link, video, images, gifs, and HTML modification support when arranging assets.  Put short, BBSs are highly expressive.  Take BudgetLightForum.com.  Below is an image of a close friend of mine enacting an entire Identity through avatars, signatures, and descriptive text (Fig. 1).  She directly quoted someone else and she and others on the BBS have created identity, community, and expressions all over the world, bleeding in to offline economic interactions with flash light sales and expos.  With proper understanding of HTML, and other BBS supported languages, the system is a veritable canvas of expressive tones, literary tools, and visuals supporting discourse.

Figure 1: ToyKeeper uses image manipulation, html, Quoting, and text editing to expressively make her point. From BudgetLightForums.com; Comment 5221; Feb. 4th 2016. Retrieved May 4th, 2017. http://budgetlightforum.com/comment/893001#comment-893001
Figure 1: ToyKeeper uses image manipulation, html, Quoting, and text editing to expressively make her point. From BudgetLightForums.com; Comment 5221; Feb. 4th 2016. Retrieved May 4th, 2017. http://budgetlightforum.com/comment/893001#comment-893001

While BBSs are highly expressive, there is something to be said for their exclusivity.  BBSs require back-end upkeep from board administrators, a consistent community, knowledge of the code languages the board supports, and a good deal of time. This may suggest why the BBS format has been phased out in favor of a more simple, curated, and limited social experience in the modern social media we deem as the problem.

 

A Modern Approach:  Ello

When people think of millennials glued to their devices they are normally thinking of modern social media such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter (Mirzeoff, P. 150).  Putting aside the arguments that millennials don’t exist (Conover, 2016), these platforms have integrated reality into them, and screen time is increasing across generations all over the world (Mirzeoff, p.154), I invite you to compare the structure of twitter who only provides 140 characters per post and one image, to an up-and-coming social site – Ello.co (Fig. 2).

Unlike Twitter’s highly accessible if tremendously limited discourse environment, Ello is a highly visual artistic and pseudo-exclusive social platform without ads.  It is a visual blogging platform that is commonly used to find artists and social media specialists (Traphagen, 2014). Ello came about as a response to the structural restrictions of Facebook who controls what goes in to each user’s feed, restricts user content to balance it with ads, and overall poorly structures conversation.  Ello allows users to use a language like HTML on BBSs, but has a UI similar to a modern social media site (Traphagen).  Posting on Ello can be remarkably simple, or complex with a drag-and-drop interface and support for videos, images, GIFs, and links.  Ello’s focus on visual structure of communication is highly refined allowing for a great amount of expressiveness, but it is far more accessible (Fig. 2).

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Fig 2:  An example post on Ello shows a simple drag/drop UI. Sept. 28 from Mark Traphagen.  Setp. 28th 2014. Retrieved May 3rd, 2017.
 https://www.stonetemple.com/ello-the-complete-guide-to-the-ad-free-social-network/

Ello’s “stream” or interactions with others is also separated between two streams where you have full control over what you see, and a stream of ads from businesses or people you follow.  These features of Ello combine with a very aesthetic focus and create a small-community online feel that fosters complex and rich communication when compared to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

Conclusion:

Facebook and Twitter among the other more popular sites have seemingly eclipsed BBS boards and Ello is having trouble maintaining a foothold in popular domains, but they are hardly the only formats that have a range of highly expressive and powerful communication structures online.  Joining them are sites such as DeviantArt, Weebly, gaming platforms such as Curse or Discord, video streaming sites such as YouTube, Twitch, and Skype.  Online games and virtual reality enterprises are spending more time thinking about how to integrate the virtual world in to real life.  These platforms and their communities put this growing misconception that communication online is poor, to bed.  So, when interacting with someone online, consider whether the platform’s design, the medium you speak through, and the capabilities you are missing, are arbitrarily limiting your ability to communicate your ideas to your fullest.  If the answer to that question is yes, consider switching to a more expressive platform.

Work Cited: read more

Continue reading “On the Communication Capacity of Online Networking Sites”

I’d like to take a moment…

Hello everyone.

This blog is from me, not related to class or communication or communities or work.  I want to take a moment to discuss my absences in posting after deciding to do this blog every week (yeah, that went well) and providing a plan for what I will post.

Here’s the thing.  This all feels forced.  So so so very forced.  Writing about what i want to write about in a community I want to build just does not fit in with any class.  And i’ve been on spring vacation and in school in wellington doing writing assignments for classes and in all honesty…..they have no place here on a public blog that I want to build.  Yet I am required to do a blog for them.  I feel like the space I wanted to create has been stolen and written FOR me and that’s just simply no way to do a blog about inquisitive, high value, rich-media content.  I want to make this a reality but there is a simple truth about myself i have had to swallow over the past few months…

I am not a content creator.  I have been in the past with my youtube channel and with Trans Youth Channel and with RESCQU NET.  I made my own things then.  And it worked. It can work in the future.  But this past term of this class has shown me how much  I dislike making someone else’s content for their purposes (although not for their standards) and for that reason, being a content creator under contract or for a class simply has never stuck with me.

I want to be authentic to viewers.  In all actuality I don’t have many.  But the best way to be authentic is to be straightforward.  I am not a content creator in a blogging community at this point.  I want to talk and discuss.  Create discourse, develop ideas, and have great interactions around the content others make while producing the content I own.  I want to promote good ideas, and suss out bad ideas for the quality they can provide.  I’ve learned something about myself and that is that I cannot make fettered content.

So from now until my class ends, most of my articles are going to feel forced – because they are.  This is not a medium I am comfortable using to appease my teachers.  So I want to formally apologize for that.  I’m a square peg fitting in to a round hole here.

With that in mind, i endeavor to make that content as best as I can.  Please look forward to what I have to say regardless.

Visual Communication and Where I plan to go With This Blog

It is no secret that this blog was recently started due to a spurred requirement of a class I am taking during my Study Abroad trip to New Zealand.  The class is essentially a class on the appreciation and impact of visual communication in our world.  I personally am not looking to specialize in visual communication and already have an associate in art, but given I am looking to specialize in online community management which is almost entirely a visual area of expertise, I plan on modifying the intent of this class a bit.

A few weeks ago my school required that I read “How to See the World” by Nicholas Mirzoeff which is all about visual communication and the impact of art on various levels of the socio-ecological scale.  For design students, the book is wonderful and by and large I have enjoyed reading it, (I’m on chapter 6), but something has been bothering me about it and the class.  The book reads like a basic history report of much higher-brow sociological textbooks.  It is simultaneously very accessible to lay-readers and annoyingly paced to me. Chapter 4, “The World on Screen” is a discussion of how visual technologies have reduced the perceived size of the world and created a “global village”.  Its intent is to illustrate how technologies have changed the way we as a public see the world, but I feel the subject was glossed over in the 30-page chapter.  Mirzoeff talks about the importance of trains in movies for about 50% of the chapter, TVs and reporting for 22%, and then technology – not even recent technology – comprises another 20% (Mirzoeff,2015).  Proofs of these concepts and what I consider filler make up the rest.

Now I have nothing against trains, but all he is saying about them is that they became an important “place-marker” for visual media for several decades.  He uses seven examples throughout the chapter, and several of them focus on the filming techniques used.  Trains are an allegory for travel and connection in many ways and can be used to symbolize a smaller world because of technology.  People have used this symbolism a lot – but is it really supporting a “world on screen” argument?  I feel that it is more of a red-herring then direct evidence.  From a visual design perspective though it teaches an important lesson about artistic choice (we’ll get to this in a bit).

Comparing this argument (if it is one) to the powerful impact of “The Rise of the Networked Society” by Manuel Castells,  in which he has entire chapters in his 3 volume thesis on the rise of the internet, discusses visual communication architecture for an entire section of his second volume, and focuses on an intense connection across multiple academic spheres throughout to make his point clear, I would be far more satisfied reading Castells’ then with Mirzoeff’s chapter (Castells, 2011).
While the book feels ill-paced to me and does not focus on the subjects as much as I would prefer it is still a highly valuable book.  Mirzoeff’s argument throughout the fifth chapter is geared for a visual audience and intended to make one think of the technology as a powerful force in artistic mediums.  As I said previously it is a very accessible book to the public and I feel this is the intent of the class I am reading the book for as well.

Moving on to the class, Massey University’s Wellington campus is a business/design school and the course is a freshman level course.  Many of the students have not heard of a socio-ecological scale, semiotics theory, rich media context theory, or most theories at all. They’ve likely been taught their elements and principles of design, the golden rule, and how to write a proper journal.  The class seems to appropriately gloss over the deep theory when considering the impact of digital media on communities, but they do focus on the benefits and power of symbolism in art work.  The class itself provided 17 sources from the public sphere to answer the question on technologies impact to the visual world.  It’s obvious that the class is geared toward the level of discussion Mirzoeff Provides.  Mirzoeff’s book is more likely than Castells to stoke their fires and help them learn.

For me though, it is not enough, so I would like to use this blog to analyze these questions a tad more in depth.  I’d like to go above-and-beyond so to speak.  Over the next few weeks I will be considering how the integration of visual technology will or has impacted the internet and physical spaces.  I will use important theories in communication, evidence from qualitative and quantitative analysis, and I will pull from important prior research in several disciplines.

Throughout the next month I plan to look at the topic of “communication technology” using the following thesis:

  • How our notions of 2-Dimensional hardware devices have swayed our perspectives of our online communities.
  • How motivations, Rich Media Context Theory, online environment, and Semiotics interact with the quality of online conversation.
  • The impact of online forum architecture – comparing BBS (bulletin board style) forums and Social Media formats of different sorts.
  • Why the term “Online Community Manager” is problematic considering these topics.

Of course, as these are not yet written they are subject to change, but I certainly hope that this will give you a good overall view of where I plan to go with the blog over the next month.  Weekly installments will publish every Friday and some extras may be present!

EDIT: I set 2 of these articles to publish over my Easter holiday break but apparently they are set in June >///>  This is entirely my fault and  I have scheduled them to publish 2 at a time every Wednesday instead to keep up with the school assignment.

 

Work Cited:

Castells, M. (2013). Rise of the Networked Society (3rd ed., Vol. 1). Wiley-Blackwell.

Mirzoeff, N. (2016). How to see the world: an introduction to images, from self-portraits to selfies, maps to movies, and more. New York: Basic Books.

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Context is Queen – Art and Communities

I don’t remember how I felt when Princess Diana died (BBC).  I remember the news riddled with grief I could not feel. I remember days of shock I could not fathom.  I remember a car crash as important to me as a local crash on the state line, and I remember a very beautiful woman all over that coverage whose name I could only place by way of scrolling credits. I don’t remember how I felt, or where I was, or why it was so sad.

9/11 though! I remember 9/11 (CNN).  I remember where I was when I was pulled off the playground early by obviously distracted teachers.  I remember the news broadcast replacing English.  And Math. And History.  I remember a fast-moving clock and those burning towers.  I remember a discussion of what half-staff flags meant and I remember the frequently disappearing children of armed forces officers getting picked up before I myself left the school around noon.  I cried heavy tears.  A few of my classmates lost a parent.

IMG_0594
Samantha Logan. Copy of Artist Unknown, 2014

The impact of 9/11 has defined much of my political and economic opinions.  It defined a presidency, a war in the middle east, and an economic crisis.  One of my three most impacted art pieces (right) I posted on this blog earlier  was a direct critique on the war in Iraq (“Art Appreciation”).  Looking at that piece brings that feeling back.  That connection I felt to Andrew, the short buzz-cut kid whose mother came to pick him up and who did not return to class for two weeks. A painting brings back those feelings, and the community I was a solid part of in that moment.

My experiences of 9/11 and that of Princess Diana, were very, very different situations.  Both were devastating and defined a decade.  But my response to each represents a profound difference in what it means to be a part of a community in its context. Most profoundly, it exemplifies Arts’ place in community discourse.

The Cindy Sherman Clown Series I discussed last week in “how to get art” were inspired by the 9/11 attacks (Logan & Baker).  They were about taking the raw emotions felt by America and placing them on the faces of a few clowns in a career permitted to show those emotions.  Those clowns have cut across time.

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Sherman, Cindy.  2003, “Untitled #424”

One could easily apply “untitled #424” to the death of Princess Diana with the right context.  They could imagine a travesty in a local gay bar in Florida, or an attack on parliament in London (Cherney Et. Al., & . Dewan & Moorhouse).

That said, I would like to reflectively underscore the purpose of my previous few blogs:  Community is required to understand art, but art, provides a most valuable service, to communities and their networks by gluing them together.  In art and in writing feelings are royal, but context is queen.  It is in the presence of context that the art of Cindy Sherman, becomes vital and important to any community looking desperately to find that visceral connection between and with others.

 

Work Cited (Read More):

P.S:  My heart goes out to the victims of the London attack earlier today.  Attacks like these, and the media on the news that it represents brings about these same feelings – they always have,  and it is always a tearing feeling to know that emotion is raw and new for the families involved.  To learn more an up to date report is provided here (Dewan & Moorhouse).

Continue reading “Context is Queen – Art and Communities”

A New Path, a New Class, a New Country

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The evening sunset on Island Bay NZ; by Samantha Logan Feb 16, 2017

Starting this blog over again is a bitter-sweet feeling for me.  This blog started originally as a way for me to get my thoughts out surrounding the Non-profit I originally began in 2013, Trans* Youth Channel, but those days are long since past and much like this blog, TYC has been driven into the depths of the internet – ignored and long since outdated.

And yet here I am,  posting my first post on here in two years.  My intent with this blog in general is going to be about my moving on and moving up.  To do that however, it is first necessary to contextualize where I have been, why a new path is coming about, and what spurred me to revive this site.  I will seek now, in this post to do so.

What happened?
Trans Youth Channel has since become RESCQU NET and has as of a month of my writing this (2 years after my last post), received it’s second Executive Director in March of 2017.  It’s hard to imagine that I have been running this organization for 6 years, but I am also aware that in the grand scheme of things that is a very short (albeit successful) interim.  I realized in 2016 that it was time to move on.  My time in the LGBT+ community as a transgender advocate was never something I would imagine giving up, but my heart feels that now it is time to emigrate into a larger more grand world where I can feel I am making an impact that resounds into multiple communities and across multiple interests.  I am embarking on a new journey in all ways; socially, financially, and geographically.

Where Am I Going?
I am in New Zealand now.  I recently embarked on a trip here for a study abroad semester under Erika Pearson – a wonderfully insightful and talented researcher of online communities at Massey University here in Wellington.  My interest in her work and the field of online community management (I prefer the term facilitation) began because of RESCQU NET (Trans* Youth Channel).  I wanted to learn how to do my job of fostering an online community better.  After two years of schooling and research I discovered it was much easier said then done.

I have since been involved in multiple areas of study and made it my life’s goal to be as much of a polymath as I could be; to learn as much as I could about how humans aggregate and think, how they feel and speak.  I did this with the goal of improving conversations happening in networks of communities around me.  I got involved in public policy deliberation with the Center for Public Deliberation to understand how flaws in communication affect communities of people. I started doing Ethnographic journals of New Zealand and Online Worlds like Guild Wars 2 to understand physical and digital communities.  I started investing my time more in art communities to have an empathetic connection to them.  I began easing myself into social life through video gaming and e-sports communities like Super Smash Brothers.  And then I started seeking out those classes that would show me – not teach me but show me – how to communities worked.

And the Big Why?

And so, I am very excited to be a part of a new class here at Massey Wellington requiring me to create a blog and bolster a community of like-minded people around a more visual platform!  Perhaps this will light the fire under my wings to revive my great admiration for art, to get re-involved in a community of people here to create and contribute to each others’ work.

This class is called Communication in Creative Cultures, and throughout the semester (and hopefully beyond) this blog will see an analysis of the community, culture, people, and theoretical applications I see in my adventures. I will supplement these analysis with various communication and anthropological theories to properly inform the discourse surrounding active community involvement, and I will do this with the ultimate goal, of becoming a strong community member.

For a more general ethnography of my New Zealand travels check out my travel blog! Updated every Wednesday and Saturday with one new day’s entry! EthnographicTravels.Weebly.com

 

 

The Manifesto blogs – Part 3: How we reach an invisible audience

Reaching out to an Invisible LGBT+ community – those who are closeted, stealth, questioning, or in under-resourced areas – is inherently problematic. If the audience is invisible how exactly does one create services that understand, reach out, and make an effort to support them? In traditional business the “market profile” solves the problem of not understanding the audience a product is made for by doing often costly research. By earnestly listening to people one hopes to reach, one can create a profile of their likes, dislikes or commonalities, and then cater the product or service to them. It is a wonderfully powerful tool that still enriches our businesses today and is responsible for the ridiculous amounts of Ragu spaghetti sauce or pepsi flavors on your supermarket shelves today.

On the other hand however, this “market profile” has come to be expected in the world of non-profits which has made things rather difficult for the community LGBT+ nonprofits seek to support. Grant foundations expect that when they give a nonprofit money to do a project that organization has already done the research necessary to accurately predict how well the service or product will be received by what audiences and to what end.

The invisible community on the other hand, is identified by way of not having a public voice due to hurdles and anxieties so the invisible community legitimately cannot inform foundations of their presence, who they are, and what they need to the extent foundations require. This of course comes to the detriment of this same community. Trans* Youth Channel happens to be the only organization catering to such a community almost precisely because all other organizations find it a risky venture to spend precious donation funds on. Although many programs are at the invisible community’s fingertips and a world of online sites have inadvertently provided parts of what invisible people need, no one makes or provides services directly for them so information is scattered, difficult to get to, and often comes with a mountain of hurdles and anxieties.

This narrative defines for us a dilemma: While Trans* Youth Channel’s mission is to assist the invisible community, and we understand what pressures have created the community, we cannot help them unless we consider three questions:

  1. How can we safely learn more about the invisible community,
  2. How can we reach that community to provide our services in a way that best suits them,
  3. And can we do it in a way that convinces public organizations to invest in them?

The 3rd question is large so it will be the topic of our 4th manifesto blog, but in this blog we will focus on the first two questions. In order to achieve our mission of getting resources into the hands of invisible community members, while helping those members overcome their hurdles we first have to think creatively about how to safely contact them, then how best to accommodate them, and ultimately we must rely heavily on the grapevine of community members we already have to make up any short sights and learn about them.

Getting in contact:

If you are a 15 year old questioning invisible member of the community still living with your parents and without a job it is remarkably difficult to attain resources. Despite this however the invisible community has flocked to YouTube,

matthewsplace.com, and many other sites to attain the information they need to learn about their identities, come to terms with them, and then determine whether to come out. Getting involved in communities online is a dangerous proposition with the advent of the “real names” policy put forward by Facebook, and the ridiculous amount of hoops you have to jump through to protect your private information. Googling “how to come out to my parents” could elicit weeks of ad marketing that if on a family computer, could spell a bad “outing” experience for many youth.

Fortunately, Trans* Youth Channel is cleverly taking advantage of this system by using those ad spaces to warn those who “trip up” on Google, Facebook, and other platforms that they could be outed and in 5 easy steps teaching them how to avoid it. In doing so we are also establishing a 2 way mode of communication that is anonymous secure and safe for them to use, which provides them access to our weekly digest and support group programs.

Accommodating Invisible Community Members

As valuable as using google and other ads is for keeping the invisible community from being outed unexpectedly on Facebook, Trans* Youth Channel’s services would be equally useless if the invisible community felt insecure, or scared using our services or if we imparted a very real danger of outing them by way of leaking information. Many find making an account dangerous, lurking on one page for much too long to be risky, and posting on pages worrisome due to the chance that a friend could come across it. So if we are to keep the community safe Trans* Youth Channel must ensure that all of our programs and online interfaces are made to suit this audience and that means refraining from a few key analysis methods.

Trans* Youth Channel's values to invisible members online
our promised values to community members

We at TYC are making a promise, right here and now:

We will not require any data on anyone – even for our own purposes – save for one email address (we recommend separate from your daily life) and an optional first name, unless it is provided directly to us for 1 time permissions, by survey, in the course of providing services, or if proactively offered to us by the legal owner of this information. We will rely as little as possible on any data or information provided to us by default from social media sites or other third parties, and we will not provide to other organizations any specific data on community members. Any data shared will be generic and with full confidentiality of those who provided it intact in accordance with university collection methods.

In this data driven world, businesses rely heavily on big data so such a promise is a big change, but for the invisible community, we feel it is a positive move in privacy that assists our community and the very intersectional net neutrality movement in maintaining a freedom of resources, community, and support that does not endanger them.

Relying heavily on the grapevine

Because we will be taking minimal information and all of that information can be entirely fictional in order to protect the security, safety and anonymity of the community, we are not going to be getting very much information on the invisible LGBT+ community unless we ask directly. It comes at a tremendous disadvantage and perhaps this is another reason organizations are so reluctant to help invisible members. Hopefully with the spreading of our word as a safe space, we can make up for that disadvantage through the grapevine; through people and word of mouth.

It is our take that the largest amount of contact anyone will have with the Invisible LGBT+ community will be interpersonal. It will be those individuals who are struggling to come out finding the courage and the opportunity to come out to one safe “out” LGBT+ individual in person or online. We’ve experienced this happen almost every day since TYC began and bloggers saw comments on our YouTube channels. There has always been a level of private mentorship that helped connect invisible members with ‘out’ LGBT+ individuals and we intend to better facilitate this very personal mode of assistance. By equipping those who are already connected to us and our partners with our programs and having them inform us on community needs, we can develop a stronger community of people who can speak with us anonymously through anonymous surveys and make up for what “big data” could immorally give us.

Even though there will be little grant funds and little assistance from big name organizations largely catering to an out community; even though little will be afforded to help us accomplish our mission of bridging the gap between the ‘out’ LGBT+ Brick-and-mortar nonprofits, we plan on having genuine safe, secure, anonymous and quality communication with the invisible community so that we can better understand them, meld our programs to their needs, and provide resources, community, and support sooner for them.

Next week we will discuss the third question put forward here and the other half of our mission statement: How do we convince public organizations to invest in the invisible community and in us?

Samantha with a volunteer for lunch at this year's Creating Change!

About Samantha

About Samantha:
President and CEO 

Samantha Logan is a 23 year old transgender woman and the CEO of Trans* Youth Channel. She is an activist for the LGBT+ community and runs her own personal Youtube channel, ‘Nameissammi  where she speaks about her transition coming full circle, from just starting out, to post op with Dr. Suporn in just 3 years.

Samantha is also a college student majoring in Communications and minoring in Anthrpology with the intent of building a stronger, more secure, low anxiety, platform for the invisible LGBT+ community.  She has extensive prior experience working with Constant Contact, a large email, social media, and event marketing platform that she has learned a great deal from.

Samantha’s greatest passion is the pursuit of knowledge and resources to teach and grow with others in her community making her a perfect leader and mentor for many of the LGBT youth that she works with.  Trans Youth Channel is a product of that desire to support and provide resources for people to better their lives and succeed in their endeavors.

In her free time Samantha’s hobbies include, fine art and graphic design,  steampunk fashion or decor, and table-top gaming.   You’ll often find her in coffee shops or bars socializing with family and friends about the latest science, art, or communications theories to come about in the world, as she is a big science and Sci-Fi nerd.

Samantha works hard to bring about change in her community but recently has focused most primarily on the invisible LGBT+ community;  people who struggle in the darkness, away from the movements resources, community, and activism.  These are the closeted, people still questioning their identities, those who have been forced back into hiding,  and those just starting out their journeys or in under-served communities with no access.

With this blog, and Trans* Youth Channel Samantha hopes that she and her volunteers will bring about a movement that can contact disadvantaged LGBT+ people earlier in their struggle and directly stunt the large incidents of suicide, hate crime, and harm to the LGBT+ community while allowing people to express who they are sooner and more authentically.

If you’d like to help or just talk about the issues surrounding these people please
email her here!