All posts by navignon

Taking Back Twerking

For many Americans, saying the word “twerk” conjures up images of rap videos where scantily-clad gyrate their hips while bent over a blinged-out Cadillac Escalade. Twerking is seen as sexual, incredibly controversial and even scandalous. Just look at the astonished reaction that Miley Cyrus’ surprise twerk session at the VMA Awards in 2013. For a lot of white Americans, this was their first encounter with what appeared to be a lewd, almost primitive form of dancing.
This is sad and frustrating to me as a native Islander. Long before white celebs like Miley hijacked it to cause a stir, the act that Americans call “twerking” was a simple form of dancing, an expression of passion, a cultural movement. Growing up in Haiti, we didn’t call it twerking — we called it dance. It wasn’t scandalous — it was just moving our bodies in celebration of all the good things of life.
I vividly remember a day after my family moved to the U.S. from Haiti. I had grown up with the beautiful dances of the islands, which I carried back with me to the states. I had been dancing as I always had in front of some American family friends. Their scornful looks of disgust still burn in my mind. “Why does such an innocent little girl like her dance like that?” they asked my parents.
To me, I see this as a conflict between cultural norms. In Afro-centric cultures like the Caribbean, we value physical freedom of expression, including moving our bodies as a means of celebration. In the U.S., there is still a puritan abhorrence of anything that can be interpreted as being overtly sexual. The rap artists who have plastered our minds with images of women twerking are partially at fault for this. They’ve taken something pure and wholesome and turned it into a precursor to sex. But that’s never what it was supposed to be — it was simply an expression of joy.
Ladies, it’s time to take back our twerking.
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My Instagram Journey

I have always been slightly skeptical of using social media personally. It seemed to me that everyone gave off a well-manicured façade, where everyone “humble brags” and shares a very specific version of themselves. I have been on Facebook for years as a networking tool, but hadn’t been very interested in Instagram. It didn’t seem like there was anything on Instagram that I couldn’t already do on Facebook. I’m so busy with everything in my life that I hardly needed another distraction.

And yet, here I am, several weeks into using my new Instagram account our social media class at Metro State. I have mixed feelings about my experience so far. On one hand, it’s great to be able to share gorgeous visual snapshots of my life. Using Instagram has made me see the beauty in things both big and small in the world around me. I like having a place where I can share them with people I know.

Knock.

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On the other hand, what concerns me the most about being on Instagram is that everything I do is turned into data and picked apart by marketers and sales people. It’s no secret that Facebook (who owns Instagram) tracks everything we do and is also continually developing new image recognition technology which already learns faces, but will some day learn places, products and more. Everything I share with the world is archived, digitized and saved on a server and put into an algorithm for analysis.

Why did the ducks cross the road? #bridge

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I go back and forth on whether or not this troubles me or not. My initial reaction is to be freaked out that I am being watched and my actions analyzed. It makes me feel like my privacy has been violated and I don’t have control over how it gets used. On the other hand, it’s going to help marketers sell things to me more effectively. If it helps them do their job better, and means I get better recommendations, I’m not totally against that. I guess it concerns me that I don’t have transparency in terms of where it’s going and what’s happening.

First Instagram #selfie.

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I know I’m not going through this journey alone – so I look forward to being a part of the Instagram community in this course. As to what happens after this … I am undecided.

Reconsider How To Fight Poverty in Developing Countries

In today’s digital social media world, it’s very easy to contribute to a whole lot of causes that are claiming to fight poverty. Everywhere there are non-profits and organizations that claim to help people in developing nations – the Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, Feed My Starving Children and more. It’s so easy to contribute without thinking critically about where the money is going and if it’s actually making an impact. 
 
As a native Haitian who spent a year working at an innovative non-profit fighting poverty in Haiti, I believe we need to seriously reevaluate how we contribute to eradicating poverty. 
First off, we can’t assume that non-profits, even the biggest ones in the world, are using donations properly. Two years ago, NPR found that $500 million in donated funds for Haiti earthquake relief were missing. This is not an isolated incident. Non-government organizations aren’t often transparent about where donated funds go to, partially because we as the donors aren’t that interested. We just want to feel like we’ve done something good. 
 
Our desire to feel good about our contributions goes so far that we sometimes inadvertently hurt the very people we’re supposedly trying to help. This excellent New York Times article shows how volunteer missions trips to do stuff like build homes puts local construction workers out of business and strains the local resources.
Volunteering seems like an admirable way to spend a vacation. Many of us donate money to foreign charities with the hope of making the world a better place. Why not use our skills as well as our wallets? And yet, watching those missionaries make concrete blocks that day in Port-au-Prince, I couldn’t help wondering if their good intentions were misplaced. These people knew nothing about how to construct a building. Collectively they had spent thousands of dollars to fly here to do a job that Haitian bricklayers could have done far more quickly. Imagine how many classrooms might have been built if they had donated that money rather than spending it to fly down themselves. Perhaps those Haitian masons could have found weeks of employment with a decent wage. Instead, at least for several days, they were out of a job.
This type of short-term, self-gratifying contribution is so common that we’ve become immune to it and have lost the ability to see that it’s happening. Instead, we need to partner with local communities to determine their needs, their desires and gauge the resources they already have at their disposal. As the incredible documentary “Poverty, Inc.” demonstrates, the work Westerners often engage in rarely involves the locals in terms of vision-casting, planning and execution. We assume these people are unable to do it themselves, so we must do it for them. It’s demeaning and it perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
What must we do instead? Work with organizations that express an interest in long-term change that involves the local communities and allows them to set the priorities and direction. Consider if the way we’re each contributing is actually helping people, or just making ourselves feel good while furthering their poverty.
That is how to be an enlightened partner to these people.

Chasing Trump’s Gaffes, Not His True Failures

The Internet has exploded overnight — President Trump, at 12:06am, shared a completely non-sensical tweet.

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The tweet was deleted, but not before it was screenshotted and widely shared. Immediately, he was roasted left and right by people making fun of this embarrassing tweet, and the fact that he frequently tweets completely out-of-the-blue thoughts at all hours of the night. The unfortunate gaffe received a lot of media coverage, such as this article at The Guardian. It’s a deep dive into the incident and the broad response from the public it collectively laughed and mocked the President.
The article, written by veteran reporter Elle Hunt, is actually quite well-written. It’s a humorous look at the incident, with a negative tone to it. This isn’t from Hunt’s own words, but rather the huge tide of negative conversation on Twitter.
The issue I have with this coverage — and the Internet as a collective being — is that it’s stupid, pointless things like this that get people fired up and get them active in conversation. In some ways, it makes sense. Watching Trump make a fool of himself is easy to bash, as it doesn’t require a lot of critical thinking. When a politician makes a mistake, it’s totally fair game for the public to go on the offensive. That’s just the way the Internet works.
Yet, there is so much more happening with this administration that’s incredibly important, but not getting people fired up on social media. I have no problem with Elle Hunt’s article on its own, but in the context of the larger political issues, the stupid tweet seems hardly worth mentioning. Like a lot of writers these days, she’s biased toward covering stories that will get a lot of attention and engagement on social media. I’m not saying that she, or anyone else in the media isn’t covering the right stories about Trump and his people, but little side things like this are just a distraction. They take eyeballs away from stories that might determine the fate of our entire world.

The Manchester Attack and Different Approaches To News Storytelling

Hi everyone,
Like many people, I’ve been walking around with a heavy heart because of the horrifying suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena on Monday. My Facebook news feed has been filled with an endless supply of articles about the attack — breaking updates, recaps, biographies of the victims and opinion pieces. All of this reading has really demonstrated the difference in news storytelling between the more “traditional” news outlets and newer, Millenial-focused publications. The former is still focused on long-form, newspaper-like articles and the latter uses more images, multimedia and information shared in tweet-like tidbits.
Take this article from The New York Times. It’s a great piece that both updates the reader on the increased terror levels as well as give a recap of everything that’s happened since the attack occurred. The voice is formal and professional — it definitely feels like a global newspaper. Moreover, the paragraphs are long and the language is fairly academic. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this style, as the Times is often considered the best newspaper in the world.
In contrast, there’s this BuzzFeed article. For one thing, it’s a “developing story” type article, which acts more of a social feed. As updates are created by the editorial team, they’ll get pushed to that link. This is nice, because it can be a one-stop-shop for all info on the attack, including the latest updates. There’s also no need to hunt down a bunch of links. But the different tone and style is what is so different from the Times. Beautiful images, embedded social posts and links fill the page. The paragraphs are short, bite-sized and succinct. There doesn’t seem to be a single wasted word. The language also feels like it’s catered for younger, social media-savvy readers.
In conclusion, I am not trying to make a judgement over which style is “better” — although I do appreciate the highly visual, succinct style of the Buzzfeed article — but rather demonstrate how journalism and storytelling are advancing and changing. The Times is sticking with its tried-and-true style, which originated in their newspaper, while Buzzfeed is taking advantage of digital and social media to its full capacity.
Thoughts? Thanks!
Norka

Will Slack Replace Facebook’s Role In Your Life?

Blog Type #1
As students of this course on social media, we’re spending a lot of time investigating new emerging tools and channels to communicate, network and collaborate with each other. One of the most fascinating ones to me was Slack. I had heard of it in passing, but never had a chance to test it out. From chatting with other classmates, I know I’m not the the only one. We’re all living in something of a digital renaissance and its our collective jobs to decide which social media platforms are meaningful to us.
Along those lines, I wanted to share this article at The Atlantic, a magazine known for critical thinking and digging into global trends. It looks at how Slack could be positioning itself to kill Facebook, which is the long-running giant in the social media world. It talks about how Facebook has always tried to take its competitors features and make them its own (such as the new Facebook Stories, which are a ripoff of Snapchat.) But, Slack is using the same strategy:
Slack has always found useful ways to integrate third-party apps within its service—or, in Slack’s parlance, to reduce the “context switching” that eats away at productivity. But the move also reveals quite a bit about Slack’s larger ambitions, and may hint at the larger direction of the social web. The main point is, Slack doesn’t want you to have to log off—ever. This is a familiar mentality online these days.
It’s a really interesting point of view. And that begs a good question: Could you see Slack replacing Facebook’s role in your life? How about email? Messenger services like WhatsApp? I am curious what everyone’s thoughts are. Personally, I think Slack does offer a lot of features I use, but I already have other apps or places that I prefer. It would take a lot for me to switch.