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Introduction to New Media, the Arts and Social Change Series

April 15, 2010

I came to organize this series having become intrigued by a number of recent online encounters and their multifarious moves towards combining visuality and progressive politics. To begin with, months after the fact, I had stumbled across an August 2008 video of Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell on YouTube speaking to heuristics and the power of visualization when facing the unavoidable cognitive dissonance Americans—whether “racist or anti-racist, black or white”—were experiencing when considering the possibility of electing a black president. In it, she discussed the need for Barack Obama’s campaign to create a new schema within which the American population could set aside the traditional images of presidency in favor of a new, previously invisible option. Visualization when facing change—put simply—is key. And in November 2008 when the Yes Men distributed fake copies of the New York Times that put front and center the collective hopes of the American people, making visible the inadequacies of our government and its bedfellow media, I, like many, immediately chuckled only to realize minutes later the rawness with which the “hoax “exposed my and others’ deepest frustrations. Similarly, over the last few months, I have continually been impressed by 350.org’s global campaign to—among other goals—make visible the common desire to save our planet through documentary photography displayed in slideshow format online. Knowing that these examples appear a bit dated as of late—especially considering how quickly time moves online—I put out a Call for Writers on GAB, hoping to learn about more recent related moves.

Appropriately though perhaps longwindedly, the original Call for this series asked for contributing articles to be submitted on the topic “Visualizing our World’s Future: How Techniques and Tools of Visuality are Being Used to Raise Awareness, Communicate and Make Change.” While most submissions did fit these criteria, for the sake of brevity and specificity, the series’ title has changed to the more simple title “New Media, the Arts and Social Change.” Over the next two days, Gender Across Borders will provide you with nine articles, written by GAB editors and new contributors alike, which discuss contemporary examples of artworks and new media that in their own unique ways work to address, dispute and ratify issues of public concern. Articles about recent music videos, TV shows, YouTube trends, a young new media non-profit, an online art exhibition, a recent work of performance art and a documentary film are all on the bill. They will discuss the intersections of beauty standards, race, gender, sexuality, environmentalism, creativity and/or violence. The style, tone and approaches of each of these articles vary greatly, but they are brought together in their shared passion for thinking critically and positively through images to our future. I invite you to participate in the conversation, weighing in with your own opinions and perspectives, so that the conversation can press forward. Thank you and enjoy!

Pushing Beauty Boundaries With YouTube by Vanessa Lazar

Virtual Death as Protest: Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat” by Maria Guzman

A Vibrant Encounter Space Online: The International Museum of Women by Sharon Ufberg

Global Girl Media: Encouraging Self-Expression Through Video by Carrie Polansky

Change Grown from Documentary’s Seeds by Elizabeth Darnall

Visuality and Feminism(?) in Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” Video by Amy Littlefield

Empower-tainment: “True Beauty” Celebs Miss the Big Picture by Samantha Moore

Wafaa Bilal: Art as Agitation by Roxanne Samer

Reels, Wheels and Cycles by G. Kay Bishop

Roxanne Samer
Visual Arts Editor
Gender Across Borders
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