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Smartphone video use during political unrest

How does amateur video taken on smartphones during political unrest affect news reporting and perception of events?

There has been a quick rise in the use of smartphones by consumers throughout the world. Smartphones and other mobile phones are equipped with a video recording function, allowing users to take videos anytime, anywhere.

What happens during times of political unrest? Traditionally, news reporters enter risky situations to get the story, often recording riots, protests, and even people dying on the streets from violence, whether it is during war or in response to an injustice. However lately, spectators have acted as reporters, video recording the violent events themselves on their devices.

This brings to light two transitions taking place. The first is the immediate availability and function of media for a user – to be able to whip out a smartphone and record a riot. The second is the ability of a common person to generate news content. There has recently been an increase in user generated content with the rise of social media networks and blogs. The intersection of these two transitions has resulted in spectators at events of unrest recording them on their readily available smartphones and then broadcasting them or supplying them to news outlets for use in broadcasts.

You can look up on YouTube or Google amateur video that was taken during almost any riot in the U.S. that you choose to view. Many people standing by choose to take video of these events because they feel strongly that what is happening – either the event, or the circumstances which led to the event – is unjust, and they want other people to see what is happening.

How do you think that user generated video has affected news reporting and perception of events?

Do you think it brings viewers into the situation in a way they couldn’t have been before, or do you think it is an intrusion of privacy/unethical?

How do you think this would be perceived or responded to in your different cultures (for common citizens to record videos of riots and events and then post them online or submit them to a news station, for instance, to be broadcast)?

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Music for social change during/following unrest?

I’d like to have a dialogue about the power of music and its contribution to change during times of political or social unrest.

I chose the song “Wavin’ Flag” as a case for music being used for change during unrest because I think it provokes a sense of unity and overcoming of adversity. The musical artist K’NAAN is originally from Somalia and then lived in Canada. He is classified as a hip hop artist. This is one version of the song which is a collaboration with the artists will.i.am. and David Guetta.

If you type “Somalia” into Google, as I just did, you will probably see results that talk about “rescuing,” “aid,” and “pirates.” I’ve never known anyone from Somalia, but the media in the U.S., to me, has framed it as an unsafe and violent place, so that is all I have to go by. Therefore, I assume that K’NAAN must be safer and freer since he has left Somalia.

K’NAAN made a conscious decision after he rose as an artist in western culture to voice injustices and to talk about his roots.

I’d like to ask everyone to view the music video below for the song “Wavin’ Flag.” If you think it is difficult to hear or understand the words of the song, then simply scroll down the screen and read the lyrics provided while you listen to the song play out. Then there are some questions for discussion at the bottom.

“Wavin’ Flag” K’NAAN ft. will.i.am & David Guetta

Lyrics:

When I get older, I will be stronger
They call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
So wave your flag, now wave your flag
Now wave your flag (Ooh Oh)

Born to the throne, stronger than Rome
But Violent prone, poor people zone
But it’s my home, all I have known
Where I got grown, streets we would roam
Out of the darkness, I came the farthest
Among the hardest survival…
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak
Except no defeat, surrender retreat

So we struggling, fighting to eat and
We wondering when we’ll be free
So we patiently wait, for that fateful day
It’s not far away, so for now we say

When I get older, I will be stronger
I’ll make it better, struggle no longer
When I get older, I will be stronger
They call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
So wave your flag
Now wave your flag, now wave your flag
Now wave your flag, now wave your flag
Now wave your flag, now wave your flag (Ooh Oh)

So many wars (wars), settling scores (scores)
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
In this situation, when there’s no compensation
They got no occupation, to buy no medication
It’s a combination, of no education
We go never get and say tomorrow’s generation
‘Cause they can’t control us
No, they can’t hold us down
We go pick up

Even though we struggling, fighting to eat and
We wondering when we’ll be free
So we patiently wait (wait), for the fateful day (go)
It’s not far away, so for now we say

When I get older, I will be stronger
I’ll make it better, struggle no longer
When I get older, I will be stronger
They call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
So wave your flag (yeah)
Now wave your flag (yeah), now wave your flag (yeah)
Now wave your flag, now wave your flag
Now wave your flag, now wave your flag
Ooh oh, Ooh oh, Ooh oh, Ooh oh

And everybody will be singing it (Ooh oh)
And you and I will be singing it (Ooh oh)
And we all will be singing it (Ooh oh)
Woo woo, Woo woo, Woo woooo

When I get older
I will be stronger, stronger, stronger
I will be stronger, stronger, stronger
I will be stronger
They call me freedom, just like a wavin’ flag
So wave your flag
Now wave your flag, now wave your flag
Now wave your flag, now wave your flag
Now wave your flag, now wave your flag (yeah)
Just like a wavin’ flag, just like a wavin’ flag
Just like a wavin’ flag, just like a wavin’ flag

Here are some points for discussion:

  1. What do you think the role of music is in social or political change?
  2. Do you think we ever look back on music and notice how it aligned with the ways of its time period?
  3. How far do you think musical artists should go to promote causes of social action, political awareness, peace advocacy, etc?
  4. Do you think that music that speaks to injustices and overcoming adversity can affect future circumstances in other situations?
  5. Can you think of particular musical artists or genres of music that have perhaps been looked down upon and then had a positive impact?
  6. Do you know of any musical artists or songs that have very well told political or social commentary through song, or provoked change doing so?
  7. Is there a musical artist from your country or culture who has told through music about social or political unrest? Is this accepted in your culture?

Stay tuned for my follow-up post this weekend.

-Alex

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