J500 Media and the Environment

I took this class because Simran was on Oprah by Chardonnay
April 29, 2008, 9:24 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I first met Simran at a poetry reading. She was wearing a wig and a smile and mentioned her course on the environment. When she walked away, something happened that I’m sure is far more common than Simran would guess. My girlfriend leaned over to me and said quietly, “She’s been on Oprah.”

At the time, I was fighting to get into an honors course on climate change, but a schedule conflict was holding me back. The “J500” listing was only slightly less intimidating than working with Oprah, once removed, was intriguing. I dropped my Strategic Communication class and enrolled in one of the last spots of J500.

Ironic now, looking back to the class I swapped. In my head, looking at what I learned in this class is like a web of ideas, all interlinked, meta tagged and growing among leafy green vines. When I try to untangle all that and find a single root, I see that my takeaway has a great deal to do with strategic communication.

Each week, I squeezed in to take a seat at the table with some amazing Thinkers. My exposure to you all and your questions and ideas has inspired introspection. Early on, I saw that I’m a lousy critical thinker. What an upsetting discovery! Although our group tendency to question everything could be exhausting at times—

Define Sustainability
Communities living with the future in mind
What do you mean by communities?
And what do we mean by living?
Can we define our “future”
Saying “in mind” isn’t action-oriented enough
Why did you utilize “the” in that definition?
What was the question?
Why do you ask??

— I definitely learned how useful it is. I know I believe that we’re all in this together. What I didn’t let that entail is that we can all be learning as we go. Even the author of a cool article in Rolling Stone (Thanks, Travis). Even Oprah. Even the IPCC. Adam Werbach. NBC. Maybe not Adam Bowman. The strategic communication I learned here was about consuming information. Thinking past what I formerly considered to be the endpoint, a claim from a reliable source.

I’m hating how hyperbolic this is coming off, but I’ll risk it to take the opportunity to let you all (my classmates, Simran) know that I gained something from you that I value very much.

The satisfaction I gained from my weekly “a-ha” moments, the wonderful people I had the pleasure of interacting with, and learning a great deal about environmental issues far far far outweighs my disappointment that Oprah was never a digital visitor.

With love,
Sonya English
We'll always have our shortcomings

3 Comments so far
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Okay using a someecard outweighs the fact that you publicly discussed my weave (yes, sometimes I get bored with my short hair and don synthetic hair). And I cannot believe the power of Oprah brought you to us!

I love your analogy of this web of ideas that transforms into a leafy vine. The key is it is something living and breathing and always open to change. That is what strategic communication should be, no? Something that responds to its environment while staying true to its intention (with deeper roots). I may be stretching this analogy too far, but suffice to say, I agree with everything you say.

We have to question not only what (media) we consume but how we consume it. We have to think about how it was cultivated and what impacts it will have as it is disseminated. That unraveling, that digging in the dirt to find the roots, is what storytelling is all about it.
This class has been rich, fertile soil.


Comment by j500

Yes, our class was pretty dirty, wasn’t it? Referring, of course, to your analogy extension, not the day we talked sex toys.

In my dreadfully awful communications class, we started off by defining communication. A key point in the evolution of the definition was the introduction of communication as a two-way process. It’s easy to think of communication of having only a sender and a receiver, but it’s a far more sophisticated idea to think of both parties as constantly playing both roles. Perhaps that’s why blogging is so infectious. Instead of reading what the daily newspaper offers up and stopping there, people crave responding to news and interacting with it.

Anyway, I guess my point is that when I thought “Strategic Communication” initially I made that rookie mistake of thinking it was only about how I delivered my message, but becoming more skilled in the other component is equally important and often forgotten.

Sonya English

Comment by Sonya

Of course I am the real rookie since I have never taken a strat comm class! Despite this, I know that there is always an interplay between the story, the storyteller, and the audience. This dynamic is more transparent in the digital age, and, I think, is transforming storytelling for the better. We are accountable for our stories and, ideally, tell stories in service of those who receive them.
Dirty Simran

Comment by j500

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