I have been thinking about starting a blog since I moved from the media industry to the foundation world last year. I figured a blog would be a good way to find my new tribe, people interested in how media is evolving and playing a new role in social change. The tipping point was my attending this week’s conference on Diversifying Participation, with a fascinating lineup of topics that covered everything from political movements in World of Warcraft to social activism among Harry Potter fans who equate Voldemort with global warming to high school students who crowdsource collection of indoor pollution data. (Yes, I will be blogging about all of this as I sort out all my conference notes.)
All of this reminded me of what inspired me to start working online in the first place. I was in graduate school, still unsure what I would do with my diploma, when I spent a summer internship at the RAND Corp. My project was to look into ways to get more of RAND’s education research into the hands of non-academics, and that led me to email listservs. This was back in 1994, when the first web browser, Mosaic, had just been released and the Internet was still the province of UNIX geeks. Naively, I posted on several education listservs, offering to send RAND research briefs to anyone who asked. The next day, I opened my email and was stunned to find hundreds of requests from around the world. (And because the Internet never forgets, my original posts are still around). The idea that it was possible for people the world over to instantly communicate and collaborate blew my mind, and my future suddenly came into sharp focus. That was 16 years ago, and I have been working in digital media ever since.
Attending this conference brought back the sense of wonder that I have always felt about the Internet. The network still seems miraculous to me, with new possibilities unfolding all the time. But through it all, there is a constant and essential underlying motivation that drives the Internet. It’s still, and always will be, about the need to share and connect, to be part of something larger than what we are as individuals. The tools come and go, but the reason people use them remains the same.
So here I am, in a new job with opportunities to test new ideas in a field I find endlessly fascinating. Through this blog, I look forward to finding new friends and partners-in-crime who are also media optimists and eager to see what awaits us around the next corner.