During the next 15-20 years, the global community will face challenges requiring a lot of dialogue and collaborative efforts. Inquiry and ingenuity are powerful vehicles for processing the change innate to our impressive advancements in technology. Humankind needs leaders who’ll take initiative in scrutinizing assumptions, reasoning and evidence related to timely issues, while generating alternative ideas, practices and solutions that are unique and effective. Participatory media is enabling people to organize around shared ideas and carry out sustained action.
“We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures” according to the opening statement for the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030. Released in December 2012, the research warns of disruptive technologies and their unpredictable impact. NIC suggests developments in information technology will give people and groups unprecedented capabilities to organize and collaborate: “The exponential increase in data, combined with emerging capabilities to analyze and correlate it, will give unprecedented capabilities to individuals and connected networks in nearly every part of the world well before 2030. … IT devices will play an increasing role in the fight against corruption and government malfeasance and incompetence.”
I pride myself as a multi-skilled information curator capable of stimulating public interest and sustaining public awareness. I’ve explored traditional arts, using colored pencils, pastels and oil paints, since first grasping a crayon as a child. As a professional in public relations and marketing, I’ve participated in the powerful rise of digital communications. I’ve written hundreds of AP-compliant stories for print and online publications, as well as captured thousands of photojournalistic images, using single-lens reflex cameras. I’ve mastered desktop publishing software to create newsletters and magazines, as well as applied an understanding of Web-based programming to build websites, blogs and content management systems.
In April 2012, I started working with Falcon School District 49, one of the largest and fastest-growing districts in Colorado, as a digital communications specialist. Since then, I’ve shared stories using participatory media, while advocating accountability to the public, transparency in actions and trustworthiness in communications. I’m a social strategist coordinating a proactive information program and providing insights into stakeholder understandings. I’ve developed and implemented digital outreach strategies to fortify a social presence for my school district in our community, expanding the reach of its message. By seeding timely, accurate and compelling details into public discourse, I’ve fought unnecessary anxieties and fears within communities.
Content is king. Transparency is expected. Recurring updates across several platforms are required. Through rapid improvements to its material culture, mankind is cranking up the volume of its collective voice. Individuals and organizations that fall short in supporting participatory media are often socially sanctioned as deceitful. Throughout the 21st century, I’m convinced that an expedited rate of shared progress, aroused by exponential technological advances, will downright disrupt cultures. The global community will sustain a consistent stream of international interactions, forming a global culture. While ideas homogenize online, the implications will transcend their virtual foundations. Consumers and activists alike will keep rallying for accountability, as they control the deliverability of information. The world is depending on critical thinkers to understand that explosive change, and creative thinkers to leverage it. I’ve acted as a constructive and reflective agent of change during my life.
The world is depending on critical thinkers to understand that explosive change, and creative thinkers to leverage it.
In 1997, I graduated high school in Burnsville, Minn. At 19 years old, with a couple of classes in fine arts and desktop publishing on a college transcript, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I planned to earn more money for college and improve my career opportunities. During nearly five years of service, I received the combat photojournalist occupational specialty, after graduating top of my classes in both basic still photography and photojournalism. While stationed in Hawaii, my portfolio of experiences swelled. I documented field exercises and combined-arms training. I traveled to Vietnam for a KIA excavation mission, and visited Alaska twice for cold-weather exercises. I was temporarily stationed in Macedonia, where I established visual information procedures for an Operation Kosovo Force press center, traveling between Kosovo and Greece.
As a maturing technology enthusiast, I continued to study computer workstations and infrastructures, as well as HTML, XHTML, mySQL, CSS, PHP, Java and Web content management software. After 9/11, I took note of the rise of participatory media in national discourse. The movement to decentralize information was underway, as people seized new collaborative communications tools to achieve a greater understanding of their world, build relationships and increase connections. The concept of social networking was seeded. Blogs became popular, giving rise to citizen journalists. Within commercial industries, online auction sites introduced a different marketing dynamic: consumer-to-consumer transactions. Apple operating systems excelled at desktop publishing, as intuitive and secure systems.
Holding honorable discharge papers, armed with the Montgomery GI Bill, I started researching colleges. But instead of immediately heading back to school, I joined a defense contractor in the Middle East. From 2003-2010, I lived in Qatar and vacationed in Cyprus, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. During my travels, I studied the interactions between Arab, Persian and Asian societies. Qatari friends offered intimate explanations of Arab falconry, Islamic traditions and local business and government practices. While employed as an Army public affairs coordinator, I explained installation activities and networked with military units and embassy personnel. I authored news and feature stories, producing high quality photographs for hometown, national and international media. I redesigned and reorganized an Army installation magazine, improving community contributions. By using distributed reporting services and social media, I accelerated the circulation of information around the world. My work earned top ratings during Army organizational inspections.
In late 2010, as an online undergraduate student at UMass, I relocated to Colorado Springs, Colo. I had accepted an Army public affairs site lead position at nearby Fort Carson, and moved 7,000 miles west for it. I coordinated contractor journalism, photography, media relations and administrative services. I also wrote news and feature stories, supported by photographs with detailed cutlines. My topics mostly covered the Army’s readiness for overseas contingency operations and contributed to the production of a weekly Army newspaper. I continued to share stories using distributed reporting services. My team earned outstanding performance remarks, critical to the award of ongoing contractual services. We had limited resources, due to steep defense budget restraints, but produced praiseworthy products. However, lay offs started in January 2012. I was cut.
Due to hard work and discipline, the month I was laid off, I finished my Bachelor of Arts in University Without Walls from UMass, Amherst. My studies focused on journalism with an individualized concentration on social media. I explored newswriting and public relations tactics that taught ways to think critically about people and organizations. To expand my understanding of the human landscape, its cultures and interactions, I carefully selected courses from the departments of anthropology, geosciences, linguistics and comparative literature. As I wrote essays for experiential reflections on public policy and technology, I dived into issues related to public information and social media. With my degree in hand, I qualified for an opportunity with my local school district, based out of Peyton, Colo. – roughly five minutes from my house.
My academic and career tracks recognize that participatory media will endure to render broadcast media irrelevant. There’s a radical convergence happening, a combining of rapid progress in information technology with calls for more public discourse, concerning daily issues to political debates. This phenomenon is empowering people by expanding the venues in which they may express themselves and lead efforts to spread ideas. While there’s clear evidence of its impact, there’s much left unknown. We know our material culture evolves based on changing environmental conditions and interpersonal influences, but it takes a skillful critical and creative thinker to forecast exactly how communications platforms and expectations will reform for 21st century lifestyles.
Participatory media isn’t going away – it’s arguably the greatest change to human communications in more than 500 years, since the inception of the printing press. Facebook is now hosting more than 1 billion users who, on average, upload more than 300 million photos per day. Twitter’s more than 200 million users post more than 340 million Tweets per day. YouTube users upload 72 hours of video every minute and view 4 billion hours of video every month. LinkedIn’s business-centric network connects more than 200 million professionals and 2.6 million companies around the world. These domains and other participatory websites are presenting a seemingly endless source of research possibilities for marketers, scientists and data miners. Knowledge is a freely traded commodity today – the world doesn’t care what you know, but what you can do with it.
Knowledge is a freely traded commodity today – the world doesn’t care what you know, but what you can do with it.
As Marines, we live by “Semper Fi,” a Latin phrase for “always faithful.” As civilians, we must accept “Ubi Dubium Ibi Libertas,” or “where [there is] doubt, there [is] freedom.” The ability to follow orders is a trait that wins battles, but it doesn’t form a society capable of demanding accountability and maintaining meaningful collaboration, bedrock principles of human rights.
Where there is doubt, there is freedom. Andre Gide, a French writer, humanist and moralist, suggested: “believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.” As I earn a Master of Arts in Critical and Creative Thinking, I’ll refine my cognitive capacity to take risks and experiment with innovation, and then analyze my outcomes and revise my approaches. I’ll build on my tools, practices and perspectives for a meaningful career in emerging media.
So… who am I to you?