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3 posts from October 2011

October 12, 2011

New Site Design!

As of October 12, 2011, the url "http://www.frameshopisopen.com" will no longer link to the Typepad version for Frameshop, but will link to an upgraded version of the site at Wordpress.com.

The new Wordpress format was chosen to better serve the growing number of readers who interact with Frameshop via smartphones and tablet computers, and to make sure that the site emphasis on legibility and ease of sharing keeps pace with changes in social media.

The new site theme is from my favorite web designer: Khoi Vinh.  When I first started frameshop, I contacted Khoi and asked him if he would design the site for me.  As it happens, he was a little busy becoming a leading figure in his industry.  Fast forward six years--Khoi's original grid-system layout blog template is now available for Wordpress clients.  Game, set, match.

It will take some time to move all posts over accurately from Typepad to the Wordpress system. Also, given the way Google indexing works, I want to avoid the problem of ghost pages in Google searches (pages that show up in Google, but then lead to a dead end because the original site is no longer online).

For those of you with bookmarks, the new wordpress url is: http://jeffreyfeldman1.wordpress.com

Also:  the new site offers two different page styles for users reading from smartphones--as well as the option to use a "flip" format when viewing from a tablet. Both formats are intuitive, easy to use, and optimized for small/touch screens.  And you can easily switch back and forth to standard web view.

This will give on-the-hoof Frameshop readers more options. 

Finally: ads are gone. Over the past year, ads have no longer brought in enough revenue to justify the design clutter they dropped on the site. Ergo: so long, ads--thanks for all the fish.

Anybody who is still wishes to sponsor Frameshop--a decision I endorse with gusto--drop me an email and we'll work something out that fits elegently and effectively into the new site.

October 05, 2011

When a Message is Clear, but Some Don't Get It

If you have been following the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS), by now you have heard the question "What is the message?"--posed sometimes nicely, often aggressively. This is often followed by some variation of "they have no message." 

Let me clear this up right now, because the message of this first stage of OWS has been crystal clear. The message is: "Join us." Also, that message has been received from sea to shining sea, as the saying goes. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case: the proof is in the fact that the one OWS event has not spread to dozens of events and marches, with many more in the offing.  

But wait a sec: if I get this, and you get this, why are so many people not getting this? 

The Message in "What's the Message?"

Back up for a second and think about this scenario.  

Has anyone ever asked you "What's the point of Facebook?"  I get this question all the time and it is maddening to try to answer.  There is no good answer to this question because the question itself already contains an answer.  In general form, the questioner is saying: "I do not support [x]," only they are saying it in question form.  These questions are in fact criticisms masked as invitations to clarify.  "Want to know what Facebook is about?" I always respond,"Try it. If it's for you, you'll get it right away." This answer typically elicits the real response lurking behind the question, which is some anti-social media variation of "Hey, you kids,  get off my lawn!" 

Now back to "What's the message?"

From its inception, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been confronted by a very similar "I do not support [x]" question posed as: "What is the message of Occupy Wall Street?"  This question is posed earnestly by some, less so by others--there is a wide range.  

There is nothing wrong with a new movement--a movement in the process of taking shape--that initially makes sense to some people, but not to others. 

Why do some people just get what is going on with OWS while others are resistant to it?  Why do some people get Facebook while others do not? Because it (e.g., Facebook, OWS, whatever) is in their immediate framework of understanding.  Clearly, many people get that the first message of OWS is "Join us."  Many people, therefore, are inside the same framework and, therefore, are able to understand each other as this new kind of political activity takes place.

At the same time, many people see OWS happening, but they do not get it it yet--or they get it and disagree with it or think they get it and think they disagree with it or they see it and hate it.  These people are in a different frame of reference. Maybe they will eventually join others in the framework that has allowed others to unify and join each other at the level of political action, maybe not. 


The "Injustice" Frame

The reason people get OWS when they engage it either at the level of joining at street-level or engaging via some other avenue (i.e., online discussion, etc.) has to do with a broad frame of reference for a range of political and economic events that we can call: the injustice frame.

The injustice rame means that people see a broad range of phenomenon--government, economy, environment, social welfare, foreign policy, consumer  habits, political ideology, history, media, etc.--all through a very broad lens of injustice.    

People already seeing current politics or the economy through the lens of the injustice frame will tend to get what is happening in OWS while people seeing things from another frame will tend not to get OWS. 

Look at the signs at the events and they all tie back to the injustice frame. The point of these signs that the media has ridiculed as "not having a core message" is twofold: (1) emphasize the broad frame of injustice as a way of seeing the current American situation and to declare a simple message to anyone watching (2) "Join us" (see above). 

Before cohering to media-ready messages, "injustice" for OWS has produced a core set of principles: full participation, fairness, responsibility, equality.  It has also identified a core set of problems troubling our political and economic system:  greed, unchecked corporate power, government corruption. 

Thus, beyond that basic frame and broad message, the OWS activities have focused more or less on a specific kind of injustice as a core principle: economic injustice. 

OWS expressions of economic injustice frame can be seen in widespread use of phrases in both casual conversation in and around street level events and discussion online.  

The phrases "corporate greed" and "we are the 99%" are both messages emphasizing economic injustice. These phrases do not carry specific policy demands--yet--so much as they are used to invoke a broad frame about the lack of fairness crippling our current economic and political systems.  And, since they are secondary messages, they are also meant to invoke the broad message of OWS so far: Join us. 

But what about people who already see or politics and economy through a broad frame of injustice, but do still do not "get" OWS?  Many of these people are very committed to leftist politics already via other organizations, including the presidential election campaign, non-profits, fundraising and so forth.

Why do people who agree at a broad level with arguments about injustice still not get it?


Participation Must be an "Affordable" Alternative

This question is actually much more interesting than the "What's your message?" stuff being peppered by the media.  

Online discussions in particular are rife with people 100% committed to fighting economic injustice, but who just cannot find a way of seeing OWS as anything other than a distraction from the actual fight against injustice.

Fair enough.  

Some people will just disagree with the premise or style of OWS as a form of political engagement.  Still others will not see corporate greed as a problem to be dealt with at a systemic level, so much as a hiccup to be treated.

Has America driven into a ditch of economic and political injustice completely or do we just have a small chip in windshield?  People who disagree with the extent of the problem will disagree with OWS. Not everyone agrees with everything.

But some people agree and still do not get it for a different reason: affordability 

By "affordability" I do not mean the dollar cost of understanding OWS, but the cost in terms of what one must give up to participate. In particular: how much time does it take for a person to come to a point of participating in OWS or just getting it?

All political actions that require participation run into this problem of affordability, but OWS is bumping up against it big time. And not surprisingly.

Camp out for weeks on end in a public square? The people who can do this are few and far between, initially.  In fact, more people have time than believe they do.  So, convincing people that they can participate is a top, if not "number one" priority at this stage. 

Who can afford to participate and get OWS initially?  People whose time is not otherwise committed are the first category.  This is because a 24-hour-per-day occupation is a huge time expense. In fact, while the OWS organizers have been very good at solving the problem of affording food and other necessities, they are still having some trouble figuring out how to make the time commitment more affordable to more people. 

But affordability is not just an issue relating to participation, but also relating to understanding meaning.  Who can afford to understand the meaning of OWS so far? The answer is: not very many journalists.

Some journalists are predisposed to reject OWS because of where they work.  Most journalists, though, may want to get it, but simply cannot afford to take the time to do so. A journalist's time is beset with deadline demands that make even a minimum commitment to understanding current political events often unaffordable.

Then again, even the wealthiest journalists in terms of time to spend understanding, may not be willing to spend the time to understand.

This week, however, there has been a big change in the coverage.  The initial protest was quickly dismissed by many newsrooms as a "hippie" event.  Now that the protest has reproduced all over the country, journalist are relating to it as a political even "of national significance." The success of the message "join us"--which has lead to more protests--has resulted in bringing in more journalists even if those journalists do not think they understand the message...yet.

Stay tuned.  Soon enough, even journalists who claim they do not get what is happening because OWS has not produced formal policy positions--they will spend more and more time flushing out the details of the protest.  Because as the OWS movement grows, the cost of ignoring it also grows.  


(Note: Keep in mind throughout these Frameshop discussions that I am not an OWS leader.  I am writing these posts from my office, not from Zuccotti Park or any other protest location.  The ideas in this post are my own and were not developed in the context of a general assembly or working group.)

New Focus: Occupy Wall Street

Like all of you, I have been watching the events unfold across the country under the general rubric "Occupy Wall Street."   Rarely am I ever mistaken for a street-level activist--and for good reason, but I confess to being very inspired by what I see.  And so, without claiming any mantle of leadership or authority, I will devote the next round of Frameshop posts to Occupy Wall Street (OWS).

Long-time readers of Frameshop will also note that it has been some time since the site content has been updated.  I have been very active both writing and commenting via Twitter (#JeffreyFeldman) and have opted over the past few years to post my original work on The HuffingtonPost. Also, I have been fortunate to find a new audience via regular appearances on CBC television.  Altogether, I chose to transition Frameshop from a day-to-day source of engagement with politics to a resource for those looking to understand issues deeper via the past work on the site.  

But current events have drawn me back to the work of wrestling with the language and ideas at the heart of American politics. In a nutshell: We're back.

To new readers joining us from Twitter, HuffPo and CBC--welcome!  To familiar faces who have been with us all along--welcome back!

As always, I apologize in advance for any technical glitches on the site. My blogging habits have evolved over the past year and, frankly, I'm not sure if Typepad has evolved with me.  So far it seems good, and the clarity of the old site design still seems to make sense to me.  I may make some changes, however, as we move forward and will be sure to let you know along the way.

Also, to those who know me and my writing habits: type edits are always appreciated when caught by readers with better eyes for detail than myself. Please feel free to note edits in the comments. All I ask is that you do it as briefly as possible. No drama, please. Typos do not mean an author is unprofessional or lacks character and telling me something along those lines will have zero impact on the future of typos on this site.  I do my best.

Formalities completed--next post will take up the substance at hand: Occupy Wall Street.