Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Holidays from the ArchaeoVenturers

Greetings from the ArchaeoVenturers team! This holiday season, we wanted to share our own special holiday traditions from each of our families with you all! These past 3 months since launching #AVProject, we have gotten so much support and received all kinds of positive feedback from people trying to accomplish similar things in life, that we just wanted to say a resounding THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS! SEND IN YOUR holiday family traditions with us!

The Digger:

Siblings and cousins all get a wiener for the holiday pics at the
Paul house!
For so many of us, our most memorable Christmas traditions come as children.  My sister and I would impatiently wait at the top of the stairs until mom and dad would get the camera ready to film our faces as we came down and saw what Santa had left.  Waking up and waiting for what I am certain was forever, is one of those memories that stand out so clearly.  But as I have gotten older and our traditions have evolved I find so much more solace in our recent memories.  As kids it was all about the presents – but as adults it’s about the people.  I am very fortunate that my family attendance at holidays has remained constant with all of my grandparents, all four of whom were born and raised in Canton just like my parents and myself. Waking up now means straight to the kitchen for a morning mimosa with mom and dad rather than making a mess opening presents.  The activities change but the people have not, which is probably the best thing about Christmas.  Even though I have broken the family chain of Canton-residency, returning home and having the same atmosphere and company to enjoy year after year is what has made the most important Christmas traditions for me – home is where the happiness is. 

The Diver:

Justine and Stevie - twinsies before it was cool!
I wanted to share a small special tradition that went on for years when I was a young child. My parents, although divorced, lived across the street from one another and this is a very special set of memories that I recall them working together on to make it believable. Every year for weeks leading up to Christmas, my parents would ask us what we wanted Santa to bring us so that they could give the message to our family elves. Now, since we had two homes, my dad’s apartment and my mom’s apartment both had their own set of twin elves (usually with alliterated names like Peter and Penelope) that collaborated with one another. At night, after being tucked in, we would pretend to be asleep and listen at the door for them on the phone. We would hear them secretly on the phone with the elves, telling them how good we had been (or naughty in some cases I’m sure) and what presents we wanted. Then, on Christmas morning, the elves and Santa always delivered. It truly wasn’t until many years later that I realized the ruse that had been played on us as kids, and yet it’s one of my fondest memories. This is one holiday tradition that I plan on continuing one day… 


Katie and Justine

Monday, October 20, 2014

Free Speech Movement 50 years later: The NexGen Freedom Fighters

History repeats itself. We’ve all heard it – and everyone has that point in history where they believed they have witnessed this recycling of events. But much like us, chronicles of the past evolve. Sometimes the evolution isn’t evident until we recognize it in history’s reproduction.

Left: Fifty years ago, students on the University of California, Berkeley campus ignited protests over a ban on political activity. Crowds surrounded a police car holding student activist Jack Weinberg on Oct. 1, 1964. Photo courtesy U.C. Berkeley, Bancroft Library Source: PBS; Right: Egyptians join the military in solidarity as they celebrate protests on top of an Egyptian Military Tank in Tahrir Square during the January 25, 2011 revolution Photo: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

“My gas mask and helmet didn’t stay in the car: there was plenty of anger in the streets, plenty of action. Tear gas and police batons often filled the air... Emotions ran high. Often the reason behind the demonstrations and marches... was lost in the battles between the protestors and the cops. Who was provoking who became the issue, and certainly it made exciting television. Homegrown battles filled the airwaves, to the point where they eventually became routine.”

This is a scene that could describe so many of the conflicts occurring today. And it is particularly descriptive of the Middle East during the 2011 Arab Spring and in the years since – once the cradle of civilization, the Middle East has redefined itself as the “Cradle of Revolutions.” But this scene does not depict the Arab Spring, the Middle East, or even an event from this century. This is a recount by a former UC Berkley student as he recalls his participation in the birth of the Free Speech Movement.

The Free Speech Movement of 1964 that began at UC Berkley celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The foundations of this movement and the political freedom it sought were the seeds for even more powerful rights battles in the decades to come. The 1960s and 1970s were a turning point in American history for freedom fighters, labor unions, African Americans and women – and their movements could not have succeeded without the critical role of the media.

This was especially true during the Vietnam War era. Abroad, the presence of brave journalists in Vietnam is largely regarded as a defining moment in the perceptions of war from perspective of the Western public. At home, journalists were exposing the brutalities committed by police and the government against peaceful protestors from the civil rights movement and on through the anti-Vietnam War era. The media’s exposure of the atrocities of the war taking place both away, and in their own communities, emboldened the American public to “fight the man” and gain the civil rights and liberties that we enjoy, and are free to continuously fight for today.

Once again history has repeated itself, but not on our own soil. The Free Speech movement of the 21st century takes place in the “Cradle of Revolutions.” As the world watches the turmoil unfold in Kobani, and elsewhere across Syria and Iraq under the terror campaign of ISIL, media publications in every language contain daily headlines referencing ISIL’s inhumane sweep across the region and the governments trying to – or not trying to - stop them. Media plays an important role in revealing the atrocities of war and imposing checks and balances upon government. Brave journalists from the West and the Middle East continue to risk their lives to show you and your governments what is happening to the people of the Middle East – whether in Gaza, Syria, Iraq, or Egypt.

However, one voice that is often left out of the media is the voice of the people suffering in those regions. The headlines become about politics rather than people. Death tolls are represented in numbers of causalities by ethnicity or nationality rather than as parents, siblings, or children lost. The Western media that once sought to reveal the atrocities that were shielded from the public is inadvertently dulling the extent of those brutalities today.

Since the 1999 Columbine school shooting, experts and politicians have argued over how desensitized our society has become to violence: TV shows, video games, even music are blamed for this desensitization. Yet, what I find difficult is the fact that we have created a culture where some types of violent imagery are ok to consume and widely distribute, and other types are not. Primarily due to the fact that the kind of violence society has deemed acceptable is only the kind that can be turned into a profitable commodity. As a result of the ways we view censorship, in American media today you won’t find images of the horrific acts occurring on the ground to people caught between terrorist groups and tyrannical governments. But we are reaching yet another milestone in the influence of media accessibility on how the public understands an ongoing war.

This time around, the news medium is uncensored and the reporters unpaid – the free speech movement of the 21st century is being guided by social media and driven by the people on the ground. Citizens who are risking their lives to show you their story and make their voice for peace and freedom heard, much like our own people did half a century ago. Citizen journalists are fighting online wars armed with smart phones and Internet connections.

We have all witnessed the vast influence of social media on the Middle East. The Social Media Revolution that sparked the Arab Spring has forever changed our world. But even in the nearly four years since the Arab Spring began in January 2011, social media continues to revolutionize the voice third world, and the way the first world hears them.

The most recent impact of these social media citizen journalists can be seen on any given day through Twitter and Facebook - venues where the hashtag is the global protest sign of the future.

A quick search of #Gaza on Twitter will immediately yield photos of destruction, dead and injured children, and even body parts that are left when nothing else remains. These are no images anyone wants to see, but they NEED to be seen. The heavy influence of the Gaza Palestinians’ use of social media to acknowledge their dead in the public eye made the war less about Hamas, and more about the innocent civilians of Gaza who were trapped in the middle – at least to the global public. It was a war won by Israel on the ground, but not on social media.

In Syria, where many journalists are no longer able to go, it is social media that first revealed Assad’s atrocities, from his continuous bombardment of Homs in 2012 to his use of chemical weapons on civilians in 2013 - even as the global media continued to report the regime’s statements to the contrary.

A report from Al Arabiya on May 20, 2014 revealed that of the 135 million Arabs connected online, over 75 million of them use social media. Thirty percent of those on social media consider Facebook and Twitter their primary sources of news – a similar number to those considerations for traditional news outlets in the Arab world.

The Syrian town of Kafr Anbel sent a message to Boston, 
in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon 
bombing – pulling at the heartstrings of the west by 
sharing their own experiences. Source: Times Union Blog

Critics of social media activism question whether or not it is true activism – some even calling it “slackivism.” And hey, I get it. I grew up in an industrial union city where true activism meant you stood out in the rain or snow and protested with your fellow union members for workers’ rights or for your political party– often bringing your family along with you (as my dad did with us). But activism today is not just about the physical expression of activism; it’s about the size of an audience and the message they receive. Political essays never brought down buildings, but they inspired people to do so. Letters to the government didn’t change their actions until the press made it public.

“In the same way that pamphlets didn’t cause the American Revolution, social media didn’t cause the Egyptian revolution. Social media have become the pamphlets of the 21st century, a way that people who are frustrated with the status quo can organize themselves and coordinate protest, and in the case of Egypt, revolution.” - Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative

Many of those tweeting pictures of destruction from Gaza, to Kobani, would tell you that they want the world to see what is happening to them – and technological accessibility allows the international community see them with a #hashtag that can be read around the world. The global population can’t be reached with a local picket line -- unless of course someone tweets about it.

The use of social media as a window through the eyes of those on the other end of your Internet serves its greatest purpose in connecting us with those very individuals whose suffering we feel through the web. Unlike traditional media, social media elicits a response, and for those unable to join in the battle on the ground, social media has also created a new means of engagement via crowd funding, social media activism, and viral petitions. Movements we witnessed and once considered “their” cause have now become “our” cause. People feel more engaged when they can relate to an image of a mother and her lost child – rather than simply a number of causalities substituted in for that loss.

Message received. Boston returns the message to Syria 
the next day. Source: Times Union Blog
For all of the impersonal exchanges that take place through technology, the Arab world has regenerated the humanity behind the screen by sharing the inhumanity that has plagued their daily lives. If you’re used to getting your news through the paper or on TV, take a step forward into the rebirth of history and check out the same news in the Twitterverse. It’s your turn to take part in the new free speech movement, one that goes global and fights for the same freedoms that we celebrate today - read, watch and listen to the people the story is really about – the way they want you to see it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The ArchaeoVenturers Project: Advocating for the 21st Century Scientist

ArchaeoVenturers are more than just archaeologists and anthropologists. They are scientists and advocates who use activism, academia, and innovation for the advancement of society and culture. These renaissance (wo)men venture beyond the boundaries of the excavation and explore science across disciplines in the constantly changing global environment. 
Jumping right into the big questions: 
What exactly is The ArchaeoVenturers Project and why are we doing it? The ArchaeoVenturers Project started as an idea to bring more attention to women who are breaking the glass ceiling in science, and in particular in our own favorite field - archaeology. As we sought ways to reach out to the next generation – the key to the future of science – the project blossomed into a web series and social media platform to bring attention to the individuals and the work that is inspiring to us. Why ArchaeoVenturers? – Thoughts from ‘The Digger’ So why am I doing this? That’s a story that starts a long long time ago…
Guess who's in the way-too-large official Jurassic
Park Memorabilia Raptor costume?
As a kid growing up in Ohio, I didn’t own a single Barbie, and for my 8th birthday, running around in dirt-smeared dinosaur t-shirts, I was ecstatic to receive a rock tumbler as a gift from my parents. All in all, I wasn’t a typical little girl – archaeology has been called “the peeping tom of the sciences” so yeah, you could call me a tomboy. Growing up before the days of DVR and Dish, there were few to no female archaeologists or scientists represented on popular television. Today, there are literally a thousand channels and still women remain under-represented in the public sphere. There are so many individuals out there who are not only doing incredible work that pushes boundaries in their fields both professionally and socially, but often they are overcoming obstacles to do so. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by strong women my whole life – no one in my family ever told me I couldn’t do something, and that left my world open to anything, it helped make me who I am today. I wanted to help create a venue that reached out to young people – and especially all of the other dirt covered, Barbie-less little girls out there - to show that science is awesome, and no matter who you are or what your gender is, that you can do things that change the world. There are incredible people doing innovative work every day, those are the people our girls should have available to them to look up to – not the reality stars of the world that dominate the social media sphere. 
– Thoughts from ‘The Diver’ 
I, on the other hand, had too many Barbie dolls to count but that’s another story, and some very likely ended up in the dirt with me. There is one incident however, devoid of archaeology, that sticks with me even until this day, and highlights the very reason ArchaeoVenturers is important to me: I went to elementary school with a very small class, and I was a very ‘girly’ girl until the 4th grade- I am talking pink and ribbons, you name it, I wore it, but I did this all while playing sports and running around with ‘the boys’. Then in the middle of that year, one of my girl friends said “you wear a dress to school every single day, can’t you dress normal and wear pants like everybody else?” Well, I literally took this girl so seriously that I didn’t wear another dress until well into high school. Being a tomboy became my existence because it was easier to hide the fact that I wanted to be a girly girl under all those flannel baggy shirts. I was afraid to express that I loved ‘roughing it’ all while wanting to be a lady on the outside.
This little ArchaeoVenturer was destined to be a diver one day...
For me, this is where the ArchaeoVenturers Project comes in; I want to show other young girls, and boys, that no one else should be able to define how you get to represent yourself. In the field of archaeology, there tends to be this stark contrast between over sexualized or over frumpy - for both genders! Usually, women, because they want to be taken more seriously in the field, tend to go over to the more conservative end but why should that be? Can’t we decide that if we want to be somewhere in the middle - an intelligent covered in dirt archaeologist by day, and dressed up with red lipstick in heels by night - that it should be our decision? Some of the most interesting people I work with are youth from my maritime archaeology summer camp. It’s students like them that inspire me to make better choices and want to leave better impressions for the next generation. I hope that The ArchaeoVenturers Project brings archaeology, history and science in new and creative ways to a broader public, who are often regrettably left out of most academic conversations about their own past. This project will be a success to me, if even one young boy or girl becomes excited about their future because of the solutions that we help bring to light. 

Stay Tuned Each Week For A New Episode of The ArchaeoVenturers Project (youtube.com/archaeoventurers) Tweet us your thoughts on why you’re interested in ArchaeoVenturers! Or any similar standout moments from your childhood? We’d love to hear them! @ArchaeoVenturer #ArchaeoVenturers #ArchaeoActivists

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Résumé of a 21st Century Terrorist: The Social Media and Marketing Major

Earlier this month ISIS became the wealthiest terrorist organization on the planet with its financial seizures in Iraq. Today, there were headlines across the world regarding merchandising as a new 'marketing' tactic of ISIS to fund raise as they work to accomplish their aspirations of global domination.

But we should not be expressing such shock that ISIS T-shirts and merchandise are surfacing.  This is simply a symptom of an inevitable evolution of the 21st century terrorist  - a well educated, tech and media savvy, often young individual that have been influenced by the global power of Islamist groups, such as al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates across the MENA region.

Source: Pew 
We are no longer in the era of a cave-dwelling terrorist statement recorded on VHS - videos by terrorist groups such as ISIS are uploaded online and streaming as quickly as they are moving across the region.  As the tool that inspired and enabled the Arab Spring, social media and smart phone use have spread rapidly across the MENA region, empowering young people, activists, and social entrepreneurs to find a new place in the globalizing world. 

But with the rise of any cultural phenomenon, a counter culture will arise with it, and the use of these technology networks by terrorist groups has been just as apparent since 2011.

In 2010, even before the Arab Spring boom, Dr. Reza Aslan addressed the fact that terrorist groups had begun recruiting educated individuals to their causes,

When it comes to this global jihadist movement...groups like al-Qaida...want to reshape the global order. And it takes a certain amount of education, a certain amount of awareness, and frankly, a certain economic status to even think of such things.

Primary school completion rate, total
Source: World Bank
And their timing is prime, not only are masses of technologically savvy young people in the MENA region being overrun by the violent tactics of terrorist and extremist groups, they also happen to be well educated; a trend that has continued and even grown amidst the turmoil that has plagued the region since 2011 (*recent statistics were not available for Syria, but one should note that according to UNICEF, the conflict has forced 2.8 million children out of school for months, and some for years).

Moreover, the outreach tactic of these groups through the use of social media also acts to attract a younger demographic on its own – and that younger demographic pool has grown substantially since the Arab Spring. As youth groups across the Arab region are increasingly disenfranchised from the governmental process they search for a forum where they are able to have a collective discussion and a voice, and social media has provided the perfect tool for that outlet.

What is it that terrorist groups are able to harness in this media that well-equipped governments cannot? According to Dr. Aslan,

Jihadism is a social movement. It functions very much in the same way that other global social movements, say, for instance, the anti-globalization movement or the radical environmental movement works. It provides an alternative identity to its followers. And the followers tend to be young. They tend to be socially active. They tend to be politically conscious. They tend to be aware of such things as the grievances of the global Muslim community.

So how can we combat terrorism that moves at the speed of social media? Earlier this month, the National Journal addressed a report from the Woodrow Wilson Center regarding the use of new media by terrorists in the Middle East. The report shows that terrorist groups are engaging on a number of social media networks, including the most popular: Twitter and Facebook, in order to gain support, funding, and recruits.  The report's author, Gabriel Weimann suggests,

Source: Pew
… the same social-media tool could be a boon to the U.S. and other nations seeking to counter terrorists and their narrative. But thus far… terrorists are doing a better job than governments at using the medium.

In the post-Arab Spring era, community mobilization is key to any movement.  Social media was simply a means to this end in 2011, and it has not stopped serving as a tool for mobilization.  One thing that most of the MENA region governments have certainly not been able to do is to reach out to the hearts and minds of their own people.  The deep-rooted aspirations of these people are what led many of them to face bullets and beatings in order to overthrow dictators.  One thing that the Wilson Center report shows is that the convening tactics around these same passionate emotions have since been tapped into by a much darker and stronger power.

Activism is built on community empowerment and development, and as such these organizations maintain the ability to get work done on the ground – where the violent situations are moving the fastest; bureaucracy is slow to begin with, but when governments are unstable, in flux, or non-existent, getting action to meet the speed of the terrorist groups is difficult to say the least.

Even in the arena of cultural heritage, average citizens – #ArchaeoActivists – such as Monica Hanna, have been able to mobilize communities through Twitter and Facebook in response to heritage threats and successfully protect sites against pillaging from gangs when the Egyptian government was unable or unwilling to do so.

There is certainly a gap between the cooperation of activists, NGOs and non-profits, and the governments leading the nations they work in. However, if this grass roots convening power can be used to address antiquities and culture, which are typically the least funded of any ministries in most MENA nations, the implications for combatting terrorism could reach substantially further if tapped into appropriately. 

In this current era of instability with the rapid pace of ISIS and other terrorist movements across the region, it is imperative that national governments exercise their abilities to work with NGOs in order to foster greater support against terrorist groups among the wider populations.  Terrorists have worked extensively to keep up with the pace of globalization as it impacts the average person – merchandising, communicating, and reaching the issues that matter to them when they are faced with a crisis and a side to choose – we should expect nothing less of both MENA region governments and our own as we prepare to combat the growing terrorist threat by ISIS that impacts us all.  

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All of the thoughts and opinions on the AnthroPaulicy blog and Twitter are my own and do not represent that of any organization or group.