Make The Change

All revolutions eat their young.  That’s the famous conclusion from the particular upheaval that began with the storming of the Bastille in the late 18th century.  For the last few years, we’ve wondered aloud whether our digital media graduate program is on the cusp of a communications revolution, or merely exploring some sort of media evolution.

It’s ultimately a fool’s errand, especially when you’re stuck in the foggy middle of this tumultuous change.  But change it is — with business models in the heat of disruption.  From journalism, to publishing, to music, to advertising and even to academia — as we quickly leave the 20th century mass production world behind.  Bubbles burst, value propositions turn upside down and now we must constantly question what we must to do engage in the era of an infinite choice of ideas.

The strategic decision we’ve made at the MCDM is to pioneer the concept of “community scholarship.”  Fundamentally, it’s about eradicating the walls between higher education and our community to engage in relevant, valuable partnerships that allow us to share our learning, and for us to learn through collaboration.  By doing so we want to bring a fresh look to these emerging business models, even as we enable our students to make some sort of professional or personal transformation during their time in the program.  This is the extrinsic and intrinsic value of exhorting all of us to “Make The Change” as we set aside the revolutionary talk of our previous marketing-based call to action “The Revolution is Here.  Are You?” [For more on the MCDM’s origins, see this just posted article MCDM: The Beginning.]

Hosting TEDx Seattle on April 16, 2010 was a turning point in the little-graduate-program-that-could’s lifetime.  Not only did we bring together communities from throughout our region that rarely congregate in one place, but we made a name for ourselves as folks who could truly execute at the highest possible standard.

This success continues to pay dividends, as it raises the profile of the MCDM and the currency of the degree itself.  In the last two weeks:

We co-hosted a talk by Evgeny Morozov (author, “The Net Delusion”) with the World Affairs Council. Over a hundred people attended.
– We wrapped the successful five-part “Storyteller Uprising” lecture series in partnership with Seattle Arts and Lectures.
– We co-hosted SEAchange 2011, a Four Peaks “bridge” event on environmental disaster and media, with the Department of Communication, the College of the Environment and UW Libraries.

This Thursday, April 14, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Kane Hall, I invite you to see how strong our “community scholarship” has become.  We continue to develop powerful ideas with the public, and push the boundaries of interactive media, even as we maintain the focus on our ever-expanding curriculum.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Emerging Markets: What’s Good for Them, Is Good for Us.”  The salon will marry our highly influential Media Space TV show with a participative conversation to follow (along with some yummy light refreshments).  It will also blend content from Anita Verna Crofts’ “Emerging Markets in Digital Media” course from fall quarter, with her current class, “Social Tools for Social Change.”  MCDM faculty (and Four Peaks co-founder) Kraig Baker will serve as M.C. while Anita will host the conversation that follows my interview with Jessica Rothenberg-Aalami, co-author of “Technology at the Margins: How IT Meets the Needs of Emerging Markets.” Scott Macklin and Beth Koemans will pull off their usual production magic.

On top of that, we will take Seattle startup Intersect’s terrific storytelling platform for a test ride that evening, as we look for new ways to connect participants and collect ideas.  It’s going to be an awesome night, so RSVP here if you’d like to attend!

But the week isn’t over.

It seems as if we’re solicited at least once a week to partner with another organization on an event or an academic collaboration.  So we’ve become far more selective to ensure that these opportunities align with our core mission.  But it was hard to turn down Adapt International’s request to co-host the live feed from TEDxRamallah on Friday, April 15th and 16th on the anniversary of our very own TEDx Seattle.  I spent a lot of time in Ramallah as a journalist, and I’m thrilled that we can showcase inspiring talks from that part of the world (though true to the problematic nature of that region, the main event will actually be held in Bethlehem, where I also spent many a Christmas Eve!).

Similar to our partnership with the Gates Foundation and TEDx Change last September, we’ll host a local program prior to the start of the live feed.  We’ll serve as the official host of TEDxRamallah Seattle, joining a number of venues around the world, including Boston, Berlin and Dubai.  It’s free, it starts at 9 p.m. on Friday night, and it all happens in the very familiar environs of Communications 120 and 126.  RSVP here.

Wait, there’s more!

– Seattle Magazine’s June issue will focus on the region’s “Creative Class.”  We had a hand in helping to shape that topic, and Four Peaks will be included.

– The May Four Peaks Salon on film and gaming is now part of the official 2011 Seattle International Film Festival schedule.  Details soon.

Yes, I know that taglines can be kind of vacuous in their marketing-speak.  But in this time of tumult when even academia must now prove its worth on a daily basis (something I wholeheartedly embrace), I see “Make The Change” not as a sales pitch, but as a commandment to us all.


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