Category Archives: stigma

Media, culture and Azerbaijan

This afternoon I attended a brown bag lunch lecture at the World Bank on mobile technology and access to information. It was put on by Intermedia, an organization here in Washington DC that does amazing work on media research. (If you haven’t yet, you have to check out Audiencescapes).

There were at least half a million things I want to blog about in this presentation, so I’m sure you’ll see this referenced quite a bit in the coming days/weeks.

Although the presentation was about the increase of mobile technology and how it might be more integrated into various projects, the speaker, Dr. Gerry Power cautioned us not to forget about radio. In Africa, in particular, radio is still a major source of information, and to ignore it would be foolish. Mobile may be the fun thing to talk about now, but convergence is a more realistic solution.

But when I think of convergence, I think of old stodgey journalists finally learning how to blog. I guess I’ve been seeing it from the print/broadcast practitioner side of things. As opposed to the mobile producer side of things. But convergence, as Dr. Power’s hinted at, is more than that – its the sharing of content. Not only for the broadcaster’s sake, but for the mobile practioner’s sake, too.

A good example of this can be found in Azerbaijan and Armenia. State-owned media in both countries make it pretty hard to get any peace/reconciliation programming broadcast. So pieces that are originally created for television are instead getting audiences online.

Onni Krikorian, blogger for Global Voices, has been writing a lot lately about various media projects aimed at improving relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. He does an excellent job describing the projects and the media pieces themselves, so I’ll just post his links here. These are highly produced pieces that aren’t being broadcast via television, as intended, but instead are making it into homes via the internet and mobile.

Armenia-Azerbaijan: Dialogue through Film

More Dialogue through Film (one of my favorites is on this one- check out the film called Download)

and Backseat musical musings….and ethnic conflict

And of course, because its on Global Voices, the conversation going on after these posts are equally interesting.

There seems to be a lot of activity in media for change in the region. The very reason I became interested in Azerbaijan was because of a job posting for a media and social change project in Baku. (It made me realize how much I don’t know about the region!)

Its definitely a region I’ll keep watching…

Glenn Close sets back Disability Rights 50 Years

Glenn Close has won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Tony, and has been nominated for an Oscar, but she still can’t seem to get a simple PSA right. She and her sister Jessie, who has bi-polar disorder, have recently launched a new campaign to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness- but are they doing more harm than good?

The main PSA for “Bring Change 2 Mind,” does anything but. It shows a crowded train station with hundreds of people milling through, with a few in white t-shirts. These t-shirts have titles and labels on them – such as from sister, better half, to schizophrenia to bi-polar. The purpose, I’m assuming, is to put a face to the diagnosis…

But, I have a real problem with this set up. You have PEOPLE wearing labels – isn’t that what disability rights activists have been fighting for years to overcome? When these individuals walk through the train station, we don’t see them as people, we see them as diagnoses. I don’t know Glenn Close’s sister’s name, but I know what her mental illness is…

When did we stop trying to put the person first???

And what about the people who are walking with the diagnosed? Their shirts have roles written on them- sister, battle buddy, better half. But the schizophrenics, depressed, and bi-polar  are sisters, brothers, better halves, battle buddies…..are they not?

How does this video show us that people with mental illness are real people too?

It’s doesn’t.

We are not learning anything about them as people, about their lives, their daily struggles… just their diagnosis. And in my opinion, that’s damaging.

Contrast that with a stigma reduction campaign I reviewed just a few days ago from Scotland, whose tagline is “See Me” (as in, not my diagnosis). In this campaign, the PSAs share the commonality of the experiences of the people with mental illness, AND show how the people who care for them helped them out:

At no point is anyone labeled. Instead, their situation is described, concrete things to do are suggested, and in the end mental illness doesn’t seem like something we need to freak out about! It doesn’t need to show famous people donning “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts.

The only redeeming factor of the “Bring Change 2 Mind” video is that at the end of the piece, the t-shirts fade to colors, and they meld into the crowd. This is a nice touch, but only goes to undo the damage that has already been done. We haven’t gained any ground.

The more I think about it, the more I hate this campaign. The tag  line is “Change a mind about mental illness, and you can change a life.”

But how, Glenn? How do we change a mind? By wearing diagnosis t-shirts?

This campaign gives us nothing but a famous person, revealing the “skeletons in her closet,” set to a John Mayer soundtrack.

(The press that the campaign is getting is equally sickening…..but I’ll save that for part deux, tomorrow)