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Young Cultural Innovators Present at Better Together Challenge 2018
Rebecca Chan speaking at Better Together Challenge 2018 in Daejeon, the Republic of Korea
Young Cultural Innovators Present at Better Together Challenge 2018
Oscar Tollast 
Salzburg Global Fellows Rebecca Chan and Yu Nakamura have expressed their delight after appearing at an international conference in the Republic of Korea. Chan, a program officer at LISC National Creative Placemaking Program, delivered a <C!talk Global> presentation on arts, culture, and equitable development at Better Together Challenge 2018. Yu Nakamura also delivered a <C!talk Global> talk about her current project, Grandma’s Happy Recipes Storybook, a book in which Nakamura gathers recipes from octogenarians who lived through the Second World War and other significant events. This event was organized by World Culture Open and the Presidential Committee on National Balanced Development of Korea. It took place in Daejeon at the beginning of September. Nakamura has recently published a Korean edition of her book and produced a 10-part YouTube series featuring some of the grandmas she spoke to. She was invited to talk about her project and how her experiences in an earthquake in 2011 led to its creation. She said, "I was in Tokyo [during the earthquake] and of course I was scared but what made me more scared was the fact that we cannot eat anything if logistics didn’t work… If we consider innovation as evolution, then people who [have relied] on systems, have they really evolved since [our] grandmas’ era?" She concluded her talk by challenging the audience to think about how “our world now is so convenient thanks to technology but our lives [are] relying on a visible system too much, and we are not good at dealing with contingence." Speaking about the conference, Nakamura said, “It was [such a] fruitful event where I [got] to know [what] Korean young people were passionate about, and talking to other global speakers, includ[ing] Rebecca was super inspiring.” Rebecca Chan, who lives in Baltimore, Maryland, said, “My work at LISC is usually hyper-local, yet there are so many parallels between US community development and what I heard and saw presented in Daejeon; challenges of gentrification, urban/rural divides, waning civic engagement, and how to leverage cross-sector partnerships. “I am so thankful for the opportunity to share and learn, and to witness the dynamism and rigor with which these challenges are being tackled in Korea. I am ever more inspired by and grateful for all the intrepid local leaders I encounter in this work. [They] are the real deal. “Thank you to World Culture Open, in particular, Joo Im Moon, [and] Salzburg Global Seminar for building an international network of cultural innovators, and of course, my Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) colleagues for constant inspiration. Finally, [I would like to give a] shout out to my fellow <C!talk Global> presenters, Ivan Mitin, Yu Nakamura, & Thomas Cavanagh.” Chan attended the second program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators in October 2015. At the time, she was a program officer at the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, a Baltimore-based philanthropic organization which promotes innovation in science and technology, arts, education, and social justice. Chan has also served as the program director of Station North Arts & Entertainment Inc. Nakamura attended the third program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators in 2016. She is the co-founder of 40creations, which amongst other things sells local hand-made wine, and she currently working on a project that introduces European wine and Japanese sake to Thailand. To learn more about the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators, please click here.
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Can Games Help Senior Officials Govern in the Age of Artificial Intelligence?
This case study was used at Mechanics for the Future: How Can Governments Transform Themselves?
Can Games Help Senior Officials Govern in the Age of Artificial Intelligence?
Oscar Tollast 
The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) has been steadily rising. Visions of the future once only present in films and books are becoming a step closer to reality. There is a pressing need to understand the risks and opportunities of AI and what it means for societies across the world. With this argument in mind, one could argue the time for fun and games is over. However, that might not be the case, according to Kevin Desouza, a professor in the School of Management at the Queensland University of Technology. Desouza and others believe one way to examine the potential for advances in AI in transforming how we govern is through gamification. The concept was floated at this year’s annual retreat of the Public Sector Strategy Network, a multi-year series held at Salzburg Global Seminar in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and in cooperation with Apolitical. This initiative is designed to build a “mutually-supportive coalition of individuals and institutions on the frontline of digital, financial and societal disruption, promoting effective public leadership and strategic communication.” The meeting – Mechanics for the Future: How Can Governments Transform Themselves? – involved participations taking part in a simulation devised by Desouza and two co-authors: Richard Watson from the University of Georgia and David Bray from the People-Centered Internet Coalition. Participants were presented with three consecutive cases and were asked to reflect on multiple possible solutions and how they might react to events given their own differences in experience, expertise, or government role. The case study takes place in the world of Intelligensia. Players are assigned roles such as minister of health, chief information officer, or as a patient with a terminal illness. Together, they work through a scene and capture responses to several questions. In a brief explaining the case study, which can be downloaded in full here, Desouza, Watson, and Bray write, “The case study is deliberately focused on issues that take place 6-24 months from now, a technological reality about to challenge society’s conventions. The case is intended to stretch the imagination of participants and to encourage independent thought regarding potential challenges and opportunities based on current R&D trajectories for AI as well as deliberative political, social, and economic systems.” The idea for the case came from discussions with public managers and senior leaders from public, private and non-profit institutions. Speaking with Salzburg Global, Desouza said, “In my discussions, two things became clear. First, individuals needed a more nuanced introduction to the implications of machine learning systems… Second, they needed tools to help them envision how the future of autonomous systems will impact all facets of society to think through the economic, political, and policy implications.” Writing a case study appeared to be a “natural idea,” according to Desouza. It would give people something tangible to work through, both as individuals and in group settings. Desouza said, “The case study allows people to get their minds and hands dirty as they wrestle with scenarios, fill in incomplete information, make their assumptions explicit, and debate responses and logic behind them.” Desouza believes it is important for senior officials to get ahead when it comes to the future of autonomous systems. When it comes to AI, Desouza says, “What we do not yet understand is how autonomous systems operating at the ecosystem level… will shape outcomes and interactions across all levels of our society… This is where we need a more holistic approach to imagining the future of these systems. We need to think about their design implications and their influences and impacts on the principles and values of our societies.” To download and read Desouza, Watson and Bray’s case study in full, please click here. Alternatively, view the publication on ISSUU
Desouza attended Mechanics for the Future: How Can Governments Transform Themselves? This meeting was part of the Public Sector Strategy Network, a multi-year initiative held in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and in cooperation with Apolitical. More information on this session can be found here.
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Salzburg Global Fellow Animates Campaign Against New Hydropower Development in Albania
Kleidi Eski, a design professional and multimedia artist, at Salzburg Global Seminar in October 2017
Salzburg Global Fellow Animates Campaign Against New Hydropower Development in Albania
Oscar Tollast 
The Valbona River flows through northern Albanian Alps and this beautiful, wild river forms part of what local activists like to call the “blue heart of Europe.” But, they warn, “the Blue Heart of Europe is at risk of a heart attack” thanks to the proposed development of hydropower plants along this biologically diverse artery. Enter the eco-cardiologists determined to save the Balkans’ rivers from such destructive development. One such activist is multimedia artist and Salzburg Global Fellow Kleidi Eski, who was inspired to take action, in part, thanks to his participation at the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators in 2017. Eski currently runs Light and Moving, a multidisciplinary design and animation studio in Tirana, Albania, and attended the fourth program of the YCI Forum alongside four other “YCIs” from his country thanks to support from the Albanian-American Development Foundation. Since leaving Salzburg, Eski has collaborated with others to campaign against the development of hydropower plants along the Valbona River. Campaigners believe the development could cause much of the river to dry up, which would have a knock-on effect on the ecosystem and local communities who use water for drinking and irrigation purposes. Construction has been ongoing inside Valbona Valley National Park since 2016. Earlier this year, Eski was asked to conceptualize a protest billboard campaign to be utilized in Tirana. He created “Po Flet Valbona” (“Valbona Speaks Out”) as a slogan and logo. Working alongside Collective68, an open source web agency, Eski also helped set up a website providing information around the campaign and details on how people can join. Eski says the streets of central Tirana were filled with “Po Flet Valbona” adverts for 10 days earlier this spring, while campaign brochures and stickers still continue to decorate many popular bars. Eski and his peers are continuing their efforts to stop construction of the plants. He worked alongside a group of musicians, including singers Elina Duni and Eda Zari, to produce a song and animated music video in support of the campaign. The video has already received thousands of views on YouTube and Facebook and has been shared across social media, attracting the attention of mainstream media outlets. Eski told Salzburg Global his time at Schloss Leopoldskron had a significant effect on his way of thinking. He said, “The YCI Forum [at] the Salzburg Global Seminar has profoundly influenced me in believing that culture, art, and design can affect the world around us. “More importantly, this experience proved [to] me that in order to create impact, it is important to join forces with everyone who shares the same ideals. Of course, I have done a little part of it, but this is already a [motivator] to do more in the future.” You can learn more about the campaign here. #s3gt_translate_tooltip_mini { display: none !important; }
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Ryan Broderick - You Can Tell a Story in a Million Ways
Ryan Broderick during his talk at the 2018 Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change
Ryan Broderick - You Can Tell a Story in a Million Ways
Stephanie Quon 
Ryan Broderick started his career at BuzzFeed writing stories about memes and breaking international news. Now, as deputy global news director of BuzzFeed, Broderick continues to report on ongoing and convoluted international events stemming from online connections and engagement. “That’s like every single story right now,” says Broderick. “It’s just some insane crazy thing that has no geographical borders because the internet is bringing weird people together.”  Given the complexity and interconnectedness of international stories, Broderick offers a new perspective on what makes an important story. He explains “the old guard” of international reporting focuses on large formal events while the new guard focus more so on covering a story while it is in motion, building engagement through various social media platforms. The ability to adapt to different reporting styles is also telling of the interests and participation of audiences in modern storytelling. “Our generation has a lot of more interest in street-level protesting and political movements and human storytelling,” Broderick says. “People want context; they want to understand why people care about this stuff; they want to hear from people. It’s a very different… philosophy.” Broderick was a guest scholar for this year's Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change. During his time here, Salzburg Global spoke with Broderick about his experiences at BuzzFeed and his perspective on the current state of journalism. This Q&A with Broderick has been edited for length and clarity. Salzburg Global: You’ve spent six years at BuzzFeed, and already there’s been a lot of change. What are some of the biggest changes in terms of your job and BuzzFeed’s presence online? Ryan Broderick: I would say very little is the same from when I started to now. I’d say in six years my job is totally different; my point of view on the world is totally different; I think BuzzFeed’s idea of itself is totally different. When I started, we had a small beginning news operation. The big idea was: do some politics, write a few news stories… lists and quizzes and fun articles and blog posts and just have a good time and make stuff people want to share. Over the last six years, every time we’ve come up against a thing where we’re like, ‘Oh we’ve never done this before,’ instead of saying ‘Well, let’s not do it,’ we’ve just said, ‘Well, let’s try it’… We invest in things that we find interesting and we’re not afraid to scrap stuff we don’t. SG: You were asked about the launch of BuzzFeed News’ stand-alone website. Why is it important that there’s a distinction between this and other features of the website? RB: In this new really hyper-competitive, hyperintense media world, the need for kind of saying to people, ‘This is a news story, this is factual, this is non-fiction, this is real, this isn’t fun’ was worth doing, and it was worth making that distinction for people. And I think it’s a good idea, but it makes me upset that a lot of the reaction to it has been by like - I saw a journalism professor tweet, ‘I’ve been telling my students for years that this was a good idea. Finally, BuzzFeed is respectable!’ Like, f**k off. Seriously, if you can’t handle the fact that your news article is touching a story for a young woman in the sidebar, you have much bigger problems than the design of BuzzFeed.com. SG: You used to work at BuzzFeed in America, and now you cover international news for BuzzFeed and live overseas. Even though your focus is on a global perspective of news, why is it important for you to continue to bring in the perspectives of the United States in your reporting? RB: I sort of believe still that America… its best hope is when it looks outward. Like, when America becomes too insular, you have really disastrous things happening, but I think when America realizes that they are part of a much larger society and there are things to be learned from other countries, things are a lot more interesting. I was trying to make that clear in the talk today… every country is going through very similar things, but they’re different enough where you can learn a lot. As I traveled around, every time I’d go to a place I’d be like, ‘So, tell me about your memes, tell me about your vloggers, tell me about your election history, tell me about your fake news,’ and I’d learn a lot of cool stuff. And then I would try to incorporate that into my stories which I thought would make my stories a little more interesting than the normal like ‘Cambridge Analytica has your data!’ Instead it’s a lot more complicated than that, and I would like to think that the readers sort of find that interesting, and I can say that traffic wise they typically do. I did a lot of live video over the last two years which I just like doing. I find it’s an easy way to get people to - well it’s an easy way to build trust because it’s live, so people are just like, ‘Oh yeah it’s a live feed’ … People will call me fake news in [Periscope recordings], and I always talk about it on camera. I’ll be like “How am I fake news? Is it [a] green screen? Where do you think I am right now? Come hang out with me if you think I’m fake!” So, I’ve been really interested in [figuring out] how do you make Americans feel more connected to the rest of the world? … How do you make them trust things better? And live video helps a lot with that. SG: Fake news is a global problem. How can we begin to tackle it at an individual level? How do countries come together to tackle a problem that has no borders? RB: On a practical level, I have no idea. On a philosophical level, I think it just comes back to if enough people want it, it will happen. If people want reforms for information technology, they will happen. Historically, that seems to be the way it goes… The problem and the big if is if people want real news. I would like to believe that they do, but on a fundamental level, I sort of don’t think people want real news. I think for the most part people think that they want the truth until the truth is something that makes them feel bad, and then they don’t want it. Most people on a day-to-day basis don’t even want to think about whether their news is real or fake, but in most societies that lose the ability to tell what is real or fake in their news bad things follow. All these things are giant “what ifs?” that I don’t know, but there are things that are happening that are promising... The EU [and its] fights with Google and Facebook are good, India’s fights with Facebook are good, the UK has been sort of successful in certain ways in dealing with Cambridge Analytica once they discovered it… we’ll see. I think we’ve got a couple years’ worth of watching, but I think we’ll see.” SG: How do journalists reach parts of societies who instantly dismiss their outlets as fake? Where does that conversation begin? In the US it’s easier, you can just say you’re lying, and then that’s it. In other countries it’s harder… report the truth, build credibility, be transparent with your readers, but also good luck. When I say be transparent, I don’t mean take a camera into the newsroom and film journalists at their computers…we use a term internally at BuzzFeed called ‘showing your work’ which is like, if you come to a conclusion in your piece it should be clearly understandable by reading your piece how you got to that conclusion… If you write your stories like that, readers aren’t confused, and they can figure out how you got to that point so at least they can get mad at you for the facts. SG: You mentioned in your lecture that you had been a comment moderator for BuzzFeed. What was your biggest take away from that experience in regard to internet culture? Has that influenced your approach to news writing at all? RB: Yeah, it totally influenced it. Basically, I just started to realize that the internet was a series of communities that basically would fight with each other. So, I became really interested in the anthropology of the internet - the sociology of the internet. When I write stories I’m always thinking about ‘Okay, what is this group? How are they built? And how are they colliding or not with another community?’ The best stories in my mind are when like one community accidentally slams up against another and then you have tension there. I think a lot of great stories are like this one part of the internet accidentally [colliding] with another and now we all have to deal with it... A lot of stories right now are between social groups, and I think the internet is creating that because it’s so easy to form a social group. I think the internet brings people together, you can then form a little community, and then those communities can fight with each other… It might not stay that way but for right now… that’s what I learned as a community moderator. Once you can look for the communities, then you can find cool stories. SG: There are many reasons to be pessimistic about the future of journalism and this year’s theme for the Media Academy is re-imagining journalism. In your opinion, where can we be optimistic to re-imagine journalism? RB: I think we are at a time of unparalleled creativity… you can tell a story in a million ways. You can tell a story with a live video - with an edited video. You can tell a story with a photo album, you can tell a story with a list, or a long-form essay, or a breaking news post or a huge retrospective long-form feature piece. There are so many ways to tell a story right now that it’s like you should never be bored. You could tell a story on a Twitter thread! A super viral Twitter thread. You could tell a story in one Facebook post; you could tell a story in a YouTube channel… There are so many options. It’s up to journalists to learn how to use them because bad actors are doing it faster. The fact that media organizations are dragging to keep up with that is embarrassing. Because it’s not complicated, these are all free things. It doesn’t cost any money to start a YouTube channel and then take your 22-year old news desk person and say, ‘Can you vlog the news story for the next five days?’ Kassy [one of the members on my team] is trying an experiment on Instagram where if users ask questions a lot in the comment section of a post, she’ll then bring on one of our reporters, and they’ll just like do a Q&A on Instagram, and the engagement is huge! … It’s a really exciting time to do a million things… So that I’m optimistic about. Ryan Broderick was a guest scholar at the 2018 Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change.                                                                                                                                                         
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Dan Russell - Searching for Ways to Separate Fact from Fiction
Dan Russell speaking during one of his lectures at the 2018 Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change
Dan Russell - Searching for Ways to Separate Fact from Fiction
Stephanie Quon 
Dan Russell’s job is to teach people how to Google better. Throughout his 25-year career of experimenting and understanding the user search experience, Russell has taught over four million students how to improve their information literacy and researching skills. Participants from this year’s Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change were his latest pupils. If you want to find accurate answers through a Google search, you need strategy, time and a bit of skepticism. The truth is “big, hairy, complicated” and “socially contextualized”, and Russell wants people to know how to effectively find information and be able to trace it back to the source. He demonstrated various ways to utilize the advanced search techniques and filter tools Google provides and details that can help or hinder specific search results. During his second lecture, Russell created exclusive exercises for participants from this year’s Media Academy to practice these skills using their laptops. Russell later followed up on this adding, “people’s skills grow stale because the search engines constantly improve, both in their feature set, and in the way they process information.  You can’t not pay attention to how your online research tools evolve.  That way lies staleness.” By incorporating these techniques and using them deliberately, participants were taught how to prevent their search skills from becoming stale quickly.   Russell also gave a talk about his method and perspective on innovation during an evening salon later that week. He quoted photographer Chuck Close who once said that “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just get back to work.” This is how Russell thinks of innovation: it’s not magical, but pedestrian. “Inspirational innovation,” Russell says, “where you have suddenly flash on this great idea for a product or for a story or whatever, that’s for amateurs. The rest of us just work every day. So there’s this mistaken belief that innovation happens overnight… we worked on this for ten years and then, all of a sudden, ‘Ooh! It looks like an innovation!’ It’s not innovation; I’ve been working on this for a decade! But people think of it as innovation. My take on innovation is it’s the previous nine years you forgot about.” Participants at this year’s Academy weren’t the first to reimagine the future of journalism. Earlier this year, Google news chief Richard Gingras said, “We need to rethink journalism at every dimension.” Russell agrees: “Richard speaks the truth!” In his view, Google News has had a monumental impact on the journalism landscape. One of the latest ventures Google is undertaking in this field is the Google News Initiative. According to Amol Rajan, BBC News media editor, the main goals of this project are to “elevate high quality news,” “help evolve new business models,” and “use new technology to empower news organizations… developing mechanisms that give them better data on their audiences.” The Google News Initiative has a goal of “spreading knowledge to make life better for everyone.” Russell recognizes the traditions and practices of the past cannot be continued into the future. He said, “There [are] too many things that have changed; the velocity of news has changed, the velocity at which information spreads [has] changed so I think there’s a lot of stuff that has to be done.” In addition to velocity, Russell states the business model for journalism needs to change. “Every newsroom in the universe has been cut back… we’re in some sense [at] a critical point. We need to figure out how we can get this to go forward.” To adapt to these changes, Russell thinks people need to become more information literate.  “Let’s talk about what an index is, let’s talk about what metadata is, let’s talk about sort order, let’s talk about the properties of information. Once you start to understand that, then you’re empowered not just as a consumer, but as a user of information…” Journalists aren’t excluded from this advice. Google has about “60 hours-worth of educational content just for journalists,” according to Russell, to learn how to use specific tools to improve their reporting. Google is working on resources to help journalists face the challenge of photo manipulation. Russell shares his experience watching a video of someone who identified a specific chair in a photograph, found it on an IKEA catalog, and used the 3D model and representation from the catalog to move and reposition the chair in the original picture. Russell said “this is a phenomenal demo…you can actually change the depiction of reality in very high quality and so this is an interesting challenge for journalism going forward.”   Russell did come forward with one informal proposal to counteract photo manipulation: create a digital signature in photographs. He says, “Imagine that every camera when you take a photograph creates a digital signature for that image. Meaning that if you change the photograph, it won’t match the signature anymore which means it’s been manipulated. It’s as if you provide a way to check on the validity of every image. This would be an international standard that we all would have to agree to, but the beauty of that is that if somebody sends you a photograph and the signature doesn’t line up with the photograph, you know somebody tinkered with it. Or if it comes to you without a signature, you know you can’t trust it.” Whatever obstacles new media and technologies present journalists, Russell is more than willing to play a role to help overcome them. As long as people search online for answers, his services will remain in demand. Russell says, “Even though, at this point, I’ve taught over four million students, there’s still a billion left. More than a billion people left to go! So I’ve got a lot of work to do yet.” Dan Russell was a speaker at the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change 2018.
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Charlotte Kalanzi – Salzburg Global Puts You On a Different Level
Charlotte Kalanzi, founder of the H.E.A.R.T stars club, sitting in Max Reinhardt’s former study at Schloss Leopoldskron
Charlotte Kalanzi – Salzburg Global Puts You On a Different Level
Oscar Tollast 
After attending this year’s Salzburg Global Seminar program – Nature and Childhood: From Research and Activism to Policies for Global Change – Charlotte Kalanzi indicated her life would never be the same. The 33-year-old spoke candidly with Salzburg Global midway during the program. Kalanzi, an environmental education officer for C&L Fumigation and Cleaning Co., in Uganda, said, “I applied for some other [program], but then [Salzburg Global] recommended this [program], and I think it’s so applicable to what I’m doing because this is my passion.” The program, which took place as part of the Parks for the Planet Forum multi-year series, focused on four targeted interventions: using play as a lever for economic and social resilience; designing parks for community well-being; influencing the next generation of conservation leaders, and establishing cross-sectoral partnerships. The discussions which took place were relevant to a project Kalanzi had just launched off the ground – the Hygiene, Environment, Attitude, Relationship, Talent (HEART) stars club. The project aims to equip children with environmental knowledge, skills, and communication tools. Kalanzi said, “The members are the stars. They use their talents to pass on hygiene and environment messages. We emphasize a good relationship and a positive attitude for the environment.” The club has been able to grow through money raised by Kalanzi’s day-to-day job. Despite limited resources, Kalanzi’s efforts are already having an impact. She said, “We’ve been able to reach a number of schools in different places in Uganda, and the kids love the program. The fact that we publish their work, their original compositions - they are so passionate about it.” Kalanzi is equally passionate about entertainment and believes messages can be carried through mediums such as song and dance. Even fashion can play a role. She said, “In this era, everything has changed. You see children have everything… They spend most of their time using gadgets. So, I’m thinking entertainment is a key target… Different things are coming up so you can find a way of talking to these people… to see how to engage human beings, maybe produce something with environmental conservation. It’s not the first time Kalanzi took part in a program at Schloss Leopoldskron. She attended a Salzburg Global program in 2008 called Combating Climate Change at Local and Regional Levels: Sustainable Strategies and Renewable Energy. Reflecting on her participation, Kalanzi said, “It was my first international experience, and I was so impressed. The staff, the humility [the] people are humble – everything is down to earth. I found it so, so, so appealing and so good.” This program sought to develop processes for extending useful ideas and strategies to regions and localities around the world to encourage more sustainable practices. Kalanzi said, “After the [program], I think I became more resourceful to my boss then because she started referring me to different meetings… It was my first, but after that, I went to UN-funded programs in Kenya. I went to South Africa… It was really a good experience and, of course, having that certificate from Salzburg, showing it to people that I attended… it added something to my CV.” Kalanzi said she was grateful for the way participants like herself were made to feel valued in Salzburg. She said, “Salzburg has greatly inspired me. All the information they keep sharing with us, through newsletters, attending meetings… it truly promotes you, and it puts you [on] a different level because the knowledge you get from here… a lot of that can be applied everywhere around the world.”
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Sridhar Rangayan – My Film is Not Just a Coming Out Film, It’s a Film About the Subjugation Women Face in Patriarchal Societies
Sridhar Rangayan pictured at Salzburg Global Seminar in 2015 during the first-ever program of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum
Sridhar Rangayan – My Film is Not Just a Coming Out Film, It’s a Film About the Subjugation Women Face in Patriarchal Societies
Oscar Tollast 
Sridhar Rangayan has given a voice to social issues in India for more than two decades. The filmmaker, writer, activist, and festival director has won multiple awards all over the world and is someone at the forefront of the queer cinema movement. Earlier this year, he presented at TEDxNITKSurathkal, at his alumni college, discussing his journey to coming out proud and accepting his individuality. Rangayan, a participant at the first ever program of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, recently spoke with Salzburg Global to discuss his latest film. Salzburg Global spoke with Rangayan prior to India’s Supreme Court overturning a colonial-era law known as section 377 – a victory for India’s LGBT community. This decision has decriminalized same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults in private. Following this historic ruling, Rangayan got in touch with Salzburg Global again to add his thoughts. Rangayan said, “The Supreme Court verdict reading down the colonial law Sec 377, and thereby decriminalizing same-sex sexual relations between two consenting adults in private, is a historic decision by the highest court in India. The judgement far exceeded our expectations - the wordings in the judgement by all the judges, and also the firewalls they have built so no one can challenge the decision ever - these made the entire LGBTQ community very elated. It is still sinking in, that we are now living in a free India and not considered criminals because of our sexual orientation. It would impact the coming generations of LGBTQ youth and pave way for other rights - marriage rights, inheritance and adoption rights. “The change in law is just the first step, because in India we have to work towards changing social mindsets. We would have to put into motion numerous advocacy projects and my work is cut out to make more films like Evening Shadows and fight to have them seen by a large audience.” The Q&A with Rangayan below has been edited for length and clarity. Salzburg Global: Can you explain the thought process behind Evening Shadows and what inspired the story? Sridhar Rangayan: We always felt that there was no mainstream film that youngsters can show their parents as a means of helping them understand their true feelings and also for families to understand more about their LGBTQ children… Evening Shadows is a personal story of one family that is coming to terms with the challenges of acceptance, but the story is universal in its sensibility and emotional reach. The film is more than a coming out film. It is about a woman steeped in traditions and conservative social mores, standing up for her son against all the odds. Evening Shadows is a film of hope and courage. The film has been made with a simple, heartfelt narrative with no auteur flourishes so it can appeal to a large family audience in India and across the world.
SG: When did the thought emerge to push ahead with the project and how long did it take to film? SR: Fortuitously, our first film The Pink Mirror (Gulabi Aaina) made in 2002 got sold to Netflix, and we came into some money which we decided to invest in Evening Shadows… Then we started crowdfunding for the project. We received amazing support from 180-plus contributors across the world. This support gave us the necessary impetus to push forward with the production of the film. It took us about a year and a half to complete production and post-production. It was really amazing to get permission to shoot at the places we had visualized the film being set – the charming small town, the riverbank, the centuries-old temples… excavated from under the sand, the roads winding between paddy fields… some of them being archaeological monuments, which is a treat for the audiences… SG: Regarding the feedback you’ve received so far, has there been a particular review that’s stood out or a comment that’s been made which has been stuck in your mind? SR: The screening of Evening Shadows at KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival in May 2018 was one of the most amazing. It was the closing film, and it was a home audience, but the reaction far exceeded our expectations. There were some 1,100 people in the theater, and they clapped, cheered, cried, and emotionally reacted to almost every dialogue in the film. It was an uproar, a rollercoaster of emotions that crescendoed and filled the huge art deco theater. It gave us all goosebumps; it still does. Another very touching moment was - though sad - when a young Indian youth came up to me after the screening at Toronto and said, “I wish my mother was as understanding and accepting as the mother in your film. I have come out to her three years ago, and she hasn’t accepted me yet.” He hugged me and cried. I tried to assure him that Bollywood films have happy endings in a short span of time, but in life, happy endings may take a long time. I asked him to continue conversations with his mother gently and keep his hopes up. SG: What messages do you hope audience members will take away from Evening Shadows? SR: Evening Shadows is not just a coming out film of a gay youth, but also a film about the subjugation a woman faces within a patriarchal society… believe me, a dominant patriarchal mindset exists not only in Asian countries but also in many other cultures. The film is as much about women empowerment as it is about LGBTQ right to love. Most of the audience members are taking back this message, and we are glad. We would also like to underline the idea that the film is about the divide between two generations and their thoughts and ideas; how so many misunderstandings can arise from not accepting others’ points of view. SG: Congratulations on the awards you’ve won for the film. What does it mean to have the film recognized and celebrated in different parts of the world? SR: The awards are recognition of the narrative and technical excellence of our film Evening Shadows. They do mean a lot to the entire team as all of us have put in hard work and passion into this film. But the feedback and reactions by the audiences across the world have been the best awards we will always treasure. From an 80-year-old gay man in Kansas City, who has had an uphill struggle coming out in the ‘30s, to a young 18-year-old boy in Bengaluru who still faces similar challenges in India, the smiles, the tears and the hugs they have given are the best awards one can aspire for… the highest award is the thanks expressed by parents of LGBTQ children who watch the film and decide to embrace the child. SG: When creating the film, was facilitating Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents support group something you anticipated doing? SR: Evening Shadows, being a film about a son coming out and the challenges his mother faces in understanding him, the focus was always about the film being a support to parents and families. Facilitating a support group was a natural extension of this mission. Even when we began crowdfunding the film’s production, we had mentioned that we would earmark 10 percent of the money we raise to support the formation of a parents’ group… even as we progressed with the production of the film, we started the process of facilitating the group. The Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents’ group – started off with a first-of-its-kind closed door daylong structured workshop with parents to chalk out what they thought were the challenges faced by parents and how a support group can help address these. The aims and objectives of the group and its mission statement emerged from this workshop formulated by the parents themselves. SG: Please could you tell us about your experience at the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum. What can you remember from your program, and what impact did it have on you? SR: My participation at the first-ever Salzburg Global LGBT Forum program in 2013 couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. It was a time when I had founded the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival and was building a good foundation for the festival, which now over nine years has become not only South Asia’s biggest LGBTQ film festival but also an important mainstream event in Mumbai’s cultural calendar. Some of the ideas that all of us participants shared brought in a focus for the work I was doing. It also brought a lot of clarity to the two LGBTQ documentary films I was working on – Purple Skies and Breaking Free. Purple Skies about the Indian LBT community was completed in 2014 and went to play at many festivals and, more importantly, became the first-ever lesbian-themed film to be shown on Doordarshan, India’s national television network. My other film, Breaking Free, about the law section 377 and the Indian LGBT community was completed in 2015 and, among several awards, also won the National Award for Best Editing from the Government of India. These couldn’t have been possible but for the learnings at the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum about how important it is to work with the governments, policymakers, and stakeholders – instead of trying to work in opposition. The diversity of the participants and the spectrum of the experiences make the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum unique and very useful in formulating a broader view of LGBTQ movements across the world. The other learning was about the intersectionality of religion and sexuality, which many participants from different faiths expressed so clearly at the program – how it is important to synergize the two so as to lead a fulfilling and peaceful life. This learning will form the basis of my next feature film Songs of Eternal Love… of course, most importantly, the amazing location of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum offered a tranquil atmosphere to meditate upon one’s work and more crucially about one’s life.
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Young Cultural Innovators to Host Celebration of Afropunk
Young Cultural Innovators to Host Celebration of Afropunk
Oscar Tollast 
A celebration of Afropunk featuring photographs, live music, discussion, and dancing will be held in Detroit, Michigan, later this week. “Here You Can Be Whatever You Want: A Celebration of Afropunk” is taking place at The Baltimore Gallery, Detroit, on September 14 between 6 pm and midnight. The free event has been organized by Salzburg Global Fellows Lauren Rossi and Karah Shaffer, in partnership with Facing Change: Documenting Detroit. Rossi, creative industries program manager at Creative Many, and Shaffer, co-founder and executive director of Facing Change: Documenting Detroit, both attended the fourth program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators in October 2017.   After taking part in this program, the duo received support and funding from Salzburg Global, the Kresge Foundation, and the Knight Foundation to inspire innovation and collaboration at a local level. On Friday, visitors will be able to view an exhibition of images made at Afropunk festivals around the world by photographers Kholood Eid and Bunni Elian. Music will be provided by internationally acclaimed DJ and vocalist Shaun J. Wright and DJ Holographic, a local emerging artist also known as Ariel Corley. For more information about the event, please click here.
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Daniela Rea – Telling the Personal Stories of Violence with Respect, Honesty and Empathy
Daniela Rea speaking at the 12th Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change
Daniela Rea – Telling the Personal Stories of Violence with Respect, Honesty and Empathy
Stephanie Quon 
Kidnappings, disappearances, torture, murder. These are just some of the brutal fates suffered by many Mexicans; the consequences of which are long-borne by their families left behind. It is the personal stories of these violent experiences that Mexican journalist Daniela Rea wants to capture and share so that the world may see, understand, and not forget.  Recently awarded the inaugural Breach-Valdez Prize for Journalism and Human Rights (named for slain Mexican journalists Miroslava Breach and Javier Valdez), Rea has covered a diverse range of issues throughout her career. Enforced disappearances of innocent people, impunity, torture, and abuses of power in Mexico have all featured in her multimedia journalistic work.  Her mission is to tell the stories of the people she interviews honestly, affording those who have opened up and shared their feelings, thoughts, and experiences with her the utmost respect. To her, they are people, not just victims. Multimedia storytelling These personal stories have inspired many projects, using many different media – from paperbacks and graphic novels to documentaries, illustrations, and interactive multimedia experiences. Rea’s book Nadie les pidió perdón (No One Asked for Their Forgiveness) uncovers the countless disappearances and deaths of innocent people. Her documentary No sucumbió la eternidad (Eternity Never Surrendered) portrays the “intimate battles of two women awaiting their missing ones”; she directed it to “showcase the conflicts of memory and the daily struggle of both women [in] not disappearing from life.” Rea has also created various multimedia projects that give the audience an immersive experience through photos and videos along with captions that tell people’s stories of disappeared loved ones, uncovered mass graves and unidentified remains. As one of her projects, Buscadores (Searchers), states, the bodies that are found continue to add to “one of the largest clandestine graves in the continent.” Rea says she is proud of two projects in particular: Mujeres ante la guerra (Women Facing the War), and Cadena de Mando (Chain of command). Mujeres ante la guerra centers on the perspective of the women who have witnessed and survived violence. The accompanying illustrations represent how women can show resistance in times of violence. The online graphic novel, Cadena de Mando, tells the ongoing case of the Ojinaga death squad in Chihuahua, Mexico. Accused of crimes such as theft, torture, and murder, many of the death squad are now imprisoned in Mazatlan military prison.  Storytelling challenges Through her broad use of different storytelling tools, Rea seeks to honestly represent the traumatic and devastating violence countless people have experienced and addresses the difficulty of encapsulating the essence of the experience of that violence and its aftereffects. During the Ithiel de Sola Pool Lecture for the Salzburg Media Academy on Media and Global Change, Rea admitted it is challenging to “transmit to the public the understanding we reach with our work.” Journalists need to present complex and tragic events in terms that readers will understand while recognizing that words such as “justice,” “pain,” and “love,” oversimplify the gravity of the situation. She asked her audience of mostly journalism students to consider how can you call it “justice” when “your son, killed in a police operation, has been called to testify about his own death?” “Pain,” she says, is insufficient to describe how a mother feels when “the autopsy of the one your loved one reveals that they were buried alive, the trace of soil still remaining in his nails and lungs.” How can you say “love,” when you must decide between searching for “the love of your life who has disappeared or raising as a happy child, the son you had together?”  Journalists need “to assume the responsibility to work with people who suffer violence,” Rea told the Academy students. As the next generation of journalists and storytellers, they should strive to learn about people’s stories with respect and dignity, not just as victims of a tragic event. In the current state of newsgathering and storytelling, with its 24-hour news cycles, viral videos, and social media sharing, speed is often favored over nuance. But this is the wrong approach, says Rea: “We have to create the time to know the things and the feelings and the experience that people who suffer violence have,” she says. By taking the time to create a safe and secure environment people will have “confidence and the protection to say what they feel about the violence against them.”     Challenging truths Rea also understands the difficulty to discern an objective truth when finding a story. “In my years as a journalist I learned that I couldn’t pretend to talk about only [one] truth because I learned that it is very complicated,” she shares. Instead, she prefers “to talk about the experience of the people” because the truth for her is “more like varying experiences” than one singular narrative. Given this reflection, Rea ended her Salzburg lecture by proposing three shifts in perspective: First, to understand that to present the objective truth, you have to tell the story honestly. Second, to realize that to tell the truth of that story, you have to discover and understand the varying experiences from the people in that situation to know what “truth” is for them. Finally, to ensure your readers feel empathy, you need to tell the truth that resonates with them; this is helped by sharing a variety of stories and details. The topic of this year’s Salzburg Academy was Re-Imagining Journalism: News and Storytelling in an Age of Distrust. Rea insists that to re-imagine journalism, we have to remember two things. The first is “to work with respect, with dignity, recognizing the dignity of the people [with] whom we work and with honesty.” “You could have a lot of tools, and a lot of possibilities, and a lot of media to write something, or to expose some story, but for me, something that is always necessary is the honesty and respect of the work.” Building a relationship to understand the experience of someone who has suffered is “very hard.” The second is to continue to learn. “Our social condition, our political contexts always are teaching us something, that maybe we don’t realize so I think it’s very important that we assume that in this profession we are always learning.” Otherwise, she cautions, journalism can become “an arrogant and very boring job.”   Daniela Rea was the speaker for the Ithiel de Sola Pool Lecture on the Impact of Communications Technology on Society and Politics at the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change 2018.
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