Saturday, October 10, 2009

Simulation: Ad campaigns for "Using Protection"

Get this, after designing this simulation, I found this video on YouTube...




Instructions: Create a comprehensive campaign that identifies your 1) main goals for your ads. 2) key message 3) channels & placement of communication-aka radio, internet etc. 4) choice(s) of contraceptives.

Step 1: DESIGN and PRESENT an actual advertisement Step 2: Class analyzes your ad Step 3: Share your strategy with the class


Group: 1 (People: Marketing Manager; Press Agent; Advertising Rep; Creative Team)

Client: WHO (World Health Organization)

Target Audience: Sub Saharan Africa

Client concern: Does not want to offend religious sentiment & government

Excerpt of Context given to the students:

BBC News (17 March 2009): Pope Benedict XVI, who is making his first papal visit to Africa, has said that handing out condoms is not the answer in the fight against HIV/Aids. The pontiff, who preaches marital fidelity and abstinence, said the practice only increased the problem. "A Christian can never remain silent," he said, after being greeted on arrival in Cameroon by President Paul Biya. The Pope is also due to visit Angola on his week-long trip, where thousands are expected to attend open-air Masses. Some 22 million people are infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UN figures for 2007. According to Vatican figures, the number of Catholics in Africa has been rising steadily in recent years. Baptised Catholics made up 17% of the African population in 2006, compared with 12% in 1978, the Vatican says. While in Africa, the pontiff is expected to talk to young people about the Aids epidemic and explain to them why the Catholic Church recommends sexual abstinence as the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.


Group: 2 (People: Marketing Manager; Press Agent; Advertising Rep; Creative Team)

Client: Obama Government (DEMOCRAT GOVT)

Target Audience: Nevada, North America; teenage girls

Client concern: Be careful of State leanings /values

Excerpt of Context given to the students:

Context: The teenage birth rate in United States was 53 births per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 2002, the highest in the developed world. If all pregnancies, including those which end in abortion or miscarriage, are taken into account, then the total rate in 2000 was 75.4 pregnancies per 1,000 girls. Nevada and the District of Columbia have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the U.S., while North Dakota has the lowest. [10] Over 80% of teenage pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended; approximately one third end in abortion, one third end in spontaneous miscarriage, and one third will continue their pregnancy and keep their baby. Within the United States teen pregnancy is often brought up in political discourse. The goal to limit teen pregnancy is shared by Republicans and Democrats, though avenues of reduction are usually different. Many Democrats cite teen pregnancy as proof of the continuing need for access to birth control and abortion, while Republicans often cite a need for returning to conservative values, meaning abstinence.


Group: 3 (People: Marketing Manager; Press Agent; Advertising Rep; Creative Team)

Client: Royal College of General Practitioners partnership with Durex, the leading contraceptive company

Target Audience: British adults

Client concern: wants to be cool yet informative to the public

Excerpt of Context given to the students:

BBC, Health Report, Sept 2009: A UK survey has revealed that myths about contraception may be widespread. One in five women said they had heard of kitchen items, including bread, cling film and even chicken skin, being used as alternative barrier methods. Others had heard food items such as kebabs, Coca-cola or crisps could be used as oral contraceptives. The survey questioned 1,000 women aged 18 to 50 and was carried out by market research company Opinion Health, sponsored by Bayer Schering Pharma. Contraceptive myths have been around for thousands of years. Ancient methods have varied from crocodile dung and honey before sex, to sea sponges and beeswax after. Perhaps the most intoxicating was alcohol made from stewed beaver's testicles. However, it seems that a variety of unsafe and unproven methods might still exist in modern Britain. Dr Annie Evans, Women's Health Specialist at the Bristol Sexual Health Centre, said: "It is not surprising, given that Britain continues to have the highest unintended pregnancy rate in Europe."


Group: 4 (People: Marketing Manager; Press Agent; Advertising Rep; Creative Team)

Client: Safe4Now Foundation

Target Audience: Prostitutes

Client concern: get noticed for its cheap price factor

Excerpt of Context given to the students:

PRESS RELEASE: Amsterdam - Now a new condom brand emerges in Europe which is mainly targeting prostitutes. If you’re not an artist or designer, being given thousands of expired condoms for your purposes, then you can obtain a cheap condom 100 pack anonymously and fast off the internet across Europe.The new European campaign to distribute cheap condoms for the sex industry is brought to us by the Dutch Safe4now Foundation. Their goal is to “allow prostitutes to work safer, more pleasant and cheaper”...


Classroom Simulations: Taking on Bashir, designing Airports in Shanghai and more

I’m a huge advocate of simulations in classrooms. You get students to take on role plays and enact within real life contexts and rest assured, these students will blow your mind away. We have traveled from Brazil to Sudan to China. From addressing the building of a factory in the Amazon to standing for elections in Sudan, these students have risen to the challenge beautifully.

For instance, the Brazil case study I designed demanded that each student group represent different interests: Perenco Oil, Ecowatch, the Brazilian middle class, the government and the Survival international Group. This played out on a popular TV show, where I took on the role of “Veronica”, a famous TV show hostess. What we got was “Candy forest” representing Ecowatch battling her way with an experienced VP of Perenco Oil, with the government trying hard to play neutral. What was fascinating was that the attacks were focused on Perenco, leaving the government relatively unscathed inspite of their supportive stance. I find this reveals so much about our understandings of international conflicts and more importantly, I hope, humbles students to realizing the complexities of real life scenarios.

The Sudan exercise too was such a delight. This could have gone on for hours! They had so much to say and even as the class time was up, they were fully pumped with ideas that were itching to come out! Student groups were told that they were all competing to be the next ruling party of Sudan and thereby, had to come up with an election campaign. The twist here was that each group was told that they were representing a particular faction: the African tribal group, the military generals, the economists, and the international relations focused groups. This is the outline each group got from me including information on the country's geography, economic, political and socio-cultural makeup.



Current Situation: President Bashir has stepped down as President due to the Darfur crisis and international pressure. The seat of Presidency is vacant. A new election monitored by the UN is going on with 4 nominees as finalists.

Your group is 1 such team vying to be the future government of Sudan.

Your audience are the Sudanese people. They are tired of being viewed as victims and tired of apologizing and being shamed by the West. Afterall, it was a bad government and not bad people. They are proud and have a rich cultural heritage and want to make their mark in their own unique way.


1) President nominee

2) International Relations Advisor

3) Economic Advisor

4) Education Advisor

5) Security & Diplomacy Advisor

Decide on the following for your campaign speech:

1) Your campaign promise – Core issues

2) Campaign motto “Yes we can” byline type

3) Target voter demographic- what is your strategy?

STEP 1: All groups give a presentation to the public on their plan for Sudan

STEP 2: President nominees take the stand. Cross-fire: President nominees consult their team and ask questions to each other

STEP 3: Audience asks further questions

STEP 4: Voting takes place


In short, I m a big fan of simulations! More to come...

Do I need to join the Korean boot camp too?

Apparently I fit the description of an addict; apparently I’m truly at-risk…or so the New York Times article on Korean bootcamps for cyberaddicts informs me. “They spend at least two hours a day online, usually playing games or chatting. Of those, up to a quarter million probably show signs of actual addiction, like an inability to stop themselves from using computers, rising levels of tolerance that drive them to seek ever longer sessions online, and withdrawal symptoms like anger and craving when prevented from logging on.” Sounds really familiar…of me checking my email every five minutes, of me getting all worked up that I don’t have access to the Net the other day, preventing me from watching the latest SNL spoof…my life had almost come to a stop. I guess my membership to this club should be confirmed then? But 2 hours really? Is there a super-membership as I believe I break a higher bar than that.

South Korea, with their savvy Net loving citizens are now in a crunch. They need to wean their population off the Net juice so to speak. Kids are dropping out of school it seems just to stay online…or worse, “dropping dead.” The government saves the day. Rescue camps have sprung up all over the place by the government to remind their people that pottery and drumming are not such bad alternatives. Seriously though, going by this, many of us with Net access are spending such time online, making us more the norm than the deviant entity in society. If kids are dropping out of school, lets focus on how schools are engaging/disengaging them versus shifting all the blame to online compulsions. The same behavior seen by them when they grow up will be perceived as having a great “work ethic.” After all, I don’t see boot camps springing up anytime soon for worker bees online…

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Rhetoric vs. Reality unifies?

I like the Economist magazine...its not afraid of having a strong opinion. Not that I readily agree with their arguments but no one can accuse them of not taking a stand. For instance, they write about Al Jazeera (, one of the supposedly few independent media networks in the Gulf States as a natural unifier in a region that is seen as much fragmented. It is a fascinating argument of how a media network scales itself across the world now, by creating a sense of unity and identity through its rhetoric of shared Middle East concerns. Of course, the problem here is that the Economist, when it talks of the "fragmented Arab nations" implicitly reinforces such stereotypes of this region in a constant state of flux. Even though we all know that the State is not necessarily a representative of its people, we see this constantly at play when we talk of nations. Middle eastern leaders of States may not be able to work together or be united in a cause perhaps, but this should not imply that people across these States are not tied deeply by common interests and values, even spanning across these States to other regions, the "West" included.
In context with "Asia" for instance, there is an argument that the age old "divide and conquer" colonial strategy worked in fragmenting Asian societies. This has some credence. It has taken awhile to trust and partner with neigboring States, like India with China even though they can potentially be powerful partners in trade, commerce and more. But one should give enough acknowledgement to the deep challenge that is posed in balancing interests of global competition with cooperation...that is truly a learning curve considering there is little history to back such practices. If we are to identify a media "unifier" amongst Asia, perhaps Bollywood has an answer...SRK posters in Peru, Kenya and Cuba tell a story...when we speak of unification of people, we can be jointly entertained while sharing different politics and values...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Learning to walk the thin line from "The Wire"- a tribute

I am an unabashed fan of the series, “The Wire.” It is by far one of the finest “video-ethnographies” I’ve ever seen. It has the potential to offend at a glance…far from being politically correct, it does not seem afraid to break convention and start and continue with a multitude of stereotypes: of African-Americans in the drug trade, their lives wrapped with dysfunctional schools, corrupt politicians, apathy in family life, not so “maternal” mothers, violent teenagers, and deadbeat and racist cops. It’s almost entirely an African American show. Yet, scratch the surface and sit through this show and you will start to understand how this all comes together…it humanizes violence…shows how the violent are victims too; shows how ingenious these children are who in spite of their circumstances learn to survive…it makes you realize that if you were in their position, you would probably be compelled to take to the drug trade, violence, and seems the smartest and sometimes only path available in such desperate contexts. That for sure takes guts to portray. This show does not allow you to comfortably see through one lens of a main protagonist that you can relate to; it shifts lenses almost with every new series… characters come and go until you’re left on your own to experience this complex phenomena. In truth, the most difficult aspect of investigations, of ethnographies as such, video and otherwise, is to take upon a hotly contentious topic, say race, and combine it with the cliché correlation of drugs and violence…most investigators fail to come out of it unscathed as the danger of perpetuating a stereotype is high. Hence, few venture into this terrain and those that do, tend to point their lens to “success” stories, to show that not all is “lost” or perhaps the good old potential for “reform” where by highlighting a desperate situation, makes the case for urgent rescue. “The Wire” however takes us through their day to day lives to see how larger systems of schooling, security, politics, and economics play at the ground level. You cannot walk away with judgment…try condemning a cop for his racist moves and you realize how he is very much a victim too of higher orders for “stats” for the upcoming election, for pressures from the community, from his fear of his own safety and more; try condemning a drug addict and neglecting African American mother and you see how desperate her situation is, her loneliness, her lack of safety nets and more; the story keeps thickening..

Talking of sensitive subjects such as race, I have just moved to Rotterdam, Netherlands, as the event of the firing of the Swiss Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan by Rotterdam city council and Erasmus University unfolds. He is accused for his refusal to stop working for an Iranian backed TV channel as he was hired to be a key advisor on integration issues. The argument goes that his credibility is undermined by his association with the Iranian regime. That said, at a glance, one may condemn him for his association with the Iranian regime especially at a time when mass street protests against the regime are unfolding in Iran; or perhaps one may condemn the city for its “racist” move…and so the story continues without an actual understanding of what the forces are that compel such action. What we do not know is why at this moment in time, does a scholar affect city officials? How does Ramadan negotiate his need for critical scholarship with the dealings of the Iranian sponsored Press? Who is the audience for his program in Iran and worldwide? What’s the nature of his association and its impact? Who funds his position at Erasmus University and what are the real constraints on the university in his hiring and firing? What is the economic and immigrant climate in Rotterdam currently and how does that play into this action? Rather than making this about “Islam,” we should take a moment to see how we can approach this from multiple perspectives before forming a quick judgment. Who says TV is an idiot box? The Wire surely can show some guidance here…

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Digital textbook euphoria...

Sure it’s more convenient…who wants to carry around heavy books when a kindle would do. Sure its more comprehensive…why go through text in a linear rote fashion when hypertexts allow you to journey through multiple websites, course materials, videos, visuals and more with a click of a mouse?Digitalizing textbooks make sense but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Curriculum is still the same, dictated by the politics of the system. Digital or not, if a book is not engaging on paper, the chances are that its appeal will barely enhance through its electronic counterpart. So let’s not confuse convenience for engagement. Digital euphoria can only go this far…

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The future of the past: Digital evidence or new media fabrications?

If only the dead could talk, they would tell us what really happened… and sometimes they do. Rodrigo Rosenberg, a lawyer in Guatemala was murdered on May 10th 2009 by an unknown gunman. However, he continues to talk through YouTube, channeling his blame towards President Alvara Colom and others for his death.

This digital expose of claimed corruption and conspiracy is becoming a common phenomenon. In India, the Tehelka news magazine revealed tapes implicating Gujarat minister Narendra Modi and other politicians for the mass killings of Muslims in the infamous Gujarat riots in 2002 through their taped confessionals.

On a less grisly note, who could forget the Mexican Zapatista movement, an armed revolutionary group in Chiapas, Mexico that brought their movement into the international limelight through the strategic use of the Internet. Their desire for indigenous control of their local resources became an international topic of contention seemingly overnight.

Yet the proof is not necessarily in this digital pudding apparently…authenticity of these videos is being questioned and continues to be questioned by the accused. That’s not surprising really. Legally, digital evidence seems to have less impact that one might expect. We know that not all that goes into print is “truth” so why should digital media be any different? Yet it is…the feel of authenticity through allowing us to relive moments of the past, of allowing us to transport ourselves to the moment of confession, of recognizing the humble efforts of the “small” guys in this drama is no small feat. While the legal battle continues, the seeds of doubt have been planted. But is that enough really? How can new media become powerful tools of justice? What does it really take?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cookie in a cookie jar

We’re all labeled apparently; income level, sex, age, single, married, children and more. To sum up, we are seen to add up to nothing but a cookie that travels with a click of a mouse. WE are our own worst enemy. Naïve about our journeys online, we have supposedly become a gold mine for the government, advertising companies, and more who want so desperately to get to know us better. We are, literally, worth knowing. Our web choices, our little escapades into online dating and shopping are being tracked and profiled. This seems like our fate. The world is spilling with our data. There are no coincidences anymore. You don’t just happen to see online that there is a sale at Macy in San Francisco or that SRK, the Bollywood king just came out with a new movie. It’s all part of the design of public life online. But before we really get caught up with this Big Brother Orwellian notion, let’s take a moment to think of ourselves in all our complexity. I love Beatles, old Hindi songs, Aamir Khan Ads, burritos, Spanish tiles, Oaxacan chocolate, Irish folk music, and Timbuktu bags. I can be cheap. I love free events in New York. But I like spending my money on good winter coats. I love Paris and I love Almora, a small town in the Himalayas, India. What can you say about me so far? What cookie jar do I belong to?

I swear it was here a minute ago!

Citations are the lifeblood of academia: who you cite, what you cite, when you cite…it’s the site of all contention, creation, and collaboration. But in this new media age, what happens when you’re examining a web site and its activity only to discover that having referenced it, it may no longer exist. Ah…your word stands alone as witness to a cyber event that perhaps is long gone or migrated to some other nook on cyberspace. Also, it’s painful to reference a webpage without getting into the messiness of copyright…who owns that space? Is it the user, the platform owner, an organization that perhaps the user belongs to or all of the above? It’s the hell of online copyright. And things can get even more complicated. For instance, I need to reference an image online that a user was looking at. That happens to be the photograph of a painting of Mona Lisa. So apparently, even though the original may be out of copyright, the photograph is not. The delightful chase begins…starting with the photographer and then the organization who commissioned that photographer …not to forget the expenses that may incur in gaining permission to reproduce a “painting” in print when in fact, I’m not even interested in the painting but what it represents to the user. Mona Lisa is incidental to my study…and apparently so is the cost. So instead, I will trust the imagination of the reader as they use my words to imagine Mona Lisa in all her glory. Old fashioned stand alone print is sadly more affordable in the 21st century.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What's so Ironic?

Cybercafe in Almora, Central Himalayas

Video killed the Radio star?

Just when we got over our nostalgia for the radio days, it seems to be back with a vengeance. Digital NPR is having its hay day…from iphones to the web; they’re scaling and scaling fast. All Things Considered…24/7 online and offline it seems. Check these stats out:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Do Ultimatums really work online?

Facebook warns you that you can choose your Username only once…you’re pretty much stuck with “iWearNeonUnderwearToBed” as a sign of luck on getting that job! As employers, colleagues and friends that you haven’t yet gotten around to de-friend check you out and scrutinize your moves and shakes online, are you forced to live with your mistakes? Really? I see that with the Kodak mafia threatening to make my online photos “disappear” if I don’t order some prints from them..their threats have become part of my monthly routine and yet my photos continue to live a long and supposedly healthy life on their turf. I get it. There’s no free lunch…until someone else comes along to offer you free food? Do threats really work in this online business? If you threaten, you’ve got to see it through otherwise you lose credibility. If this is the new cat and mouse game between online users and producers, what is the prize?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ideas on the rocks!

Enterprise Ireland surely knows how to woo you! In little brown conference bags you find Jameson Irish Whiskey to take you through for the rest of the evening in Palo Alto. Mainly Irish and Irish American entrepreneurs and venture capitalists gather to plot and plan how to chase money from pennies to dollars in this economic climate. Some good advice spews forth from a venture capitalist…if someone asks you, “will you be my mentor,” I say “No” …much of this is equated with dating…you don’t ask to get married on your first date, do you? Now that’s good advice. But they also demand face-to-face courtship. What then should we make of all the LinkedIn and Facebook chase that goes on with relative strangers? Does that go far at all? I personally have befriended several researchers, professors and practitioners in my field online. Over the years I would say some of these have become genuine relationships as we exchange Real favors in Virtual settings. So is Venture Capital in Silicon Valley just conservative? Is this the way of the Economic priesthood?

The T-Mobile Dance

Do corporations now just want to be loved?
Is laughter a way to the consumer's heart?

CNN Paul R. La Monica from Media Biz complains that getting laughs comes at a high fact, millions of dollars worth of corporate dollars only to find that after the first few chuckles, the consumer walks off not knowing whether you're selling cellphones or dance shoes...yes?

But there is something here- entertaining and marketing ..its not really one or the other but really on how to strike a hit with the right churning of the two...I, for one, have become an active promoter of T-mobile dancing...see the video below... but I haven't switched.

I currently stand as a consumer of their new media sales but not their products...not exactly what they were looking for.