March 03, 2007

A 16-year-old with a laptop


Here's a story with several interesting themes: an enterprising young lady, someone who doesn't fit in with the crowd, the power of the blogosphere and of web-connected PCs, virtual communities, and the courage to speak up for peace.

It's a nuanced, complex story. As I'm reading, I can feel my mind badgering me, begging me to let it make a snap judgement: "is she a good guy or a bad guy? Is home-schooling good or bad? Is the Internet and freedom of speech good or bad? Is this activism or propaganda?" The article raises questions as well as informs. And for me, never lived in the US, it's a "slice-of-life" look at a part of America today. Fascinating.

Meet Ava Lowery, the Southern homeschooler whose antiwar videos get 30,000 hits a day.

Read more.
I was going to attend a birthday party for Ava Lowery, a homeschooled teen activist who posts professional-quality antiwar video shorts on her website, peacetakescourage.com, from her bedroom in a small town about an hour's drive from Montgomery. Ava, whose videos have a worldwide following thanks to the blogosphere, had decided to throw her Sweet Sixteen party on the steps of the Capitol to protest the war in Iraq.

A decade earlier, a teenage girl out of the local political mainstream might have held her tongue until she could leave Alabama. But these days the Internet provides a means out—a community of like-minded people, albeit a virtual one. Ava's website averages 30,000 hits a day and is recommended by Michael Moore's. It remains to be seen, however, whether such virtual, viral efforts can serve as a replacement, or even a stimulus, for face-to-face networks such as church groups or labor unions. Ava's rally/birthday party was a small test of what Internet activism can look like on the ground. And it was a particularly ambitious test...

As Ava's website was linked to by high-profile sites such as CrooksandLiars and Daily Kos, its viewership grew. After Yearly Kos kicked off its 2006 convention in Las Vegas with one of Ava's videos as a rallying cry, a New York Times editorial asked: "Could a 15-Year-Old With a Laptop Be the New Campaign Media Guru?" More recently, United for Peace and Justice solicited her to produce a video promoting its January 2007 march on Washington...If the innovation of cable news shaped the representation of the first Gulf War, then this war is partly being defined by another new form of media, one practiced by amateur diarists and commentators.
(link from DailyKos).

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