A Park For All Seasons

Friends of Way Park - Fri, 08/07/2020 - 9:44pm
Way Park is the heart of a vibrant neighborhood on the west side of Northfield. It features:  the ROMP musical playground  playground equipment and swings pre-school equipment  a half basketball court  picnic and grilling areas  a walking path  a warming hut and ice rink (seasonal)  a small baseball/kickball diamond (seasonal)  a large open field perfect for pick up soccer games, kite flying, Michelle
Categories: Organizations

3M poisoning water

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sat, 10/19/2019 - 12:52pm

3M stopped making PFC’s a long time ago, I’d guess when they figured out the danger (people still use teflon?!?!). But it doesn’t just go away, it’s spreading, and it’s in Minnesota’s water, and elsewhere around the country too. Du Pont is responsible for a lot of similar contamination of water, another similar story for another day.

PFAS map above — Purple dots above are a “well advisory.” Green dots are “no or low PFAS.” Nope, inadequate. I want green to be NO PAS, and oh, say, yellow for “low PFAS” and definition of “low.” Not labeling “low” when there IS contaminated water is disingenuous.

Last year, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office settled a suit with 3M over its pollution, poisoning, of water with PFCs and related dangerous substances like PFOA, etc…


Settlement was for $850 million dollars, $720 million after expenses, including attorney fees, will go to local water issues.

Here’s the agreement:

Minnesota vs. 3M Company Agreement

So this is in the paper today:

Woodbury shuts down sixth water well over pollution concerns

Looking at the agreement, they’re terming the $$$ in the settlement a “grant,” specifically, that “3M will make a Grant in the amount of $850 million to the State which shall be held in the 3M Grant for Water Quality and Sustainability Fund, within fifteen (15) days from
the Effective Date of this Agreement.” (see agreement above, p. 3.) No admissions here…

Framing it in a way that doesn’t stress clean up, and instead focuses on happy language… “enhance the quality, quantity and sustainability…” GOOD GRIEF…

As the first and highest priority, the MPCA and/or the DNR shall utilize
the Grant referenced in paragraph 13 above to enhance the quality, quantity and sustainability of the drinking water in the East Metropolitan Area, which shall include, but is not necessarily limited to, the cities of Woodbury, Oakdale, Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Afton, and Newport and the townships of West Lakeland and Grey Cloud Island. The goal of this highest priority work is to ensure clean drinking water in sufficient supply to residents and businesses in the East Metropolitan Area to meet their current and future water needs. Examples of projects in this first priority may include, but are not limited to, the development of alternative drinking water sources for municipalities and individual households (including but not limited to creation or relocation of municipal wells), the treatment of existing water supplies, water conservation and efficiency, open space acquisition, and groundwater recharge (including projects that encourage, enhance, and assist groundwater recharge). For individual households, projects may include, but are not limited to, connecting those residences to municipal water supplies, providing individual treatment systems, or constructing new wells. The MPCA shall conduct a source assessment and feasibility study regarding the role of the Valley Branch Water District’s project known as Project 1007 in the conveyance of PFCs in the environment. In selecting and performing activities pursuant to this paragraph, the State shall prioritize water supplies where health based values, health risk limits, and/or health risk indices for PFCs are exceeded.

Here’s the “3M settlement: financial framework” which includes this statement:
Money in the Remediation Fund is appropriated to the MPCA and DNR to be spent for a variety of purposes, including taking remedial actions and rehabilitating and restoring natural resources.”

Seems to me, that “including” means it’s an afterthought, not the primary purpose.

The law is STRICT LIABILITY for those who cause the harm, but I’m not seeing a requirement to CLEAN UP, only that they’re paying in to the state. Am I missing something here? From the “3M settlement: financial framework” again:

MERLA makes responsible person strictly liable not only to clean up contamination from hazardous substances (i.e. Superfund), but also to pay damages to the state for the resulting harm to natural resources. By establishing a legal cause of action to recover for natural resource damages, MERLA recognizes the value of the state’s natural resources and the importance of restoring them as much as possible for the benefit of the public. Minn. Stat. §115B.04,subd.1(3).

Now another Woodbury well is poisoned. How on earth will they clean up this mess for $850 million, when it’s increasing, where additional wells are poisoned. Isn’t this map of purple dot “well advisory” horrifying? Look again:

Color me skeptical, well… furious.

Here are the reports for this “grant.”

3M Settlement biannual report and Spending Plan for FY2020 (August 2019)

3M Settlement — determining how priorities will be met (April 2019)

3M Settlement biannual report  (February 2019)

Categories: Citizens

Governor’s Pheasant Opener

KYMN Radio - Sat, 10/19/2019 - 11:55am

The Northfield Outdoors team, once again, takes part in the Governor’s Pheasant Opener.  The annual event honors and promotes Minnesota’s long-standing pheasant hunting tradition.  Austin Minnesota hosted this years memorable Pheasant Opener. Listen in as Andy, Hayes and Dave interview Governor Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen,  DNR Mentor Program Coordinator

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Raider Wrap 10-19-19 Volleyball and Football

KYMN Radio - Sat, 10/19/2019 - 10:58am

The Raider Volleyball team, having the best season in school history, stops in to talk about that and the upcoming postseason.  Coach Tim Torstenson is joined by players Bronwyn Timperley and Emma Torstenson:   The Raider Football team is also preparing for the post season.  Assistant coach Steve Hill talks about Wednesday’s loss to New

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Fire Station Grand Reopening

City of Northfield Calendar - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 5:24pm
Event date: October 23, 2019
Event Time: 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM
301 5th Street West
Northfield, MN 55057
The Northfield Area Fire and Rescue Services is hosting a grand reopening on their newly remodeled station. A ribbon cutting ceremony will begin at 4:15 p.m. and include speeches from Northfield Mayor Rhonda Pownell, Fire Chief Gerry Franek, and NAFRS Board Chair Bron Scherer. Cake and refreshments will be served.

Curried Chickpeas in Coconut Milk

Just Food Co-op - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 2:02pm
Curried Chickpeas in Coconut Milk By: Robin Asbell This simple, fast dish is a vegetarian’s delight, silky with coconut milk and flecked with spices and fresh cilantro. Servings6 servings Prep Time30 Minutes Ingredients Instructions
  1. Drain the soaked beans, then put in a pot with 5 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for about an hour. When they are very tender, drain and reserve.
  2. Heat a large skillet (see tip below) over high heat. When hot, add the canola oil or ghee, the ginger, garlic, cumin, turmeric, coriander and cayenne and stir until the spices are fragrant. Add the coconut milk, brown sugar, tomato paste and salt, and mash and stir to incorporate the tomato into the sauce as it comes to a simmer. Add garbanzos and stir. Cook, stirring often, until thick. Sprinkle with cilantro just before serving.
Recipe Notes Nutritional Information

233 calories, 11 g. fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 217 mg. sodium, 27 g. carbohydrate, 7 g. fiber, 8 g. protein

Recipe Used With Permission from NCG. Original Recipe Here

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Categories: Businesses

Reina del Cid on AWD, 10/17/19

KYMN Radio - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 1:11pm

Nothing better on a gorgeous autumn afternoon than kicking off All-Wheel Drive with an in-studio conversation and performance by national recording artists, Reina del Cid! I was joined by Reina del Cid (singer/songwriter) and bandmate Toni Lindgren (guitarist & instrumentalist extraordinaire), who just released their fourth full-length album, Morse Code. Reina del Cid is also the

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Three plea to 1st degree burglary in home invasion; Late start for Nfld secondary schools on board radar; Corrections officer escorting female inmate through Dakota County accused of sexual misconduct

KYMN Radio - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 12:02pm

By Teri Knight, News Director Three have pled guilty in a home invasion last month in Greenvale Township. On September 21, 2019, a woman called 911 when she heard people in her home on the 4900 block of 315th Street West. A Dakota County Sheriff’s Deputy pulled over a vehicle in the area; three were

The post Three plea to 1st degree burglary in home invasion; Late start for Nfld secondary schools on board radar; Corrections officer escorting female inmate through Dakota County accused of sexual misconduct appeared first on KYMN Radio · Northfield, MN · AM 1080 & FM 95.1.

Klobuchar, Smith announce 2020 open enrollment for Crop Safety Net Programs

KYMN Radio - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 11:14am

Minnesota Farmers Can Now Sign Up for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for 2020 WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN), both members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, announced that farmers can now enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for

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Garden Travel: Red Butte Garden

My Northern Garden - Mary Schier - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 10:22am

Garden travel is good for the soul, to revise an old saying. And, for gardeners from—how shall we put this?—more restrictive climates, travel that let’s us see what gardeners elsewhere grow and what they deal with helps us put the limitations we have in perspective. Earlier this fall, I visited gardens around Salt Lake City, ... Read More about Garden Travel: Red Butte Garden

The post Garden Travel: Red Butte Garden appeared first on My Northern Garden.

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Categories: Citizens

Grandma’s Restored Prairie Recipe

Carletonian - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 9:59am


  • Seeds from 60-80 species of grass, wildflower, and sedge.
  • Land


  1. The first step in making a prairie, as with any recipe, is the prep-work; in this case, of
    the soil. You will want to take your land out of agriculture (because let’s be honest,
    it’s probably in agriculture) and till the field to bring good soil to the top and to bury any leftover corn (because let’s be honest, it’s probably corn).
  2. The second part of the prep is to acquire the seeds from local remnant prairies (with permission!). Ideally, you can access multiple prairies within a 15-mile radius of your own site, to ensure that your plants will be adapted to the environment of your specific area, but also contain a decent amount of biodiversity. If you can’t collect the seeds of 60-80 different species at local remnant prairies, store-bought is fine—but be warned, a good seed mix can cost $6,000 an acre (no, that wasn’t a typo).
  3. Mix all of your seeds together. My tip is to use relatively little warm-season-grass seed, because just a few of those go a long way. You will be able to develop your own desired ratios through trial and error, but you’ll probably want to use all of the wildflower seeds that you can get your hands on, because flowers are pretty.
  4. Use the shotgun approach to disperse your seed mix across the desired area. For those of you unfamiliar, “shotgun approach” is a fancy way to say, “just chuck all your seeds willy-nilly.”
  5. Make sure you disperse your seed mix in the fall, because many plants need to go through a stratification process of freezing and thawing before they will germinate. If you can, try to get it to snow right after you throw your seeds, because the snow layer will keep the seeds from blowing away or being eaten.
  6. Let sit for 6-8 months.
  7. Enjoy your new home-grown prairie.

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Categories: Colleges

Confronting the spectre of the 2000s

Carletonian - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 9:55am

Cowl necks? Cheetah print? Exposed midriffs? Low… dare I say it… low-rise jeans?

That’s right. It’s exactly what you think it is.

2000s fashion is back, baby.

I didn’t want to believe it either. A few years ago, I shuddered at the mere thought of what people were wearing in the 00s. Uggs? Halter tops? High-heeled flip-flops? Abhorrent, I thought. Shameful.

But now? Now I’ve come to accept that the aughts are cool and vintage, much like the edgy 90s looks we were all trying a little too hard with a few years ago. Instead of Rachel Green, we will begin to emulate Lorelai Gilmore, with her graphic tees, fitted cardigans, and those various little hats.

Layering tank tops over long sleeves? 2000s-core. The huge, objectively ugly (but subjectively… powerful) white sneakers? Also 2000s-core. Athleisure? Even that’s 00s-inspired… it all can be traced back to those velour two-piece tracksuits (think Cheetah Girls).

I’m sure we can all recall the time in 2001 (class of 2023 included) when Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake wore those iconic all-denim looks on the red carpet. Well, would you believe me if I told you that in 2018, Rita Ora in fact wore a 3-piece denim ensemble on the red carpet—with her jeans tucked into her high heels?

H&M sells boot-cut jeans now. Also low-rise jeans. I’m not even kidding you. This is happening.

Even bermuda shorts are back. You know those shorts you used to wear before you turned 11 and suddenly the only shorts marketed to you were exactly 1 inch long? Those shorts. Hitting just above the knee. Kylie Jenner wears them now.

All this begs the question: is all fashion cyclical? Mere repetition, decade by decade? Yesterday we wore 90s-inspired chokers and turtlenecks, nervous-laughing at the spectre of our 2000s selves; now we’re unashamedly wearing 2000s outfits; will we be 2010-core five years from now? I sure hope not. In 2010 I was wearing dolman-cut sleeves, white Converse, and the same Aeropostale hoodie every day, I think.

2010 might have been the year I first wore high-waisted jeans, but to be clear, that’s only because I was a cutting-edge trendsetter (but I trust you were assuming that already). In donning those high-waisted pants—which featured five (5) buttons!—I was embracing that first subtle influence of the 90s.

Which brings me to my most worrisome question, an important question, one we must struggle with: Will we ever stop wearing high-waisted jeans? And what can I do—what can everyday citizens do—to make sure we don’t?

It’s true, people. The 2000s have returned. And so I ask you: are you going to resist, or will you let the aughts envelop you, and submerge yourself beneath heaps of denim, rhinestones, and velour?

The post Confronting the spectre of the 2000s appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

In defense of wearing nothing but sweats

Carletonian - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 9:53am

Trends come and go with the wind, but there is one fashion staple that will always fit well and make you look put-together: Sweats. While they obviously make your muscles look bigger and your secondary/primary sex organs look extremely appealing, there are much more benefits.

The main benefit is that they hold up well. When God created these garments he/she specifically created them not to tear or get shoddy. Washing machines are no match for divine fabric.

One thing that can’t be ignored is the comfort. People can say whatever they want, but they don’t know how comfortable it truly is. Can you say the same skinny-jeans wearers? Blood flows freely through all veins that lie comfortably below french terry cloth and nike tech fleece.

A sense of security is another upside. Many people will worry about what people think of what they wear, and try to fit in by following trends only to be 2 months behind. Sweats wearers don’t need that; winning personalities are the only things required for the enlightened sweats wearers. This thought would be incomplete without asserting that people obviously catch on to this.

The environment thanks the sweats wearer. A consequence of the ebb and flow of the trends is the waste it creates. People are just now becoming aware of the environmental impact of fashion, especially “fast fashion.” Sweats don’t get thrown away, they are worn for much longer than 6 months, and sweats are probably biodegradable.

The sweatpants wearers are the people that make the world keep turning. They’re the people that wake up and go. The frivolous waste valuable time each morning deciding what to wear, checking the weather and worrying over other peoples’ opinions, all the while death marches ever closer. In cool weather they insulate, in warm weather they allow the air to flow.

While there are only a chosen few who engage in this lifestyle, the tide rises. The ‘Athleisure’ trend is a step in the right direction. But sweats-wearers don’t seek praise, they are a humble people, who do not seek to convert, but allow those on the right path to seek them out. The sun never sets on those wearing sweats.

The post In defense of wearing nothing but sweats appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

Mom Jeans and where to buy them

Carletonian - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 9:47am

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that mom jeans are the current fashion craze. They are baggy and comfortable, and they frame your butt oh just right. A perfect pair of mom jeans can be chic and childlike at the exact same time. In other words, they are the most versatile and magical piece of clothing available. Praise be to mom jeans! If you try to purchase these pants online, however, they can be quite expensive. I am a firm believer that everyone deserves to experience the joy of mom jeans, regardless of their financial situation. Here is my guide for locating affordable mom jeans

Raid your local thrift store and buy Levi Strauss Signature Jeans (roughly 1-2 ½ sizes up).

Go to, which is an amazing and cheap online thrift store. They have good L.L. Bean mom jeans.

Get pregnant and wear jeans. Boom, mom jeans.

If that’s not a feasible option because you don’t want to raise a child in this current political climate (we don’t blame you), find a mom and steal her jeans.

Go to a maternity clothing store

Literally all physical clothing stores are going bankrupt, so just visit a Forever 21 or Charlotte Russe in a couple months when they have crazy sales.

In all seriousness, students sometimes sell their mom jeans on Free and For Sale at Carleton.

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Categories: Colleges

Yogi Reppmann, Jan Jessen and Irene Kelly

KYMN Radio - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 9:26am

Northfielder Yogi Reppmann and Irene Kelly, Rotary District Governor,  introduces Jan Jessen from Denmark who is in Northfield to speak to the Rotary Club about the history in Denmark prior to the Second World War.

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Nfld 2019 Street Reclamation Project Update: 10/18/2019

KYMN Radio - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 6:55am

Phase 1 Simione Court, Nelson Court, Kimble Court, Hackerson Court, Grundhoefer Court, Eklund Court, Covey Court, Lockwood Drive, Gill Lane, Zanmiller Drive, and Bluestem Court Grading crews again worked on tolerancing and drying out the reclaim base preparing the roads for paving. Paving has again been scheduled for early next week. Grading crews will be

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Rochelle Gutiérrez: Shaking Math Education to the Core

Carletonian - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 12:45am

As somebody who is passionate about math education reform, I was excited to hear that Rochelle Gutiérrez, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois, was coming to speak about “Rehumanizing Mathematics” at convocation. Most people would agree that the way we teach math in this country is deeply flawed; I would argue that it is, in fact, a critical issue for social justice, the soul of mathematics, and the basic humanity of the schooling experience.

In her talk, Gutiérrez outlined a phenomenal vision for revolutionizing math education, and returning beauty, joy, and humanity to the subject—and on the way, made me question everything I thought I knew about what math is.

On Friday afternoon, as I raved to my friend about rehumanizing mathematics, she asked me: “But isn’t the reason people like math because it’s so inhuman?” The question gave me pause. This is how our society sees math—abstract, separate from human beings, a sign of intelligence—something you’re either good at or you aren’t. At its core, math is far more of an art than a science, and shows itself everywhere in nature—and yet our public schools turn it into children’s daily torment session, where they are forced to spend an hour doing computers’ work, drudging through computations, nomenclature, and meaningless algorithms.

Most people have had to live through more than 13 years of this “slow violence,” as Gutiérrez aptly calls it, to the point where saying “I was never any good at math” is almost cool in a way that “I never got the hang of that whole ‘reading’ thing” never could be. The pent-up trauma and anger at the math education system could be felt bubbling beneath the surface in the chapel, as audience members shared stories of how they had felt dehumanized in math class. They had been told that they were not good at math, and thus not intelligent, and they had had to fight to believe that was not true.

The truth is that we are all born mathematical—in the words of Bob and Ellen Kaplan, founders of the Global Math Circle, we all have the “architectural instinct”—but only those who thrive on the narrow, detached-from-humans slice of it that we teach in school are left liking what we call “mathematics.”

Although this negative experience of math is widespread, it is not distributed equally across the population. The math education system consistently excludes and disadvantages women, people of color, and other minorities, preventing them from full economic access as the highest-paying jobs increasingly require quantitative reasoning skills.

In his book Radical Equations, Robert Moses argues that this is an issue on the same level of importance as the civil rights movement of the 60s. Gutiérrez seeks to combat this injustice by rehumanizing mathematics.

To do so, Gutiérrez challenges the very nature of math; to her, math can be found in musical rhythms, in dance steps; it can be found when deciding on a Tupperware for your leftovers, or when understanding “to what degree the seal nation as a whole is sick” based on the health of an individual seal.

By looking to indigenous perspectives and ethnomathematics from around the world, Gutiérrez paints a picture of math that extends beyond imagination, far past the confines of the arbitrary Algebra-Trigonometry-Calculus sequence that we stick to so religiously, or even the proofs of upper-level math that math majors tend to cite as “real math.”

Mathematics is taught for its supposed utility like no other subject. To Gutiérrez, mathematics should be a creative, artistic process. In her ideal world, the answer to the often-asked question of “when am I ever going to use this?” is: “you might not use it, and that’s okay; that’s not the point.”

I have struggled with this very question—even as a self-proclaimed math lover, I have often questioned the entire of field of mathematics, asking how they can justify exploring abstract concepts which seemingly have no foundation in reality—no “use.”

What Gutiérrez is suggesting is revolutionary. In the post-convocation lunch, she gave the example of an assignment her daughter was given in English class: to write a page of nonsense. Such an assignment has no practical “use,” but is simply done for the artistic value of it, and the building of a craft.

Just as you would create something unrealistic in art class, or do more than just play scales while jamming on an instrument, Gutiérrez wants children to be creative authors of mathematics, rather than consumers. She wants them to break rules; to “come up with a fifth” basic operation, to see what happens when the sum of the angles of a triangle exceed 180 degrees.

Gutiérrez made it clear that she does not advocate for an “anything-goes” sort of mathematics; in her classroom, falsehoods will still not pass for truths. But she sees these rule-breaking pursuits, which can lead to entirely new realms of structure such as non-Euclidian geometry, as inherently valuable and inherently human, and as a critical step in rehumanizing mathematics for everyone.

If a life-long math lover like me finds this idea liberating, I can only imagine what it could do if unleashed in the schools.

Gutiérrez stated clearly that the rehumanization of math is an ongoing process; we are just at the beginning of this revolution, which is vital for social equality, the soul of mathematics, and the wellbeing of our children.

Her talk was full of ideas and suggestions, as she reexamined every angle of math education, but her message rung out loud and clear: math is vast, varied, and human, and we should teach it as the creative, beautiful, joyful thing it is. I highly recommend her talk (a recording can be found on the Carleton Convocations website), and I hope that you will join the movement to rehumanize our children’s math education.

The post Rochelle Gutiérrez: Shaking Math Education to the Core appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

Searching for optimism amidst social media’s failed utopia

Carletonian - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 12:40am

Perhaps Facebook first comes to mind. Upon its inception, the social, cultural, and political possibilities of Facebook as a vehicle for profound human connection seemed limitless. Both the fledgling company itself and popular discourse seemed assured of the platform’s unparalleled capacity to transform the qualitative nature and quantitative scope of human relations.

Facebook, and social media as a whole, would supposedly usher in a new era of increased information, mutual empathy, and shared understanding. Technology could be collectively benevolent, even if humans can be individually malevolent. Human utopia was near—all we had to do was connect and follow. Friendship was foundational to a better world, both online and off.

Such sweeping optimism has undoubtedly been relegated to the headlines of history. Facebook, rather than facilitating empathetic human understanding at the global scale, more frequently spreads state propaganda, political vitriol, and cat videos.

Instagram, rather than showcasing the beauty and diversity of social life, more frequently spreads self-objectification, digitally-induced imposter syndrome, and an endless anxiety-jealousy complex.

Twitter, while notable for its insufficient anti-hate speech guidelines, at least seems to cultivate reflexivity, humor, and sustained political engagement. Even Venmo, its status as a social media platform hotly disputed by the powers at be, seems to impose a neoliberal framework of valuation and economization upon digitally-ascribed friendships.

LinkedIn, a scourge of modernity I attempt not to remember, smells like a business school conference room, but tastes like a frat house’s basement.

Social media, as a conglomeration of digital platforms, burcreatized corporate structures, and compromised ideological justifications, thus has undoubtedly failed to achieve the lofty promises and aspirational rhetoric of the first decade of the 21st century.

Sorrowful realism has replaced unbridled optimism as the conventional characterization of social media in the common consciousness. Such pragmatism and critique are warranted, as social media increasingly operates in ideological and spatial spheres beyond and apart from the routinized performance of a sole individual. Social media reflects an ultimate paradox of modernity: the structures that most impact each individual assume a normative power that delimits the individual into mere objects.

To borrow from Foucault and Gramsci, social media has perhaps taken on a life of its own, simultaneously reflecting and reproducing toxic discourse and a hegemony of commodified human relations.

And yet, despite such searing (perhaps excessive) criticism, I am likely enmeshed in the digital world of likes, retweets, shares, and pins as much as the average college student. I am embedded in the digital world as much as the digital world is embedded in me.

Why is it that I made a LinkedIn account over the summer? Why is it that I implicitly care about my followers-to-following ratio on Instagram?

While such acknowledgment may expose me to charges of hypocrisy, I contend that the addictive nature of social media and its imposition of expansive, yet subtle conformity constitutes prima facie evidence for its hegemonic existence. We still participate in social media even as we level criticism against its societal purpose.

In the end, does hegemony leave much space for widespread sociopolitical change or active solidarity? What stands in the way of more robust political engagement by and through social media?

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even WeChat are interested in social justice and political mobilization insofar as it aligns with shareholders’ desires. It is not that patterns of social networking or digital connectivity are, in and of themselves, noxious to progressive ambitions. Rather, quite simply, progressive ambitions are rarely profitable. Cheap rhetoric about corporate responsibility fades into the fine print of the bottom line. It seems impossible, or at least impractical, to envision radical transformation within an economic structure that so thoroughly depends on a centrist, market-oriented status quo.

To be sure, the position that capitalism, corporate bureaucracy, or commodification is the root of all social and political ills is too easy and too reductionist. Social media could certainly be reformed while still operating within a neoliberal ideological and economic frame. Meaningful reform and heightened political engagement does not a priori require social democracy or communist utopia. We need to be more pragmatic than that.

Optimism, along with the analog dreams of sociopolitical change and active solidarity, may not have passed yet into a non-earthly realm, but seems immobilized with an enduring bout of the human virus. It is a slowly-mutating, subtle, seemingly-benign virus. Sadly, if we know anything by now, humans are not always so easily convinced to inject necessary vaccines.

The post Searching for optimism amidst social media’s failed utopia appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

Social media offers new methods to enact same political tactics

Carletonian - Fri, 10/18/2019 - 12:37am

People have been complaining about the pace of life for all of recorded history, so the old idea that social media has condensed and intensified our lives never made perfect sense to me. We have more access to more people in less time, but I think of this as a qualitative change and not a quantitative one.

I feel the same way about the development of current political discourse. Facebook, message boards, 24-hour news channels and websites, and of course Twitter have undoubtedly changed the way we discuss politics. But I hesitate to say that these media have created any entirely new trends, for better or worse.

Many pundits point to the Arab Spring as a sign that social media has changed how people organize in politics. Many of the movements developed, spread, and continued over social media.

But this is, in reality, only a superficial change. People always use the means available to them to enact change, and social media happens to be one of the most accessible platforms for communication in our world.

We can laud (or attack) social media for providing such a platform, but that does not change the reality: that change is as slow, unlikely, and stopgap as it has always been, with or without the presence of digital networks.

Of all the revolutions in the Arab Spring, only Tunisia’s was successful, and that has less to do with any specific medium of organization than with that country’s specific conditions. Social media does not change the actual relationships between people; it merely offers an additional way for people to access those relationships.

On a more trivial scale, the use of Twitter and other platforms in the United States to communicate political ideas to a wide audience differs from older forms only by degrees.

Just because more hot takes go viral now than before the Internet Age, it does not follow that those takes are having any more influence than, say, newspaper columns or radio broadcasts.

Our president’s liberal tweeting habits, the proliferation of online thinkpieces, the more-than-daily circulation of new controversies and viral messages, all of it may change the speed at which people communicate and absorb information, but ultimately we are all still human beings, and human beings only have so much time and energy in their lives with which to politic.

The fundamental limits of political action are not in its communication, but in its execution. Yes, restrictions on speech and the press exist—but that is true in so-called liberal democracies as well as so-called dictatorships, and people can always find access to subversive ideas if they seek them out. The real difference lies in what they do, or at least have the capacity to do, with those ideas.

It’s also important to note that most forms of social media have restrictions on expression at least as draconian as most countries, and often less even-handed. Even on platforms that supposedly make democracy easier, we are still beholden to the powers that be, only this time they’re corporations, not governments.

Social media, then, offers us another way, no better or worse on principle, to share those ideas before they turn into actions with tangible consequences. The word “media” is key: social media is simply one more form of communication with its own strengths and weaknesses.

In some ways, social media does make a political organizer’s job easier. They provide ready lists of interested, captive audience members, with unintrusive (for the most part) ways to reach them. But once people are on the list, once they actually do turn out, their success as political agents depends on their execution, not on whether they happened to post online or throw leaflets in the street.

Social media, and much of the world of technology in general, has little material effect on people’s lives, beyond an arguable kind of efficiency. The invention of the washing machine did not save people time washing clothes; it merely made people wash clothes more often.

Likewise, the technologies we have now offer us different ways to do the political work that people have always done. Social movements do not need digital media or even mass media. We know this. Look to the sixties, or the seventies, or the 1760s, and that’s only on this continent.

What social movements do need, in reality, is people willing to put in the necessary work. In the aftermath of political change, we judge events by what they accomplish more than the means used to achieve them.

If people use social media to effect change, all the power to them. But that power comes from the change, not the tools used. We judge impact, not intent—as Malcolm X put it, by any means necessary.

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