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Written by Megan Kloeckner on May 2, 2015

If there’s anything that Nairobians—and Kenyans in general—love, it’s the news found in local newspapers. Each and every morning, newspapers such as The Daily Nation and The Standard are delivered one by one to local family homes, and in bulk to large businesses and corporations. They are sold in newspaper racks or in the middle of Nairobi’s streets, as commuters driving to work are often stuck in traffic and have time to kill. Or sometimes, they can just be found discarded on the street, left by a prior reader who was either too fed up with what he read, or two pressed for space and time to bring the informative, yet sometimes questionable, news bulletin along. These newspapers reach millions of people each day, therefore the information given and opinions expressed are readily absorbed; their impact is immense and therefore the papers' views are influential in...

Written by teaganfe on Apr 23, 2015

(This post was originally composed and published on 3/12/15 on mediasocblog.wordpress.com)

Just last month I watched a news story move from individual posts on my facebook news feed to the trending topic on my sidebar all in a matter of a week.

On February 1st, 2015, the University of Massachusetts began barring admission of Iranian national students entering into energy-related programs in the engineering and science departments. The University claimed in a press release that this decision was in response to a 2012 law, which was to refuse Iranian citizens United States visas if they intended to study nuclear or energy related fields. UMass said that, “administrators ‘recognize’ the ‘difficulties’ the policy creates for...

Written by Darcy Best on Apr 22, 2015

While on my urban homestay with a family in Nairobi, a LOT of my time was spent sitting in Nairobi’s crazy traffic jams—giving me the perfect opportunity to observe the city as we crawled past.  It just so happened that our morning route passed by the GoDown Arts Center; a place where artists across disciplines are able to meet, collaborate, and express themselves in varying mediums.  On the wall immediately beside the GoDown’s gate is some absolutely beautiful graffiti done by Bankslave, a well-known and highly praised Kenyan graffiti artist. His work outside the GoDown depicts another notable Kenyan, Lupita Nyong’o, and the Oscar she won at the 2014 Oscars for best supporting actress in the film “12 Years a Slave”. 

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Written by Megan Kloeckner on Apr 15, 2015

For a long time, the city of Nairobi and the rest of Kenya had banned any detailing or artwork on public transportation vehicles because the government believed that they were supposed to be functional and uniform, not flashy spectacles. This concept is similar to the one in Venice, Italy that declares that the gondolas so famous for navigating Venice’s hundreds of canals no longer could be decorated as elaborately as they traditionally had been, and are required to be painted solely black. The reasoning for this was not to draw attention to the boats, which Venice’s wealthy citizens used to travel throughout the city.

        But recently, President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted a 10-yr ban on matatu art, and announced that artwork is now allowed on matatus, buses, and motorbikes. The reason behind this decision stems from the fact that its been recognized that a...

Written by Sean Morrissey on Apr 12, 2015

Being surprised and challenged are both guarantees when studying abroad no matter where you decide to call home for a couple of months. In Thailand, each new part of town, each dinner and every person that you meet reveals yet another surprise or unexpected tid-bit of information, reveals something about the culture and reality of Thai society. 

One of the most unexpected things for me about living in Thailand is the number of selfies I’ve been in. It might have something to do with the fact that I don’t have a cellphone here, but I am ever aware that technology and social media are quintessential for the lives of the Thais I have befriended (myself included: I constantly rely on Facebook for instant messaging to meet up with friends). 

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Written by Darcy Best on Apr 6, 2015

Hamjambo from Nairobi, Kenya; a place of constant busyness and optimal temperatures! I have been in and around this city for almost the whole semester now, and am only just beginning to trust myself enough to know how to get from place to place without being hit by one of the many matatus (minibuses used for public transportation) or being coerced into buying some form of fruit or souvenirs from one of Nairobi’s plentiful and excessively friendly street venders.  This time has given me a view of several different parts of the city, and one thing I noticed was the absence of stickers and graffiti in most areas.  I found this odd because, being from North Jersey, I have always seen stickers for popular skate brands, restaurants, and events plastered over any available light post or similar structure both in my hometown as well as in New York City.  Nairobi’s Moi...

Written by Megan Kloeckner on Apr 1, 2015

When navigating the streets of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, one will see an abundance of printed poster advertisements for waganga, traditional healers or “witchdoctors,” nailed to almost every available telephone pole, fence line, or tree. It does not matter where you are—whether in wealthy areas or in slums—these posters are everywhere, meaning they target the entirety of Nairobi’s population. Traditionally, before the modern positions of doctors, therapists, and consultants existed in Kenya, people sought out waganga to help them with their problems. However, when modern medicine and other therapeutic professions were introduced into an ever-modernizing Kenya, many people turned towards these fields and away from traditional methods. These posters act as a reminder of tradition, and also help gain an insight into understanding some key values of...

Written by Jana Morgan on Mar 19, 2015

What most profoundly distinguishes American Petroleum Institute (API) from civil society organizations in resource-rich countries working to make a more transparent and accountable extractives sector?

(Hint: the answer we’re looking for is not “the ability to pay for an army of high-priced lawyers” – although that works too.)

Put bluntly, one sees the tragic human consequences of mismanaged natural resource wealth up-close, every day, and is in a position to speak credibly about solutions to the problem. The other, far-removed, is API.    

In a series of letters recently submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission, leaders of civil society organizations from ...

Written by Sean Morrissey on Mar 3, 2015

Days in Chiang Mai: 45 (feels more like somewhere between a couple hours and half a year all at the same time)

Mood: Cheerful, satisfied

Bouts of food poisoning: Once (Health Care here is amazing)

Currently craving: Homemade toast

Chiang Mai, Thailand. Located in the North, nestled between the foothills of the Himalayan range, Chiang Mai is said to be the most culturally significant city in all of Thailand. How cultural significance is decided and awarded is beyond me, but because of it’s close connection with Buddhism and the seemingly endless amount of wats (temples) and stupas (relic sites) that are located within the city, Chiang Mai has won that title. 


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Written by Catherine Tedford on Mar 1, 2015

What is our “people’s history archive of street culture” going to look like?

Street culture is a ubiquitous form of expression that resists easy definition.  Our people’s history archive of street culture is intended to document the creative and complex ways in which ordinary people make use of public space.  For our project, city-based street culture includes but is not limited to public performances, graffiti, painted murals, neighborhood gardens, parks, urban reclamation projects, political demonstrations, and any other public gatherings.  Other suburban and/or rural “ground up” initiatives, such as farm-to-fork community-supported agriculture (CSA) projects, could also be represented in our people’s history archive.  The challenge will be to find physical, hand-held materials that document these sorts of activities that we can scan and...