BlogHer '11 PreCon Preview: The Change the World Track

BlogHer Original Post

This conference track is designed to explore the power social media gives us to change our communities, society, the culture, the political landscape and more–always a staple of BlogHer conferences. This year, perhaps saving our strength for next year's election year focus on partisan politics, we're focusing more on our society, including Internet culture itself.

The Change the World track kicks off on Friday morning with at a look at what we can do when social media's power to connect backfires. The panelists on Cyberbullying Isn't Just for Teens: What to Do if You're the Victim of Trolls, Haters... and Worse will break it down for us: where does the law draw distinctions between "rough elbows" debate, online harassment, and prosecutable crime? How can we civilians know the difference between uncivil and illegal? And what steps ought we take to build our case and protect ourselves? The speakers have specific personal experience, and rather than talk about their feelings about being harassed, bullied or stalked (which will likely be painfully clear), they'll get right to brass tacks about your options, should you ever find yourself on the receiving end of online abuse. Erin Kotecki Vest moderates Andrea Weckerle, Autumn Sandeen, and Shellie Ross.

Whem most of us were growing up there were only a few sources of news and information, not the dizzying array available today. We are faced with a wealth of sources, which can diversify the perspectives we have access too...but can also make it more difficult to discern fact from opinion, truth from speculation. And our kids are growing up in an incredibly information-rich environment, but not necessarily being taught the skills to handle it, at least in school. Jenn Pozner and Sofia Qintero, seasoned journalists and media critics will lead an interactive, multi-media session to help you assess information sources online and help you recognize and decode sexism and racism when it rears its ugly head. Turn to Media Literacy: Today's Most Necessary Skill to learn how to identify, filter and counter misinformation at a time when we're faced with a dizzying array of sources online.

Over a year ago, while Jamie Oliver's food revolution was still across the pond, a Midwestern school employee decided to eat school lunch with the kids in her school every day for a year. Blogging anonymously, Mrs Q captured attention (and some flack) for highlighting the obstacles kids face when trying to make healthy food choices. As it turns out, there may be only one Mrs Q, but there are many women in our community who are food activists in their own right, particularly focused on eating healthily and educating parents and kids, no matter their income level. In Our Food Future: Kids, Cooking, and Health, we'll hear from inspiring activists and advocates who will discuss their work and spark you to take action–in your home and in your community–to start to change the odds in our kids' favor. Elaine Wu moderates this discussion with Mrs Q, Diana Johnson and Laura Sampson.

Day Two of BlogHer's Change the World track begins with a celebration of the winners of the Third Annual International Acvitist Blogger scholarships, easily one of the most inspiring 75 minutes many of us will spend at the conference. These women are effecting real change with their work, using their voices online to unite other women and fight discrimination, often under enormous hardship. Cheryl Contee moderates Reem Amr Abbas, from Sudan; Simone Leid, from Trinidad and Tobago, and Yoani Sanchez, from Cuba. (As you may know, it will be down to the wire on whether Cuba will let Yoani leave the country to receive this honor in person. At this moment, she is still scheduled to appear!)

In October of 2010, Malcolm Gladwell published an essay in The New Yorker arguing that social media evangelists overestimate the impact of political work online: "[online] activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice." We think Malcolm Gladwell is Missing the Point: Revolutions are Happening Online, and invited four women who are fomenting real change. Cheryl Contee moderates Dr. GoddessGina McCauley, and Katherine Stone, each of whom have stories to tell about creating real change... corporate policy change, legislative change, community change.

Finally: over the past year BlogHer has explored what it means to Own Your Beauty, in a year-long online initiative that seeks to change the conversation. At the conference we wanted to take that conversation one step further, asking: Owning Your Beauty: If We Change the Conversation, Can We Change the Culture? As it turns out, the focus on beauty in our society has many side effects we usually don't think about: the economic impact on individual women is one example, but we can't ignore that traditional cultural perspectives about women can influence their political potential and their career prospects as well. Rita Arens, BlogHer's Own Your Beauty leader, moderates a conversation between self-esteem ambassador Jess Weiner, Karen Walrond, author of The Beauty of Different, Stephanie Nielsen, who has reclaimed her beauty in the face of devastating injuries, and  Kate Harding, who has been writing incisive cultural commentary on this issue that touches every woman at her own site and at outlets like Salon, Slate, and Jezebel.

This track will host some of the most thought-provoking conversations at the conference, as we explore our blogs as tools for transformation.



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