Media Studies Entrepreneur-in-Residence Bob McKinnon Uses Media for Social Good

Media Studies Entrepreneur in Residence Bob McKinnon.

Media Studies Entrepreneur-in-Residence Bob McKinnon Uses Media for Social Good

When Bob McKinnon (media studies ’15) and Quick Coexistence asked Americans which 15-year-old was most likely to succeed – the one who had a healthy upbringing but lacked ambition or the one who had a strong work ethic but grew up in a violent home or neighborhood – they overwhelmingly chose the latter.

But consider this: if a child is exposed to early trauma—for example, if they know someone who was shot in their neighborhood—how are they supposed to concentrate in school? How might this experience affect his future success?

The poll, says McKinnon, indicates strong — and potentially misplaced — faith in the American dream. While hard work and dedication can, and often does, equal success, those aren’t the only things that matter: your neighborhood, education, and social class are also important.

So why are so many Americans clinging to the promise of social mobility? Is it the tendency to universalize our experiences (“If I can do it, so can you”), or the inability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes? McKinnon has a different theory: that we don’t examine our own history enough, where we came from and how we created it.

“In my life, I’ve struggled with questions,” McKinnon says. “How did I get here? Why did the American Dream work so well for me but not for others? , it’s not happening?Was it hard work or stupid luck?

McKinnon poses these questions to readers in Progressing: The Truth About Progressing in America, his interactive multimedia project designed to spark conversation about what it really takes to get ahead in America. Moving Up is the product of McKinnon’s deep belief in the power of media to make a positive difference in the lives of ordinary people.

“The promise of media is to inform and enlighten, but if we’re broadcasting things to win a new cycle instead of broadcasting things that make a difference, we’re not delivering on that promise,” said McKinnon, the founder. and President of GALEWiLL Design, a company that designs social change through programming, communication, advocacy and action.

For the past two semesters, the New School alum has shared his passion for media for social change with the university community. As Resident Media Studies Contractor for 2015-2016, McKinnon was a traveling media guru, in and out of media school course, where he works with students and gives guest lectures, and strategic discussions on academic curriculum and teaching methods.

This semester, he launched a pop-up class exploring new and innovative ways to use media for social good. Incorporating elements of design, social science, and creative problem solving, the class invites students to choose a story that is close to their hearts, then design and implement a media mechanism that can be used to solve that problem ( example, a blog, social media campaign, or video report). McKinnon does not base its ratings on web traffic.

“The point is not to show me how you got 1,000 clicks or shares – that would be great, but that’s not the most important thing,” he says. “The important thing is to show me how what you did helped someone or changed their mind or made them see a problem in a different way. There is a benefit to lighting up the base, but I am more interested in how you engage people in civil discourse that might actually move the needle.

Currently, only a few students participate in the course. However, McKinnon hopes that over time it will “evolve into cross-disciplinary collaboration between all schools in the university.”

It is the same focus on the intersection of social good and social science that informs Moving Up. The series, which appears weekly in Fast Co.Exist, challenges readers to question their belief in the idea of ​​social mobility, including asking them to “reflect on their own journey that has contributed to their success.” , says McKinnon.

“It’s a new way to engage consumers that doesn’t just post information, it encourages them to think critically and create,” he continues. “We know so much about what has contributed to who we are as people, but it doesn’t reflect our own journey. It’s a way to get people to reflect on their own experiences and ultimately develop empathy. People can also sign up to receive emails every Monday to receive thought-provoking questions meant to inform and inspire.

McKinnon feels at home at The New School, an institution that shares many of his passions: critical thinking, challenging the status quo, and designing for social good. He thinks there is no better place (a leading progressive university) or better time (barriers to the dissemination of information have never been more porous) to reconsider the role that the media can play in our daily lives.

“The New School has always been a collection of schools and scholars who truly understand the nature of social justice,” he says. “Combining this understanding and commitment with this unique opportunity to leverage powerful media is a huge opportunity.