Help open a window on the world

Both Thanksgiving and Christmas are good times for taking stock and thinking about the things we have to be grateful for. For me this means thinking about my global tribe and how lucky I am to have you all in my life. Thinking about this made me realize, once more, how important travel has always been for me, for the relationships I've gained and the experience of other cultures and the global perspective that grows from this. I sincerely wish everyone could have the opportunity to travel and, in the absence of that, I support anything that opens up a window on the world and gets people thinking more globally.

At this time of year I know everyone gets hit with endless requests for support and, yes, I'm putting one out also. I wrote previously about my involvement with's zooGooder council and how impressed I've been with Global Lives Project since coming across them after moving to San Francisco. Over the coming week the members of the zooGooder council are having a friendly competition to see who can raise the most funds and attract the most donors for their favourite nonprofit. Naturally I've chosen Global Lives Project.

Here's my video explaining why:


(Aside: My first video blog! Kinda scary! What do you think?)

Razoo have generously made available a $2000 prize pool for the person who brings in the most donors and with your help I'd love to be competitive in win! this category. Every donation, however modest, counts as a point towards this prize. In addition I’m also a fundraiser for Global Lives Project’s own group fundraising challenge this month. As part of the launch of this new service Razoo will match the first $200 I raise. What’s more Global Lives Project has a matching grant of up to $30,000 if raised before the end of the year.

Follow all of that? This means any money you donate could be matched up to THREE TIMES! That’s a pretty good return on your investment.

More to the point, whatever money we raise will support Global Lives Project to expand their activities next year - holding new exhibitions and developing educational materials for use by school groups. These videos undoubtedly have artistic merit but it's this educational element I'm most excited about as I think facilitated contact with this content could really get people thinking in new ways, more globally and empathically. In other words, sharing with those who might not have the chance to travel some of the most important benefits we get from the travel experience.

As little as $10 counts towards the most donors challenge and would mean so much to both Global Lives Project and me. If I can raise $1,000 this week I will be stoked, and we will know we've made a real difference to this small but important organization.

But I know not everyone has even $10 to spare so there are other ways you can help as well:

•    Tell your friends! Use the share buttons at the bottom of this post to share the link on Twitter, Facebook ,etc. •    Share your story! All this week I’ll be sharing things travel has given me using the hashtag #travelteaches. Join in! Share your own #travelteaches insight on Twitter and, space permitting, link to where I’ll be collecting the responses.

Of course, please donate if you can:

I can't wait to hear your stories! Thank you for your support.

More on Global Lives Project:


Artist's statement from GLP's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Exhibit:

Framed by the arc of the day and conveyed through the intimacy of video, we have slowly and faithfully captured 24 continuous hours in the lives of 10 people from around the world. They are screened here in their own right, but also in relation to one another.

There is no narrative other than that which is found in the composition of everyday life, no overt interpretations other than that which you may bring to it.

The amazing story of It Gets Better

It Gets Better is a grassroots campaign in America launched by sex columnist Dan Savage in response to a horrific spate of teenagers killing themselves after being victimized for being (or being perceived to be) gay. There were 5 suicides in September alone. After another one of these tragedies Savage wrote in his column that he wished "I could have talked to that kid for 5 minutes and been able to tell them it gets better." In that same column, on September 15, he announced he was setting up a YouTube channel for those who were bullied but survived to tell their story, to tell those going through hard times that it gets better. Since then the channel has had more than 1.8 million views and 21,000 subscribers, making it the fastest-growing channel on YouTube right now.

Here's Dan's original video with his husband Terry:


On MSNBC last week I saw Joel Burns, a member of the Fort Worth Council in Texas, share his story, a story he told us he had never told anyone before, in a speech before the council. It's a speech unlike many you will ever hear from a politician. It's raw, personal and courageous and had me in tears.


It Gets Better is another inspiring example of the possibilities of social media to aggregate individual actions, share otherwise-unheard stories and to connect us across borders, classes and generations. This campaign wasn't cooked up in a strategy session and launched with fanfare by a national gay rights organization. It wasn't backed with millions of dollars in funding. It didn't even require its own website. It was one person's idea, a single video uploaded online, and an invitation to participate.

Now, yes, this particular person had a mainstream media platform from which to promote his idea, but without the enabling environment of the internet he would simply have expressed his sadness and, presumably, moved on. Thousands of readers would have nodded in agreement but then what? Now, instead of just an expression of grief there was a call to action, an invitation to participate in something, and a simple, humble, personal video to get things started, and show how it could be done.

As Dan said in his column:

"Gay adults aren't allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don't bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

"Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don't have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids."

He's right. Thanks to social media, we can.

Six weeks later the videos continue to roll in and the conversation around the issue continues. Employees at Google and Facebook have contributed videos, as have Project Runway's Tim Gunn, American Idol's Adam Lambert and Star Trek's Zachary Quinto. Videos have come in from Muslims and Mormons, gays and straights, teenagers, parents and grandparents. And hundreds of thousands of teenagers have found out that whatever their situation they are not alone, that others went through difficult times and survived and that they need to stick around and give their lives a chance.

Why I'm supporting the Global Lives Project

San Francisco is a place full of energy, overrun by people with big dreams working hard to make amazing things happen. One person who fits this description that I was lucky enough to meet upon moving to San Francisco is David Harris, the founder and Executive Director of the Global Lives Project. He has spent the past five years driving this art/social change/education hybrid project, coordinating 500 volunteers who together have completed shoots in ten countries and staged numerous exhibitions. As he explained the project to me I was inspired by its vision, intrigued by its potential scope and very impressed by the way it had been executed. I knew I wanted to help. [youtube=]

Global Lives Project aims to "collaboratively build a video library of human life experience that reshapes how we as both producers and viewers conceive of cultures, nations and people outside of our own communities."

Global Lives is a series of 10 (so far) 24-hour continuous shoots of the lives of ten diverse people from ten countries around the world. The content is moving in its simple humanity, showing how despite our geographic and cultural differences we have so much more in common, we are one people.

Global Lives Project has mounted exhibitions at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and elsewhere, allowing people to wander from room-to-room catching glimpses of these diverse lives. Sometimes they all begin together, at the same time in each day. Sometimes they are played according to their time zones, so 5pm in San Francisco is 8am in China and so on.

Here's David's Artist Statement from their Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Exhibit:

Framed by the arc of the day and conveyed through the intimacy of video, we have slowly and faithfully captured 24 continuous hours in the lives of 10 people from around the world. They are screened here in their own right, but also in relation to one another.

There is no narrative other than that which is found in the composition of everyday life, no overt interpretations other than that which you may bring to it.

I've seen longer reels of film than that featured in the video above but I can fully appreciate how much more impactful this footage can be when situated alongside each other, when people can wander in and out, getting a window into another person's world. Their opening night event and exhibition at Yerba Buena got rave reviews:


It's the immediacy of this live viewing, the context of the ten films played alongside each other, that I believe would give the most powerful sense of looking through a window into the world of another. I would love to experience this, would love to see Global Lives Project being able to mount more events and exhibitions and organize new shoots to continue to build their library of human experiences. When I needed to choose a nonprofit to fundraise on behalf of as part of Razoo's 'zooGooders Council, I immediately thought of Global Lives Project.

Between now and the end of the year I'd love to be able to make a contribution to the expansion of GLP's activities next year, supporting them to hold new exhibitions, develop educations programs around their content and grow the library itself. My main motivation in supporting GLP is to help get this great content before more people.

Please consider supporting my fundraiser. My fundraising widget is here. Every bit makes a difference. Anything that gives people a window into the lives of another, that increases our understanding and empathy of other lives, helps create a more peaceful, more just world.

Favourite videos of the moment

I love video on the internet, the combination of the most powerful communications medium with the most powerful distribution platform ever invented. Here's some videos I'm loving at the moment:  

Banksy and the Simpsons

The brilliant Banksy directed the 'couch gag' (ie. opening credits) for a Simpson's episode that aired earlier this week. It's very dark and a very pointed comment about the corporations behind The Simpons. It's hard to believe it was okayed by the network exec's. So how to read the fact that it was? They have obviously calculated the doing so won't hurt their image in any meaningful way. And here we all are, talking about The Simpsons, which could probably use the publicity boost. So is this then an example of anti-corporate art being used for the benefit of a corporation? Brilliant subversion or sell-out? You decide:



When Memes Collide

Blendtec are famous for their brilliant and innovative use of online video for marketing. They've been at it for a few years now making "Will It Blend?" videos where they reduce the buzz topic of the day (the iPhone for instance) to dust in one of their industrial blenders. Here they get really meta and blend this year's social media darling Old Spice in the blender while blending their format with the famous Old Spice ad. Well played.



Envision: Step Into the Sensory Box

Amazing, gorgeous light art. These guys must have a pretty amazing projector.



Social Media Revolution - Refreshed

Social Media Revolution is a classic YouTube video created by Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, now with 2.3 million views. A couple of months ago he released an updated version. If you haven't watched it, you should:


Favourite Videos This Week

I love online videos. This is a semi-regular column of my favourite recent finds, whether they are artistic, political or data visualizations. You can see the previous collection here. COMBO: A collaborative animation


An incredible street art/video collaboration. It's almost mind-blowing to think about how much work went into this, the animation is created by a sequence of graffiti artworks painted  inside an abandoned building. They have painted and re-painted and re-painted, a true example of the transient nature of street art, here captured by thousands of photos put together to create a wonderous and surreal animation.

NY gets Pixelated


A very cool video of space invaders and other early computer game characters invading New York City.

World Air Traffic Over a 24 Hour Period


An amazing data visualization of all airplane flights over earth in a 24 hour period. I love data visualizations - for the visual learners amongst us it can convey a huge amount of data (in this case, flight patterns) in a gorgeous and visually-stimulating format. Very sticky.

16 Deaths a Day


Given the recent deaths of 29 miners killed in a West Virginia coal mine disaster and, last week, another 11 workers being lost, presumed dead, after an offshore oil rig explosion, I wanted to share this important video from the ever-productive team at Brave New Films.

My Life. By Tom Dawkins.

Recently our esteemed Regional Contact for the DC Burner Community, B, decided to organize a monthly get together called the Burner Salon. Each month a member of the community would be interviewed, talk-show style, in order to give us an insight into their life and work. There's an amazing variety of people of all walks of life in the burner community and I love the effort so many people put into showcasing the talents and stories of our community. I was honoured to be the featured guest at the third Burner Salon, after being nominated by the ever-supportive K. It was actually a lot of fun; I thought we had a great conversation, and those there seemed to enjoy it. I met some great people and got a chance to reflect on some aspects of my own journey.

The whole thing was filmed and is now online. So, to anyone who has ever wanted to hear me talk about myself for an hour, this is for you:








Favourite videos this week

The moving image is the most powerful communication medium yet invented and the internet is the most powerful distribution network yet invented. Together they're a pretty great combination. I'm constantly looking out for videos I like and am going to start sharing my favourite finds every couple of weeks, whether they are art, music, politics or marketing. The New Dork:


I always say that it's mostly random what goes viral and what doesn't online, but this video really does have the perfect set of elements to give it the best possible shot at stardom: satire, music, pop-cultural hooks and sub-culture-specific in-jokes. It's made by the pantless knights for, a company big on promoting entrepreneurship (and social entrepreneurship), and is a spoof of Empire State of Mind by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. This was released three days ago and has racked up 269,000 views already.

NZ Book Council - Going West:


Here's a much less obvious viral success, an animated excerpt from a book to promote the New Zealand Book Council. Consider that New Zealand has a popular only a little over 4 million and 721,000 views since mid-November for a video from a local non-profit is pretty extraordinary. Amazingly it's the only video they've ever uploaded. They're going to have really unrealistic expectations from now on. But this video deserves it - it's beautiful, unique and, importantly, doesn't feel like marketing collateral. It promotes the organization by promoting something bigger than them: a love of reading.

The Sandpit:


A really different perspective on New York City: familiar but strange; ordinary but beautiful; removed but somehow intimate. I love this.

Glen Beck Attacks Tom Dawkins

I don't seem to be able to embed this but check it out here. This is a brilliant and creative use of Facebook's API, creating an interactive video featuring... me! (Or you - create your own here). And of course I have shared this on Facebook and numerous people have reacted to it there. Because it's got an element of game and a strong dose of fun about it many probably made their own, and posted on on Facebook, and on it goes. This interactivity allows virality to be designed in, not just hoped-for. And once again it isn't a fundraising pitch or blatant advertisement, it's about the issue.

The Obama Adminstration one year in

This is an exerpt from an interview I did with Alex Steed for the Millennials Changing America blog. He has been collecting perspectives from  youth organizers about the successes failures and dynamics of year one of the Obama administration and was interested in my "outsiders perspective". I'm now officially a token Aussie. [youtube=]