Design research. Social good.

Posts by Aimée Knight

What we need now in this current immigration crisis are stories that speak from a place of love and compassion. Here are four films that do just that as they showcase young undocumented Americans.

In the first film, Kid Quixote, director Marc Cantone follows a group of Spanish-speaking immigrant children in Brooklyn as they translate, write, perform and tour their own theatrical adaptation of Don Quixote.

In the words of director Cantone, “the film isn’t just a backstage chronicle of the making of a show. It’s also an inspiring story of immigrants finding their place in a country that is not only becoming increasingly hostile to them but is also actively working to tear apart their families and way of life.”

A recent New York Times article features Kid Quixote in The Littlest Don Quixotes Versus the World. If you’d like to be involved and support the film’s post-production, take a look at the Indiegogo campaign.

KID QUIXOTE – A Documentary Film (2018) 

Directed by Marc Cantone – A documentary about immigrant children in Brooklyn using the power of theater to tell their stories.

THROUGH THE WALL (2016)

Directed by Tim Nackashi –  A short documentary about a family divided by the US/Mexico border. Abril lives in the US with her 2-year-old son Julián. They are undocumented. Julián’s father was deported back to Mexico for a minor traffic violation. In order to see each other, every Sunday Uriel, Abril and Julián travel to the border to spend time together through the wall.

 GEORGE AND GRACE’S STORY (2017)

Directed by Judd Ehrlich and produced by the National Immigration Justice Center – A short documentary film. George was tortured in a Ugandan military prison for his activism against a brutal and oppressive regime. He escaped and fled to the U.S. where he met his wife, Grace, who was also a Ugandan refugee. They started a family in Arlington Heights, Illinois and befriended many in the community. But like many asylum seekers, George was detained again and his family feared he would be deported back to danger.

AND WE ARE THE IMMIGRANTS (2017)

Directed by Catalina Matamoros – An intimate portrait of an arduous journey across hostile borders, presented in a fluid, hand-drawn animation.

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As a Writer-in-Residence at Wildacres Retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, I was awarded a cabin for a week to write in peace and seclusion.

Dedicated “to the betterment of human relations” Wildacres is a wilderness destination and public foundation for nonprofit groups, musicians, artists, naturalists, and writers. The generosity of the dedicated staff makes the place feel like a second home.

Deep in the woods in Owl’s Nest, I spent most of the week binge writing, making progress on my book manuscript which details the work of the Beautiful Social Research Collaborative, where students lead digital research projects with local nonprofits and community-based organizations.

There is no internet or cell reception in the cabins – which is the kind of isolation I need to get writing done.

A short hike up the mountain there is a thriving retreat center, where the Kumandi drum group convened for the week. I listened to their West-African rhythms into the dark nights. I heard their drums in my sleep.

Although Wildacres provides meals to all at the lodge, I mostly worked in seclusion and cooked in my cabin, living on spinach omelets and frozen cheese pizzas.

When I wasn’t writing, I hiked trails along the mountain ridges lined with rhododendron and mountain laurel. If all this sounds too pastoral, I also spent an inordinate amount of time killing stink bugs in my cabin. There were also crickets, black flies, bees, wasps, and giant wild turkeys, but no brown bears or snakes —  at least not ones that revealed themselves.

One muggy afternoon I headed to Asheville for a much-needed break. I had been charmed by Asheville a few years ago during an ACE Camp filmmaking workshop.

I arrived in Asheville without a plan, which was in the whole spirit of the week. However, I soon found myself following a woman in bright blue scrubs and her friend. The woman in scrubs was placing an order for lunch on her phone:

. . . I’ll have the avocado taco.

. . . Do you have plantains today? Those, too.

. . . Okay!

This has to be good, I thought. She obviously knows what’s what in Asheville. In anticipation, I followed them from a distance past the artsy shops and galleries.

Through a park.

Behind a brewery.

Across a parking lot.

Around a hotel.

Alongside a stream.

Through a pedestrian walkway.

Past a residential neighborhood …

Finally, as they moved toward an industrial complex, I wistfully gave up the mission.

Heading back the way I came, I sat for a while at a café and then perused Malaprop’s bookstore. An hour later, saw them return from their walk with two plastic shopping bags from Lowe’s. And no tacos.

All was not lost. I discovered 12 Bones Smokehouse and Wedge Brewing Co.

I also drove the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at every single scenic overlook.

In the cabin journal, past residents left their accounts of their week, each seeming to have an equally productive time.

I feel a strange, unexpected affinity to those who have stayed here in this place before me. Here are some snippets from the cabin journal:

“Dearest Cabin Dwellers, Collaborators – Welcome to the lineage and don’t worry about a thing. You made it here and the rest is gonna take care of itself.”

“This is a special place where time has the ability to stand still, where you have the ability to become invisible, like the animals and really become part of the forest.”

 “I think this was the most alone week of my life. Every bride should do this before getting married.”

“I left my journal entry in song. You can hear it in the creak of the wood floor, the acorn percussion on the tin roof.”

“I hope this solitude does its work in you and that you discover good and new paths to creativity and love of who you are.”

“Be open to whatever species chooses you as a friend. (ha!)”

“Look for GIANT TURKEYS. If your thoughts start getting too serious, they will appear.”

 “When I walked into this magical cabin, I totally felt like Ma Ingalls.”

“Laughed a lot at night – all alone.”

“I needed this week.”

“It’s a special place that cannot be described—only felt.”

The Wildacres Residency Program has my highest recommendation. Please let me know if you apply or have any questions.

 

 

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A commitment to community building and civic action offers faculty and students in our field opportunities to address immediate real-world needs in our own neighborhoods.

Join us for a half-day workshop on Thursday, May 24, 2018, from 9-12 at Computers and Writing 2018 at George Mason University. With John J Silvestro, Bill Wolff, and Aimée Knight.

This workshop features several models to involve academic courses in digital projects with local nonprofits and community-based organizations. Learning to leverage digital media platforms to advocate for and with communities provides students a meaningful way to engage in designing communication for social change.

We discuss an array of research and creative projects that 1) serve the needs of community partners and 2) can be accomplished by students in one semester. We provide examples from completed projects in areas ranging from professional writing to digital production, including advocacy campaigns, social media audits, website design, digital storytelling, data visualization, video production, and social media content creation.

During three hands-on work sessions, we will provide guidance and support as workshop participants move through the process of designing and developing their own project or assignment that can be worked into a new or an already existing or a new course. Each participant will leave the workshop with a blueprint for a project which responds to community-identified needs and creates real-world deliverables that benefit students and communities. For more details, contact me @aesthetically.

 

 

 

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What are the essential elements of a story?

What are the rhetorical moves of a short film?

How can short films help students become better multimedia storytellers?

During the 13th annual Traverse City Film Festival, I attended the workshop “Anatomy of a Short” at the festival’s film school led by Lesley Tye and Andrew Hiss, instructors of Motion Picture Arts at Interlochen Arts Academy, I came away from the workshop not only with a new appreciation for the short films genre but with inspiration to produce short films with my Digital Storytelling class at St. Joe’s. 

My write-up of the workshop titled “How to Get started with Shorts” can be found at agnès films. agnès films is a generous and supportive community of women filmmakers, scholars, and instructors who make and teach films. The article features five essential elements to create a successful short film and shares details from the films that we examined during the workshop. 

A film still of a woman smiling

3:18 I’ll Wait for the Next One

Building quickly to a “moment that matters” is one of the secrets to a successful short film. For example — what happens to this protagonist in a mere eighteen seconds to cause her expression to change so dramatically?  I’ll Wait for the Next One (2002).

A close-up of a woman's forlorn expression

3:36 I’ll Wait for the Next One

Read the article at agnès films to learn about the five essential elements of shorts.

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We are hiring a colleague with a specialization in Civic Media to begin Fall 2016. Since the day we started the Department of Communication Studies (at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia) we have been committed to working at the intersections of digital media and civic engagement—and this position is a reflection of that ethos.

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This is not a traditional academic department. My colleagues come from many disciplines and continually extend teaching beyond traditional boundaries to help students become agents of social change. While many universities sit isolated in relation to the communities in which they’re isolated, we seek to better locate our teaching within the neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Our goal is set an example for how teachers and scholars can take into account the ways in which students and community members can use new media to make positive social change.

We have an open mind about what “Civic Media” is:

  • communication and social change
  • race, gender, and ethnicity
  • networked social movements
  • transmedia activism
  • community literacy
  • collaborative design and democracy and the web

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This fixed-term, renewable Assistant Professor position is for someone who wants to work in the classroom and in the community. The successful candidate will teach Civic Media (COM 371), one of the department’s core courses, which focuses on media, communication and social change. The candidate will also teach foundational courses in the program, such as Communication Ethics (COM 201), as well as develop upper-level specialty courses. The position is 4/4.

We are looking for someone who might want to:

  • Put the academic resources of the university to work in communities for social change
  • Learn how digital spaces can be a platform for influence in our neighborhoods
  • Create technologies or practices that revitalize civic engagement

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This position helps to redefine faculty work in our department – applying expertise to make real world change. We are a group of people devoted to creating a reciprocal partnership with the public sphere, extending new models of new media literacy into local community contexts. This is the foundational value on which this department was built and each faculty member plays a committed role to its success.

My colleague Mike Lyons is currently working on the Redemption Project, a multimedia documentary that tells the stories of four juvenile lifers. The goal of this project is to “disrupt” traditional narratives of incarceration and to tell the stories of people who are “conveniently” overlooked by the mainstream media.

I founded the B-Social Research Collaborative in 2010, which my colleague Bill Wolff now directs. This ongoing initiative has collaborated with more than 55 Philadelphia nonprofits to assist in social media strategy, web design and digital media production.

My colleague Steven Hammer developed a course last semester in which students collaborated with persons with disabilities to co-create Arduino-based instruments, to expand directions in physical computing and accessibility.

My colleague Rachael Sullivan recently held a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon to Write Women Back into History to change the low percentage of female contributors to the site (only about 13%).

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This is the kind of work my department celebrates. This particular kind of work often entails a long-term commitment to working with local citizens and organizations. Building trusting, mutually enriching relations with community partners takes time. We are looking for a colleague who is interested in joining us to create a culture of civic action and participation within academia that is accountable to the broader public.

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