Mandar Apte co-founded Media Rise Festival, part-conference, part-movement, to transform modern-day media. The US-based organization is making a case for media that's smarter, more sensitive, and more solutions-driven. Dr. Srivi Ramasubramanian and Erica Schlaikjer complete the Media Rise team: an academic, a media entrepreneur, and an educator, respectfully. Each though are taking on this task outside their day jobs, because they see a demand for more "enlightened" storytelling.
We met in the Sri Sri Center for Peace and Meditation in DC- an apt place for a conversation about mindfulness and media. Here are a few tidbits from our chat that look at hope for future media collaborations, redefining what "media" entails, and why current media is missing the point.
Mandar: I teach the Art of Living programs and meditation. I teach everyone from battered women to high school students. One of the courses I did was in a predominantly low-income school in DC. It was a profound experience for me, even though, I've been living in the city for quite some time. They live in a neighborhood where they've gone through so much that even a sixth-grader asks for peace. I think they value peace more than we do; because we've not seen as many struggles. So, how can we help these kids? Stress-management classes are not enough. One solution is through media. They spend so much time on their phones.
Two reasons why we need to transform media:
More positive content that is purpose-driven and hopeful.
You need media to scale up anything that is "good" which people don't know about.
Media consumption is huge. It's approximately 10 hours a day. Everybody's looking at a tablet or a phone. People are perhaps closer to friends all over the world but we're not saying, "hello, how are you?" to someone next to us. And being more sensitive to each other.
The tools are not going to away. We need to use these tools for social impact, positive change.
Media Rise is a call for action for creatives who want to do more in their life, more than just Bachelor and Bachelorette. I want to create a platform that is more inspirational.
Dr. Srivi: Media scholars study the negative effects on media. How has media negatively affected us? - that's the question they tend to ask. But, I wanted to change the question.
Rather, what is the role that media can play in a positive way, individually and as a society?
I thought it's important for us to create a space for those who are already using media for inspiration. And bring them together. There's something to be said about working together.
Mandar: You need people to be leaders now. They can be a junior person in an organization such as CNN. He's not a leader in the organizational sense but is a potential leader. Maybe he wants to do a different kind of story. So that is why we need to bring together these people and empower them with the right tools to make it happen.
It's a relationship economy. If you improve your interpersonal skills, then you can make the editor happy and make yourself happy. The situation is the same; the approach differs.
So, we want to create a movement of media leaders.
Dr. Srivi: Media can be a variety of platforms. It's not just TV, online, or film. Video games that enable you to donate to charities are another media platform. So many people are using media in creative ways. That's why we need to form these networks; we need to connect them to each other. We need to celebrate them, and empower them.
Mandar: Peer-to-peer recognition is where Media Rise can help this space.
Erica: Social entrepreneurship is a term that people didn't know a decade ago. It's a new language that was created. So, we're helping craft a new language around media. There hasn't been a taxonomy for media makers who are dedicated to social change.
Morgan Spurloch, the success story behind the famous documentary "Supersize Me," compared it to eating vegetables. "No one wants to eat their vegetables." So, how do you make it more appetizing? How do you make media for "good" on par with other media - how do you make it viral and as closely followed, as say Keeping Up with the Kardashians?
That's really the challenge. But people are beginning to do it and we want to help them.
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