Chris Lawrence is at City Hall this morning to testify at New York City Council’s first-ever interactive cultural affairs hearing. The forum is addressing how the city’s arts organizations can/are/should be using social media, the web and other technologies to engage youth and increase participation in the arts. Join the conversation on Twitter using #cultureNYC.
Testimony to the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations
Delivered by Chris Lawrence, Director of Hive NYC Learning Network
Good afternoon Chairman Van Bramer and members of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and the Committee on Technology. I am Chris Lawrence, Director of Hive NYC Learning Network, a coalition of local civic and cultural youth-serving organizations who use digital media and technology as tools to enhance learning. Our members range in size and scope from the American Museum of Natural History to Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, as well as all of the City’s major public library systems, the YMCA, and a growing network of learning spaces. We were founded in 2008 as part of The MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning initiative, and are stewarded by Mozilla, creators of the Firefox web browser. Our 40 non-profit members have exclusive access to grants from the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in The New York Community Trust, a collaborative fund that includes eight foundations and donors, and is led by an advisory committee that includes the Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs. Grants are awarded every six months to members for their collaborative efforts to create innovative learning programs that reach more than 4,000 teens and tweens across NYC each year.
Hive NYC helps youth explore their interests while gaining 21st century skills revealing paths to academic and professional success. Youth start with what interests them — art, science, politics, hip hop, technology and social interactions– and then our programs infuse their interest-based learning with digital media, technology and the web. While the devices, apps and tech tools hook them, our programs let adolescents actually become makers and designers of the experiences and spaces where they dwell online. Hive NYC youth are more than consumers, they are producers of digital media.
This is critical, because social media, technology and the web aren’t just basic channels for promotion or marketing. They are channels for creativity, engagement, enlightenment, and learning. We know that virtually all American teens play computer, console, or cell phone games.Nine out of ten kids use mobile technologies and Black and Latino youth are the most frequent users. This creates an incredible opportunity. We can meet youth where they are, embrace the do-it-yourself (DIY) world they live in, and get them to learn by doing. For example, Urban Word and the New York Public Library use social media websites like Facebook and Twitter to prompt youth to read and then write their own poetry; Urban Word also hosts a live poetry workshop via Ustream, with chat functionality and real-time video where young poets share their work and get feedback from a professional poet/mentor; teens involved with the Rubin Museum of Art created a Tumblr blog to share their reflections on Himalayan Art and spread news about museum events; and, the New York Hall of Science gets young people to use mobile phones to collect and analyze data on urban pollution and take action to improve local conditions.
Hive NYC is helping its members create innovative, fun, valuable, cutting-edge projects. The result? Our cultural institutions are becoming more relevant to young people. By working to better integrate social media and open technology into exhibitions, performances, and after- school programs, we are collectively providing more entry points for youth to participate.
NYC is the cultural capital of the world, and its tech sector is booming. Hive NYC is working to bridge these assets to bring more digital learning initiatives to fruition, to open doors for young people to contribute as engaged audiences, not just passive participants.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Director, Hive NYC Learning Network