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Erin Walsh – Unveiling Hidden Stories
I currently live in Minneapolis, MN directly across the street to the elementary school I attended as a kid. For someone who spent years living and learning on the bus, traveling in South America, and then trying to dig some roots in San Francisco – the magnetic pull of family and the bedrock of the Minnesota northlands finally brought me home to stay.
Since leaving the bus and graduating from the University of Wisconsin, my work life has been full and dynamic and I’ve had the opportunity to wear many “hats” throughout the years. I currently run a small speaking and training organization in collaboration with my parents, called Mind Positive Parenting. We are committed to translating the research on media’s impact on youth and children for everyone who works with and cares for kids. Working with parents and young people, I end up spending a lot of time reading about and talking about our collective fears and anxieties related to living in an “always on, always connected” world. Certainly the “technology free” zone of the bus is a world apart from the 53 hours a week that the average school-age child in the U.S. spends with entertainment media – and my job is to begin conversations about the emerging opportunities and challenges associated with growing up digital.
What is clear from both research and experience is that the same tools that create distance between us or are used to broadcast and perpetuate the status quo can be used to create connection and spur change. To really honor and explore the positive potential of media, I helped create a program through the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) called Making Media, Making Change: Digital Technologies, Storytelling, and Activism. The program is designed to help undergraduate students investigate how digital media shapes art, creativity, and social movements in the Twin Cities and provide training in how to apply technical skills toward creating social impact films. Having experienced the transformative learning experience of being a student on the bus where the “world was my classroom,” I was hungry to teach at HECUA using the same pedagogy that I had gained so much from as a student.
I learned on the bus that the “world as it is” necessitates critical examination. I have powerful memories from the bus of experiencing overwhelming despair – watching trees clear cut in northern Alberta or seeing firsthand the racial disparities in exposure to toxic chemicals in “Cancer Alley,” Louisiana. Yet critical examination is especially effective when paired with the generative work of activism and art. I have equally vivid memories of the creative practices that inspired hope in the face of injustice and unleashed my imagination about the way the world could be.
One of the things that we talk about in the context of the influence of media in our lives is “Whoever tells the stories, defines the culture.” I feel profoundly grateful to have spent almost two years on the bus immersed in the hidden stories that don’t often get covered in mainstream media – stories of despair, injustice, strength, resilience, and hope. These stories continue to shape my work today.
Erin was an undergraduate student from 2000-2002 (Fall 2000 (Alberta)/ Fall 2001 (Rio Grande) and Spring 2002 (SE).)