Monday, April 5, 2010

Textile Museum of Canada- not just for knitters

The Textile Museum of Canada is more than just a collection of cloth. According to Beth Sharpe, senior manager of communications and revenue development at the TMC, textiles are vital and relevent to people everywhere. "People live their lives in textiles, you don't live your life in a clay pot," she said.

Sharpe added that with movements like "craftivism" (activisim through craft) gaining popularity, younger crowds, especially women, are making their way to the TMC. "Young women are using artistic expression to take a stand on things," she said.

The TMC has been located on Centre Avenue in downtown Toronto since 1989. This Friday, April 9th, they will be showing a new exhibit featuring artists David R. Harper, Lia Cook and Stephen Schofield. Sharpe says she expects the contemporary exhibit will draw in many young patrons.

In addition to its artifacts, the TMC is well known for its gift shop. Patrons have been known to return to the museum just to pick up a scarf or a piece of art from the shop, said Sharpe, explaining that visitors often fall in love with the carefully-selected merchandise. "Textiles are things people want and need only because they're so beautiful," she said.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring fashion is going green

Some fashion retailers are pulling the green wool over our eyes. According to Ryerson University fashion professor Alice Chu, this spring will see stores piled high with greens, blues and turquoises. "Because of the concern for global warming, because of the idea of sustainability, there will be a push for green," said Chu.

The return to nature-inspired colours is "what manufacturers will use to make you feel like you're doing something [for the environment]," she added. Chu explained that, while many companies are becoming more eco-friendly, others use green and earth-toned colours to boost sales through the illusion of environmental consciousness.

This faux-environmentalist marketing strategy is called "greenwashing", said Richard Ivey School of Business marketing professor, Allison Johnson. "Consumers don't have the time to investigate," she said, adding that greenwashing works because the average shopper doesn't research a brand's commitment to the environment.

Banana Republic salesperson Joey Chiu feels cheated by the fashion industry. "It's kind of ironic," she said of the green movement, "because fashion is so not eco-friendly." Chiu added that, when it comes to protecting the environment, she feels most comfortable buying locally-made clothing. The problem is, truly eco-friendly brands often break the bank.

But Chiu has found a way to keep her own closet sustainable. She sticks to a neutral palette and classic shapes and hangs on to her older clothing "because fashion is a cycle, you're always going to come back to things," she said.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Privacy on Facebook

Keeping a close eye on your Facebook privacy settings may be worth your while. When the social networking site was launched six years ago, people didn't quite realize the possible effects of putting personal information online. Since then, we've all heard stories of bosses firing employees over questionable tagged photos, and of incessant commentary on relationships gone sour.

"There's really a loss of control over your own data," said University of Western Ontario media and information professor Anabel Quan-Haase. By the time you've removed a tag or deleted a wall-post, it's often too late, she added.

However, Quan-Haase, an avid Facebooker herself, believes that people are catching on to the importance of adjusting their Facebook privacy settings. In a recent survey of students, she found that nearly 80 per cent were making use of the privacy settings.

Since Facebook relaxed its privacy settings in December, there's been an outcry of users who feel that their information is being compromised. Various sites have been posting tips and videos teaching Facebookers how to preserve their privacy and still use Facebook as a social tool.

Assistant commissioner of privacy for Ontario Ken Anderson said that Facebook should default its privacy settings to the highest level and allow users to adjust from there. According to him, it currently uses the opposite tactic. Anderson has met with Facebook's chief privacy officer Chris Kelly to discuss this suggestion.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner provides and in-depth handbook on using Facebook safely. "I think that safety is a challenge whether we're in the online world or in the real world," said Anderson.

Ultimately, both Anderson and Quan-Haase agree that Facebook can be a great tool, depending how it's used. "That doesn't mean that we avoid it," said Anderson, "we use it smartly."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Digital advocacy making impact

Joining a Facebook group may mean more than you think. Digital advocacy, whether in the form of Facebook groups, twitter or blogs, is beginning to carry weight in Canada and across the world.

"It's very much still the beginning of the curve for digital advocacy and digital democratic participation in Canada," said digital public affairs strategist Mark Blevis. Blevis referenced the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook group, now at more than 220, 000 members, as an example of growing digital advocacy.

Blevis added that while, now, "face-time" is more effective in causing governmental change, online advocacy is rapidly gaining currency and will eventually be on par with strategies like letter-writing.

According to Internet scholar Michael Geist, digital advocacy is effective for ten reasons, which he discussed at a Google event in 2008:
  1. Organizing power
  2. Online and offline (arranging offline advocacy online)
  3. Mainstream media (getting coverage)
  4. Educates
  5. Action (lets people know what they can do)
  6. Speed
  7. Digital tools (overcoming web surveillance)
  8. Localized (local branches of large groups)
  9. Government 2.0 (e.g. e-petitions)
  10. General purpose sites (greater usage, harder to block)
In his Toronto Star column, Geist cites successful examples of digital advocacy in Canada thus far, including the Facebook group against changing laws for young drivers and his own Fair Copyright for Canada group. Both groups were able to prompt government action.

"It's exciting to see how this is all evolving," said Blevis.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Saving journalism with specialization

As newspapers suffer at the hands of free online news, charging for specialized, in-depth content online is the latest model in the race to save the papers. And some experts are saying it just might work.

"Expertise in a field other than journalism will go a long way," said University of Toronto media studies professor Karen McCrindle. She added that specialization in a subject like science or business gives emerging journalists a competitive edge when basic news is accessed for free. According to her, special-interest stories, news analyses and columns will likely become the kind of news consumers will have to pay for.

Last week, the New York Times announced that it will launch a pay wall for regular, high-volume online readers in 2011, allowing free access only to occasional readers. Media expert and Internet specialist Clay Shirky is skeptical about whether current online pay models can work for newspapers. He argues that saving journalism itself, not newspapers, should be the focus.

"I wouldn't call it a crisis, it's more of an opportunity," said McCrindle of the present state of print journalism. "I see it more as a revolution of sorts," she added.

Indeed, the Internet is a revolutionary and disruptive technology, and just as with the printing press and the telegraph, it will take journalists time to adjust. But it's not all bad. "We're delivering more information now than ever, and consumers are much more involved and interactive than ever before," said McCrindle.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Incarceration on the rise in Canada

Though crime rates in Canada have been dropping steadily, incarceration rates have been on the rise since 2004. According to Statistics Canada’s 2008/2009 report, 117 of every 100, 000 Canadians were in custody.

With the cost of living for an inmate reaching anywhere from $160 to $255 per day, long-term sentences cost the country lots of money. Money that Toronto Star journalist Jim Rankin thinks would be better spent in youth programs for at-risk communities. Rankin created a website that documents the history of crime in Canada and the social state of high-crime neighbourhoods.

Prime Minister Harper’s “tough-on-crime” stance favours severe sentences, which lead to higher incarceration rates, and an economy that is increasingly reliant on the prison system. Places like Michigan are already experiencing the downfall of prison economies, yet Canada continues to head in that direction.

The Canadian government is ignoring the fact that locking up petty criminals does not serve as a deterrent for crime. Social studies show that the best way to prevent crime is through educational and social programs for young people in high-crime communities - programs with sustainable funding that is not being diverted to the jail system.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How To Look Good Naked...or not

Looking good naked is getting too easy.
The hit show How To Look Good Naked has finally made its way from the UK to Canada with its debut last week on the W Network. The show features women ranging from overweight to obese, who have lost body and self-confidence. An overly-encouraging and sympathetic male host, in Canada's case, former eTALK reporter Zain Meghji, coaches the women into looking and feeling their best. The show ends with a nude photoshoot that a teary-eyed contestant once thought she could never do.

Now, I'm all for self-esteem, but it's a wonder to me what the confidence to bare it all means when heart disease and type two diabetes loom just around the corner. It seems that where a healthy diet and some exercise could transform these women's lives for the better, How To Look Good Naked offers up a lacy bra and control-top underwear. If that’s all a girl needs to look good in the buff, then making a show about it is pretty pointless. Hopefully contestants can take their new-found confidence and use it to motivate themselves into a healthier lifestyle. One that may or may not include racy undergarments.