Learning Cluster at Soka University of America, January 2015: Course Objectives

In the last decades, the governments of Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Argentina have sought, through media reform, more participation in the production and distribution of media in principle to assure a plurality of voices. This political undertaking, which supporters of these elected governments see as an instrumental part of the process of re-democratization, is at the center of a controversial endeavor to overcome inequality in Latin America. For instance, the governments of Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina, have advanced new regulations through their respective congresses that are believed to be instrumental in the democratization of mass media. 

This Learning Cluster will explore the critical intersections of media, democratization, and social struggles Latin America. Together we will analyze the media as key political-economic institutions, as the public sphere or contested political-cultural arenas within which political and social struggles are waged. As such, the media will be understood as the object of political struggles over legislation or regulations that shape its functioning and also as a way to reinforce participatory practices and community projects. Students interested in this course should be willing to theorize and imagine new political, economic, social and cultural systems that are more participatory and egalitarian. Our focus will center on analyzing how different types of media platforms (corporate, state/public, party, community, social, etc.) play a role in current struggles and on how particular types of media restructuring reshape power relations at all levels.

The following are some questions I would like to consider in this LC: What is the role of the State in the production and distribution of media (TV programming, radio programming, film, internet programming) in the past few decades of neoliberal economics, post-dictatorship democratization processes, and increasing popular resistance to inequality in Latin America? How is “identity” shaped by different media formats? Have new digital technologies helped to undermine the monopoly of media conglomerates? What are some of the theoretical and ideological debates around the role of the media in the consolidation of democracy and the pursuit of social justice? How do social movements use and/or create their own media? What are some of the contributions of grassroots organizations and groups in the ongoing process of democratization?

Students enrolled in this LC will be part of a working group that will generate an application for a Nieves Grant to visit Latin America next academic year to continue research on this topic.

Student Bios

Hello! My name is Nobuyuki Furuta (Bambi). I am 20 years old and currently a sophomore at Soka University of America. I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. I am fortunate to be part of this Learning Cluster because it gives me a great opportunity to change my attitude toward media. Before I took this course and learned media literacy, I was very passive and just accepted what I saw in TV. Through this class, however, I realized that it is important to analyze the contents of broadcasts in order to understand what is really happening in this world. Visiting Tijuana and interviewing local people will definitely enhance my understanding of the media and democratization.

Hi! My name is Elissa Park and I am from Porter Ranch, CA. I am currently a first year student at Soka University of America, concentrating in International Studies. Due to my family background, I am extremely interested in Latin American studies and Spanish. During high school, I had the opportunity to study how current events connected to the past, future, and different things going on in the present. This led me to study media on various levels, ranging from the use of symbols such as tank man to the utilization of social networking by Ai Wei Wei. I also learned the interconnection between media and democracy and gained a deep interest in these themes. .

Hello. My name is Tomohiro Miyoshi. I was born and raised in Osaka, Japan, and I am currently a sophomore at SUA. I love to watch and play soccer. As for this Learning Cluster, I am particularly interested in what is the meaning of democracy for Latin American people. In my freshman year, I learned  that many Latin American countries had long suffered from military dictatorship before achieving democracy, which is very different from Japanese democracy. This experience inspired me to explore the meaning of democracy. So through this opportunity to learn about Latin America, I want to deepen my understanding of what it means to be a democratic country.

My name is Yuta Maezono and my friends call me Zonzon. I am from Japan, and a sophomore studying at Soka University of America. I am excited to be part of this “Media and Democracy” class because this class is a precious opportunity for me to study politics in Latin America. In the future I want to be in the important position in the world economy or politics and greatly contribute myself to this society. 

Stuart Adams is originally from Berkeley, California, and is now a Junior at Soka University of America. He has worked both within the California Assembly and as a community organizer for organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center. He is interested in the use of media as a tool for social movements and community organization. Stuart would like to see the Internet remain an open and equal space for media access and creation.

Hi, I’m Yoko Taguchi and currently a sophomore at Soka University. I’m really excited to be a part of this learning cluster because we focus on a crucial isuue in this world. Our topic, Media and Democracy in Latin America, is reagarding both modern and historical issues. It’s complex and even painful to discuss the “memories,” but I found it’s necessary to shed a light on this painful issue. Before I take this course, I had no idea about Latin America; however, it now fascinates my mind. I really appreciate this opportunity and want to learn as much as I can.

Hi there! I am Si Min Chew, currently a first year student at Soka University of America. I was born and raised in the island city-state of Singapore in Southeast Asia. Growing up, the media industry in Singapore was small and limited, though this is partly because of our small population of 5 million people. It wasn’t until our family had cable TV when I was 13 that I started to watch more TV shows and channels from China, Taiwan and the U.S. Freedom of expression is also restricted in part in Singapore, and I was one of those succumbing to the belief of the dis-empowered individual who can’t be heard. Taking this learning cluster about media and democratization. however, makes me realize the power of the media platform in this new digital age and how closely media and democracy are now intertwined, and how important it is for citizens to actively participate in a democracy. 

Hi! My name is Luis Herrera and I am a third year student at Soka University of America. I decided to take this learning cluster because I am interested in investigating and researching the influence media has on the many aspects of Latin American society. Politics in Latin American countries have been highly influenced by the many forms of media, leading to the establishment of many dictatorships during the 1970s. Today, the media continues to have a large impact in Latin America, especially in the process of democratization. Being of Mexican descent, it is also interesting to learn about how the media plays a large role in Mexico with the chaos that is currently taking place in the country. 

Hi! My name is Cassidy Lavigne, I am from the Bay Area in Northern California and I am currently a freshman at Soka University.  I am so excited to be a part of this learning cluster because media and politics interest me. I am quickly learning that analyzing different governments and how they connect with their people is becoming something I am passionate about. I traveled to Mexico for a service trip my senior year of high school, and I am eager to visit again and absorb as much information and knowledge as I can. ​

iQué onda! I’m Hideto Akasu. I am currently a sophomore at Soka University of America. Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, I have had many opportunities to notice the diversity of so many different kinds of cultures since I came to the US. Among many cultures, what interests me the most was Latin American culture. As taking Spanish language class in our university, I got to know not only the language but also the history, culture, and people’s lives in those Latin American countries. Having been thinking about entertainment business for my future carrier, media and politics are the very fields of study that I want to get familiar with. Especially, now, the influence of media on social movements is becoming something that we can’t ignore. We, as participants of democratic society, need to be aware that we are responsible for making a better world.

Media Organizations & Resources

Media Education Foundation

MISSION:The Media Education Foundation produces and distributes documentary films and other educational resources to inspire critical thinking about the social, political, and cultural impact of American mass media . 



MISSION: Adbusters is a global network of artists, writers, students, educators, and entrepreneurs who want to launch the new social activist movements of the information age.


Alliance for Community Media


MISSION: We are committed to assuring everyone’s access to electronic media. The Alliance accomplishes this by creating public education, advancing a positive legislation and regulatory environment, building coalitions and supporting local organizing. 

Center for Media Education


MISSION:The CME is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a quality electronic media culture for children and youth, their families, and the commnity. CME’s research focuses on the potential–and the peril– for children and youth of the rapidly evolving digital media age.

Community Technology Centers’ Network 


MISSION: CTCNet envisions a society in which all people are equitably empowered by technology skills and usage….CTCNet brings together agencies and programs that provide opportunities whereby people of all ages who typically lack access to computers and related technologies can learn to use these technologies in an environment that encourages exploration and discovery, and through experience, develop personal skills and self-confident.

Independent Media Center


MISSION: The Independent Media Center is a network of collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, objective, and passionate tellings of the truth. 

The Media Channel


MISSION: On Media Channel, you find original news, opinions, and reports. This super site is a reading room, a research center, and a meeting place for everyone with an interest in media. 

National Institute on Media & The Family


MISSION: The institute is a national resource providing educational tools and materials to help parents, teachers, community leaders, and other caring adults understand the impact of the media, so they can make informed choices for children. 

Periodismo en Mexico (Journalism in Mexico)


Las noticias se escriben con sangre

Al menos 10 periodistas mexicanos fueron asesinados en menos de 28 meses de la administración de Enrique Peña Nieto. Desde 2000, 82 comunicadores fueron muertos en México y otros 17 permanecen desaparecidos.

Por Gerardo Albarrán de Alba

Desde México DF

El desprecio hacia el trabajo periodístico en México por parte de actores políticos, sociales y empresariales es el hilo conductor en al menos 10 casos de periodistas mexicanos asesinados en menos de 28 meses de la administración de Enrique Peña Nieto, el último apenas confirmado el domingo pasado por la noche, cuando encontraron degollado a Moisés Sánchez Cerezo, un periodista y activista secuestrado en su casa en el estado de Veracruz el 2 de enero. El alcalde de su comunidad es señalado como autor intelectual del crimen.

México es el sexto país más peligroso del mundo para los periodistas, después de Siria, el territorio palestino de Gaza, Pakistán, Irak y Ucrania, según un reporte internacional difundido el 6 de enero en Ginebra por la Campaña por un Emblema de Prensa.

Para leer el resto de este articulo:


The perceptions and pronouncements of human beings are inherently subjective. Every news article is the product of all sorts of highly subjective cultural, nationalistic, and political assumptions. And all journalism serves one faction’s interest or another’s.

The relevant distinction is not between journalists who have opinions and those who have none, a category that does not exist. It is between journalists who candidly reveal their opinions and those who conceal them, pretending they have none. 

Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.



Carolina Guerrero is a media entrepreneur, and co-founder of Radio Ambulante, a groundbreaking Spanish language podcast that uses long-form audio journalism to tell neglected and under-reported Latin American stories. Guerrero serves as Executive Director of the project, and is passionate about solving the problem of inequality of access, and democratizing the kinds of stories being told across the region. Before co-founding Radio Ambulante in 2011, Guerrero worked as a promoter for cultural and social projects, creating a bridge between organizations in her native Colombia, and public and private institutions in Latin America and the United States, designing and managing festivals and art exhibits, as well as teaching workshops and planning fundraising events. A current John S. Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University, Carolina Guerrero and her team, were awarded the 2014 Gabriel García Márquez Prize for Innovation in Journalism, the most prestigious journalism honor in Latin America.

Sex and Broadcasting, documentary that highlights WFMU, a freeform radio station. 


Urban farming in Tijuana for deportees

by Sandra Dibble UTSan Diego

TIJUANA — It was an act of civil disobedience, carried out on federal land off a busy Tijuana thoroughfare in broad daylight. For hours on Saturday, volunteers built boxes, carted dirt and planted seedlings in what organizers say is the first step in an urban farming project aimed at addressing the issue of homeless U.S. deportees.

“These people want to work but nobody hires them, they have absolutely nothing,” said Miguel Marshall, 28, a member of Global Shapers Tijuana Hub, part of a World Economic Forum initiative that encourages young people around the world to come up with projects that address problems in their communities.

Spearheaded by a group of 20-something professionals, the Bordofarms effort for now consists of 30 raised beds planted with kale, beets, chard and two varieties of lettuce and set on a broad berm that overlooks the concrete channel of the Tijuana River. Their target population: the sizable number of deportees living in the channel inside holes dug in the ground or squatting inside storm drains.

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Cultivan huertos dentro de canal para migrantes en Tijuana

por Gabriela Martinez, La Jornada

Tijuana, BC. El soldado, como lo dicen, es un ex pandillero de la Mafia Mexicana que cuando cumplió 10 años hizo dos cosas: molió a palos a los responsables de violar a sus dos hermanas menores y cambió los útiles escolares por mariguana y un arma calibre .25.
Su nombre es Hugo Mago Reyes y tiene 32 años. Fue deportado por Tijuana en 2012, después de pasar 11 años en una prisión de Los Ángeles, California, en Estados Unidos.

En esa ciudad vivió como indocumentado durante casi toda su vida pero después de llegar a Tijuana su suerte no ha sido del todo mala –expresa–, aunque primero tuvo que dormir bajo puentes, sobre tierra e incluso dentro de un canal, conocido como El Bordo, a donde llegan las aguas negras. Ahora tiene un trabajo que para él significa la esperanza de volver a empezar.
Hugo es uno de los 50 migrantes que forma parte del proyecto BordoFarms (Granja Fronteriza) del grupo Global Sharpers, el cual busca emplear a hombres y mujeres que fueron deportados para crear un huerto urbano.

Su trabajo es cuidar betabeles, espinacas y otras hortalizas que desde el 17 de enero fueron sembradas en 30 camas de cultivo colocadas en la canalización del Río Tijuana.

“Pues yo me la pasé palando y palando todo el día, no sé nada de cuidar plantas, pero si me quieren enseñar y eso, pues aprendo. Además es trabajo, y ya es ganancia porque aquí nadie quiere contratarnos, es una lata… que si los papeles, que si la credencial, todo te piden y nada te dan”, explica.

Para Hugo otro problema son los siete tatuajes que le cubren la mayor parte del cuerpo. En el pecho carga con un águila azteca que parece como si fuera a levantar el vuelo fuera de su camisa, pues sus alas se escapan bajo las mangas. En el corazón lleva escrito el nombre de Ana Karen, un amor que no quiere recordar, y en las costillas la frase en letras cursivas y escrita en inglés: “No hay que temer a quienes sueñan con los ojos cerrados, porque sus sueños ahí se quedan, sino de los que sueñan con los ojos abiertos porque ellos podrían hacerlos realidad”.

Pero el más notorio, es el que tiene a un lado de su ojo izquierdo: dos líneas, una encima de la otra, con tres puntos arriba, que significa el número 13 con simbología azteca, que eligió porque ese era el de su pandilla dentro de la prisión: Mexican Mafia, la MM, la doble eme.

Para salir a caminar, dice, debe llevar mangas largas, colores oscuros –el negro casi siempre– y lentes que le permitan esconder un cuerpo que para él es un orgullo, pero que para los demás representa la imagen de un hombre que pareciera llevar fajada una pistola en el pantalón y fuera a disparar al primero que tenga enfrente.

“Imagínese, todo el tiempo con tantito que asome el pie en la calle, luego luego la policía se viene encima de uno. Ya ni sé cuantas veces estuve en La 20 (una estancia para infractores), pero mejor me cuido, yo sé a qué hora puedo salir y a dónde puedo ir”.

Antes de tomar la pala y golpear la tierra para sembrar verduras, Hugo hizo de todo. Primero fue albañil, luego limpió parabrisas, pidió dinero, barrió calles y en los últimos meses lava coches, pero ese dinero no es suficiente, advierte. Con eso apenas paga la renta de un cuarto en la Zona Norte de Tijuana, un lugar espacio donde comparte incluso la letrina del baño.

“Yo cambié ¿Sabe? Cuando estuve en la jail (cárcel) terminé hasta el high school (preparatoria) y leía muchos libros. Mi favorito es el del chino, el que habla del Arte de la Guerra… hace mucho dejé las drogas porque aquí me ayudaron los pastores de una Iglesia, a veces hasta me daban de comer sin conocerme, y esto de sembrar verduras pues… vera, a lo mejor no lo necesito, pero es una forma de devolver todo lo que la gente hizo por mí”.

Student Projects

Stuart Adams, Luis Herrera and Cassidy Lavigne
Yoko Taguchi and Kaori Tsuji

Elissa Park, Hideto Akasu, Si Min Chew

Our group conducted a survey on undergraduate students’ awareness of the potential for advancing democracy online through media and their own interaction with the media. We present our findings through an info-graphic titled: Active Citizenship. The title encapsulates and centers on our understanding that engaging with the media in an informed and critical manner represents an unprecedented form of democracy characterized by ordinary citizens actively using and interacting with the mass media in the Digital Age. We ask if students know who are Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, the two big whistleblowers of our time who are now in hiding in England and Russia, because even having the slightest awareness of them and their work represent an inkling of how the dynamics of democracy are changing online. Online databases and technological advancement allow governments to store more information than ever in their servers and in the same sense that governments are empowered by the Internet, ordinary people are too. Thanks to the efforts of whistleblowers and activist hackers, the information and knowledge that we are entitled to is revealed to us. Even if we do not understand the information, others among us may understand, and democracy requires governments to be accountable to their people. 

The Internet is a double-edged sword in many aspects, one of which is the nature of the information available to us. The Age of Information requires that each of us is able to critically evaluate and take the news and information presented to us with a pinch of salt. Doing further research, remaining skeptical and knowing how our use of the media is influenced by the Internet and corporations online is essential to maintaining an objective outlook. Are we only reading what we want to read, only accepting and registering information that we want to because of our biased views or inclinations? Political awareness is the first step towards active citizenship and political participation but it is not sufficient. It remains, however, an important first step and it is valuable that the more we understand and learn about our use of media, we become increasingly engaged and contributive towards democracy wherever we are from and anywhere we are in the world.

Media Manifesto, E.Park

Elissa Park

Free Our Digital Voices

I no longer believe that we live in a world where technology can be avoided. It is the tool an endless amount of people, men and women from every corner of the world, utilize to do a countless number of things. A new era has begun; the era of digital culture.

I no longer believe that communication can only be properly done through face to face contact. Media has become the tool people use to effectively voice what they need to say. It has become the platform people seek for acceptance, discussion, participation, and knowledge. This platform has brought out various different expressions from different people. Due to the wide variety of networkers, many are shunned and terrorized for expressing their opinions and beliefs. I believe everyone has a right to their own voice; they should be able to type and say whatever they want to in a free and open environment.

There should be no fear of judgment or criticism.

I believe that free speech in the 21st century translates to a safe space for people to voice their opinions on the media. Because of the global expansion of technology, there are large groups of people who will agree with a single opinion. You no longer have to be afraid of being the black sheep in a field filled with a thousand white sheep. I know that when you say something that is not accepted by a group of people, you have the potential to be cyber bullied. It is a reoccurring theme in the digital realm, but I want there to be reform in the culture online.

As a daily user of media, you should protect the users along with yourself. If we form a community where voices can be heard, there is a higher potential for media to further develop into a tool that can be used for reform.

We must examine the digital realm; examine the limits that have been placed by large corporations, the government, and even societal norms. We have been taught to criticize those who do not conform, but we can no longer behave like this. We must band together, we are no longer separate and different. Through a computer screen we are not black, we are not white, and we are not this religion or that religion.

We are one and we each have a voice.

It should not be suppressed. This is not an issue that will change overnight, but with the union of the masses, we have a chance to reform this deep seated issue.

I want to live in a world where I am unafraid to say what I want to say.

A world where no matter what I believe in I have a community whom I can turn to.

What kind of world do you want to live in?

Media Manifesto, C. Lavigne

The Match and Spark of Media- Manifesto

Cassidy Lavigne

The internet: An online collection of information, communication, news, opinions, databases, and an infinite space of opportunity. Media is a match that sparks opportunity for change, debate, and reform. But playing with fire can cause destruction and devastation. The internet is a free place. A place where the people are free to comment, respond, and share their opinions and views all over the world. If that free place is taken away- there is no spark, and no opportunity. So, the people of the internet take that risk of starting a wildfire, in order to get an initial spark.

People are innovators who are constantly changing and evolving with technology- constantly improving and changing for better. The internet sparks change in democracy. It is a blank canvas where the world can write their ideas. It is a world in itself that lives unbounded between space and time. Every voice has the opportunity to be heard by their government, and the government has the responsibility, and duty, to listen.

In a democracy, it is not the right of the government to grant the people freedom of the media, it is given to the people as a human right. The people have the right to all information about their government. Just as the people have the right to post and communicate about their government-good or bad. The media is part of freedom of speech, and the right to know about their government and its actions. Media is a bridge of communication between the government and the people, and vice versa. Without the bridge, there is nothing- only a gap.

The main challenge between democracy and the internet is not everyone has access to it. While some people cannot afford the internet and have total freedom to use it, others do not. In order to make the internet the most democratic, it has to be available to everyone, and furthermore be subject to constant changes by all people, not just those with power. But like all power, small or large, it has to possibility of being manipulated. This manipulation of opinions and information should be taken seriously, as it is easily corrupted, and thereby becomes the spark that sets ablaze a bridge of communications.

Equal representation is a key element in democracy. How does every person-every group- get a fair say in the media? The internet is a place for everyone from everywhere- a constant global network for voices to be heard. If the group or individual doesn’t have a voice, they have to make a spark using the media to make a name for themselves. True- higher agencies have power to manipulate this spark and prevent equality, all opinions have the power to manipulate on the internet. Equal representation starts from a spark, and usually creates a wildfire. It is the risk of playing with fire that groups and individuals must take when trying to create more light.

The internet, media, and technology are constantly improving. There are many positive things to come with the internet and its ability to be changed and commented by all. The world has an area that breaks the wall between space and time. The possibilities are, and continuing to grow to be endless. It is an opportunity for everyone to connect from everywhere, and in the future, hopefully the access will be more available. Although all opinions may not have cohesion and the internet has dark areas, it is important to find the balance of regulation. This regulation, although necessary for some circumstances, will have a huge impact in the future of publicizing on the internet.

Internet access and the ability to get information and knowledge from the media is a human right, not a privilege. The media is the spark for opportunity to initiate changes with the risk of causing a wildfire. If there is no match, no spark, then there is no change- and the incredible opportunity that the internet has given people, groups, and communities, is lost.