Interview Assignment: details

Interview list:

[ Michael Greshko  will interview Léa Steinacker ]
[ Léa Steinacker  will interview David Jimenez ]
[ David Jimenez  will interview Vladimir Radomirovic ]
[ Vladimir Radomirovic  will interview Stewart, Alicia ]
[ Stewart, Alicia  will interview Sophie Chou ]
[ Sophie Chou  will interview Celeste LeCompte ]
[ Celeste LeCompte  will interview Laurie Penny ]
[ Laurie Penny  will interview Savannah Niles ]
[ Savannah Niles  will interview Liam Andrew ]
[ Liam Andrew  will interview Bianca Datta ]
[ Bianca Datta  will interview Melissa Clark ]
[ Melissa Clark  will interview Wahyu Dhyatmika ]
[ Wahyu Dhyatmika  will interview Kathleen McLaughlin ]
[ Kathleen McLaughlin  will interview Giovana Girardi ]
[ Giovana Girardi  will interview Amy Zhang ]
[ Amy Zhang  will interview Austin Hess ]
[ Austin Hess  will interview Miguel Paz ]
[ Miguel Paz  will interview Ellery Biddle ]
[ Ellery Biddle  will interview Thariq Shihipar ]
[ Thariq Shihipar  will interview Irina Gordienko ]
[ Irina Gordienko  will interview Vivian Diep ]
[ Vivian Diep  will interview Kitty Eisele ]
[ Kitty Eisele  will interview Gideon Gil ]
[ Gideon Gil  will interview Jieqi Luo ]
[ Jieqi Luo  will interview Melissa Bailey ]
[ Melissa Bailey  will interview Elaine Diaz ]
[ Elaine Diaz  will interview Pau Kung ]
[ Pau Kung  will interview Anna Nowogrodzki ]
[ Anna Nowogrodzki  will interview Phillip D Gara ]
[ Phillip D Gara  will interview Charles Kaioun ]
[ Charles Kaioun  will interview Michael Greshko ]

Assignment, due March 4: Classmate Profile / Personal Data
You will be randomly assigned another student in the class and someone else will be assigned to you. Your job is to thoroughly research your subject online and discover as much information as possible about them on the Internet to create a detailed profile. Then you may choose to use a 30-minute interview with your subject as fact-checking. Your research and interview will be the basis for a profile of the subject.
Please let us know if you will be participating in the assignment by tomorrow morning! We will send the matches by the end of the day tomorrow.
Prior year examples:
Reading for March 4:
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Feb 11 Class

Assignment for February 11 (OPTIONAL): Select a tool that you believe has important implications for the future of news or storytelling. Come prepared to present a quick introduction to using the tool for your classmates.
Location Change: We have more than 40 people who have signed up for the class. We need a bigger room. Hence, we will now schedule our class in the room E15-341; it is by the counter with the sink (near foodcam).

February 11: The New Toolkit 

In black and white movies about the golden age of newspapers, the journalist’s toolkit includes a manual typewriter, a press card and a bottle of bourbon. Today’s journalist is often asked to report a story online, lay it out for publication on paper, accompany it with a video feature or an interactive data visualization and promote it via social media. For the first half of the class, Alexis Hope, Ali Hashmi and Jude Mwenda will present some of the tools, introducing you to their capabilities and uses. For the second half of the class, students will show off some of their favorite tools and offer instructions in how to get started using these tools.

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Revised assignment schedule

Please see the revised assignment schedule for MAS 700 in the assignments tab. Please note that Media Diary assignment is now due on Feb. 18.

Media Diary & Four Hour Challenge are mandatory assignments.

Assignment for February 11 (OPTIONAL): Select a tool that you believe has important implications for the future of news or storytelling. Come prepared to present a quick introduction to using the tool for your classmates.

Assignment, due February 18 (REQUIRED): Media Diary
Maintain a media diary, tracking all media you encounter in the course of a week, where it originated, whether it was news or entertainment media. Present your diary, preferably in a way that offers summary and analysis of patterns you’ve discovered from keeping it.
Prior year examples: Adrienne’s Media DiaryErhardt’s Media DiaryCatherine’s Media DiaryJean’s Media Diary

(Please see the assignment schedule in the syllabus)

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2015 Spring: Alpha Post

Welcome to MAS700 class website.

Our first class is on Feb. 4, 2015, Wednesday,1-4:00pm: Meet and greet, Overview, Civic Media demo. Discussion of the structure of the class, conversation about the shifts in the news environment in a digital age.

Class schedule: Wednesdays, 1-4:00pm, Location E15-359 (Media Lab, 75 Amherst/20 Ames St., Cambridge, MA)


Units: 12 H (1-2-9)

EDIT Feb 4th: If you’d like to be added to the class list, please send: your name, 1-sentence bio, list of skills, and a photo to partnews2015ins[at]media[dot]mit[dot]edu by Friday, February 6th! When you send us this information, we will set you up with an account on the class blog.

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Narrative of education in Pakistani media sources

The United Nations has recently announced that international donors have pledged $1 billion to provide education to millions of children in Pakistan. Nearly 25 million children are currently out of school in Pakistan, and about seven million of these children have yet to receive primary schooling, according to a recent report prepared by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC).

Education in Pakistan has long been in a state of crisis. After Musharraf’s regime, Pakistan resumed elections in 2008, and media, judiciary and other democratic institutions have strengthened since then. What does the narrative of education look like in current times, and what kind of discourse underlies the education narrative? These are the questions that we explore in this inquiry.

In order to understand the narrative of education in Pakistan, we employed unsupervised learning algorithm on the text corpus provided by Alif Ailaan, an education advocacy group in Pakistan. The corpus comprises education stories curated from Pakistani media sources— including Dawn, The Express Tribune, Nation, The News and Pakistan Today— since Feb. 2013. The purpose of using unsupervised learning algorithm was to delineate underlying topical themes that are present in the text corpus.

We extracted five topic structures using our learning algorithm. The intuition behind our algorithm is that documents exhibit multiple topics. For instance, in a single document, ‘Malala’, ‘woman’ and ‘education’ are lumped together as one topic, and ‘federal’, ‘funding’ and ‘government’ are grouped into another topic. Using this technique we extracted keywords associated with five topics that our algorithm discovers.

Below is a bubble graph of the entire topical space.Each bubble represents proportional representation of a keyword in a topical cluster, which is differentiated by color.

Topics from education corpus

Topics from education corpus

Now we will look at each topic individually. We have labeled the first topic as “Federal Education” because it loosely exhibits the discourse surrounding federal policies and issues on education in form of keywords like ‘federal’, administration’, ‘CADD’ and ‘FDE’. Both Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) and Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) are constitutional bodies that are responsible for federal functions on education.

Topic: Federal Education

Topic: Federal Education

We have labeled the second cluster as “Higher Education” since it contains terms like ‘university’, ‘international’, ‘technology’, ‘faculty’, and ‘science’ which are characteristic of higher education in Pakistan. The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (‘HEC’) is a constitutionally established institution that drives higher education efforts in Pakistan.


Topic: Higher Education

Topic: Higher Education

We have labeled the third cluster “Primary Education” because of terms like ‘child’, ‘primary’, ‘enrollment’, ‘school’, ‘literacy’, ‘teacher’, and ‘english’. Last year, successful primary enrollment drives took place at provincial level in Pakistan to register out-of-school children in public schools.

Topic: Primary Education

Topic: Primary Education

The fourth cluster of topics, which we have labeled “Malala”, is the most telling one. Malala became “the spokesperson for a generation of girls” after being shot in the head by Taliban. Almost half of rural young women in Pakistan have never attended school, according to a 2012-2013 UNESCO report. The name Malala is the only personal name that appears in the topical space on education in Pakistan. This cluster of words is also marked by tension between heterogeneous discourses in Pakistan including Talibanization, religion, security, peace, rights, and gender, highlighting the disruptive power of the “Malala” narrative on the discourses around education.

Topic: Malala

Topic: Malala

Lastly, the fifth cluster of topics includes provinces-related terms such as ‘sindh’,’punjab’, ‘local’, ‘district’, ‘provincial’. We have labeled this topic as “Provinces and Education”.

Topic: Provinces and Education

Topic: Provinces and Education

In the chart below we show a timeline representation of the news stories curated in the Alif Ailaan corpus. Malala gave her first speech at the United Nations in July 2013; an increase in the number of stories on education in July could be related to Malala’s speech. Similarly, spikes in Aug. 2013 and Sept. 2013 could be explained by enrolment drives in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunka provinces. These campaigns aimed at enrolling out-of-school children in public schools. Finally, the spike in Feb. 2014 could be related to the launch of Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) report, which highlighted Pakistan’s education crisis and made headlines in national newspapers. An in-depth analysis of these correlations is needed to provide more concrete insights on these trends.

News stories timeline

News stories timeline

In summary, these preliminary findings suggest that the current narrative of education in Pakistani media landscape is rich and diverse and covers the entire gamut of concerns around education crisis. The topics we discovered suggest that the media attention on education is produced by an active state of affairs.

Data stories: Narrative of education

I am working on a data story based on the narrative of education in Pakistan— particularly how we talk about education and how the narrative has changed in recent times. My data corpora include education stories— curated by Alif Ailaan, a Pakistani political advocacy group— and mainstream media streams curated through Media Cloud. I am going to look at latent semantic structure of text corpus provided by Alif Ailaan. In addition, I will look at juxtaposition of specific events with text highlights to understand framing around the narrative of education.

Pakistani laws and underage marriage

Last week, Pakistan’s Islamic constitutional body, Council for Islamic Ideology, decreed that Islam does not prohibit underage marriages. The council, which is responsible for giving legal advice to the government on Islamic jurisprudence, asserted that a minor girl could be married by her guardian, but she could annul the marriage before consummation as soon as she attains marriageable age. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reportedly gave tacit approval to the council’s recommendation on underage marriage.

The ruling sparked fury among women’s rights activists and civil society advocates.


“We are going backwards, instead of forwards,” said Humaira Masihuddin, a lawyer and a sharia expert, in a public program. “In sharia, state is the guardian of people’s welfare and a minor cannot enter into contract as per law. These recommendations will confuse people in the name of the sharia law,” she said.

The council should be abolished because it is extra-constitutional, said Dr Farzana Bari, a human right activist.

In contrast, conservative religious scholars defended the council’s recommendations to amend the Child Marriages Restriction Act of the penal code. Mufti Haneef Qureshi, a religious scholar, supported the suggestions made by the council. There is literally no age specified for the marriageable stage, he said.

Although Quran (VI: 6) directs that the required age at marriage is the age of intellectual maturity, the majority of early Islamic legal scholars did not hold such a reading of the Quranic text. According to one Islamic hadith, a reported tradition, Prophet Muhammad married Aisha, one of his wives, when she was six years old, and consummated the marriage when she was nine years old. Although this tradition is inconsistent with various historical facts, and modern scholarly work suggests we cannot confirm at what age Aisha’s marriage occurred. In Islam the content of a tradition (hadith) is more important than what actually took place. Hence, this particular tradition is the basis of a number of different legal traditions that sanctioned or supported child marriage. Some scholars are content with ascribing prophetic privilege to child marriage, thus proscribing it for other Muslims. There are others who argue that child marriages were a norm in the Arab social fabric of prophet’s time, therefore we cannot judge the past practice of child marriage using the norms of a modern liberal democratic society.


The Child Marriages Restriction Act was passed in 1929, prescribing penal sanctions where the bridegroom had not reached the age of 18 and the bride 14. The ordinance is part of the Indian penal code that Pakistan inherited after the partition.

Pakistan, like many other colonial states, has inherited its “ready-made” state structure from its colonial past. While the state structure is in many ways part of the western liberal democratic structure, the religious sphere in the country is still tied with Islam, which demands both public and private spheres of people governed by moral precepts of Islam.

Javed Ahmed Ghamidi— a Pakistani religious scholar who has emerged as a modern rationalist scholar and has been called “fundamentalist moderate” and “rationalist”— argues that numbers were spoken of as approximations in Arabic culture in the early Islamic period. Aisha, when speaking of her age, Ghamidi argues, was speaking in the same terms. In modern times, he says, scholars like Maulana Hakim Niyaaz Ahmad, have proven through historical reasoning that the age of Aisha at the time of her marriage and consummation was at least 16 and 19 respectively. Although Ghamidi’s interpretation of Quran appears to be “modern” and “rationalistic”, we find in his hermeneutics a tendency to singularize interpretation.  In this way, he is no different than modern conservative scholars of Islam.

“Both schools [modern rationalist and modern conservative] are entrenched in their views and have an essentialist reading of the history,” said Irfan Moeen Khan, a Ph.D. candidate in Muslim intellectual thought at the Harvard University, in an interview. A conceptual understanding of early Islamic history and tradition is essential for understanding how religion functioned in the early Islamic period, he said. The social norms, he argued, have changed now, so one would expect the paradigm of juridical reasoning to change as well. This is what many Islamic scholars like Fazlur Rahman thought, he said.

“However, I differ from him [Fazlur Rahman] in the assessment of medieval hermeneutic tradition, which he saw as static,” Khan said. “I still think that if political conditions permit, traditional Islamic law stands a better chance of creative innovation than any of the modernists.”

Understanding Khan requires a good deal of knowledge of “legal pluralism” that was characteristic of Islamic law.

In Islamic law, for any given situation requiring legal interpretation, there were “anywhere between two and a dozen opinions” and a “different jurist held each of them,” says Wael Hallaq, a leading scholar of Islamic law, in his book “An introduction to Islamic Law.

Islamic law not only took into account local custom, it also proffered a diverse range of opinions on the same set of particulars. In other words, the traditional Islamic law, if applied today, will fully take into consideration social norms and values our times. The legal pluralism, says Hallaq, “gave Islamic law two of its fundamental features, one being flexibility and adaptability to different societies and regions, and the other an ability to change and develop over time, first by opting for those opinions that have become more suitable than others to a particular circumstance, and second by creating new opinions when the need arose.”

Pakistan like other colonial states has not found an organic social and political configuration in its liberal democratic state structure. Issues, like child marriages, which are reprehensible by our standards today, can only find complete resolution in a social fabric that condemns these reprehensible acts using traditional legal precepts, which are not reactionary but rather more pluralistic and norm-based as they were in the early Islamic times.


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A precarious situation: peace talks with Pakistani Taliban


With close ties with Afghan Taliban, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been engaged in terrorism and insurgency inside Pakistan since 2007. The TTP has been responsible for thousands of deaths in Pakistan. On Jan. 30, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the initiation of formal peace talks with the TTP, saying Pakistan would pursue peace talks with militants despite terrorist attacks that have hobbled Pakistan’s peace efforts.

Storify link: here

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