Laura Ciaccio

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For my project, I created a blog to launch advocacy campaigns for the interests of childless persons. My project focused on the aim of obtaining equal workplace benefits, to replace the system that granted parents more valuable compensation packages. To this aim, I created a website focusing on cafeteria benefits and added several posts to the blog aimed at collaboration and discussion of this project.

Of all the reasons I chose my project, the collaboration that I was able to spark most helped integrate several themes of the course: the potential of cyber media to spark non-market, decentralized information generation, the importance of empathetic argument, and the vitality of drawing a wider audience to hear your message in order to make it effective.

I originally chose my subject, the childless, for several reasons. First, it was an area where there had been very little movement. While my voice could have been added to those working for change in a number of areas, this was one arena in which I could have more of an impact, instead of simply adding my voice to many.

Secondly, it was an issue that I had been active on for several years. Between assisting my husband with his Masters thesis on the subject and acting as media spokesperson for a social group for childless persons, I had developed passion and knowledge for the subject matter.

However, the contacts I had due to this involvement, my third reason for choosing it, was the one that helped integrate the themes of the course that I had found the most compelling. There was no lack of writing, thinking, and creativity on voluntary childlessness. Despite a lack of advocacy, there were several high-quality projects in existence. There was a large social club with chapters around the world, a well-written magazine, a team blog and weekly podcast.

The real work, and key to my success, lay not in the creation of my project itself, but in gathering the founders of these works to help create and promote it. I had developed relationships with them through my past volunteer work and projects. I wrote a letter explaining the nature of my project and asking for assistance. Their response, and the collaboration that followed, helped culminate my experiences in CyberOne.

The idea of non-market creation bears a striking relationship with the idea of karma. I had been part of that non-market force in the past, creating a news blog, volunteering for convention committees, and been giving radio and television interviews completely outside the realm of paid work. I had helped create information goods for their own reward, and now others, in return, were contributing to mine. I had not done this work nor fostered these relationships with any gain to myself in mind, but nonetheless they helped me enormously.

However, some of the collaboration occurred outside this realm, in such places as Second Life. During the project festival, I discussed my project with complete strangers, and was further able to gain from the projects that others had created. This theme is carried through Second Life; as I had walked through it previously, I had found all sorts of goods that people had created and were willing to share with me for no apparent gain. Entire communities had sprung up with shelves of these creations, and people I met “handed” them to me with little prompting. The non-market economy that had created the encyclopedic entries on Wikipedia had applications in entertainment and beyond.

Jerry Steinberg, founder of the social group for which I serve as spokesperson, posted on the blog and wrote an article. It was compiled from the experiences people had sent him; he had gained their information and they had gained a place to vent. An editor and author read the articles and made useful suggestions. My husband helped me to record a podcast and posted relevant articles on the blog.

A founder of a collaborative blog wrote an interesting response – she disagreed with my premise. Without hesitation, I included it on the site – it helped to show that not everyone without children agreed with us, and helped prevent the stereotypes which might derive – as resenting parents or children- from attaching to the childless generally. I also wrote a response to her, one which forced me to temper my own stance on the issues. The empathic argument had done more than create appeal – it enabled me to rethink and revise my position to one perhaps more palatable.

Lastly, I received an email from the creator of the podcast – one I had been listening to for a while. She had heard of me through my television appearances and news blog (which she had long since referred to and linked) and was happy to dedicate two weekly shows to the issue in exchange for my agreeing to be interviewed on it. It turns out, she had been planning to ask for a while, but never got around to it.

Not only did I get a thoughtful podcast on the subject (and another coming up) but now I had a wider audience for my project. Her listeners were directed to the project site. The author of the opposition piece posted it on her collaborative blog, driving her many readers my way as well. Traffic began to rise, and people began adding comments to the blogs. Many of these comments added perspectives I had not considered – those of blue collar or part-time workers, those “in the closet” about their choice not to procreate. I added quotes to the website from these comments, and revised it yet again, now seeing the issue from a wider array of perspectives.

At last was the time to present my position to my classmates. I had the impression from previous presentations that I had chosen a more contentious issue than most. I saw the challenge of presenting a less favored viewpoint as intriguing, and although I am still not sure whether it was a good idea, it was certainly one that forced me to stay on my toes. The class’ reaction confirmed that I would have to step lightly so as not to offend, but it also brought about another realization – the lens of childfree issues was not the best to bring about changes in employee benefits.

I was able to realize the real purpose of the benefits advocacy – to help focus a disorganized and little-known interest group on presenting their perspective on issues that affect them. Once I accepted that this was the real purpose of my project, I once again focused on the blog and its continuing mission – created a gateway page which put both aspects on equal footing and concentrated on this mission.

Lastly, I added contributors to post directly to the blog. Their posts on related issues have helped establish its continuing mission, and serve as a wider array of content to draw future visitors. Their posts also helped make one thing quite clear: this venture has just begun.