A first step into the arena


Welcome to ParaΔigm - my digital laboratory for media experiments.

Okay, so what does that mean? I am currently on a two-year exploration of media and the ways in which design thinking can be used to improve media overall -- everything from media literacy, education, journalism, entertainment ... and the list goes on. It's a huge undertaking that the Stanford d.school is taking on in collaboration with Knight Foundation. I'm fortunate enough to be a part of the five-person team gifted with the challenge. If you are working in media, this is the stuff of dreams -- really.

The reality, however, was that not long after the collaboration started, I got stuck. There were so many directions in which I could go -- so many suggestions, recommendations, inputs, voices -- and that's just what was happening outside of my own head. Inside my head was a jumble of thoughts, all of which were moving faster than my ability to act. I'd let ideas languish and eventually whither and die. The branches of my mental tree would be so laden with fruit they would snap from the trunk. 

I lost momentum, and I eventually stopped moving. I was overstimulated, gorging myself on a banquet of new ideas. I ran the risk of jeopardizing a truly remarkable opportunity. 

So, I created ParaΔigm to, well, shift my paradigm, jumpstart my work and abide by one of the Stanford d.school's core mindsets: "bias towards action". I have, for the last few months, been stuck with the idea that, in order to really get outside of the box, I had to turn away from the tools I work with best: the web, my digital pen and my propensity to share. My writing practice didn't die during this period. In fact, it thrived, but it did so in private. My writing may have thrived behind a veil, but my spirit languished. 

So, rather than veer away from my skill set, I am now choosing to fully embrace it. The best place to start in any design thinking endeavor is with people, but before you go to them, you have to be able to rely on what you can bring to the challenge when they present it to you. So, I am going back to my roots. I am writing and sharing again. I really can't operate otherwise. 

Publishing and sharing is how I act best. It's how I know where I am going. The public eye is a dangerous compass and not wholly reliable. But it is the one I value the most outside of my own internal compass, which is what brought me here. 

Now, a few important points: 

This is about my work, not the entire media experiments team at the d.school. It's my laboratory, if you will -- a place to share what's going on in my own piece of the media experiments work at the d.school. It is an experiment, and I am working on it quickly, as I would any prototype. I'm not taking time to self-edit and finesse. I am in full flare with ParaΔigm, and working to get it to a place where it can begin working for and with me and my future collaborators.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
— Theodore Roosevelt

This is also my digital business card. It can be really difficult to explain what I am trying to do with my media experimentation work in any given moment. The project does not lend itself well to an elevator pitch -- at least not for me. ParaΔigm offers anyone interested a quick overview as well as a deep-dive opportunity, assuming I keep producing content and they keep reading. It is also a space for people I am collaborating with to work with me. 

I am still figuring this out. I know. I read. I write. I edit. I am the editor-in-residence at the d.school. But every writer, no matter how much or how well they edit others, needs an editor to be truly great. ParaΔigm does not have an editor. I am it. Seriously. There's no one else. So, greatness will likely elude me in the strictly editorial sense. There will be typos. There will be errors. There will be issues and problems. I am my own tech support (by choice). But I'll do my best to make what goes wrong right. 

This is going to be very difficult. The topics I am choosing to take on, at least for now -- race, gender inequality, bigotry, discrimination, online harassment -- are thorny topics on their own, to say nothing of their relationship to media. But they are also the problems that I most desperately want to solve. I will write more about this as I dive deeper into my projects. But I went into journalism to change the way minorities and women -- particularly black women -- are seen. This is, obviously, a personal issue, which has its advantages and drawbacks. I lost sight of how much this mattered to me as I went through the first decade of my career. Now, my vision is a bit clearer, and I have the tools to tackle extraordinarily sticky challenges. I can imagine none stickier in media than the aforementioned.

Paradigm shifts are incredible when they happen. FDR's fireside chats inspired one in the American people as it related to their understanding of and relationship to the banking system. So, to borrow from FDR's cousin Teddy, I am getting in the arena. I will more likely than not come short, but at least I will never regret having dared. 


Emi Kolawole

Emi Kolawole earned her B.A. in international relations and theater studies from Wellesley College and studied abroad at both the Panthéon-Sorbonne and the National Theater Institute.  She joined the Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck.org in November, 2005 after working as a news researcher for Congressional Quarterly on issues of defense, foreign policy, intelligence and homeland security. Previously, she was a production assistant at PBS's "NOW With Bill Moyers," and worked in the Washington area office of a defense contractor.

In addition to her work as a staff writer and researcher for FactCheck, Emi was the host, writer and video editor for FactCheck.org's weekly video feature "Just the Facts!"  She is a level 1 certified Final Cut Pro editor and earned her master's degree in producing for film and video at American University. She also led the fact-checking review effort for "UnSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation."

Emi served as the associate producer for "Washington Week with Gwen Ifill & National Journal." In June 2010 she joined the Washington Post as a producer for PostPolitics. She served as the founding editor for Ideas@Innovations (now "Innovations") and co-host for the Post's daily news program "59 Seconds." In 2011, Emi was named a Young Global Shaper by The World Economic Forum. In 2013 she was listed among The Grio 100, was named a French-American Foundation Young Leader and accepted an invitation to become the Editor-in-residence at the d.school at Stanford University. She has served for the past three years at the d.school, most recently as a senior media designer working on the media experiments collaboration between Knight Foundation and the d.school. She is currently the founder of the media and design consultancy Dexign LLC.