There is a new generation of "meme slingers" out there - people who are using their design and social media skills to lift up the activists and social movements that are giving hope to our time. Often we don't hear about these storytellers, but they are responsible so much of the hopeful stories we see in our social media feeds and they too have stories and valuable reflections to share. So, we're starting a "Meme Slinger Profile" series - to go behind the scenes and meet the meme slingers. This is the inaugural interview: meet Lindsay Hughes, an incredible storyteller from Montreal, Quebec!
Where are you from and where do you and your laptop call home?
I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. I still call this incredible city home.
What is it about the promise of social media and storytelling that excites you? What’s your greatest hope when you approach this work? Why bother?
Social media has a unique ability to introduce new ideas to people. The rapid spreading of articles, memes, art, and other audiovisual pieces lend these networks the power of mass access -- and, relatedly, social media is also an incredibly potent catalyst for organizing. In terms of stories, specifically -- over the years, I have had the opportunity to hear some remarkably inspiring people speak about their experiences. When Crystal Lameman from Beaver Lake Cree Nation talks about her children, or when Cindy Spoon spoke last October in Montreal about being a part of the tree-sits with the Texas Tar Sands Blockade, their messages come across in ways simple facts cannot hope to imitate. Their stories, and many others, stay with me. Really, much of the motivation behind my work -- and, I think, the power of social media more generally -- is to give voice and space to these stories and hope that it propels others to take action in their own communities. It’s no longer a viable option to sit back and pretend we won't all be affected by environmental issues currently being fought tooth and nail by those on the front lines. These are stories that have to be told. I feel I have a moral obligation as a human being to be involved.
What’s your greatest fear when it comes to the world of online organizing?
There’s this idea that activists were once defined by their causes and now are defined by their tools. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that statement. There still has to be something that resonates at a deeply personal level for people to fight for their beliefs. Personal connections -- the feeling that we are directly affected, or that our close friends are at our sides -- continue to play a huge role in activist involvement. Still, in an era where we’re essentially more connected than ever, we run the risk of becoming more disengaged and detached from those around us. Of course social media can be crucially instrumental in raising awareness, distributing information, and organizing actions -- but in my opinion, change still requires mobilization and cannot be done exclusively online. The fact is, social media doesn’t require people to get involved in a significant way, and ultimately asks for little more than a ‘like,' ‘share,’ or virtual signature. There are certain fights that can only be won by taking a concerted stand..or sit-in, for that matter. That said, online organizing has a powerful ability to bolster support, and can provide those involved (or looking to be) with encouragement to continue -- a key element for sustainable social activism. As long as real action is not replaced with reaction, hopefully social media will continue to support social activist goals.
What’s a favorite recent campaign you worked on, and how did memes, social media, and/or storytelling play a powerful role?
I worked on Powershift Atlantic in Halifax, just over a month ago. The Energy East project was one of the main focuses, as the proposed pipeline is set to be one of the largest in the world -- spanning just over twice the length of KeystoneXL. It was exhilarating to see so many people congregate from across six provinces to make sure that doesn’t happen. I had created a number of pieces leading up to the convergence; though in this case I was mostly tasked with graphic design (such as creating the programme), I also converted the information into online-friendly infographics and visuals. I was then asked to be a part of the storytelling team -- and being able to document the weekend as it was happening was really exciting. There were countless moments worth capturing over the course of three days. But, I think what storytelling really does in general is provide a collective voice. I, and others, helped frame a cohesive narrative that we were all a part of that weekend. The desire to pass that narrative on comes not only from the collective pride of what we'd accomplished, but of our passion to strengthen the movement.
What are a few of your favorite meme-slinging tools and do you use any auxiliary social media tools? Any special charms you keep nearby?
Apart from my camera, I build images almost exclusively using Adobe Suites. It allows me to create visuals really easily with every editing feature I could possibly need right at hand. I don’t know if I have a particular charm, although I consider myself extremely lucky because of the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from along the way. My partner, my friends and my family are what make me feel supported and allow me to do this work to the best of my ability.
What kind of projects/campaigns are you looking to support? Can you give support from afar as well as on-site?
My focus thus far has been on social and environmental justice issues, particularly climate justice. Every other issue stems from the fact that we have a planet on which to fight -- so fighting for a healthy environment tends to be my central concern. I think I’d be happiest continuing in that vein, helping in whatever -- and wherever -- I am most needed. Most of the projects I’ve been involved with allow me to work as a satellite operation. I enjoy being on site for certain things, such as Powershift, as it’s easier to get a sense of the community and the type of energy I should translate into the work. Personally speaking, I prefer to be around that energy whenever possible. When the National Energy Board hearings on Line9B were happening in Montreal last October, I felt it was vital to be present, not only as an observer but as a participant in the action taking place. I felt it was important to bring attention to the suffocatingly strict observances which excluded a lot of voices that would inevitably be affected by the decision. I love what I do, in both content and process, so it doesn’t actually feel like work most of the time!
What are some things you get up to when you’re not busy meme-slinging?
Recently, I’ve been working on graphic design focused projects for various campaigns and events, as well as creating other types of visual communications based materials. Though, when I’m not glued to my trusty computer, I can usually be found outside running, at the climbing gym, or sharing a beer or two with friends.
How can folks find you via facebook, twitter, instagram, your website, etc?