by Dadit Hidayat
“Journalism Professor Young Mie Kim contacted me in search of a community partner for her service-learning course on social media, and the timing could not have been better,” Beth Tryon says. “It was in fall 2011, and we had just finished our CUE pilot year in South Madison, and her faculty objectives fit perfectly to expand it.” Building on the findings of Professor McAlister’s Consumer Science students in the CUE pilot, a social media course could provide another way for students to contribute to the goal of improving economic vitality in South Madison, as the new technology had been discussed as a great way to reach new audiences.
A total of twelve undergraduate students signed up for Journalism 676: Technology for Social Change taught by Professor Kim. They collaborated with the South Metropolitan Planning Council (SMPC) to design and launch a social media campaign that makes salient in the minds of all Madison residents the message that the food culture of South Madison is “young, hip, and truly multicultural.”
The focus on food was originally suggested by John Quinlan from SMPC because one of the strengths of the South Madison community is its globally representative food culture. The various food establishments in South Madison, specifically on South Park Street, provide many opportunities for people to have a unique dining and social experience. “We all feel assured by John and that food is an optimal tool to boost social capital in the South Madison area,” according to Amanda Radowszewski, one of the students in the class. The link to the Slow Food UW work with the Farmers’ Market and the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County also lent a ready-made audience for a cooking contest sponsored by the class.
When conducting this project, among the first steps was to classify the S. Park St. food establishments by their capacity to facilitate bridging and bonding among patrons, an objective in building community capacity around the common interest in eating. The students discovered in the process that a semester was too short to gain a comprehensive understanding of the level and modes of media and technology use in South Madison. However, they are confident that accessibility has always been a key issue in media technology usage, and that South Madison is likely lacking technology resources compared to the greater Madison community.
Thus, SMPC and students agreed that a new communication technology should be promoted to connect people more efficiently, combined with the more creative use of traditional media. The class recommended use of integrated technology such as websites, social networks, texting programs, and other platforms to address the issue. A website the students designed, SavorSouthMadison.com, is the result of the collaborative work. That platform is supported by online social media outlets Facebook, Twitter, Pinterests, and Youtube. This course continued as a Special Topics course in Spring 2012 and is now becoming a permanent part of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication curriculum. ￭