Workshops and classes

Here are some workshops and classes we’ve taught in the past, at universities and grassroots organizations. Pete has been a guest lecturer at dozens of universities, including Antioch College, UMass Amherst, Harvard, MIT, UPenn Annenberg, San Joaquin Delta College, IIT in Delhi, Goldsmiths in London, University of Hyderabad, Central European University.  He’s even given a lecture in the best spanish he could manage at the Universidad Pontifica Bolivariana, in Bucaramanga, Colombia.



Law Breakers to Law Makers:  How Pirate Radio Activists Changed the Laws To Open Up The Airwaves

In the late ’90s, a movement emerged of over a thousand pirate broadcasters around the USA. Through civil disobedience, they fought against the corporate ownership of the main media outlets. The pirates won a limited legalization in rural areas in 2000, and now urban areas are slated to receive over a thousand new community radio licenses starting this October. Hundreds of rural radio stations are now in the hands of farm workers as well as civil rights, environmental, and neighborhood organizations–and soon there will be many more in the cities.  But will this victory in 2013 be the solution to 1998’s problem of the corporatization of radio? Revolution, technology, reform, media… what does the low power FM struggle tell us about social change through political and technological action?

A Radio Voice for the Voiceless, Around the World

A slideshow of radio stations and trainings with groups in Nepal, Colombia, Jordan, Tunisia, Eqypt, Nicaragua, Honduras, and others. Radio’s heyday of influence in the US was in the 1930s and ’40s with a long, slow decline ever since. However, in much of the world, radio remains the most powerful medium and will remain that way for the near future.

Radio Barnraisings: How We Gather A Community To Build A New Radio Station in Three Days

This workshop focuses on our method for building a radio station in three days with the help of an entire community.  Drawing from the Amish rural tradition, radio barnraisings combine work, skill sharing, political spectacle and celebration to make a dramatic change in the empowerment of a community.

The Politics of Expertise and the FCC Rule-making Process: Can Democracy Survive Science? 

We would like to think that science and technology can help promote our best ideals of democracy and egalitarianism. The history of science and technology have a more problematic side, though:  As technology becomes more and more complex, can the average citizen really understand our manufactured environment well enough to have a competently informed opinion about it? Must decisions about more and more aspects of our lives pass into the hands of experts? Using the regulatory process around Low Power Radio as an example, we’ll look at how science and technology are governed now and what might we do to improve the interface between science, technology, and democracy.

The Low Power Radio Act: How We Slogged Our Way Through Congress to Change the Law Of Radio

In 2000, after a two-year campaign, we got the FCC  to change their regulations and allow low power radio in the USA.  However, the broadcasters’ lobby fought back and, nine months later, passed a bill that took away the FCC’s authority to give out radio stations in most communities. After a ten-year struggle in Congress, we finally got the broadcasters’ law repealed. This session is a case study of the campaign: where we succeeded, what we tried that didn’t work, and why it took so long.  The session will hold lessons for those who want to change policy on other issues and will focus on the best strategies for activists as they choose their battles in Washington.

Community Radio’s Greatest Hits: Some Examples Of My Favorite Radio Stations and Why They Make A Difference

This workshop introduces some of the communities we have worked with over the years and why we think community radio is worth all the trouble! We’ll look at the first civil rights organization to have a radio station, located in Opelousas Lousiana; the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida; Thin Air Radio in Spokane; and a bunch of others.

Has The Internet Changed Everything? Why We Will Still Be Listening to FM Radio Long After The Experts Forecast Its Death

Radio has been declared dead several times before–first, when TV began in the early ’50s. But even now, in 2013, when the futurologists said that we were all supposed to be flying around in jet cars and have robots do all of our dishes for us, 92% of Americans listen to this now-ancient technology every week.  Why does FM remain so important even as other industries collapse and transform around it?  What will be its role over the next ten years?

Popular Education And Technology: How We Work To Demystify Technology

Why is it that engineers and scientists have such a hard time explaining what they do to the public? What can be done to share your love of science with people who aren’t geeks? As a person who loves science, but for whom it is not easy, Pete has a foot in each world. He will share what he has learned over the years about teaching technical skills to people with technophobia, distilling the most important information for people to understand, and making scientific subjects as interesting as possible to general audiences.

Demonstrations That Don’t Suck: How A Small Number of People Can Intervene and Change the Conversation

There is nothing more boring than a bunch of people walking around in circles and shouting at buildings.  Organizers wonder why it is so hard to turn people out for issues that are so important to all of our future. But really- what could be more boring than your average protest rally?

We’ll describe 4 or 5 of our coolest political interventions over the years- actions that succeeded in changing the conversation and pushing our agenda forward. We’ll also do post postmortems on a few where we missed the mark. The talk will include a slideshow and some video of our Meta-Puppet in front of the FCC, our Clear Channel Robot of Doom, our Media Consolidation Cheer-leading Squad, our Hula-Hoop blockade of the National Association of Broadcasters, and Pete’s appearance as Cookie Monster at Occupy Sesame Street.

A Non-Profit In Every Pot: Starting an Activist Organization to do the Thing You Know Needs to be Done!

Pete didn’t really intend to become a non-profit manager, but somehow that’s how he found himself–with a budget to raise and about fifteen staff and interns to keep rolling.  This happens to a lot of people these days. Non-profits keep popping up like popcorn! This workshop will focus on some things that Pete wished he knew before he started.

The Battle Against the General’s Son:  How We Fought To Prevent Media Empires

FCC Chairman Michael Powell wanted to get rid of all of the traditional protections against  media consolidation in the United States.  This is the story of how we used the regulatory process, demonstrations, scholarly study, and a lawsuit to stop further consolidation of media.

Why Would An Anarchist Do Policy Advocacy? The Strategic Role of Media In Social Change

This workshop is an overview of media’s growing role in society and the ways in which electronic media increasingly shapes our knowledge, our decisions, and our values–displacing traditional socializing forces, such as church, school, voluntary associations, and family. The growing power of media has led to the choice on the part of some activists to focus our attention on the somewhat obscure world of media policy in order to recreate media in such a way that social justice movements may have more of a fighting chance.

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