Hey Doc, when’s the next time I’m gonna see you? Thursday after Thanksgiving? Sorry I had to cancel last week, was busy DEFENDING THE PARK against the paramilitary organization that is the NYPD.
Anyway I’m having a BITCH of a time sleeping. Occupy Wall Street and the police-state plutocracy…
Any shrink who doesn’t respond to this is a shrink to dump. My darling (7 year!!) lifesaver was up for bad behavior (this was in the late 70’s- early 80’s) of course before email, Facebook, Tumblr..etc.) But she could appreciate phone messages like “Sorry, it was my birthday and I was shitfaced..” etc. (PS she also would interrupt therapy sessions to inform me of special sales at various thrift and resale shops in Manhattan. She knew that vintage retail therapy was better than medication for the young poor boho girl.) I miss her.
So I just spent three extremely intensive weeks co-facilitating a course on social media for social change. Yup, helping do-gooding meddlers improve their communications strategies so that they can reach your mind, your heart and your wallet through the internet as well as traditional media. Empowerment, behavior change and social justice driven by the interwebs- you’re excited, neh?
That was the point of the course actually: to help the participants become social media stewards* for their organizations and then draft up as comprehensive a strategy as they could using free socmed platforms to enhance their work. That part went better than expected, but several of the participants raised a very relevant question that is still bothering me. What’s the point when hardly anyone has access to the internet in the first place? We’re talking developing SSA countries here, hardly connected to themselves let alone the internet.
Made me toss and turn, that. Inappropriate technology? Was this course just jumping on yet another NGO world trend (socmed is SO HOT right now)? It’s not like Tweeting will guarantee safe childbirth, or better pastoralist-agriculturalist relations. However, isn’t that a bit like asking television to solve world hunger? A little perspective here: social media are just a communications tool like any other, enhanced by the fact that “target audiences” are not passive consumers of your grand ideas, they are active partners in a conversation and potential allies in action.
Here’s the thing though: social media is riding in nicely on the wave of technology. Due to technology leapfrogging and our increasing prosperity in the next five to ten years there’s going to be a lot more 3G phones, WiFi spots and assorted accoutrements in the hands of Africans than the poverty-obsessed would like to admit. It is politic, I think, to start creating the foundations for this form of literacy and world citizenship now lest we create a class of left-behinds out of a questionable desire to be ‘relevant’. Local realities are always in flux, and when an NGO worker starts talking ‘relevance’ it too often means that someone is about to be heavily patronized. I don’t happen to see any problem with discussing equitable access to technology as well as clean water, and reasonable food prices. Simultaneously.
So yes indeed: what’s the point of being a social media pusher in SSA when there’s Al Shabaab and drought and run-away petroleum prices to contend with? Ask me again in ten years, hey. But I’ll give you a hint: Nokia gets it. Google’s found a clue. M-Pesa, Ushahidi, the list grows on. Social media is a wonderfully capacious bandwagon, it’s probably not a bad idea to get as many people on there as possible. Yes, even Africans.
What is the point of teaching people in the Third World how to master important communication techniques before the basic technology arrives to the masses? Uh, …to hit the ground running? Take a look at how India, China and the more developed countries in Africa are in some ways miles ahead of the US in cell phone use (not ownership, use.) I guess there are people who still think social networking is just for teenagers in Beverly Hills….
Not to make this about myself, but speaking as someone who deals with census and health data all the damn time, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is even as a Whitey McPrivilegeson.
I can’t even begin to imagine how insulting it must be to have to categorize yourself.
Back in 1980 I worked for the public university in NYC (CUNY) and pissed off the HR census people by responding to “race” on my employee form as “Celt”. (BTW at that time they had “white”, “Polish” and “Italian” as choices as well.)