The most difficult challenge I’ve encountered so far with Rising Voices hasn’t been training new communities with little online experience how to effectively use new media tools like blogs, podcasts and video- and photo-sharing sites. Nope … that has turned out to be surprisingly easy. In fact, many of the Rising Voices participants like Taslima Akter and Cristina Quisbert – who hadn’t even heard of a blog a year ago – are now better at editing and producing video than I am. (This despite the slow computers and slower internet connections they must endure.)
The most difficult challenge has been getting people to pay attention to the great content they’ve been producing. As Ethan wrote a few months ago:
Encountering new ideas isn’t a supply problem in today’s internet – it’s a demand problem. There’s a near infinity of people unlike you creating content and putting it online for you to encounter. But it’s entirely possible that you’ll never encounter it if you don’t actively look for it… or unless the systems you use to find ideas start forcing you outside your usual orbits into new territories. Don’t fear the serendipity.
And as I commented on a thoughtful post by Amy Gahran about breaking through the echo chamber:
I feel like we’ve reached a hybrid stage of overcoming homophily, which is intellectualizing it. Lots and lots of people link to and agree with Ethan’s astute thoughts about how citizen media can help us make meaningful connections with those outside of our geography/class/ethnicity. But far [less frequently] do I see people clicking through the links on Global Voices and actually making those connections. I hope it’s just a matter of time; that we do all feel like we’re in the same village and that we’re just waiting to feel comfortable enough to walk over and say hello.
Everyone I know – both friends and enemies – think that Global Voices and Rising Voices are important ideas and important institutions. When we gather over dinner or at fancy conferences and debate the good and the bad of the internet, Global Voices is always brought up as an example of the former. But Global Voices is meant to be more than an example. It’s meant to be a place where you can get to know someone on the other side of the world, understand more about their life and their ways of living, and actually start conversing.
To encourage more people to read the great posts by new bloggers who have been trained in Rising Voices workshops, I have started a bi-weekly newsletter that features four to five selected posts from the over 250 Rising Voices participants. For each post I give my own little introduction to help give some context and to help “make an introduction.” The first batch of featured posts is copied below. I know that each of the bloggers would be really thrilled if you visited their blogs and left a comment – even if it’s just a comment of encouragement. If you’d like to receive the newsletter in your email inbox, you can subscribe on the Rising Voices About page. Now, here are four introductions to four very interesting people from Bangladesh, Colombia, Madagascar, and Bolivia:
First let’s start in the village of Digrirchor, right along the India-Bangladeshi border. Bipa describes a shrine of the Muslim saint Hazrat Shah Kamal Awlia which is located just over the Indian border, but worshipped by both Bangladeshis and Indians. The local elephants also seem to hold the shrine in high regard. Make sure to watch the video of the shrine at the end of the post which Bipa shot and produced with Tarun Falia. It looks like a beautiful and peaceful location.
Next we head to San Javier La Loma, a small hillside community on the outskirts of Medellín, Colombia. HiperBarrio participant Dnabier Sady (“Xady”) describes the horrible ordeal his mother and family suffered when Colombian doctors failed to detect her cancer. Juliana Rincón, one of the HiperBarrio project leaders, has translated Xady’s post into English. I was lucky enough to meet Xady’s mother, Margarita, while I was in Colombia and I can assure you that she is both an incredible woman and a talented cook. You can see a photo of Xady playing piano with his mother, Margarita, and father here.
Welcome to Madagascar! FOKO participant Karenichia still mostly blogs in Malagasy, the native language of Madagascar. But she has also been publishing a few posts in English such as this one, which describes a universal irony between parents and their children. Parents forbid their children from having any fun so the children rebel by doing exactly what their parents were most worried about.
And finally we end near the border of Peru with Bolivia. In addition to her fantastic blog in Spanish, Cristina Quisbert has also started blogging in English. In this post she describes her trip to Pomota on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, where she was shown a staircase, which according to legend, leads to an ancient city underneath the lake.