My Bubble, My Space, My Voice workshop - Perspective and future

Posted by Samuel Tettner at Nov 18, 2010 11:50 AM |
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The second workshop for the “Digital Natives with a Cause?” research project named “My Bubble, My Space, My Voice” took place at the Link Center of Wits University, in Johannesburg, South Africa from 6 November 2010 to 9 November 2010. Samuel Tettner, Digital Natives Co-cordinator shares his perspective on the workshop.

The workshop was organized by the Center for Internet and Society, Bangalore in partnership with Hivos, Netherlands and put together with indispensable help from The African Commons Project

. The workshop saw the coming together of 21 people, in the age bracket of 20 to 35, from eight African countries, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Morocco, Egypt and Kenya.

 

They came in answer to a call; they came because they all felt they were represented in some way or manner by one term whose simple nature hides a myriad of socio-cultural nuances: Digital Native. They came thinking these nuances were going to be explained to them, and they were wrong. The spirit of the workshop can be summarized in one moment, where one Kenyan participant Simeon Oriko commented after a bar camp session: “I have more questions than I came in with!” Some of these questions were: "Who is a Digital Native?" "What is a cause" " What is the difference between information and knowledge" "How can a globalized world account for questions of indigenous cultural productions" " What are the necessary skills to use the internet" " How can the effects of an online campaign be assessed" and "is the information age a revolution"? 

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They, who at first so adamantly claimed to be digital natives, found themselves question their assumptions and the labels assigned to them externally. Through a series of informal and unconference style engagements, participants were able to reflect on their ideology and practice. These engagements were facilitated by a team of more experienced practitioners, Marlon Parker, Shafika Isaacs and Adam Haupt, who offered their insight and perspective to elicit relevant ideas and conversations.

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The conversations centered around inquires on three focus areas: practice, politics and ideology. Through the practice of Marlon at Rlabs we learned about the key role of “champions”, or people who have a vested interest in the organization and are instrumental in crafting progress. Marlon also facilitated a group activity in which participants broke into small sub-groups and had discussions around five process-related keywords: Mobilization, Representation, Awareness, Campaign, and Network Building.

We discussed politics with Adam Haupt who made us aware that the use of technology for social change is not a practice which originates in the information age, as exemplified by South African hip-hop artists who utilized mix tapes to spread socially conscious messages. Adam's presentations inspired participants to think of words that described their perspective and then break into groups, in an activity called "birds of a feather". In these groups, participants were able to discuss back and for about common ideas and identify differences in practice.

 

Lastly, we discussed ideology and the power of having strongly strucutred convictions, dreams and ideals with Shafika Isaacs who invited us to frame our journey with technology in our respective projects through a 2-2 Matrix: Dream, Design, Discover and Destiny. James Mlambo, one of the participants from Zimbabwe, has written an inclusive account of the day to day events here.

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Post the workshop, participants have started pouring their perspectives, stories and anecdotes on the website. At the time of this writing, they have already started pouring all this new knowledge onto the website: congealing new perspectives derived not only from their own practice but also form shared lessons, within this workshop and as connected with the Asian workshop which took place in Taiwan. Some of these new perspectives will help us to better understand many questions about digital natives, many others will provide insight into the knowledge gaps identified by Sunil Abraham and Nishant Shah.

If I have learned something from my experience with the Digital Natives project so far is that the idea that young people who utilize technology are doing so for self-gratifying reasons, are selfish and immature, and are disengaged from the political context is not simplistic but plain wrong. At least some considerable portion is motivated  and engaged with their respective social and political context. Through their practice they are challenging previously established conceptions and are creating their own definitions of engagement. I now see it as crucial to the future of our information society to listen to these people and provide them with the necessary platforms and support so that they can have the positive impact they so want to achieve and strive for.

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Proceedings from the workshop are available online

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Samuel Tettner

The child of Jewish Romanian immigrant and Italian-Venezuelan parents, Samuel has always had an eclectic identity and personality. At age 15, he emigrated to the United States and went on to study public policy with a concentration on philosophy, science & technology. Since January 2010, Samuel resides in India, where he co-coordinates the Digital Natives with a Cause? project. His interests include information and innovation systems, technology-enabled education, knowledge networks, and all that is open-source, collaborative and dynamic.