Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Venn amd me

I began considering the confluence of these three, often irreconcilable tracks of problems solving-- political science, software engineering, and linguistics-- each with its own agenda and methods while working as a consultant on international development projects in the US.  Mediating between groups which spoke different languages, who were coming together to improve situations such as humanitarian crises and long-standing conflict, I noticed increasing interjections of technology.  ICT tools were transforming the landscape.  However their deployment was so rapid and so wide-reaching, there seemed to be some dilemma-- and now come the three problem solvers.

Political scientists focused on power (here information = power) and leveraging things to the best advantage.  But who gets to define 'best'?  Engineers concentrated on tangible results.  Linear devotion to the elegant model.  But the irresistible 'universal' quality of models can be deceiving.  And finally while the linguists dug deeper and deeper into our understanding of language and the mind, they didn't seem to be connecting to a broader theme of communication as the development of ICT and its data have been leveraged for conflict management policy.

From these beginnings it seemed there was no overlap.  No space where all these researchers and practitioners had a common set of priorities or even vocabulary to discuss issues like international development and conflict resolution.  The Venn diagram that wouldn't be. With what at the center? An invisible variable, a commonality that seemed essential to the success of each.  Culture.

Culture will be the lens for most of this blog.  In 2007, protests in Burma were broadcast to the world media by some of the first citizen journalists.  From my work with local refugee communities who supported these groups, we discussed what kind of camera could withstand a riot.  This was my first attempt at navigating politics, language, and technology.  My first attempt at manipulating the tech tools to change a political situation where the users' culture and language demanded new strategies.

A youtube still from a solidarity protest.  Me shouting at Buddhist monks with a bullhorn and a giant dog at my side.  A great start to intercultural problem solving.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting and thought provoking! I look forward to future posts. Wondering if the giant dog or the bullhorn made the biggest impact...