Friday, November 20, 2009

IC and Development

Can't say any of this week's readings filled me with the Spirit. In fact, if the writers had been preaching at an IC revival, I'm reasonably confident I'd have stayed planted on the bench. Melkote's was the most interesting, although I was already familiar with a lot of what he covered. The section on participatory interventions I really liked, because I haven't read anything about them and didn't know much beyond what I picked up from TW's presentation on Tuesday. The idea of using communication strategies to challenge power relationships really resonated with me, as did the idea of people developing methods of consciousness, collectively forming knowledge, and transferring this into social action. It reminded me of our readings from a few weeks ago -- Bennett, Castells, Juris, etc. -- and, oddly, of some research I'd done as an undergraduate Spanish major.

Some of you may be familiar with the controversy surrounding Rigoberta Menchu Tum, but I'll summarize here: Essentially, she's a Quiche indígena from Guatemala, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy on behalf of native Indians (meaning indigenous Americans, not Indians). Part of her outreach included an autobiography, which contained a large chunk of information--much related to abuses by the Guatemalan military--that was later proved to be inaccurate or false. The controversy around this revelation relates to concepts of absolute truths and narrative development and the question of whether Menchu could still be considered trustworthy and whether the text was deliberately misleading and on and on. I won't bore you with the details, but there have been a lot of interesting texts written about it.

Menchu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 -- before the Internet had become the interactive forum it has today, and it occurred to me that existing ICTs are much better adapted at (a) wide-scale disinformation and (b) advocacy, and I wondered how her story would have played out if the timeline had been shifted back a few years. Certainly her book would have been debunked much more quickly, and possibly before it had the opportunity to exert the positive influence with which it's been credited. Would it have mobilized a supportive online community? Or would the most passionate activists have been on the wrong side of a digital divide?

I think the real reason it stood out for me is that her story involves the all the aspects Melkote talks about when describing participatory action: In terms of consciousness, it's right there in the original title of her autobiography, which translates as My name is Rigoberta Menchu, and this is how my conscience was born. As for collective, democratic knowledge building, it's a main theme in the book, and relates to the controversy, as her supporters note that she empowers the community by creating a collective, public voice instead of simply reproducing her own personal story. And social action (also described in the text) is what she won the Nobel for. It's the story of an oppressed, and later empowered, community, which (as we all know by now) is an endless source of fascination for me.

As for the other writings, to some extent, the whole entertainment education field seems a little overly deterministic to me. I do believe that exposure to values and ideas can influence opinions and actions, but I don't think everybody who watches Fight Club starts stealing fat from liposuction clinics and bombing corporate buildings. Or that everybody that watches sexually responsible television actors will aspire to emulate them. But that's a fairly extreme oversimplification of EE research, and cranky as I am today, I still know it's an unfair description. Let's just say I think it's an interesting topic and I look forward to learning a little more about it, but none of this week's readings have got me singing in the choir just yet.

1 comment:

  1. Laura,
    When I started reading this weeks readings, I felt the same as you when you concluded your blog- the topic is interesting and I would like to learn more about it, but I wasn't singing to the choir either. As I was reading,however, my thought process significantly evolved. Melkote provided a good overview of everything covered for this particular week, but it wasn't until I read Dutta that I became completely transfixed with this topic. Being an idealist/optimist, I felt myself being more critical and cynical of entertainment-education programs/campaigns because the people these programs are supposed to help are still left without agency or a voice that is being heard. I would love to hear what you thought of the Dutta article.