Wednesday, May 16, 2012

All I Want Is An iPad: Liberty, Technology, Humanity

A couple of things going on as I try to prepare to attend the Open Forum 2012 as a blogger. First things first, clearly I need to blog :)  Already started a bit of promo-work on Twitter by Tweeting a couple of call-to-action type messages around the themes- Money, Sex and Power- and I am hoping to follow this up with some online sleuthing to get a feel for current and past trends in Bongo.

But somewhere in there I thought: let me check out the reviews of the new iPad in case I get a chance to buy one to enhance my street cred as a socialmedian*. Well, one thing led to another which led to getting stuck in Wired's product review section. It all started with this simple search: technology trends to watch out for in 2012, and ended with a meditative trance on questions of technology affordability and uptake, development, consumerism, science and what it means to be 'human' generally and 'Tanzanian' specifically in our current age. It didn't help that I had a brief stop-over on BBC news where I glanced through a story about an endangered tribe in Amazonia- one of the last Great Unpluggeds- while I was at it.

So I started to think about this lust for shiny Apple products and the delirious gaps between those of us who can afford them and those of us who can barely text and it is doing my head in. Over the course of the next week or so I am going to be posting a mixture of musings and "liveblogging" around the conference. Expect some stream-of-consciousness. Here goes:

1. Belonging in Social Media: questions of access and affordability, education and functionality.
We talk about access all the time- and social media is a very restricted space in Tanzania at the moment. There are several elements that make it so: literacy, which gives you awareness and knowledge and skills to navigate, say, a keypad or a printed ticket, is not what it could be. There's language: we need to translate everything into our lingua franca and that goes beyond mere vocabulary- there is also the physical and psychological language of computing to deal with. So thinking outside the box:  what if we start thinking of basic education in the 21st century as functional computer literacy in addition to reading and writing? 

2. Which means that really, I am obsessing about a revolution in our education systems and philosophies. Now, I am a big believer in self-teaching supported by student-friendly teaching (by which I mean intellectual guidance) mechanisms like tutorials, libraries and public lectures. How incredibly logical, flexible, constructive would it be to have a non-standardized, fluid knowledge system that is calibrated to let individuals explore and fulfill their potentials...possibly at a lower cost than our current public schooling systems? How revolutionary, how empowering, how...right. Wait, what do you mean someone already invented the internet? Jokes aside, the future of education is looking very very different than the current state.

3. And while we are on the topic of collective knowledge: just attended the May meeting of the Dar Bloggers' Circle which is still being convened by the wonderful, efficient and slightly frightening Biche who remembers EVERYTHING you have EVER said in DBC meetings. My ulterior motive: ask the gang what they think of social media for activism in Tanzania- how do we use it, for what purposes and to what ends, etc. Amongst other things, I learned today that there is such a thing as national characteristic in the Twitterverse. Biche, a true East African citizen, regularly surveys the region and gave me a fascinating soundbyte of her findings. Oh, what- you want to know? Come to the next DBC meeting, third Wednesday of June. Karibu. 

4. Sidenote: Dr. Hasan Mshinde, the Director General of Costech, dropped by to say hello because he was so excited to see women- women!- in his building using the ICT hubLadies: we're in high demand here. There are probably people dying to throw money/mentorship/support at you if they could only find you. So step up, she-geek. 

*I wanted to rock up in CT with at least one piece of technology that does not mark me out as a North of the Limpopo Country Cousin... if you know what I mean. Everyone's going to be bringing their toys and I don't want to be the only one stuck with a 10-kilo laptop that's about as hip as a hip replacement. But I will be. Sigh. 

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