(click on your fav gender for more pictures from vangroovy.)
like a jewel in a crown, vancouver sits atop north america's granola coast. this glisting gem hold the sparkle of many a geeks eye - a political party that incorporates FLOSS into it's charter, an organic network of evangelists building an 802.11b mesh network to blanket the city, a drupal/barcamp revolutionary, a computer recycling organization which harvests discarded computers for environmentally friendly recycling and helps homeless people connect to the internet... as if that wasn't enough, vangroovy is home to the worlds most popular citizen journalism news site - nowpublic.com
my friends, that's just the beginning... i wasn't able to meetup with workspace (one of the original coworking locations) nor the countless other drupal nor linux geeks who inhabit canada's most temperate climate. oh and did i forget to mention that vancouver had a very "healthy" merry-jane community? not that i'm into it, but the vangroovyites seem to be proud. combine the fact that the restaurants are delicious, the night life / arts community thriving, there's abundant coffee strong and a growing culture of brew pubs... vangroovy got's a groovy thing going on...
it's not like all of this fell into place. each one of the individuals whom i met spent years working with others to building their ideal city. the city isn't perfect. there's quite a bit of homelessness, drug abuse, displacement of affordable housing and gentrification.
through each of my interviews, everyone paraphrased the same statement "we're here, we're not moving away and we want to make a difference."
simon slater, a fellow traveler from the UK and around america 2.0's cousin, emailed me a bunch of really good questions.
when i taught at Digital Bridge Camp, i had an opportunity to meet fellow vlogger freeman murray. though our frank discussions, we agreed that once on the road it's hard to reflect. if you have any questions, comments, ideas, concepts, feedback or suggestions - i'm always open to new ideas.
if you've been following my twitter feed, i've recently had to respond to some unjust criticism. hopefully, the critical party will allow me to publicly post my response. until then, here are my thoughts to simon's questions.
1. How have you gone about finding agents of social change, and can you describe the outcome of the most notable meeting? Have you discovered any new ideas that can be shared? Have you come across any major environmental breakthroughs?
one question? looks like a three parter to me... :P finding agents of social change has been a bit easier to find than original imagined. i have a fair share of sources that i read (slashdot, globalvoices, other blogs) then i have friends and contacts who've been monitoring different conversations to provided extra input. for example, i was exchanging a few ideas on a facebook "wall-to-wall" when Mary Joyce, chimed in and sent me a list of email address, urls and phone numbers of people whom i should contact in cairo. very helpful and super timely.
the most notable meeting was with stalin k. of drishti media collective and video volunteers. through their work, a few rural villages in india have their own video news magazine. with a majority of the population "uneducated" and "illiterate", drishti and video volunteers helps organize small groups of regional villagers to create citizen video units or CVUs. these citizen video units film, edit, produce their own stories, detailing their solutions to rural problems. every month, the video is presented in regional rural villages and conversations are held discussing the subjects from jungle malaria remedies, farming tips or general news of who's doing what.
in short, the villagers create their own media. as we move from one form of entertainment to another, we too need think about our own citizen video units.
as for major environmental breakthroughs, naw... we're still screwed... i think my major breakthrough came when i went to the local markets in india and cambodia and saw that everyone uses plastic bags and plastic bottles. then when i walked the surrounding streets, i saw the same type of bags littered everywhere. if we really want to clean up our environment and change the way the world works, we need to change the way we think. connivence isn't everything.
2. During events where people from the world of vlogging and blogging come to meet and share ideas, is there a general consensus on a particular direction that the world of SNS is taking us, or are the possibilities endless?
well, it depends on whom you ask. some think it's going to augment or replace the news-reporters of tomorrow. other's think their blog is the end all be all. if you ask me, i'm tired of living in a broadcast world. if video killed the radio star, vlogs killed TV. i see the future of media in outlets like Alive in Baghdad, Video Volunteers, Jetset, The Burg.tv... well that's just to name my friends... these outfits throw debt to the wind and refuse to allow anyone else dictate their "feed"... somewhere between networked journalism and citizen journalism is the future. (see jay rosen & jeff javius for more fun)
in reality, the possibilities are endless. one has to think of the internet and the devices that connect to the network it as tools. these tools, like hammers and shovels, can be used to build or destroy anything. from complete virtual worlds to a simple connection between two people, i don't see these "things" as just tools but pathways connecting emotions. regardless of where emotions happen, they are real. the other reality is that this world can easily be flipped and everything we do can be monitor, tracked and controlled. chris messina wrote an interesting piece on "big sister" but until that day, we still have agents of power "reforming" long lasting liberties into shadows of their former self. just take a look at the past three issues of the economist where they detailed the erosion of civil liberties within britain and the united states.
wether it's a hammer, shovel or iphone, i prefer to see tools build society not destroy it. then again, anything is possible... we could be nursing a life force that will kill us one day by building the next atom bomb. as of today, science fiction has turned out to be fairly real. who knows what's next?!?!
3. Your trip aims to inform and inspire ideas among its viewers. Considering the high number of young people taking gap years before and after higher education, in what other ways do you think people can follow your example without necessarily repeating your idea? Did you have any other plans formulated before embarking on 'luck of seven'?
actually, i started this trip to educate my parents on the work that i've done. it's since then, i've found my own inspiration within the voices of everyone whom i've met. i think that the "gameboy" or "myspace" or "facebook" generation needs to see how their goods are produced... it doesn't really matter what you consume, there needs to be some type of physical connection to the items we consume from cold air conditioned shelfs.
first, i know that i'm really lucky to have the fortunate to make this voyage. as every day passes, i think about how we can change our lives to help others and make this mess a bit tidier. internal and external exploration is the key. i see the world a bit more conservative than i first thought, but also very friendly. you don't have to have a penny to be nice. dream frequently and follow your passion. if we only have one life, make sure it counts for something. if we have more than one, let them build on top of each other... last time i checked, there is only one earth but a several billion people on it... question everything, explore what you can and try to understand the rest.
did i have any plans other plans? yes, but being the first lawyer on mars really doesn't seem to be appealing.
4. Could you explain what you mean when you say there is an 'art' to discovering, for example, someones facebook page?
yes and no. when i talk about discovering people i talk about two things - a physical meeting and an online meeting. as there are tricks to meeting people, there are tricks in meeting people online.
a physical meeting is the hardest. one has to be inquisitive and highly adventurous to ask the right questions that lead to a common bond to build a platform for further conversation. regardless of gender, it is a simple pickup line. with native english speakers it's easier. with ESL (english second language) it becomes harder but ten times more rewarding. i say it's an art because like art it is hard to find the beauty within everyone. i know everyone has something worth admiring.
as for meeting people online, most people place a good deal of personal information into their profile, and therefore it's easy to "profile" people. more importantly, it's easy to find people with similar interest. when it comes down to couchsurfing, there is a great deal of trust between two parties. therefore it's important to look at someone's profile details and see if they share similar interests (photos, interests, groups, books, movies, etc). it sounds easier than reality. sometimes i'm right, sometimes i'm wrong. most of the time, i'm right about a few things and wrong about others. in the end it comes down to the adventure.
also, i can't help to think that it helps looking like broad brutish male. when i seek adventure, i feel safe knowing many people won't give me flack. when i talk to female friends about their adventures, there always seems to be a question of physcial security that never comes to mind when i travel. then again, huixian he, a petite female friend in pheom phen, has traveled a good deal of asia by herself. sure she's had a few bad experiences, but she's always has her running shoes.
in the end, looking like a sucker will always get you into trouble. having a positive outlook and being ready for anything is the best way to take on the world. it takes a great deal to escape your comfort zone, but meeting the world is well worth it. i'd like to think that there are more of "us" than "them."
5. Will you be seeking a platform for greater recognition of potentially important ideas that you have gathered once you have returned? Will this branch out to other media and if so how?
yes and no. besides my blog, vlog and photos - i'm writing a children's book, seven lessons learned from the seven continents. maybe an adult piece detailing the intimate parts of my insanity. without a doubt, i will make a documentary film of this journey. when on the road you have a great deal of time to think. i think these ideas and the solutions to these ideas are worth their weight in gold.
in the end, i'd like to think that i'm a simple man, but my girlfriends will tell you otherwise. i see many wrongs that need to be corrected. i also see many complex problems that have simple solutions. where i go after this is unknown. while i would love to have greater recognition of the ideas, these are complex ideas with simple solutions mired in selflessness. i still have a much to learn about the seven issues i have selected, the world that embody them and the best way to discover solutions to our problems.
6. And finally, if Jack Karouac was the inspiration of the term 'beat generation', does this new couch surfing movement have a name?
man that's heavy. if you look at history, you'll always find travelers and 'beatniks.' i'd like to think we are more than 'surfers'. every statistic says we (the global digital middle class) are driving quickly into a world where we refuse to accept broadcast solutions. (i need to find sources, but i know they exist! until then i will just refer to the ecology of free culture solutions that i am exploring on this journey.)
"starfish and the spider" is a simple book that illustrates examples of centralized and decentralized networks. if you look at decentralized networks, you see a starfish. if a starfish is cut in half, it will regenerate the other half. if you look at centralized networks you see a web. if you cut a spider or a web in half, you destroy the network.
as the old New Yorker cartoon illustrates "no one knows your a dog on the internet." i now see generations spanning the technological divide. as our ideas grow, replicate and get remixed, i see us in an androgynous world. frankly, regardless of time zone, age, gender, race, income and nationality we are making a starfish generation.
This is a 21st century journey to the intersection of digital and organic communities. Communicating through a digital medium that has no borders, I want to share with you how this new world interacts.
Free culture. After a half-century of broadcast communications dictating the common perspective, people are now reconnecting—one-on-one, peer-to-peer, node-to-node—and proving that traditional copyright and patent restrictions need to be reformed to promote creativity.
Free and open-source software. Software should be a tool, like a shovel. With zero distribution cost, global, boundless open-source communities are competing in a world of co-opetition.
Couchsurfers and bloggers. People—from those who blog their souls to those who reserve their couch for strangers—are using technology to augment real-world relationships and bring modernism back to our post-modern world.
Barcamps, unconferences, meetups, and coworking. The online digi-world uses physical ad-hoc meetings to socialize, share, and advance ideas.
Agents of progressive social change. Inventors and concept peddlers—though not always leaders—change the way we think about the world through technology.
The environment. When we outsource jobs, we outsource pollution, waste, and other negative impacts of consumerism; we need to continue to use technology to educate the public on the true footprint of the products we use and lifestyles we choose.
Happenstance. Receiving a random e-mail, discovering a flickr profile, stumble-surfing across a facebook page, connecting in a café—the world grows smaller with every person we meet, and there is an art to discovering their stories.”
photo by charles hope
the notion of a green war or a green army is foreign from today's depleted uranium tipped armaments and HUMMVEE's trolling the land scape, but the notion shouldn't be to far than the general nature of napoleon's art of war. granted we are still talking about the art of death, but as "developed nations" (quotes of irony) move to make force deployments nibbler, there should be investment in technologies that save resources. when you save deployment resources you save lives.
just think of all the money that's been used to develop new war capabilities. from tang, the space program to the internet, these are all residuals of a modern war machine. if the general premise is peace, and war is an actual last resort. then, eventually we should develop technologies to decrease casualties... i really don't think you can argue with the concepts of green jet fuel; lighter yet more durable materials to withstand impact, and hybrid heavy trucks. it is time we think different and start to reinvent every element of our society to be more green.
once we start, then i think we just might be living up to the title of a "developed nation."
articles of note...
- british aerospace goes green - bbc or grist
- us army's sustainability project
- new yorker article profile on amory lovins (sadly, i can only seem to dig up daily green's blog post.)
- amory lovins & rocky mountain institute
yesterday, while my friend assisted in editing my first post, she kept asking me why are people going to care? from her point of view, everyone travels and writes about their journey. why would anyone care about this trip? after thinking about it, she is right i need to detail my rational for topics i will be covering...
the seven topics of freedom
- free culture - originally a book by lawrence lessig. free culture is now a movement to break through the walled gardens of our minds and share information. if you scroll down to the footer, you'll see that this site is under creative commons. what does that mean? just like you have shared information with me, you can take this content and share it. as long as you don't make a profit; you are free to use this work. wikipedia on free culture.
- free and open-source software (F/OSS) - there are many examples F/OSS, firefox, open office, wordpress, and drupal, just to name a few. (more on wikipedia) sadly there are only a handful of profiles and conversations of their products outside of their respective communities. as we will see, the agents of open-source software are diverse, eclectic, and highly lovable.
- couchsurfers and bloggers - imagine opening up your house and letting a complete stranger sleep on your couch? believe it or not, there is a social network dedicated to couchsurfing. as an avid supporter of couchsurfing and people who share their life online, i am looking forward to the network of connections and a wealth of stories.
- agents of progressive social change - if global agents of change are as unusual as my friends, their stories will be pure insanity. here's to the crazy ones!
- barcamp & coworking - are two mimes espouse physical conversations organized through the internet. barcamp is a grassroots technology unconference where attendants are presenters and presenters are attendants. ironically, there is a workplace equivalent, coworking. coworking is a grassroots organized office with café culture. both mimes have demonstrated unbelievable levels of free thinking.
- happenstance - happenstance is the art of random interaction. i bet you are thinking it is not possible to focus on happenstance. if you do not believe it, i will free your mind.
- our environment - nature's beauty is quickly being consumed. i will spotlight locations and the people who are protecting them. my focus will be on the destruction we don't see on the evening news.
as you can see this project is about many things. many of these things i can no tolerate languishing on the back burner. if life is a fickle flame, i must let it burn brightly. last year at this time, i was stuck in a serious rutt. frequently, on my journeys, i quoted former fellow gemini henry kissinger, "there comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure."
for the past few months, i've been hung up on the fact we are losing every element of our freedom. the world i knew as a child is not the same; the world i knew ten years a go is not the same. as the years move on and information becomes entertainment, we are enveloping ourselves in a world devoid of freedom. from nature and property, to rights and intellectual property, i see our lives slipping into an abyss devoid of alternatives.
I've been sitting on my inaugural post for too long. It's been over a year since I first conceived of this, and despite all of my work on paper, I still can't think of an opening. Time and time again, I mention the same words over and over... seven, seven, seven...