it's been 483 days since i left new york city and i find myself in a highly recognizable position - unemployed with commitments of passion. one year ago this week, i was working my way across india. in a weird twist of fate, one year ago i was out of money wondering how i'd make it back to the united states.
now it's time to batten down the hatches and figure out two things - how do i process 53 hours worth of video footage and how do i make a children's book... now is the time to do something interesting... in the meantime, watch this awesome remix.
for those of you wondering if i'm sad about getting deported, i'm not. i'm happy to have my freedom and highlight the plight the media faces covering the olympics. since my return, i've now seen the mainstream media use aliased emails, code words for sensitive topics, and rely on anonymous internet drop boxes for posting timely stories. it's unbelievable that even olympic reporters must use spy-vs-spy tactics to file their stories.
in my video from t^2 not only do you see a protest, but at the tail end i was able to capture the assault of CBC's beijing correspondent. not only was he attacked, but his passport was pick-pocketed.
a shortened version of the events
within the past 24 we're hearing about an ITN reporter "arrested" with another group of Free Tibet protesters (though the chinese don't consider being led away being arrested). John Ray, "a fully accredited China correspondent", was detained for 20 mins and sustained minor injuries. below is the video, and i'm sure this will not be the last western journalist assaulted for covering protests in China.
in the grand scheme of things i've realized that no longer am i working on just a series of integrated topics, but an eco-system of systems and values. before i start tripping over myself in post-calvinesque arguments (i am in geneva till saturday), i'm struggling to iron out the complete landscape that sits beneath (or behind) the past seven months. for now let's call this an re-introduction to the luck of seven.
not only have i decided that i'll parlay the past seven months into a new media experience (children's book, a vlog reboot and movie), but i now understand the seven topics to be the basis of a strategic framework. when i first wrote down the seven topic, i had this notion that i was setting out to document the best of the best of our new world. if there was ever a cataclysm, we could use this framework to rebuild society. now more than ever, i see that this notion is not too far fetched from those ideals, but need to be crystalized into a yummy chocolate bunny for the masses.
first you'll need to understand that this is an eco-system. as established from the Wealth of Networks, this network has revolutionized all methods of production. we are sitting within the new age of mechanization. the highly organized world of central nodes are struggling to keep up with the ever adaptable biological structure called humanity. last year at this time, my brain imploded when i heard ben cerveny give a presentation on metaphors. at last year's LIFT 07, he linked technological metaphors to biological systems. one year later with several more books in my head and thousands of kilometers beneath my feet, i have a hard time seeing metaphors. i see we create networked systems in attempt to mimic the biological systems we are... granted this is a viewpoint from a high vantage point, this is the beginning of it all.
welcome to my / our new world.
as i've tried to explain countless times this is not just a basic networked system but a system of systems of systems upon systems. i know a few people are trying to ground this system in trust, kharma, love, lust, id, etc... and i have yet to discover the core of why people self subscribe to this society. maybe it is the fact that in this age you can be whom ever you want. not in the simple context that we can change our bodies, but in the fact we can adapt our brain to systems that are expressive to our own identities.
wither it's drupal or joomla, or myspace or facebook, we cling to the notion of brands because they are labels of culture we know. as far as i know brands will always exist... brands extrude reputation. how is this central to my argument? well in this world we can create any brand we want. if we know how to have a conversation, phrase an argument and use the digital / social tools; we can build anything we want... the idealist world we dream is at our finger tips.
how do these networks operate in the real space? are online values and systems transferable to the physical world?
the past seven months have not only been a journey around the world, but a journey into the internet. a journey i thought one could ever take. from one email to another, i came to the realization that my conversations things connected me through the internet. they connected me to the medium of the world.
now there are many more questions than i have answers. i can only proclaim what i've seen. i can only tell you what has happened to me and what i've touched with my own two hands...
what i have seen is a system built on the idea that the world is a free place. the world is not to be abused, robbed, raped, or pillaged... granted these things happen but in the end that is not the central activity of the world. there is giving, there is taking. there is a free and open exchange of knowledge. not everyone is willing to give up the same information that someone else has, but in the general context of things, most individuals will offer assistance when asked. sometimes, they'll give more assistance than nesscary.
when connected to an information network, the cost of entry to a global conversation diminishes. yet these acts of selflessness, greed or pride amass an unprecedented amount of knowledge and participation... this is the world we are in now. you can easily find the world's knowledge at the click of a button. wether it is right or wrong is a whole nother question, but it's there.
the more that we toyed with these spaces the more we found out that we can bring these ideas "offline" and into the physical space. egalitarian notions of software was just the beginning. from email to blogs the democratizing of information drove us to the point where we no longer needed someone to tell us how we can participate in the conversation.
if you look at the explosive growth of freelancers (some can be considered outsourcers, or out-sorcerers), you will see nothing more than an the democratizing of work. this work has always existed, this has always been the central tenet of industrialization. yet in the 21st century, this has spread forth across the globe and evolved into a multitude of ideas unheard of several years ago, BUT that doesn't mean that these elements of culture didn't exist before hand... they have always existed. some were too expensive (multimedia production); others were too obscure to discover (couchsurfing.com / global freeloaders).
when it comes to information, the merchants who raised great sums to bring us the best of the silk road no longer are needed. as the past ten years have taught us, the networks between us all shrink infinitely when we reach out. albeit it is still a costly investment, the new silk road is assessable to more. from electricity, to hardware, to communications infrastructure, to education... we are slowly whittling down the cost of access. once on the road, or as it was one called "the information super highway" we are privy to the world's infinite connections of enlightenment.
when it comes to the physical, many have realized we are no longer are we willing to deal with the limitations of a world dictated to us. if we can freely converse online, who is to limit our ability to organize physically? if we have the ability to build online, we are freely able to build upon other's words for the betterment of our collective knowledge, goods and services. for the past seven months i've been blessed to freely exchange ideas, content and build physical structures were the net benefit is the sum of all of its parts.
the world online is no more online than it is an offline activity. for the past five years i've been privy to a front seat exploration of politics, policy and products are free to change and grow as we see fit. incredibly we've openly recognized that we can not exist in an online only environment. some of us call it jelly, coworking, foocamp, unconfrences, barcamp, mashpits, meetups, devhouses, saturday houses, workshops, clubs, etc...
more and more we are coming together to physically represent the world we see online. if there isn't a physical representation, we dust off obscure solutions or build replacements for a world once dominated by a heroical structure dominated by others.
we have the power. we are the future. without a doubt, the world today is dominated by freedom. freedom to move from one system or another... from one workshop to another... from one conversation to another... from online to offline... it is now up to us to perpetuate the love of knowledge into an eternity of wisdom.
this is the wealth of networks. this is the luck of seven. we are the starfish generation!
as my path wondered through southeast asia, i found myself on the other-side of the world where the US dollar is the all mighty. for less that $6.00 USD you'd can be served a mountain of food fit for a king. little did i know that for less that $2.00 USD, my friend huixian and i would eat lavishly for two days...
if huixian and i ate at her house every day, we'd spend less than $15 USD a week. that's less than $15.00 USD a week ON FOOD!!!!
i know it's hard to understand how we can make a difference in someone's lives at the other end of the world, but those "help a christian child" TV spots aren't that far fetched. "for dollars a day you, can change someone's life..." except in this "advertisement" we're not talking about a newly "saved" cambodian pip. we're talking about a "no political or religious agenda; we work directly with village chiefs and school principals to target their communities’ most pressing needs. Gradually, we’ve hired and mentored fifty-seven Cambodians who’ve assumed all leadership positions.” - Nancy Woodward Hendrie from the sharing foundation in the mount holyoke alumnae quarterly
THAT'S RIGHT! a grassroots empowerment organization needs your help. if you donate $10.00 USD and believe it or not, WE can turn it into $50,000!!!
just imagine how much $50,000 will go in cambodia?!?!
luck of seven contributor and global non-profit rockstar beth kantor has asked me to ask for your help. over the next 40 hours, we need to win the "giving challenge." we need to get the most unique donations over the next day or so and we can collectively turn our $10 bucks into $50,000!!!
if you're into the social media chain letter thing, there's a participant wiki on how you can help... the first three are the most important...
1. Volunteer to write at least one blog between today and January 31, 2008 about this and ask your readers to contribute the minimum amount.
2. Put the widget on your blog on the side bar (it is easy to cut and paste)
3. Consider donating $10 to campaign!
Recoded: 29 December 2007
Locations: Ushuaia, Argentina
Tags: free hugs, juan mann, hitchhiking, free hugs guide, end of the earth, antarctica, adventure, ushuaia, argentina, video diary, luck of seven
Music: over the rainbow - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
About: it's lonely out here... super lonely. the likely hood of me holding up a sign and heading south is dwindling fast... in between the infrequent hugs, i think about my buddy juan mann. he's the silly fool who became internet famous for hugging the world. juan's just released an illustrated guide on hugging and is making plans to travel the world for his own internet vlog.
(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."
to be honest, i don't know if today is up or down. BUT one thing i can tell you, it's 2.30 in the morning and i can't sleep. last night, i partook in a birthday party. a chinese birthday party. the luck girl was 14, the daughter of a visiting chinese philosophy professor and roommate to amit (my CS host).
after a long day of moped'n around the eastern side of the island, amit and i found some left-over chicken and fries while watching the red socks capture the pennant. then we found an opportunity to get sand it our pants at a beach film festival... realizing the barrel of monkeys was just have full, we headed to amit's home to celebrate the above mentioned birthday party.
after a blur of languages and one hissy fit (not the birthday girl but a friend of a friend who's detailed how she didn't want to be included in any recording effort done by my hands. i have no clue what planet she's on, but obviously we've gotten off to a wrong start. every statement / attempt of reparation fails in hindenburg proportions.) we sang happy birthday, ate cate and chomped on apples, mangos, grapes, and watermelon. in the mix came a cup of tea. one cup turned to two. two turned to three. three turned into too much...
(yes, i am listing to the jackson five while writing this...)
my body is quite sensitive to many stimuli. caffeine is like crack. one drop makes me freak out with thriller like proportions. sometimes, i can beat it. other times, it makes me travel to the single moment in time where i lifted the glass (and in this case) clinked with fellow revelers...
with today's/yesterday's time being moped introspective, i've got a few things that seem to be on the tip of my tung i can finally articulate... but knowing that today/tomorrow brings a new day, i wonder how they will change...
first, the world's state of nature is predicated on a single toothpick stuck in the gums of one man who will never be seen, heard from, nor contacted. like an evil puppet master, his tricks and dirty deeds come dirt cheap. (AC/CD) as it is up to us to fight his insanity, i have discovered these A... B... C... or is it easy as 1... 2... 3...??? (yeah, sometimes the jackson 5 and AC/DC work well together.)
come on, come on, come on, come on, let me show you what's it's all about... (dance, twirl, clap)
i think in due time, this list will get blown out to seven items... in the meantime, i've only discovered four... the other three are buried between here (hawaii) and Antarctica.
##. Tools / Language...
unlike hammers and shovels, modern technology requires a bit of skilled operation. if it's a training video or a simple instruction manual. the hammers and shovels of the 21st century require a bit of education. the tools we use to build the 21st century village are predicated in english. from construction, labeling, manuals, you name it... more than likely it was written in english and then translated. this education therefor limits the number of people who can pick up a cheap computer and bang away until a great cathedral is built. for native multilingual content, software must break the bounds of english.
unicode and open standards are the solution.
##. We the media in order to form a more perfect union...
first, like preschool, participation is key. second, the face of media needs to change from the hands of the few to the hands of the many. if tools are pliable, we no longer need to force feed our-self's idotiocracy. then we can speak our own minds.
citizen video units are the solution.
##. Confluence of the space time continuum, sprinkled with the spice of McFly...
since mcfly jr joined doc in the flying delorean, i've always been amazed with time travel. to be honest, i think we are stuck in a brief moment of time where we would rather write our own history than read what came before us. maybe it's the concept that old is... well old... i think old is the new pink!
it seems that so many lessons have been lost on the "educated" public. there are so many things we think are the new hotness, when in reality the old hotness should be cataloged into the new hotness. i'm not saying let's live in history, but that there are quite a few lessons to learn from history.
personally, there are many historical lessons i am starting to unearth. i've also started to see how "digital" is nothing more than enhanced "organic" matter. as we move though time, we tear down walls instead of building them. instead of depleting resources we should be inventing new ones. instead of standing still, we should be jumping and screaming at the top of our lungs saying "nanana, i don't believe you!"
flying delorians powered by a reactors the size of a cuzinarts is the solution.
##. the myth of scarcity...
i'm calling bullshit on this theory. i don't know why yet... but the solution will come when i have a time to get a phd in macro/micro economic philosophy. btw, didn't the world's top one percent make more than the bottom ninety-nine added up?
i'm not a socialist but i think something is wrong in our current solution.
##. faith, the belief not the perfume...
faith, like love, is not something you put on every saturday or sunday. it's time we get rid of this mama's boys talk about beliefs and realize that working WITH someone is better than saying my god is bigger than your god. last time i checked, there is only one planet and he/she/it is pissed we're poking holes, bleading the inner core and shaving off all the trees. ha, if earth was your little brother, he'd hate you.
having faith in yourself.
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.
"bling, bling, who's dis? oh it's jetset let me call you right back."
attached to this post, you'll find my jetset interview in MOV format... i've you're just tuning in. there are few things you should know...
1. i still need contributions of $11.11
2. i hope some auzzies see this video. on friday, i'll start hitchhiking across the continent. no seriously! i'm going to stick my thumb out and see how far it takes me. if i'm lucky, i should only need my towel.
3. i'm looking on bringing my insanity to the US. if you're hot to trot, join me on this venture.
in the meantime, i'm tanking up on my last few hours of internet uploading flickr photos before moving out of my plush air conditioned & hot water shower hotel room.
today, i had a great interview with Javier from Khmer OS. his story is amazing! with a wondering soul and a dream, Javier is helping create a society educated, trained and technology proficient in their OWN language. after today, i know damn well i'm blessed to have an education and tools i can use without ANY translation.
this evening, hui (a couchsurfer) and i sketched out a quick action plan of activities. tomorrow, breakfast, palace of decadence, morning market, a monument or two to genocide, home cooked lunch and then she'll depart to home school a kid, and i'll fend off the throbbing men becking me into their motorcycle/basket contraptions. (i'm sexy - aka rich - in cambodia!)
tomorrow morning when i shlep my load down the street to huixian's apartment, once again i won't have electricity nor hot water. on the other hand, i'll be chillin with a leo from '78 who's traveled quite a bit, and knows a thing or two about the cheap underbelly of da' Phen.
btw, you should know this country is twisted - it's as if everything is for sale. oh wait, everything is for sale! tonight, i saw a local man get slapped, punched, kicked and thrown into a busy street. this was done by a cambodian military guy in uniform and AK-47 over his shoulder. while at times this country might seem like disney land, the reality is more painful.
i'll regroup in bangkok, but for the next few days i'm going to be off-line. in the meantime...
my favorite quote "THERE comes a time in every boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure." - the adventures of tom sawyer
when i first started this trip, i wanted to SEE my global peers in their environment. now that i'm on the other-side of the world, i have discovered a free world that goes further than lawrence lessig's free culture. in my reality, our world is only limited by our heart. if our heart has no borders then our world is free. to me free culture is to give of yourself freely and expect nothing in return.
sadly, we can't all live for free. warmth, bread and shelter do not fall into our laps at the push of a keyboard. yet when people ask for money, i don't think about it. i don't think about donating. i don't think about the reasons of donating. i just don't think about the impact i can create in others lives. then i placed myself as a beggar. i truely have no more money than you give. our journey, this trip and my life is at your mercy.
when i started this trip i knew the plight of a few new media makers. i knew that theburg.tv was debt ridden, but i didn't care to think about my other fav podcast. then, i discovered that the best damn new media makers kick out the jams with next to no money! just like the NGOs i consult, we attempt to live on a fine line of stubbornness and humility.
throughout humanity's history, you can find people who give freely to create their dreams. those most passionate, attempt to live outside of the mortal constraints of life. following our heart's desires we see problems, tackle them and then try to live.
it's tough trying to find a balance between the glitter and the grit. brian, my friend whom i never met, is in a bit of a bind. his series of programs are so advanced normal media doesn't know how to contextualize them. if you scoff at the notion of citizen journalism, you don't need to go further than alive in baghdad or alive in mexico to understand how digital technology is changing the face of the globe. sadly, both programs are running out of money.
as i have traveled, i only know of a few organizations who are understand the power of video... the power of the moving image... the power of people and their stories...
these programs are not sexy nor glamorous. the programs are smart.
your donation is not sexy nor glamorous. your donation is smart.
we need to hear the world's stories, and the future lies within your fingertips. can you give $5 or $10 to alive in baghdad?
last night, boy was there a fight.
after taking an eight hour bus from Naski to Mumbai, i found my way through the monsoon laden streets to yashish's company of friends. after commandeering two cell phones for directions, i found a small hotel with three restaurants. nestled in down a dark road stood, my destination was within aqua.
as i sat in an overly sterile environment, i found warmth in the company of nine indians. glued to a flat panel, we watched the semi-finals of the world's first T20 cricket match.
for those of you (like my self) who don't pay attention to cricket, let me enlighten you about a few things... first, the world over has found cricket to be a total bore. second, the world of cricket has a new shortened version. it's kinda like two innings with a pitcher throwing no more than 20 pitches. third, cricket is a fanatical sport. forth, india and Pakistan will play each-other in the world series T20 final. fifth, they are arch rivals.
as i've traveled around india, i see a sense of nationalism unlike any other. there's almost a hell bent attitude that india is ready to take over the world. maybe it's their position as one of the world's fastest growing economies. maybe it's their position as the largest democracy in the world. maybe it's their diversity. maybe it's their position as one of the worlds largest english speaking countries. maybe it's because of their diverse history and willingness to compromise to make things equal. maybe it's because they see beyond the horizon and see a world where their footprint will dominate the globe.
one can not overlook the impact india has on the globe. one can not overlook the pride indians have for their country, diversity, and history. the world can not overlook india.
today, i made a little journey. after last night's jaunt, i woke up with three agenda items... 1. get a new SIM card (btw, i'm writing up a long overdue review of SIM purchases for MobileVoices) 2. hang out with yashesh. 3. find a way to see shreya, a college student whom i met while at digital bridge camp.
the first two were quite easy to accomplish. yashesh is a geek, and despite his maxed out metered ADSL, has his geek connections. ten mins away from his house sits a train station. surrounding the train station sits a local market. as we passed by airtel, hutch, reliance, vodaphone advertisements, i wondered which provider would clam me as their next victim.
as i first attempted in egypt, i selected vodaphone as my vampire of choice. to my surprise, vodaphone gave me a kickass deal, 10 times better than airtel. i kinda felt like a schmuck after the kind booth-man handed me my pre-paid packet and i wooted out-loud.
after a 15 minute interlude of names, phone numbers, addresses, passport and visa numbers, i sent my first text message to shreya. who immediately informed me her younger sister was in town and plans would have to be "family" oriented. in my mind, that meant MOVIE NIGHT!
after my night at movies with omar, i am now hell bent on catching as many movies as possible. you really don't know a culture until you know how they experience movies. despite the whole concept of sitting in a dark room with the lights out, movies are highly social and provide a rare glimpse into the banality of life.
i arrived and immediately qued up to start my bewilderment. the man behind me, stood so close that his belly touched my back. every step forward endured another oppressive re-acquaintance with this discomforted. after two quick steps and a quarter turn to my right, i experienced his dirty fake italian shoe on top of my foot. not to mention his big-assed belly pushing my arm. fed-up with his physical comport, i created a force field with my elbows. in india, physical space is one of those things you create or deal. i took it to the next level and pretty much built the taj mahal between us.
after a bit of slow-going, i was in-front of an attendant with two options - sliver seats (300 rps / 7.50 usd) or regular (90 rps / 2.50 usd). confused, intrigued, bewildered and excited, i pulled out 1000 rps, felt like a millionaire and purchased three tickets.
when shreya and her sister arrived the movie was just about to start and my excitement was about to boil over. somewhere above my head sat three leather lazy boys with our names. walking though security was not a breeze. since isreal, every mall's entrance has a guard, metal detector and bag search. after loading up my pockets with an ipod, cell phone and camera, i set off more alarms than an that crazy old farmer who drove his tracker into washington monument.
apparently, cameras are allowed but not their batteries. cell phones, while allowed, are closely monitored. after a bit of my belligerence demanding to know where my battery would be kept, we dashed up four flights of stairs to one of the most amazing theaters in the world.
there was no opulence, just glutney. the concession stand was to the right. to the left stood seven or so booths for any tasty delight of your choice. hot dogs, ice cream, starbucks, sorbet, cell phones, books, credit cards... there was a booth for them all... not only was this theater in a mall, but there was a mall within the theater.
tucked away somewhere, i assumed there was another smaller theater, but couldn't find it. maybe it was on the half-level below me and i just missed it.
in the theater, we were quickly shown our seats - three fat lazy boys with electronic adjusters to recline. each one came with a soft pillow and a warm blanket. as i pondered when was the last time the blanket was washed, my naked wet legs found warmth. comfortably adjusted a mile apart from each other, the three of us sat in a row to watch "loins of punjab." (spoilers precede this statement. LOP was not entirely a flop, and i might see it again... so now you've been warned.)
the movie had it's moments and more importantly had it's defining moment at the tail end. unlike a majority of the attendants, the three of us arrived too late to stand for the Indian national anthem. well guess what happens at the end? the white guy who's vying for desi idol sings the national anthem. AND in spite of the Indian-American demand for no one to stand up... the entire audience stood up...
the three of us just kinda looked at each other, tossed some popcorn in our gullet and waited for everyone to sit down.
then something hit me harder than bars of soap on the fat guy in full metal jacket... ireguardless of the stereo type portrayed in American pop culture, this country is going to bite us in the ass. we might think of them as a little democratic brother, but india has a shit load of natural and mental resources unyet tapped.
the Japanese economic fright of the 80's is nothing compared to unsmoked resources of Goa. in more ways than one, i've got my money on india!
since my stint in U.A.E., i've found my self engulfed with The Life of Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer. sure it's may seem a bit madding to jump from the 1960's armed struggle of the Black Panther party to the peaceful man of Mahatma Gandhi, but i've found it quite useful. both books have rekindled a flame long ago extinguished.
back in high school i use to volunteer at a battered woman's shelter and would devote a weekend every other month helping out at a Mormon store house packaging goods for those in need. when i graduated, i found a new world of sex, drugs, rock and roll, travel and employment. fueled by many desires, i never found time to help out those less fortunate. well, except for an annual token donation to a random charity of choice.
as my path moved from one east cost city to the next, i never forgot about the long nights cooped up on a secure floor of the YWCA in Dayton. when 2003 rolled around, i thought long and hard about my actions and decided to do something. five years later and a few thousand miles from home, i can't can not stop listing reading about the struggle for basic human rights that has plagued this planet since it's inception.
doubtful this world will ever see a day where poverty is eliminated. i can't help but to find my mind reciting the words of civil rights leaders long gone...
i too have a dream. somewhere in my head resides the acknowledgment that my past (genetic & historical) has brought me to a point where i can no longer pass by others less fortunate and not give a damn. i've thought long about our relationship with technology, progress and commerce. i've thought long about structures in society that say one thing without resolve. frankly, i can no longer think of technology without it's connotation with our soul.
we now stand at a time where consumerism is more powerful and socialism & more powerful than capitalism. yet, the tools we long for are being designed to connect us but yet somehow a good portion of society sees novelty than utility.
a camera is more powerful than a gun.
a cell phone is more powerful than a loudspeaker.
a text message is more powerful than poster.
a phone call is more powerful than chant.
we continue to struggle using these basic tools. yet, we bask in the rays of commerce while gleefully paying bills and saying "thank you" for the utility.
i can no longer see my self stepping back to a world where conversations placate our ability to change the world. frankly, i can also no longer accept a world where others determine charity, governance and media. we have the tools. we have the brains. we have the network. we need capacity and focus.
yesterday, i found myself siting with a man who embodied his name. i do not mean in any derogatory remark, but as a frank observation after spending twenty mins with one of the world's enlightened visionaries. Stalin K. started his professional career as an actor (a meme i think) and has since found himself as a leader of humanity.
about 15 years ago Stalin started making movies. 10 years ago he found himself helping build radio stations. now Stalin and his coworkers take basic consumer tools (cameras, computers and transmitters) into impoverished communities and builds local media outlets.
"of the people, for the people, by the people" is Drishti's motto. wherever they drive, communities learn the capacity to use digital tools to tell their story and build their own media outlets. primarly working in rural communities, who barely have clean water and a doctor, Drishti empowers communities to tell their story. i only wish i could have spent more time understanding how they do it. from the few hours i had to learn, i see a well thought-out, educated team planning campaigns most political campaigns dream.
here's to you Drishti! here's to the future of technology and social media! it was an honor coming to Ahmedabad.
for Drishti to do a better job, they are constantly looking for people who understand social media to help them turn their mediocre online presence into a formative platform for good. they also need open source tools translated into local regional indian languages. while they don't mind "using" commercial software, then NEED an open source video solution.
with a bit of tung and cheek, joe strummer sung the following immortal words...
"Number 1, You have the right not to be killed...
... Number 2, You have the right to food money...
... Number 3, You have the right to free speech as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it."
as last night's waning hours worked their fury into a insatiable quest for entertainment, i found my self immersed in "seize the time" and thinking about my conversations with mardini, alaa, amr and nora.
back in nyc, i would have read their stories on global voices and thought of their story to be a novel use of social technology. after visiting them, hearing them, watching them with friends and conversing with a room full of geeks, i no longer viewed them as just a story. i no longer saw novelty, but the reality we are locked in a long struggle.
this struggle is not just about technology, but providing localized technology... without adequate translation, a computer, iphone, ipod, etc is no different than a hammer. (this will be addressed in a video interview... but hopefully you can understand that english internet superpower is not the "end all be all" of intellectual prowess... then again the hole-in-the-wall project would disagree with me.)
humanity has many faces. a majority of them are pleasant. (i am fortunate to see these faces across the globe - from the cairo subway to the streets of the bronx.) when it comes to the minority, this struggle works it way to be a battle over power. my visit to the pyramids reinfoced this fact.
through my eyes, i see this struggle to be a struggle over basic human rights. in the USA, we are "fortunate" to be "born" with "inalienable rights." incredibly, 40 years ago "the great experiment" failed in providing these rights to it's citizens. now at the dawn of the 21st century, through the use of digital technology, we have a unique opportunity to shape the way "inalienable rights" are passed along to the rest of the world.
without trying to be radical, a basic civics lesson will tell you "politics is war without bloodshed - and war is a continuation of politics, with bloodshed." huey p. newton & bobby seale built the black panther party to be THE vessel for the american black community to fight oppression, racism and murder and provide "Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace." despite the fact their organization was criminalized and persecuted, the black panther party died to bring justice for all poor americans. (btw, did you know they created the "free breakfast for children program" and popularized medical research in sickle-cell disease?)
forty years later, the world continues to face these same problems. most of the people whom i've interviewed all see the same thing.
the technology we have at our disposal is not just a simple vessel of entertainment. our modern technology is a complex beast that crashes through the gates of oppression and gives us an opportunity to make the world a better place.
sadly and on a too frequent basis, i see many of us blinded by the shiny side of the iphone, the hue of a garment or worse the insatiable consumption for "sustainable consumption." yet, one can not separate the quest of basic human rights as the pit of peach. all of these issues are wrapped up on the third planet from the sun.
by creating "a bill of rights for users of the social web" it's great to see that smarr, canter, scoble and arrington hopping on the same chariot many political technologist championed last year through the integration proclamation. while i support both, i see these intellectual statements as one thing, and can't stop thinking of bertolt brecht and kurt weill's song "what keeps mankind alive"
You gentlemen who think you have a mission
To purge us of the seven deadly sins
Should first sort out the basic food position
Then start your preaching, that’s where it begins
You lot who preach restraint and watch your waist as well
Should learn, for once, the way the world is run
However much you twist or whatever lies that you tell
Food is the first thing, morals follow on
So first make sure that those who are now starving
Get proper helpings when we all start carving
What keeps mankind alive?
What keeps mankind alive?
The fact that millions are daily tortured
Stifled, punished, silenced and oppressed
Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance
In keeping its humanity repressed
And for once you must try not to shriek the facts
Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts
Technorati Tags: a bill of rights for users of the social web, activists, bertoit brecht, integration proclamation, joseph smarr, kurt weill, marc canter, michael arrington, open social web, robert scoble
it's been four days since i replaced my macbook with the paper back "skinny legs and all." if you haven't read the book, you're in for an treat. i haven't set it down and am almost done with the adventures of spoon, can o' beans, dirty sock, stick and conch. as my laptop sat in an air conditioned server room of OpenCraft, i could only wonder the stories it told the servers and computer components.
as for my journey, it seems to be physically manifesting my mental discomfort. my stomach woes while gone one day have returned. while there are many things that i could say, i will not bother you with my torment. well...
well i will say there is there is a torment i have yet to detail... the hustle. from time to time people come up to me and say "hello." as a courteous fellow, i don't like ignoring people. hell it's hard enough ignoring pour beggars with no legs, but fully capable humans who can clearly walk and talk is another thing...
when i don my straw hat, down every street i find someone saying "hello", "where you from?", "hey, come here..." it gets to the point where the stern new yorker appears, my eyes glaze, and the desire for a baseball bat emerges.
as for the knot that is developing in my brain... despite the mini-media-hit i got last week from dries' video, i need to spread the word further. i'd like for more people to know about this project. yet, since my time connected to the internet is very limited, i need your help.
it's funny to think about this trip as a ministry, but as the kind egyptian preacher sat next to me on the train to alexandria reminded me... this is a ministry. i've dedicated my life in this mission. open societies is developing to be my spiritual work. i know to most of you this might sound crazy, but i honestly feel this trip was settled in my bones long ago.
why do i say this? well, i've always held faith in the world. i've always held faith that as the human race we can solve our own problems. and like this trip, it's not an easy journey...
for now i'll keep my head down and keep plugging away. if you haven't found a good reason to tell a friend. today is as good as any other...
speaking of sanity, i called up the indian embassy in ciaro and they told me it take five days to process visas. so, knowing reality to be somewhat a figment of consciousness, i'm not worrying about my visa until i walk though a metal detector and finally sit down with someone.
if you are planning on doing something as insane as this venture. you have two options, one get an ambiguous visa while you are in the states, OR drop into the indian embassy in paris or london. both locations will expedite same day visas (or following day visas) if you are willing to pay twice the price.
despite these headaches, tomorrow i'm venturing into one of the craziest cities in the whole world. tomorrow, i'm heading to jerusalem...
don't misunderstand me. i'm calling the city crazy, not because of all of the religious zealots that flock annually... no, not because of them... i'm venturing to the "holy" city because it's one of the oldest cities in the world and the "old city" is smaller than a square mile.... oh and did i mention the all the small tiny streets?
oh and if that didn't wet your whistle, i'm looking forward to finding a bus to Bethlehem to experience this lovely "security fence." i really don't understand the whole thing... from my conversations with activist, matan kaminer, this issue is deeply rooted in economics.
from my conversations and terse research, the Ashkenazi jews have long oppressed the middle eastern jews and Palestinians (muslim and christian). let's not even get into the armenian and Moroccan side of things... 'cause, that really starts to blow my mind...
nonetheless, with a country that is the cradle to three of the world's largest religions... let alone, a town that is cradle to three of the world's largest religions... it's bound to be crazy. maybe i'm too secular. maybe i've long lost my faith in a specific religion, but one thing has emboldened my perspective from the past few days...
these "holy warriors" would love to have an iphone, ipod, imac, internet, youtube, air conditioning, power, clean water, transportation, education, the opportunity to travel and the ability to move freely. so many of the Israeli's whom i've come across live a comfortable middle class southern californian suburban lifestyle. from shopping mall to shopping mall, from strip mall to strip mall, from gas station to gas station... the modern israeli is no different than the community i was born into nor the midwestern community i grew up in.
hopefully, tomorrow i will get to see a different perspective.
(photo discovered on fejron's flickr feed but obviously stolen from somewhere else...)