Interview with Ethan Zuckerman, Global Voices Online co-founder

From Dropping Knowledge, this interview with Ethan Zuckerman, part 1 and part 2, introduced me to Global Voices Online. I didn’t realize he was also part of Geekcorps.

I found this story under Global Voices Online, Education about parents in Bahrain lamenting the state of education in her country.  One parent describes the need for information literacy and library skills to be taught.   I recommend people start subscribing to these feeds, if they aren’t already.

Better technology for disaster relief

I just stumbled across this article about technology and humanitarian efforts in Tech Soup.  I want to think that libraries can be part of this communication loop.  It seems like an opportunity for those who are interested in global librarianship that connecting relief organizations with computer centers (and libraries with computer centers) so that the library is the place for the community to be able to access the internet after the disaster.

The definition of technology

Technology is a funny word. One of the things I learned at the iSchool was that the book, the pencil, even a piece of paper, is a type of technology (this may be old hat to engineers or other technologist-types, but to me it was an “aha” moment). But in development circles, it seems to mean computers, or cell phones, or some sort of computerized technology. I see that as a very limited definition, and counterproductive to the development of truly appropriate and society-changing technology. I get very uncomfortable when I see grants for “technology” for development, or low-income, or other special populations, especially since I know that they won’t give any money for books, art supplies, early-literacy games, etc. I think it is more than worrying about semantics. When the word “technology” is used in place of “computers”, it sends the message that computers are a one-size-fits-all solution to all development and social change situations. This could stifle creative thinking around developing truly appropriate solutions to real problems.

Technology and pearls

The following are some unformed, unresearched thoughts. But I wanted to write them, as perhaps a seed of something else to come.

In the 19th century, in Europe and in North America, an adult education movement flowered. Parallel to the industrial revolution, adults who had not had opportunities for education as children, but who either saw more opportunities as for a man with education to succeed economically, or who had reached a comfortable enough level of economic independence that education became a goal for its own sake. I envision here, for Guatemala and countries like it, where 19th century social and economic relations still exist, that an adult education movement could flower, and transform the country. I think of Paul de Filipo´s book, The Steampunk Trilogy, where he writes of a Victorian social structure with 23rd century technology, and it seems in many ways like the future of Guatemala. As foreign technology is adopted here, with all its consequent social and economic effects, the social structure will mal-adapt, creating artificial layers of structures, like pearls or cysts, around the introduced technology. Until LDCs start innovating indigenous technology, technology will always be the grains of sand in the organisms of the country.