It is so wonderful how social media, like facebook, like twitter, like livejournal, wordpress, flicker and youtube help us create our narratives. We experience things we value and we are able to share them so easily. A few clicks and we have sent a sleep walking dog, or a music video or a call to action to people in our communities. These virtual communities made up of people we see in real life, kith, kin, acquaintances and people we have only ever met through our practices on the internet.
We are now able to share our stories, our experiences and our value systems contained within to a degree that is remarkable. It is remarkable to see how the internet has matured and developed complexity in its story telling. I see fewer chain e-mails with magical thinking, I see an incredible complexity, quizzes (who in this symbol system do you identify with and wish to claim a special bond with?), music, articles, news. I think it’s exciting and empowering how so many of us are narrating our lives. Narrating one’s life is a powerful thing and like any thing can backfire, but it has many benefits.
One of my favourite places of thought, story and inspiration is ted.com, home to so many great speakers and becoming more multicultural in its story telling all the time. I am so grateful to hear from amazing thinkers in Africa, in India, from all around the world and some of the deliberate work TED has done to encourage this diversity.
Cynthia Schneider has a wonderful TED Talk on the surprising spread of Idol TV in Afghanistan and one in the United Arab Emirates. I had never thought of Idol as a place for building community, empowerment and rediscovering old folk traditions. It reminds me of one of my favourite anthropologists Marshall Sahlins and my favourite geography lecturer Richard Baker, who advocated so powerfully for us to recognise the resilience and power of indigenous cultures. People and their cultures are resilient. Thecolonial dynamics of power, creating dependency and so on have enormous force, but people are not passive blobs that get painted over, people and cultures are adaptive and adaptation does not make them lesser.
An assumption of victimhood might make people think that Idol TV would wash away folk traditions and ‘Americanise’ people. It seems to have had a much more profound and complex role, that brings together and empowers a whole range of conversations.
Anyway, don’t listen to me, check out Cynthia’s lovely talk. It speaks to many of the values and concepts that I adore and you may take completely different things from it.
It is a pleasure to share it with you, my extended community.
In addition to the talk there has been quite interesting discussion on the comments section of Cynthia’s talk from a broad range of people. The conversations continue, the texture and diversity of stories shared increases.