fredag 6 november 2009

Digital breakthroughs still waiting to happen

I stepped on the train today, knowing that I had over two hours of travel ahead, and suddenly the creativity started flowing...

The prelude
Well, this was actually prefaced by quite a bit of complaining the night before, about making such a long trip for such a short meeting, and "couldn't I just have waited til we could have the meeting in Stockholm". And then a really early rise and departure and no morning lingering like I have quickly created a habit of. And up until the very last reflection before departure that "oh no, not a snail train, it's unmodern, slow, and will stop in every hick village"...

Not entirely unpredictably - all of this was probably just what I needed! Or at least I am happy to announce that I am sooo ready to shift my perspective that if only I am placed in a context that breaks my every day mould, I will actually gain much more by the perspective that it gives!

Back on track
So now, I can sort of get back to the track that I started out with when I wrote the title... I am thinking about the means of communication, transparency and interaction that I have been talking to people and colleagues and friends about since 2001. Yes, I remember it was that year because that was my last year at Macalester and my vision was "Generations of Change" - a community or wiki-centered interactive sharing network connecting students with alumni and surrounding local community for continuity in organizing efforts on and around campus.

Long time coming
The "still waiting to happen" part connected to this "breakthrough" is that I still can't really say with pride or satisfaction that I feel like I got there. Forge was the singular most concerted effort to make use of the full potential of the digital possibilities to connect (young) people through online interaction, and chanel it into positive social (or personal) change on a broader scale. That vision is still there. We learned a lot, but we didn't reach our larger goals. We were only a minimal group of people, and we didn't fully succeed in mobilizing the critical mass needed to scale up the real posibilities in our vision into reality.

Still searching
Now I am at a different place, in an organization that has the resources, reach and clout that goes well beyond a critical mass. Instead, it's a matter of priorities, democratic decision making processes, level of digital maturity, and the guts to experiment with different paths to fulfil our mission.

So in real terms, what I am talking about is how youth organizations can utilize digital media and collaborative software to broaden involvement and inclusion in mobilizing to accomplish positive social change.

Old news
For those who have known me for a while, this might sound like a broken record. Others might claim that "but we're really already doing that". I say great, keep on keepin on, but I challenge you to let even more people in on your secret then - make it viral, blow us all away! Because I haven't really really seen the kind of effect or examples that I have dreamed of seeing yet!

Having said that, I am positive to the trends in multi-platform and cross-platform interaction among some good examples of youth organizations and others. I think it's a good (and necessary) thing to use blogs, micro-blogs, social networks, video sites, community sites, forums, instant messaging, image sharing sites, along with various widgets and apps, in creating the different means and venues for interaction with the (many different) messages or themes that are important to us.

Not to forget
Lastly (to not make this an "all thoughts in one" blog entry, since that counter acts the point of a blogg roll), in order not to forget, I need to say something about the other part of the core of the Forge project and the work that I was a part of with Barnraiser, namely the integrity and ownership of "digital citizenship". We need to re-introduce a serious and well-informed conversation about ownership, identity and integrity on the internet. As we work with our cross/multi-platform strategies of interaction, we engage with a multitude of commercial platforms, essentially "spreading our content" between different commercial platforms rather than accumulating and growing our own digital content and identity. We must continue to problematize this, and not surrender it as a given fact - this too must be an area where we can effect change!
Or have we totally resigned to a sense of "well it doesn't really matter if facebook or google own my stuff, as long as I can publish it"?

It's been a while since I had these conversations with anyone. Actually, it's been a while since I took some time to think of them myself. It's important that we do take the time, and that we do have these conversations, otherwise we might be approaching our various different digital breakthroughs from the wrong vantage points, and we might find ourselves in positions that don't flow so well with the original values that we wanted to promote.