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Pedagogy for the oppressed: Making the best political use of web tools

by Dave Riley

Each project has its own challenges and each time there's an opportunity to push the envelope a bit more.

Climate Emergency Queensland is one such 'opportunity'.

Rather than work up your protest organising in the shadows , you can aggregate it in full online view by utilising a blog as an organising centre for reach out, updates and task sharing.

It's a great way to focus the core activity and work out what needs doing by actually doing it --sort of via a list of stuff that seems relevant to share webside.

Unfortunately there's few political activists that are web savvy enough to master all the possible ingredients so in tandem The Activist Toolkit has been trying to pull together all the DIY, FAQ, tooltips and know how that any www.bolshevik could ever need in order to get themselves activated.

That's the plan anyway.

With the internet -- especially with email (now there's abuse for you!), blogs and discussion groups -- there's so much chatter that we are all drowning in it. Talk. Talk. What we all want to do is hold this barrage at arms' length so long as we know where the good oil can be had when we need to get at it.

It's about organising...about doing -- not just about talking.

So it's about time we lefties cleaned up our web act. It's time to get over this scatter gun dependency on generic emails sent to whoever. We need to start attending more to quality rather than quantity.

Mind you, no one knows the complete answer to that one, but the journey of a thousand campaigns begins with the first step -- the first step out of the routine reliance on email to get the word out many more times than may be necessary.

I think in this regard wikis speak our leftie lingo. They aren't geared for chit chat. Wikis are designed to collectivize labour -- by encouraging input. They're overwhelmingly project oriented and driven. But when you combine a wiki with a blog....well, you're in a new game.

And it's that creative interface -- wikis with blogs & with email -- that a new potential seems to be brewing.

I reckon anyway.

Unfortunately comprehending this is a head space issue -- very much requiring a bit of an abstract feel for Web 2.0 and the many notions embedded in social networking. But once you go beyond the social niceties and chit chat, roll up the shirt sleeves and get down to work, you need to customize your 'tools' to suit your tasks. But the knack is to realise what 'tasks' you can perform webside because to some degree it is about recognising that much of what you may now do offline can be done online.

The misfortune is that the limits are presently being set by a myopic notion that our best use the web is as a post office or a Clayton's version of a hard copy leaflet, journal or newspaper.

I wrote a bit on these issues in regard to blogging contributed to A Very Public Sociologist's thread -- Oppositional Blogging - Some Thoughts. I think I missed the boat there and then because to some degree you need ( I need) to prove in practice that such a mix of tools works much more effectively than relying on one.

The skill is in the tool box mix. Throw one tool alone at your periphery or collaborators and they may begin to drown because today, the screaming demand being yelled at the internet is: "Give me some prioritisation! I want a hierarchy in place so I can filter through all the stuff that is raining down on me! Of my many emails I have to know which emails are the most important. Just let me know where the stuff I need is at."

And if you think you can share all that 'stuff' via an email attachment or a bit of copy and paste -- you are kidding yourself.

In this regard I am reminded of something Paolo Friere wrote in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed:
"Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorise and repeat ... but true knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in the world, with the world and with each other."
Wikis are tools that enable us to restlessly re-invent 'knowledge' by relying upon and working with each other.(Look at Wikipedia for example.) And to some degree, in the age of Goggle-ling Knowledge, it's about working together to select what (and whose) snippets of knowledge we need to or want to work with.

But therein hangs the major handicap. All this social networking webside cannot proceed very far or very fast without establishing on line (and off line) communities. That's the rub. You have to start somewhere very slowly in order to imbue participants with the confidence and skills to proceed further along this route. And that seems to be where we're at -- at the beginning.

We just kid ourselves that because we have a person's email address on file we are guaranteed access to their attention span.

To some degree the tendency of email groups to promote flaming wars and trolling has skewed the confidence we may have in these other platforms. But let's just say that email groups can give the web a bad name -- and that has a lot to do with the fact that the only power an email group gives you is the option to yell. Nothing gets resolved. No tasks are set.

To some degree this penchant for passionate outburst is resolved by deploying in preference such platforms as Facebook . But in our desire to deploy Facebook as an organising tool we are often imposing on our 'Facebook friends' another barrage of emailing.

The trick -- as Freire recognised way back in 1968 -- is to make it very much an each way thing.

1 Com:

Dave Riley | September 11, 2008

That's the rub: 'community' and the building thereof. And navigating while creating a community through the stages of wiki adoption is thwart with problems and possibilities.WikiPatterns explores many approaches to how this can and cannot succeed in your target community.It may be Management Theory 101 but it has a few markers that are very useful.

Many people find wikis a self evident and pleasant discovery when they cannot get their head around blogging. The new interfaces on wikis --such as on Wikispaces -- makes the exercise very powerful. In part I think this underlines why the uptake of blogging by the far left at least has been so slow. Who needs another copyrighted POV on the left? Maybe I'm trying to be humble but I think it preferable to concentrate our web presence rather than diffuse it. So it has to be about focus and interaction.

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