Turn it Up
By itself technology is meaningless and computer screens hold no more value than a blank slate yet to be marked with chalk. It is not the keys on a keypad that bring words to life but the writer who is hungry for the truth, it is not the photo editing software that makes the image but the photographer who noticed a face in the crowd and it is not the Facebook page that brings people together but it is the human thirst for connection. New media is a fresh expression of the human spirit and holds exciting prospects for our digital generation as for the first time we can begin to say that some of the world’s disempowered people, often women, can now connect to the world in a way that was once not possible. In the past few years as women from Darlington to Delhi have begun to tweet, text, blog, blurb and vlog new movements have been born. Pink knickers on a blog have spelt out better rights for women in India and riots have been started but also calmed through Twitter in the UK. The most energizing aspect of this our new media revolution is that in the right hands huge good can be achieved.
I spend a lot of my time visiting communities where the poorest of the poor live, for most of the women I encounter new media (or old media) is not yet a feature of their life. This does not mean they are unaware of it though. A visit to a remote jungle community in Northern Sierra Leone brought a smile to my face when an elderly mama asked if her photograph could be on Facebook. To me new media gives an opportunity to turn up the volume that bit louder for women who have had to whisper for far too long. Photo blogging, video blogging and more traditional written forms of communication also go hand in hand in this new wave of media. We cannot neatly separate these forms of journalism any longer. For some this will be difficult to accept but I see this as an opportunity for change and wider participation.
When working alongside a group of wonderful women living with HIV in Malawi and teaching them to use digital cameras to record their own stories one woman named Brenda said something that sums up the hope and spirit of what could be achieved with new media: “Before nobody really saw me. Now I am seen”.
It is time for us to turn up the volume!