VOF Week 1: An Ocean of Ideas
Web 2.0 upends the dynamic of a one-way river of knowledge, flowing from a few individuals who dictate the international discourse. Instead, all thoughts and questions and concerns fill a vast ocean, rolling in every which way. Waves overtake waves, some crash into each other and die out, yet others build for tsunami-sized effect. Crests and falls are determined by participants, who contribute opinions and suggestions. Anyone can be both leader and learner.
The people who will be affected by policies, and the manner in which they are implemented, have a hand in selecting the strongest, most relevant ideas. Create a “free market” of ideas that are discussed and reviewed without bias, and the best, most useful will rise to the top. It is this “top shelf” of suggestions—tested, reviewed, criticized by relevant parties—which have the strength to address complex present-day challenges.
Perhaps most exciting, this process helps create a community and a sense of civic, intellectual engagement. When people are invited to contribute ideas, and help mold a discussion, they become shareholders invested in the community’s development. Additionally, outside observers can learn about, learn from, and interact with the communities whose development interests them. It becomes possible to identify areas of interest to be developed further, or points where ignorance or doubt demand attention.
As a journalist focusing on consumption habits in the developed world and the way these impact the environment, I see Web 2.0 as an invaluable tool to help consumers understand the source of the products they buy, and the people who helped produce those goods, who are often of the developing world. Women, who often run households and hold the purse strings of their families, are central to the equation of conscientious consumption. Their impact could be massive, if they begin to purchase items that help other women, help the earth and ultimately help their families.
On the other side of the ether are the as-yet invisible women who contribute, manage and even control the food production process. Yet the face of farming remains masculine. No one knows yet the best ways to evolve consumption into something more earth-friendly and conscientious, but there is no doubt the ever-shortening link between women consumers and women food producers is crucial to re-defining the food chain. Likewise, female farmers need to understand consumers and what trends are dictating marketplace.
Farmers, the ones who would implement new farming techniques, need access to a platform that helps them stay abreast of updates. They are the ones who truly understand the particularities and challenges of their lands. Their experiences should educate decision-makers, as well as women consumers. Farmers, and the overlooked women of that segment, should guide the “official” international debate emanating from institutions, universities, companies and governments. In this way can food production incorporate best practices and findings, and agricultural policies reflect knowledge from the field.
Web 2.0 is critical to such an exchange of ideas and experiences between female food consumers and producers.