#SinLugar (Without a Place) & Global Voices

One of the reasons why I think online publishing and networking are so important is because they enable you to have a voice.

Unlike 'traditional' publishing, the intermediarties are kept to a minimum and a message or platform's audience is not limited to a multiple or dividend of the number of physical copies printed. In online publishing, the 'impact' and reach of a message often depends on how the platforms are used and how much work and time is dedicated to actually ensuring the content reaches the participants 'formerly known as the audience'.

As a bilingual native Spanish speaker from Mexico who is fluent in web publishing, I am hyper-aware that the 'World Wide Web' is a highly compartamentalised, fragmented network of networks where instead of global reach and integration it's sectarism and hyperlocalism what prevails. In spite of the undoubtedly 'democratic' possibilities granted by Internet access, mainstream information flow is still dominated by the elites of the developed world and multinational corporations (often mass media empires).

It might be my awareness of postcolonial theory what informs my decision to write in both English and Spanish and to seek to 'intervene', to 'tag' mainstream networks with information coming from different places. As a Mexican in the UK I live a double reality of different orders, importantly defined by language, culture and time zones. This means that my political and ideological life (my life as a citizen) has at least two specific areas of interest, which expand to the rest of the world. The 'World Wide Web' simply enhances, to an often-overwhelming level, the sense that this is not only possible, but desirable.

This is why one of the online projects I like the most is Global Voices. It is an ambitious project that remains incredibly human, and its success lies in a strong core of well-defined guidelines and in the selective curatorial and editorial work of a large network of highly-motivated and skilled individuals around the world.

Around a year ago I started a citizen engagement project I called #SinLugar ('Without a place'). It was both a real-time online symposium and a platform involving different off-the-shelf web services. I wrote a summary of it in English, and there I said that

One of the conclusions of the discussion was that Twitter and online citizen media in Mexico is still trying to make sense of how to transform online content into concrete actions in the offline world.

The creation of social engagement and awareness of what requires urgent action in the Mexican context required that #SinLugar was also a meta-event, promoting its very own existence/presence as an online work-in-progress through tweets and retweets. “Re-tweets” (or RTs) may seem “repetitive” and unnecessary, informational noise, but the synchronous/asynchronous nature of Twitter means that messages are picked up at different times by different people in different contexts. Hence their relevance when creating awareness is key.

And so it happens that just when I was remembering that this all had happened a year ago, Juan Arellano, a Peruvian blogger and Global Voices en Español editor, suggested a "blog festival" focused on Mexico, which he called  "Festival de blogs: México – Ciudadanía, violencia y blogs". This was an excellent excuse for me to relaunch the #SinLugar blog, and we will be posting for the length of the event, and hopefully more or less frequently as well for some time after that. We will also be tweeting and retweeting using the hashtag #vocesmx.

We were born listening that all men and women were created equal, but sadly as the famous saying has it we grow up to find out that some men and women are "more equal than others". That means that though web publishing and microblogging might be leveling the playing ground, making the terrain more horizontal, democratising access, etc., some voices are heard more than others.

My country is wounded by years of corruption and symbolic and direct violence. Blogging about it will not necessarily "solve" anything per se. It is not likely to cause any 'revolutions'. But blogging and microblogging can help dis-locate discussions, open debates up, intervene networks previously unaware of certain topics and approaches. Democracy is not simply guaranteed by access to channels of communication; the 21st century has more subtle ways of silencing the Other by allowing everyone to shout. But maybe blogging can at least function as type of 'talking cure', and it might even help create more empathy and solidarity amongst caring individuals from different countries.

Thank you for reading.

 

Urban Exile

Me interesa

Hola Ernesto!

I am interested in what you write about "talk therapy" and "horizontal-ising" the digital playing field. There seems to be a repetitive Cultura de Silencio en Latinoamérica. The culture of silence exists in different forms for women, the elderly, the indigenous, the desperately poor and so on.The culture of silence exists in-country and also abroad where the immigrant is quietened by a lack of resources, access, the Law, racism, or (as Freire noted) by his own lack of self-entitlement. Why to tell my story if no one cares to listen?

I will follow #SinLugar. If you are working on anything that requires help, let me know. I like the direction of your project.

Ernesto Priego

Hola Dorothy!

Thank you so much for your comment. I agree with what you say re: a "cultura del silencio"; not only in Latinoamérica itself but amongst the diaspora too. The tensions between a wish to integrate into a social tissue that often is suspicious of/prejudiced against immigrants or those who look different and the need to honour your traditions and previous-current social ties is a complicated one.

What you say is key: often it is taken for granted that no one cares to listen. Now, there's also many individuals and organisations breaking that culture of silence, but the question is, again, who's listening. The question of language is not unimportant: often the lack of available translation and distribution (or, in the online world, of sustainable platforms and reliable/effective metadata) does not help those efforts to be known by larger audiences.

Regarding 'the talking cure', I often worry that tweeting is a form of acting-out, defined by a compulsion to repeatedly vent, complain, rant. Blogging, though, allows for the construction of more complex arguments; requires more time and concentration (and often skills) to be done. I believe blogging, as an often self-reflexive practice, can effectively become a form of working-through. But in blogging (as in tweeting) knowing that you are being heard is essential.

Those who are 100% positive "they exist" (i.e., those who already enjoy privileged material conditions of existence) might be happier with just broadcasting themselves to the world, replying or getting replies from strangers is not a priority. But cultures that have been wounded by discrimination, inequality and a general lack of self-entitlement might require more feedback. So in my view in order for blogging and microblogging to have any hope to be part of a 'talking cure' being heard is fundamental.

Thanks again for your comment once again. I'll be following your work too. You gotta love HASTAC! Cheers. 

Urban Exile

Our Language

Glad to be HASTAC friends with you!

BTW, just commented on a blog post of the fabulous Historiann in which she writes about the drastic pruning back of language courses in the university and she calls for second language to be a PhD requirement. Here in America there is actually a backward movement in second language acquisition, as if that were possible considering the horrific state of language education in this country of mine.

So what do we see happening? As people who hail from  economic / power underclasseses come to America speaking their own language and looking for work, freedom and etc., may be they begin to start to reach out the fragile tendrils of communication to like minded people (not just like-languaged people) through the Net or other means. But what they encounter here is a generalized shrinking back, not only from themselves as people but FROM THEIR ENTIRE CULTURE AND LANGUAGE. This shrinking back is occuring not only politically (examine the racist anti-colored people roots of the Tea Party movement (see  Chauncey DeVega at We Are Respectable Negroes) but also academically and linguistically. 

So in regard to the Who's Listening conversation, there is valid and clear reason for immigrant other-language people in this country to get the general impression that the answer from the white, male, English-speaking power elite is Not Us, Buddy.

That's why The Net can be such a crazy great tool for social change, if only we can find ways to create fully inclusive media that punch holes in the barriers erected by Indifference and Language/Culture Ignorance so that like-spirited people can join hands and help each other to, first, understand that Somebody is Listening.