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Synthesis about Meeting in SamanŠ
Luis German Rodriguez - Mistica Coordination
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TRANSLATION NOTE: This document was translated to English from Spanish by an automatic translation program, and revised manually to correct some of the most obvious discrepancies. Please be aware that the original document is a letter, written in colloquial Spanish, and for that reason may sound awkward roughly translated. We hope that at least the general ideas of the original letter will still be conveyed. The original Spanish version is available on our website.
A Letter to Emilio, or the Dreamlike Account of the Samaná Meeting.
The following document is a product of the collective processes which developed during the Samaná meeting, and is included in the series of modifications that are written in the working documents DOC INO, DOC-CCOD and DOC-VC (in chronological order.)
This time, the style of the document is different from the usual technical documents that shape the reflections of working groups on the theme of the relationship society-ICT. The doc-SAM takes the shape of a romantic letter written by a person, whose nickname is Mata Hari (no one knows for sure if it is a man or a woman) to the supposed Emilio. The "Letter to Emilio About the Cyberexperience of Samaná" offers a pedagogical and pleasant way of getting the essence of what happened during the Samaná meeting.
It also tries to clarify the context of this meeting, which is supposed to have played an important part in the history of the Mistica project. It is neither known for sure whether Mata Hari attended the Samaná meeting or participated from a distance, for the original idea of this meeting was to the get across the reflections of the virtual community of the Mistica project.
Beyond this report, which is less rigid and more entertaining than the first ones, is hidden the same serious proposal: the promise to people that they would be informed about the reflections of the actors and actresses of the social impact of the Internet of our region, on the relations between South American and Caribbean societies, and Information and Communication Technologies.
For a smoother reading, The Letter to Emilio About the Samaná Meeting is divided into chronological sequences.
Itís not that I donít want to greet you, but I would like to tell you right away about a cyberexperience I am having now and that youíll enjoy as much as me. Itís something totally new, which I havenít quite fully understood yet. Sincerely speaking, I donít think anybody quite knows where this will end up, but we can feel that this will remove paradigms, as intelectuals are used to saying.
You know I have been looking for people or institutions motivated by the developing of options that would allow the Internet an all those possibilities linked to information and communication technologies (ICT) to be used to promote a more balanced social development, oriented to decrease or eliminate the obvious social imbalances which can be found in the South. Though it does not mean that they cannot be found in the North. Well, you know what I mean, this is why I am telling you the whole story.
By the way, I have just received an invitation to:http://funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/carta.html
to take a part in a virtual community, which rightly lays emphasis on the matter. It deals with the project Methodology and Social Impact of Information and Communication Technologies (in Spanish it is "Metodologia e Impacto Social de las Tecnologias de Informacion y Comunicación", Mistica)http://funredes.org/mistica/index,html
I have to confess that this "Mistica" disturbed me a little; I thought it could be a group of religious fanatics recruiting for a diabolical sect. They are all half-crazy people anyway, but this helps and you know I am not precisely what you would call a regular person.
Surprising results: it seemed that I had been taking part since the formulation of the objectives. I am summing them up for you:
- the strengthening of the social actors of ICT in South America and the Caribbean, through the constitution of a human network for the investigation and appropriation of new technologies, sustained by advanced means of communication and information and pilot applications.
- the experimentation of a methodology articulated for virtual communities which integrates, in an appropriate manner, the means of information and communication that offer solutions to language obstacles, and which allows the participation of persons without access to ICT as well as distance participation to local conferences.
Oh, I forgot to tell you this is a FUNREDES project (Fundacion Redes y Desarrollo Ėhttp://www.funredes.org), an NGO based in the Dominican Republic, and supported by the CIID (Centro International of Investigations for the development of the Canadian Government Ė http://.IDRC.C) and the FPH ( Fondation Charles Leopold Mayer pour le Progrès de líHumanité Ėhttp://echo.org).
As you can imagine, itís natural that such a mixture of cultures is organized from beautiful Quisqueya, so that a new birth is being given to this continent. So it has been done at once.
The activities started with the subscribing of whoever wished to a "moderated, democratic list with rules", as it was explained. There is a philosophyhttp://www.funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/metodos/filosofia01.html and clear procedures http://www.funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/metodos/procedimientos.html.
To subscribe you only have to fill in a formhttp://www.funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/planilla.html and once it has been done you are a member of the project. You are just in time to spread the news.
Believe me, I also had some doubts about the benefits of a moderation on the themes we are dealing with, but the clarity of the rules and objectives that had been drawn for the whole process convinced me a posteriori to use this means. In these preliminary documents, members were requested to introduce themselves to the other members and so to fill in a form with their personal data. Those forms can be read in:
Why werenít they all filled in? This is one of the questions, which the project is trying to solve.
How does it all work? Donít worry, I am about to explain it all. They have a diagram describing the whole process.http://www.funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/apoyos/diagrama.html, but
I personally prefer to understand it and to explain it to you with an integral schemehttp://www.funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/apoyos/esquema.html, which has been developed. I want you to look at it carefully, back and forth, for the dynamics is quite interesting.
After we all have introduced ourselves, we started to talk within the virtual community about a document submitted to the coordination of the projecthttp://www.funredes.org/mistica/castellano/mas/doc-coord.html. The following document, produced during the INO workshop of the FPH, came out after a preliminary internal discussion among the promoters of the project.
The document that was proposed by the coordination as a basis for the discussion (DOC-COORD) was set inside a general context that
includes the globalization process and the social production of the technologies, the importance that has ICT in the definition
of social relations, and the necessity of taking a stand regarding this particular technological progress.
Five main thematic lines have been identified. They could be considered as basic ones for Latin America and the Caribbean, from which the potential of ICT should be explored to start solid and lasting development projects based on equality. These mainlines are democracy, governability and civic participation, education, language and culture, health and at last, economy and productivity. Simultaneously, there are other mainlines called transverse axes which should be taken into account in all the other thematic mainlines, and which are linked to the fields of gender, environment and the treatment of the socially discriminated populations This document was left to the appreciation of the VC for 4 weeks. This left time for the document to be revised. A new document was then produced: it included the opinions of the VC as far as these aspects are concerned. I must confess that I sometimes find that DOC-COORD was very consensual and not very polemic, but even this way it generated enough
participation. Now I wonder whether there was another way to write so that people would be even more interested, but I definitely think
that at this stage sugar was better than salt. On the other hand, the moderation was neither very rigorous nor constraining with the
participants so as to have them send messages that would concentrate on precise points of discussion in a given length of time. This could be interpreted as another way to get the trust of the VC. I believe they got it.
One of the most striking aspects of the whole activity that has been virtually developed since the beginning of the project is that there are archives of all the messages that have been sent and which went through moderation
Five main thematic lines have been identified. They could be considered as basic ones for Latin America and the Caribbean, from which the potential of ICT should be explored to start solid and lasting development projects based on equality. These mainlines are democracy, governability and civic participation, education, language and culture, health and at last, economy and productivity. Simultaneously, there are other mainlines called transverse axes which should be taken into account in all the other thematic mainlines, and which are linked to the fields of gender, environment and the treatment of the socially discriminated populations.
This document was left to the appreciation of the VC for 4 weeks. This left time for the document to be revised. A new document was then produced: it included the opinions of the VC as far as these aspects are concerned.
I must confess that I sometimes find that DOC-COORD was very consensual and not very polemic, but even this way it generated enough participation. Now I wonder whether there was another way to write so that people would be even more interested, but I definitely think that at this stage sugar was better than salt. On the other hand, the moderation was neither very rigorous nor constraining with the participants so as to have them send messages that would concentrate on precise points of discussion in a given length of time. This could be interpreted as another way to get the trust of the VC. I believe they got it.
One of the most striking aspects of the whole activity that has been virtually developed since the beginning of the project is that there are archives of all the messages that have been sent and which went through moderation. http://www.funredes.org/mistica/comunity/mail/index
There is also an area dedicated to the documents written by the participants during the project in the web site. (It is a valuable documentation for those who are interested in the subject and it keeps growing).
As far as the quality and the quantity of the participations are concerned I won't talk too long. Just remember that from various points of view, they were of great interest and, which enriches at once the idea that each one got closer to this VC. But at this point it is worthwhile to highlight two things: the first one is the lack of spaces to discuss this type of thematic in the region for people seemed to be avid of possibilities to share their experiences; the other one is the important human contingent from different types of institutions (ONGs, international governmental, university organizations, etc.), who do have something to contribute to these topics.
Are you following me Emilio? I hope so because I have tried to be very clear with something I know is very complex and difficult to explain. So complex that this whole project is carefully supported in the information of the web page (Do you realized? Every two lines a connection to a part of that website appears). The truth is that it isnít easy this way either, you need to invest time to understand the project; it is not true that it can be understood within 5 or 10 minutes. They are now looking for a professional, woman or man a graphic designer with experience to make a simple version of sucha complex thing. We still havenít found anybody but we are close. Do you know anybody with that profile?
Through this, what I mean to tell you is that whoever integrates the project can update it now, revising the whole documentation that has been written during the process. It will take time indeed, because the VC is very active (an average of 3 to 4 contributions per day) although the contributions only come from 30% of the members. From another point of view, as I commented it previously, this intensity can be interpreted as a necessity for a group of people who feel deeply attached to these topics, to which very few spaces are left, to communicate.
Do you think Iím finished already? You are wrong dear friend, yet again. Now I am going to tell you about the newest experiences. As we were reaching the end of the discussion on the DOC-COORD a synthesis was redacted. I will tell you that I don't envy those who did it because some special gifts are required to organize that sea of ideas in such a short time, two weeks if you want to know. In addition, as I commented it, the chairing of the debates was very flexible during that period of the virtual conference, and the volume of messages ended up being overwhelming several times. To make it, it would have had to require bigger attachment to the rules of the discussion and those referred to the length of the messages. Well, that DOC-VC became public and the turned to be the center of the following activity that was carried out in the project, which, to make it short, I will refer to as Samaná.
At this stage, an experimental methodology was put into practice and designed to articulate the discussion between the physically gathered VC who were debating according to a certain schedule, and the rest of the VC who is doing it from a distance. The virtual members knew the schedule of the meetings, the materials and documents with which people arrived to the actual meeting.
Let me explain it in cyberjargon. A schedule was established to discuss the doc-VC:http://www.funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/metodos/agenda01.html
which regulated the activities of the whole VC. Some members were following it together from Samaná: http://www.funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/Samaná/participantes01.html while the other ones made it using a participation methodology from a distance (PAD) that was tested on this occasion: http://funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/pad.html
with quite a specific modality. As a linking tool, this scheme imposed a synchronization of the times of reflection and participation of people who were spread in several countries, from the two continents.
The result was rich and Iíd describe it as a multidimensional thing. The human aspects in such an organization hide many more things than it appears. Imagine selecting 20 people out of a group of 150 from the VC so that they gather to work in a beautiful place from Quisqueya, while the other ones intervene from a distance. They were chosen according to their active participation to the VC, with an equal regional distribution and representation of interests and also with different points of view. The choice was as good as possible, believe me. The list of those who were there can be seen in:
The mere selection already produced remarkable contributions, as much from those who attended as from those who remained virtual. Have a look at the messages that arrived to the VC the days before the beginning of the meeting:
I will try to lead you by the hand to what those days meant for this VC. You will observe in the schedule and in the other documents I have given to you to look at (and if you really want to understand this information you will do it, because I don't doubt that you will understand it) everything had been planned from the arrival in Santo Domingo. In the first moments everything was limited to bows of mutual recognition and of desires of successes in both atmospheres, virtual or non-virtual. Note that for me, the integration of the two experiences is undoubtedly what the VC is, but of course other people might not share this point of view.
At the beginning those who were present adopted their own rules to control the participation. Among them, the most decisive one was that the time limit for the interventions would be two minutes. It was clear that everyone would participate and could do so, many times. Maintaining a good-humored atmosphere was also requested. For those who remained remote the participation rules were the same ones that had been initially established for the VC. Rules were also specified for the providers of the meeting. Therefore all the ways to make contributions had been pre-established, although they were not always accepted or recognized by people from the various sides of the VC.
As the operation of the PAD was being explained, from the two atmospheres began to appear questions on the final mechanics and the prospective results. I already told you that this is at the same time a beautiful and complex project. Trying to generate new ways to work together, appropriating this type of tools, start with experiments like this, where the methods and the contents need to be validated to be able to advance beyond hypotheses that each one has formulated along the road.
Some initial sessions of the meeting didn't have any PAD (participation at a distance) and they were classic introductions with the starting up that was necessary to understand the dynamics experimented. From the very beginning it was observed how difficult it is to synchronize a VC that recognize immediately that one of the possibilities to be used in a collective virtual work is in fact dissynchronizationÖ.
Then the deliberations began with DOC-CV as a basis. The mechanics consisted in 1) The presentation of what started the discussion with its consensus, discrepancies, (conceptual or operational) matters to solve and actions to recommend. 2) A polemical position to stimulate the discussion between the attending members 3) A dynamics of facilitation that allowed the present group to step forward in some aspects of the discussion. The result of all this was synthesized by a team (PADout), and was to be put online 15 minutes later, so that it could be analyzed by the VC from a distance.
Another team (PADIn) was in charge of picking up the opinions of the distant members and wrote a summary for those who debated face to face. The latter could also make observations, which could not be sent later on to the distant ones.
That was the logic, the rational thing, of the entire mobilization. It sometimes worked this way, other times more or less this way and some other times it had nothing to do with it. Let me explain.
One or several of these mentioned ingredients could turn to be different from what was expected, threre is a big step between the actual event and what was planned.
An additional result of this phase of the process was establishing criteria to select regional projects in this set of themes, which could be supported with some funds that had been kept aside in the Mistica budget. In other words, it also deals with identifying the parameters to select some pilot applications that could be supported with a financing and which, of course, would fulfill the requirements that a community with the defined interests of this VC would detect. Talking is good but acting is also necessary.
Another quite new practice was to place the reports PADin and PADout on the web (by the way, somebody composed a merengue on the topic, with samba variations!!!) This way it was possible for people of the VC, or to anyone who wanted to see the schedule, to get a quick glimpse (in all the meanings of the word) on what was going on at Samaná. When these things work well, we find them very natural, and we forget many meetings we were attending, where we did not have the working documents on time, and which we left without having, at least, the list of the participants, and even less the final resolutions which are supposed to be approved...
Generally speaking, what reached the VC (DOC-VC) was analyzed, the polemic positions were hardly ever polemic, in the strict meaning of the terms, because what was established by the VC was seldom referred to. That doesn't mean it was not interesting in any way, it means that there had been no room for a focused controversy. Sometimes, not always, losing the focus can be more profitable than remaining centered. That in turn had its implications when following the dynamics of the required facilitation so that the present ones advanced in the treatment of the topics of the schedule. The result in many cases (almost all?) was that the spectrum of treatment of the topics was widened and this gave the impression that the attending members ended up rather detecting issues to solve, than reaching an agreement or consensus.
Synthesizing the sessions and making the PADout is not something trivial. Some distance participants repeatedly complained about the cryptic
messages they received, because logically they suspected that many things did not totally reach them. Of course, 15 minutes to summarize the hurricane of participations is a very short time, isnít it?
But what really qualified the experiment was that the participants felt the rigid schedule as a nuisance. First, they considered it unnecessarily inflexible, given the wideness of the topics. Also it was felt that so much fidelity to the given time was not compensated by what appeared to be a little distance participation. Particularly, the notion of a VC was questioned: does it make sense to speak of a VC composed of 130 people while only 30% contribute to it? Another thing that must be taken into account is also that the time imparted to each topic could not be extended since the range of topics to discuss was very wide and the available time was over.
The questioning at this level of the project (when we had already started the second stage, that is to say face to face plus PAD) shook the foundations of the experiment. Imagine, they attempted excessively strongly to change the specifications of the experiment as we were right in the midst of it.
It was nothing more than having the two central hypotheses of the project stand trial: the synchronization on the Internet of working groups (the synchronization in a half eminently asynchronous way) and the existence of a VC beyond the directly visible activity (the legitimity of a passive participation).
This is the right moment to describe to you one of the most interesting incident I believe this whole meeting produced. In the literal heat of the discussion on the theme "is there a VC even when no one participates and communicates his opinion through the virtual discussion?", one of those who were at Samaná (I am suspecting one personÖ) decided to send a message to those who remained from a distance, telling them what was being discussed and requesting them to manifest their opinion on their questioned existence.That message, provocatively entitled of "Speak now or forever hold your peace" and anonymously signed by a so-called Hunchback Whale, shot a "flame" in the VC that will be a subject to study for a long time. A discussion-evaluation of the methodology was generated in parallel to all that was carried out, according to the established schedule, during those days. The message of the Hunchback Whale and the sequel it brought about can also be consulted in the memory of the VC
Have a look at them; you will also have a good time.
In spite of the questioning of the participants, according to my opinion that of course some won't share, the best approach was to respect the scientific method without altering the conditions of the experiment, as long as it was not completed. Otherwise, it is not easy to reach valid conclusions in its strict meaning, everything is hypothesis and speculation. Now one could justifiably say that the allowed time to participate from a distance was short in certain cases, or that 15 minutes is insufficient to complete a synthesis on an hour and a half discussion, or that something should be organized so that some of the present members could encourage the virtual discussion and other things of the style.
Another important lesson is that the time of synchronization of the present members should be adjusted with the distant ones to a whole day, and not to short periods of 2 hours as it was the case during this experience. This way, whoever participates via PAD can find a moment during the day or the night to read and to react.
Emilio, now that Iím writing you all this, Iím convinced even more that I would love to repeat an experiment like this, with the revisions and corrections learned through this first one. Yes, I would like to live it from the perspective of what somebody baptized "fractal space ", that is to say belonging to the two worlds: the present one and the distant one.
I wonder: what would have happened if we had changed the plans halfway?
Now I want to check with you what was achieved during the sessions properly dedicated to the basis. You won't say it is exhaustive but I promise you that I will make my best effort to convey the essential things in each case. I remind you, and forgive me if I look too insistent on the topic, that you can read the details of the PADin & out in http://funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/mail/index.html,
or better still, directly starting from the daily schedule of the event, locating them in their respective session.
The topic of globalization (S3, from now on I will use the nomenclature that appears in the schedule of the meeting where the sessions, "S", are numbered) generated a great activity. It was the right moment to recognize the context and to check if we could progress together. The question was whether more emphasis on the economic thing as the decisive aspect should be made in order to understand the definition and understand it. Intents were made to operate the concept . The conclusion was that it is necessary to go on working in it, to promote a deeper understanding of this topic and to come closer to other working groups who have been concentrating on the matter, so as to bring that knowledge to Mistica. The relationship ICT - Globalization seems irrefutable. Will it be irreversible? The task of subscribing or of making the main promoters, we mean the big capitals feeling the purposes and interests of all the residents of the planet, has arisen. There is nothing that justifies being a passive observer of the process, we are in the same ship and the only valid option is to be proactive.
Subsequently started a diagnosis on the penetration of the ICT in Latin America and the Caribbean (S4). Here the dynamics began to heat up. The foundations of the polemic position in this session are accessible in http://funredes.org/misCITa/download/DIAG.rtf
which you can download. When checking all the existing indicators on the penetration of the ICT, one can see that almost all of them are based on measuring connectivity. Very few of them, this is supposedly due to the difficulties it implies, will try to identify the user of these tools, the reason why he is using them and how the using of the tools changes the behavior of the user. A standard analysis that included the measure of the access, the products and the impact, was managed with a certain depth. Then the dynamics led toward commenting that the promoted conception of the user of the Internet is that of a buyer in a great commercial center, to the detriment of autonomy-oriented users searching information for the production and development of new organizational and social paradigms.
You know it, various intents to measure the penetration of the ICT and diverse rehearsals have been made to apply those measures in the region. It was proved among those efforts that very few came from developing countries. Also the measures in general don't reflect the characteristics that we consider more accurate in AL&C. So we should define and measure our own indicators. It is not necessary to start from the beginning to make it.We still have a lot to do, and this is not the less exciting part.
In my humble opinion as we were including the impact in the pattern, we stopped speaking of the penetration of the TIC and we started the evaluation of social impact, which was in fact the following topic to discuss (S5). The point of it was that to evaluate a social impact, qualifying it as positive or negative, implied a previous valuation, an intention, a purpose or an objective with which a process in evolution was wishing to contrast. Later, the positive or negative aspects of the impact will depend on who is measuring the changes and on their purpose to reach one type of result. Once more, arose the discussion on the appropriateness of the expression "social impact" ("impact" some argued, presupposes there has been a blow and we all know that the social changes do not happen in a blow), whether it would not be any better to use terms such as "social use", or more generally to speak of the ICT-society relationship. Though the limitations of the word were still recognized, it was accepted to go on speaking of " impact ", the term being broadly accepted.
We still have to determine the indicators that need to be measured, before and after the use of the ICT, in the studied activity, like specifying the mechanisms of collection of valid information, to take note of those indicators. That would be the schematic description of the previous task in this field. And this task implies activities such as: developing methodologies, conceptual frameworks from the point of view of the user, researching and compiling the existing bibliography, generating observatories of the processes and creating nets on the evaluation of the experiences.
Once the difficulties of measurement were understood, we turned to other aspects, in a word, to what will be measured in the positive impact: the thematic axes that the VC distinguished, as you have well anticipated.The first one of them is education (S6). After a presentation of what had been settled down in the previous discussion (yes, the famous DOC-VC or http:funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/Samaná/docutrab.html) followed two presentations aimed at introducing a polemic on the matter. The first one started with the growing breach between North and South and the repercussion it has on education. From this we do not know with certainty where the incorporations of ICT will take us, in such a vital aspect. The best technological covering doesnít move toward the remotest places where greater needs can be felt, but toward the profitability of the educational enterprise and these approaches hardly ever coincide. Finally it was pondered how to have an impact on public educational politics, which take advantage of the innovative possibilities offered with the ICT, minimizing their risks.
The other position, also very virtual university centered, insisted on a certain pessimism about the future since it outlined as decisive the premeditation of the promoters of educational projects supported by ICT, to opt for educational models, human working teams, technological options. It seemed that it is difficult to reverse the dominant tendencies in this field since the intention that seems to guide the process is mercantilist.
The debate among the attending members slightly modified the main concerns that completed the conscientious analyses on the impact of the ICT in education. Read in particular the following message: MISTICA: PADout of the session 6 (on Tuesday morning) inhttp://funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/mail/index.html!,
if you want more precisions on the subject. Finally, the attention was concentrated on the necessity of knowing the motivations that stand behind projects of that type, of starting multidisciplinary working teams, of getting qualified at all levels to approach this task.
The distant participation group agreed with almost all the aspects and added one more concern, thinking the virtual universities could be closer to a form of neo-liberalism : it could eliminate positions since,in a context of competition, the local options of the south would be disadvantaged. The training at all levels sounds again as an urgent task to do. The new thing that arose among others was the importance of creating a culture of teleworking as a new alternative for sectors, which today can be excluded from reaching knowledge, be it for lack of time or lack of training.
It is no surprise that education is one of the topics that is extremely provocative. We have been waiting for many years the transformation that ICT can generate or bring to the field of education. The consequences have not been obvious yet, for the time being it keeps being a promise, which has not been fulfilled.
The following thematic axis was that of democracy, governability and civic participation (S7). Some inventions followed. In the actual meeting, an exhibition on what had been reached before Samaná was followed by the presentation of a contribution carried out by a member of the VC who was a distance attendant. As he sent his document via the Internet (http://funredes.org/mistica/comunidad/Samaná/gobernabilidad.html)
and on time, one of the assistants could make a guessed interpretation of his polemical arguments. The central points of his arguments? He suggested three approaches to promote the ICT-Governability relationship. The first approach is as a tool for public field administration. The second one is to improve the flow of communication between the administrating and the administrated people. The third one deals with the cooperation to the institutional process of participating democracy and of the legitimization of decision making.
The second polemic position, to reassert what I told you about this people who do not hesitate when they have to invent new roads was presented at the meeting. There, it was stated that the search of the democratization of communication bears the search of new forms of social control, for example controlling the entry points to Internet. In relation with democracy in cyberspace the fact that there is a loss of other democratic spaces outside of the Internet due to the dangers of exclusion was enhanced. It refers to those who do not have any access, and the concentration of possibilities to lobby or put pressure in some social sectors.
To sum up this topic, the VC, including both present and distant members, enhanced the fact that it is necessary to build bridges from cyberspace to the outside, so as to articulate indeed the access to information and the possibilities of participation. This requires learning how to participate, emotionally, socially and ethically as well as getting closer to the spaces of alternative action. The academic networks the popular and the neighborhood ones are really important in this context as well as knowing the limitations that impose the laws of copyright and intellectual property.>From these collaborative projects arose the fact that with the participation of the academy, of the private companies and of public dependencies, the competitiveness is developed and gives viability to the sovereignties of the countries.
The S8 session was characterized by contacts within working groups formed among the members present at Samaná.There arenít any official reports (PADout) about what happened there, but from what circulated in the corridors of cyberspace, this unstructured encounter turned out to be one of the richest experiences for those who attended. I imagine that it also worked like a liberation after feeling for two days the rigors of the established schedule.
Now letís get back to the events, Emilio. For yes, there were few of those strange inventions that were made in Samaná, and a group tried to transform a round table into a square table! Yes sir, a round table with its inhabitants that put us up, to talk about the Internet and the world of ICT. It was an attempt to reach the people in the street. Nothing square came out of that blessed table, one member of the VC who participated in the incursion at Samaná was even bothered a little, because the table did not formally look like a round table. You know in the Caribbean everything can be redefined.
For once no evaluation to the assisting public was requested but I have my own antennas. I can report that the attendance was numerous and that the great majority did not know what "the Internet" means. So, imagine the challenge when it deals with settling a dialogue on the social impact of the Internet. I donít know if the public appreciated the sincere and most frequently friendly efforts that were made to transmit those concepts in simple terms. Certainly, to expose oneself to such situations is something that deserves respect and consideration.
I am bound to believe that experiences of round tables enriched these two groups of participants: those trying to explain to people who are not used to the usual jargon of this field, and those listening to "experts" who try to show them that finally, what is discussed amongspecialists is not very far from their daily concerns. In a few words: after the PAD they tried the PAP (Participation to the people). Was it useful? The people will tell.
The axis of economy and productivity (S9) is difficult to delimit because of the wide range of elements it includes. After presenting what was reached by the VC, you get to the point that it is essential to specify the motivation that underlines an economy or productivity scheme. Even if some of them are still being legitimate not all of them do promote a decrease of inequalities, moreover some are aimed at expanding that breach. This VC is mostly interested in an economy and productivity that promote alternative models but is positively articulated with what already exists. It is qualified as a showing solidarity/alternative/social VC.
The polemic position proposed a conceptual outline of the analysis of the organizations and their relationships with the ICT that link together the systems of information, the sectors of organization and the working groups.
About this theme, the focus on the activities in the region in small and medium-sized companies, needs to take into account indicators of social productivity in relation to the use of ICT, as well as the consideration of teleworking, training and evaluation, and the effects on the productivity of women. The immediate step to be made is articulating the VC and the networks that gather actors of the alternative of economy.
Then we got to the topic of language and culture (S10). To begin with, after the presentation of those who reached the VC, the discussion was centered on the incorporation of the gender problem in the definition of ICT basing it on the equality in the participation and the taking of decisions. There are no doubts, gender isnít only a womanís concern.
Consideration apart, attention is deserved to the fact that in Latin America and the Caribbean a variety of languages can be found, some are only spoken, and this along with a wide illiteracy implies additional barriers to the access to new technologies. Let us add to this situation other sectors socially excluded such as the groups of blind, deaf or, more generally speaking, disabled people.As far as translations are concerned, it was pointed out that work should be done with the support of human networks, that could facilitate this process and offer the bonds necessary to facilitate the effective translation through ICT. It is predicted that in the future three languages will be managed: a local one, a national one and another international one. Science fiction?
With no intention to be polemical, INKARRI (http://www.inkarri.net) was then introduced. This site shows how the indigenous communities of the region have tactically, operationally and strategically organized, and what was underlined was what is linked to the treatment and diffusion of the information, the investigation and the training of these communities. These communities are organized and have a good understanding of the importance of occupying the spaces where global decisions are taken.
The conclusions on this topic are based on the fact that dominance is expressed in language and culture, by means of marginalizing the codes of the dominated cultures. It is necessary to generate equal conditions that could give potentialities and training to populations. This training topic is recurrent in all the topics, don't you think?
So as to change the rhythm of these deep thinking meeting, after this language and culture session, the members who, until that moment in Samaná, had been confined indoors, had the option to leave in the afternoon to a beautiful beach in an island near the hotel where they were staying (Cayo Levantado is the name of the island). It seemed that these poor people needed to breathe a little and lie on the beach. It was time to recharge the batteries and there are indications that that walk was memorable as you can judge by the pictures that you get in the web
The rumor is going about that some people didn't want compromising pictures through this means so as not to remove the halo of sobriety of some of them. As soon as I receive those other pictures through the informal roads, I will send them to you.
Back to work the next topic was health (S11).The polemic answer to the VC was set in a cinema context. Do not worry, it does not deal with special effects but rather with the analogies that were used to illustrate the enthusiasm for the possibilities of ICT in the field of health. In this case, we situate ourselves in Star Trek, and the state of the health system of the region is like "Saving Private Ryan" with the particularity that the system of health is the soldier Ryan and he is dying. The central questions in this case is:" How can ICT help to avoid it? " The script already deserves an Oscar of the Academy.
It is still amazing that such a topic, so urgent in AL&C, keeps so many opened questions in search of clear answers. The conviction exists, according to my own opinion, that ICT by itself can help generate health and well being. Their utility is limited to groups that can still be qualified as privileged ones, and then they are not dispersed in various social sectors. On the other hand, it is agreed that more information not necessarily diminishes the vulnerability when one is confronted to some health problems. In this specific case, comparative data was managed about current incidences of tuberculosis and AIDS.
ICT could be quite useful as a vehicle to spread traditional knowledge before it is patented and becomes a transnational patrimony of the leading chemical industry.
The problem of training appears once again. This means guiding people to prevention rather than towards a cure, and using ICT like an instrument for daily prevention linked with traditional and massive media, such as radio and television. Without these bridges, the soldier Ryan will never be able to get to the Enterprise.
After the revision of the defined thematic axes, came the transverse axes: gender, environment and socially discriminated populations (S12). Of course these topics were mentioned several times during the meeting, but presently it was the moment to concentrate on them. The dynamics of this session were also similar to those that surrounded the preceding topics. I will tell you that a clear conclusion in this respect is that the three themes should be managed in an integrated way, because while making it with consistency, a harmonic development is induced.
As far as gender is concerned, it started from fundamental considerations such as you, men, aren't aware of how the gender oppression also affects you. To this panorama should be added the macho attitude of the women who hold positions as a leader. On the net this is reflected in the proliferation of sexist jokes, in the sexual cyberharassment (how do you like the new term?), in the lack of unprejudiced spaces of exchanges about gender, in the little development of flexible work outlines that incorporate the list that gender plays, and to my own opinion the high-priority thing to attack, in the necessity of training new generations to the use of ICT with a perspective of gender agreement for the times to come.
On the environment, the fundamental consideration was that big achievements have been reached thanks to the progress of ICT, at the expense of destroying the ecosystems and of generating global problems of health. Clear examples are mining and energy production.
From what was previously mentioned, several necessities can be made out. One is about education and training (this has been mentioned before, hasnít it?) and about environmental issues with special care for current production problems. The ICT can be an excellent means to produce information for a global and coordinated action where the humanity is naturally located inside its settlement. Another necessity is promoting the use of ICT to consummate less energy and natural resources that arenít recyclable.
There is a growing expectation to transform the Internet into a vital tool for the environmentalist activism to promote a conscious and responsible use of natural resources. There is no time to lose.
As for the socially discriminated populations the basic agreement is based upon the fact that there are sectors for which it will be very difficult to have access to ICT, others who will have this possibility. There are also social actors, organizations and networks who are strategically acting regarding ICT. In that context, the political actors who would claim ICT and the access to them as a part of processes of deepening of democracies, can accomplish something.
Facing the lack of access for a great majority of the population, not only owing to the lack of technical resources (yes, the training again) a modernized definition of "universal public service" is required. For this, it is indispensable to know the necessities of the oppressed sectors but with the current control of the communications a filter that is good at the same time to maintain a social control is also imposed. Is this control irreversible? Good question, the debate is going on...
The multiplying points of options should be strengthened as much as the virtual communities. The groups to be incorporated should be categorized. The knowledge of their necessities should be structured. There is more than a pattern to achieve this, but we already know we should bring our attention to the implications of the use of ICT, and look for pacts between governmental and non-governmental institutions, private companies and communities: to gather the biggest quantity and quality of available willingness.
The last working session, before concluding, was about pilot applications (S13). These applications are part of the Mistica project, with a corresponding part to finance them, and their purpose is to support collaborative projects that contribute to progress in the field of the detected necessities. In this case they could be, for example, diagnoses of social impact of ICT on the identified thematic or tranverse axes or methodological developments to evaluate the impacts.
To determine the criteria according to which the pilot applications should be chosen we started revising the common elements detected along the whole meeting. Working axes (thematic and transverse), confrontation lines, risks and opportunities and action orientations were identified. About the latter it was concluded that it is necessary to act locally, to support alternative experiences, to be articulated in a network, and to be sustained in investigation processes and permanent evaluation.
The creativity of the present members, in this case, produced an instrument that structures different types of approaches (global, specific, conditions of the final product and of the operation) to select the projects that the VC recommends to support. The instrument was baptized YANAPANAKO, which means "helping us" in Quechua.
The GLOBAL approaches are:
∑Power of citizens
∑ Interaction and synergy
∑ Interdependence spaces
∑ Local autonomies
∑ Articulate to existent social processes
∑With a strong social content, that is to say that the content is more important than the investment in infrastructures based on TIC
∑ Identified themes in the hints for action previously specified
∑Activities that support paradigm change
The SPECIFIC approaches turned out to be:
For " REQUIREMENTS " the approaches were:
∑To work with groups or existent processes, to privilege groups with experience
∑ To present a viable budget, less than US$10.000
∑To consider compensation funds
∑ That it opens the doors toward other financing agencies
∑To produce an inventory of resources
∑To include an inventory that picks up the existent necessities
∑To foresee the popularization of results or experiences, it can be communicated through Misticaís clearinghouse
∑ To include activities that support changes of paradigms
∑ To include members of this VC
As for the FINAL PRODUCT it was settled down:
∑ To be proactive, that is to say, to be in concrete actions of a social appropriation of ICT
∑ To include an inventory of resources
∑ To include an inventory that gathers the existent necessities
∑ To foresee the popularization of results or experiences, it can be communicated through Misticaís clearinghouse.
And finally, for the " OPERATION " the approaches were:
∑ Projects of investigation/action
∑ Constant evaluation
∑ Participating diagnosis
∑ Interaction and synergy
As you can see my dear friend, after having revised the main working axes of interest for this community, actions, orientations and even a methodology were identified to determine pilot applications that could be supported by seed funds from the same project, and which would let them get a solid basis to act in the field of the social impact of ICT . They can be led to a positive social effect.
As for the continuation of the meeting it is well known that that night there were dances and songs until dawn. The combined effect of food, drink and music from several regions of the continent resulted in a story difficult to compare with reality. Just to give you an idea: the legend says that that night the dance of the "Tiburon del Altiplano" was immortalized (?).
Once completed the schedule of the meeting it is time to evaluate what was carried out before taking the following steps. You will draw your own conclusions and your own evaluation after reading this chronicle. The members of the VC did their own one. Let me tell you that there is an evaluation of the experience made by those who were in Samaná:
and for those who participated from a distance
By the way in this project . They evaluated everything, and always. They are as obsessed with continuous evaluation. I can see it as the search of a democratic way to correct mistakes and to permanently adjust the road toward the global objectives that have been settled down. For me this odd habit is necessary and positive.
Once the assessment has been done the activities of the VC go on. It is the moment to prepare the web site for what is coming up: EMEC (server of list management in four languages, with synthesis), the pilot applications and the
"clearinghouse" (reference site in the Internet on this theme). Besides the activities that have naturally arisen after the interaction of sensitive and solidarity showing humanity flow, we want to enlarge the participation of people and organizations in our VC. Do you happen to know somebody who you could invite to join the Mistica VC? You already have the parameters and you know whom you can refer to.
Emilio, Samaná definitely means a landmark in this Mistica project and in the field of investigation on how to appropriate ICT to generate developments that have a positive social impact. I now hope to meet you again but inside the VC and defending the changes the region needs. We start to build roads when we walk, as a Spanish poet once said.
And I will leave you here with this story because I should go back to the real world. Chau.
ICT: Information and Communication Technologies. Also NICT for some that insist on calling them New.
The name is owed to a beautiful place of the Dominican Republic that was chosen as a setting for a meeting that this phase of the project gathers.
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Latest modification: 09/10/2000