Monday, December 22, 2008

Inform, Engage, and Empower During Your Freetime

One new set of connections created through my Milestones for a New Millennium blog was through becoming one of the moderators for the Orkut group End POVERTY / Fim POBREZA.

I find that Orkut offers more of a conversation regarding relevant topics than does Facebook. It is an international conversation spanning the globe. Lately the direction of the discussions has been on the best means of directing the discussions. The basic format for the discussions is the web itself and more particularly Orkut, but we are open to numerous avenues of communication. The question is which avenues are best for both open dialogue and advancing the cause of the Millennium Development Goals?

A recently learned term is Slacktivists, basically well-meaning but all too often ineffectual (at least until a tipping point is reached) social activists hanging on and together through social media. At the other end of the continuum are professionals (as in "gets paid for it.") in the social media/Web 2.0 arena. Most of us hope to be somewhere in the middle trying to help when and where we can on a part-time and unpaid basis.

Slacktivists may be those who take no more effort than clicking a button to join a petition, but they are still a step above those that don't know and/or don't care. I try to put a good deal of information on my blog to make it easier for others to connect in the hope they will pursue their own pathways. The basic web connection is information through shared self-education. Then comes engagement which does sometimes mean signing online petitions. There is also the potential, as the Obama campaign has demonstrated, for empowerment.

It is not just the IT-intelligentsia's road, it is a journey for all of us. Ethan Zuckerman discusses Technologies and Emerging Democracies: Building a Better Gatekeeper in an MIT video. I agree with both Zuckerman and others in my Orkut conversations that Hi5, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Zuckermans's favorite Reddit among dozens of others offer their own unique impressions regarding their areas of interest, but it also means that the Web is balkanized. Are we "Gatekeepers" or are we attempting to break through the gates?

Is there a way to better leverage the collective wisdom of these international connections being created through these groups? Just trying to keep up with all the information and maintain my two blogs is an effort. Then there is that pesky real world day job. I try to rise above being a slacktivist or at least attempt at being a fairly prolific slactivist. Without the educational background and professional expertise in the Web 2.0 world, how does one best use these online resources to endeavor to connect and make a difference in the world?

I have a good deal of respect for experts in this field, but their professionalism is often related to the medium not the message. The question is how best to connect? One earlier post exploring this idea which I revisited and reedited was Being Human, Working, Writing Stories, Being Human.

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