Posts filed under ‘human rights’
Who knew that my experiences in science communication, technology, media, human rights, sustainable development and participatory theatre would combine for an assignment in the South Pacific?
Last month I arrived in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, to be a digital trainer with Wan Smolbag Theatre. Wan Smolbag is core funded by Oxfam, NZ Aid and Australian Aid. It began more than 25 years ago touring Pacific islands with one small bag of costumes, making participatory theatre for health promotion. It has expanded massively, now also coordinating a turtle monitoring network, reproductive health clinics, youth and nutrition centres, sports programs, disaster preparedness, health and environment resources and waste management projects.
It’s refreshing getting back into grassroots development after my work in Melbourne and Geneva over the past couple of years. It’s also fantastic to enjoy life by the ocean again – during high school I worked at my local surf shop. Vanuatu’s opportunities for surfing, kayaking and diving as well as fantastic tropical fruits make it a place I’m happy to live.
I’m continuing to do research and writing in science communication and health promotion with universities in Australia. I’m aiming to do digital training here related to a range of organizations I’ve been involved with in the past, including OpenStreetMap, Wikipedia and Mozilla. Firstly though I’m focused on local needs and interests. For example, I’m helping with World Oceans Day activities next week. This week I’m travelling around the island of Efate documenting Healthforce, the health promotion theatre group, and Rainbow disability theatre. Most digital work I’m supporting at the moment is making publications including comic books and posters about health and environmental issues, written in Bislama and focused on visual communication for island communities.
On Friday an article I wrote about values and priorities in open data was published. This led to many discussions and feedback from people that I found surprisingly positive. Given that I’ve advocated for human rights with indigenous peoples and I have been studied as a woman in technology, my advocacy for open knowledge comes with caveats. Those caveats are why for example I MCed The Privacy Workshop last year.
People fear openness for many different reasons. Peoples’ confidence in expressing themselves in public depend upon social factors and may be impacted by systemic bias that incentivises some to speak up while demotivating others. It was a big change for me to contribute to Wikipedia revealing my real name, which I only did after AdaCamp, because I realized that openness might help address the gender gap.
I was a little disturbed about how overwhelmingly positive feedback on my open data article was, because I know how consensus can undermine diversity. I know there are good reasons people may fear open data. After the article was published I explicitly welcomed alternative viewpoints in ways and places that I connect with people with different experiences to mine. I was happy to receive some responses in private – however it saddens me that they are private because people do not feel comfortable sharing them publicly. I would like to live in a world in which everyone was free and confident to express their experiences in their own voices without fear. I put effort into seeking and hearing voices beyond those typically in the public sphere. My experience publishing this article reinforced that effort and the intention behind it.
Incidentally, I’m participating in Mindful in May. I’m helping with Progress 2015 this week in Melbourne. Not incidentally, I’m participating in an open knowledge meetup when I’m in Canberra next week. I’ll stay until I present at ANU later in the month.
I’m back in Australia! I have much updating to do, but here’s a quick note to report that I’m based in Melbourne for the next while. The University of Melbourne have kindly accepted me as a Visiting Scholar within Melbourne Law School, allowing me a room of one’s own (or a carrel of one’s own at least) and access to wonderful resources, which should allow me some solid time to write up my research. The first peer-reviewed paper emerging from my research has finally been published earlier this month (DOI: 10.1177/2158244014523791). I went to great lengths to make it open access, so please enjoy reading it paywall-free!
I was under contractual obligations to limit public comment related to my work during the last year, which impacted this site. Those same contractual obligations meant I had to take leave from my research for a year to do the very interesting things I did, hence I’m coming back to it now. It was a profound year that changed my views of the world, in which I did many novel things. They included riding a motorbike in Thailand hundreds of kilometres, helping indigenous peoples to produce a comic book about human rights, presenting about Wikipedia and women in technology in Cambodia with Khmer translators, and helping organise a dance flashmob for women’s rights as part of One Billion Rising.
I’m still processing how all of these experiences inform my life now and dealing with some reverse culture-shock. I’m lucky to have a space to focus in Melbourne that is allowing me to calmly segue back into life in Australia.