For my loyal and good-looking and ridiculously intelligent readers aka my friends and relatives, Welcome Back.
And to my new readers who have been redirected from the Digital Natives newsletter, you are forced to read on, just cos. I’m kidding –or not!
If today is also a lazy day for you, then this would be the best way to kill time. A lot of my friends are wondering why I keep going in and out of Laos ever since I left home (Philippines). And not just any country, but the Netherlands? Well, here’s my Digital Natives Project Story and hopefully, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of what’s keeping me busy apart from updating my Facebook status and Tweeting randomness and trivial details of my melodramatic-web-oriented path to career and life.
The Genesis of My Digital Identity, otherwise known as the Open Call
I flew in back to Laos all alone last July and tried to focus on finishing my tasks before October (you see, if you haven’t heard about the whole story of why I am working in this interesting country which started my “serious blogging life”, you can refer here). My goal was to go home after three months, for good, and start a career in the Philippines; or move in to Singapore when the time and my CV are right. One day, I received an Open Call for some workshop to be held in Taipei happening in August –it read Talking Back: Project Digital Natives with a Cause.
I peered at the e-mail hard and tried to make sense of what I was reading, of the term Digital Natives. But something just sparked in my head and I did understand, after a moment, what it was trying to say, at least to me. I thought “digital” =meaning today, where almost everything around me is automated; and “native” = a local of a particular place. Just looking at how my daily routine goes, I don’t think I can exist effectively without the aid of digital devices. Ever since I was a kid, my affinity with digital devices didn’t need much explanation for me. I learned how to use them by trying them out –getting a little electrocuted, hurting myself, troubleshooting on my own, and today, even Google-ing how to find that perfect hairstyle for my face shape and hairtype. My digital-interest became my digital life, thus, the start of calling myself a digital native. How was I to know that this term has been all over the internet being studied by a lot of researchers and scholars, etc.
There was another issue about the Open Call…the with a cause part. The application form asked to describe any Internet-related initiative from me. By the word initiative, I immediately thought, change.
Being said that I am a digital native, the with a cause part bothered me. I hesitated in sending an entry because I didn’t believe that my participation in and outside the digital world, citing the Internet and the Web as my new home, works for a particular cause. I just thought that blogging about my travels can help travelers, but it ain’t exactly screams social change. And during that time, I just updated TCW with a new masthead, theme and new stories because I failed to update it for a long time. What are the chances that my entry will standout from entries “coming in from Asia and the Middle East”? Besides, I was never fortunate in sending entries. I am one of those people who never, as in never, won a raffle even draws in my school or elsewhere.
And as talkative as I am in a very comfortable environment, I curl upon a hint of intimidation and this workshop, just from the word international, screamed intimidating. I filled-in the application form anyway, before the last day of submission. I didn’t keep my hopes up. You, my dear, I warned myself, are not the type who gets selected from a pool with the Asia and the Middle East as parameters of selection. You very well know you flop at workshops. So cool it.
The E-Mail from Hasina Which Turned My Life Around
I checked my second e-mail address, there was a familiar subject line highlighted. I opened it and there it was, an email from the organization congratulating me. That I was flying to Taipei. That I was chosen to participate in the first international workshop on Project Digital Natives with a Cause. That I was about to scream my head off but I can’t because I was in the office.
They say, there’s always a catch. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I need to get a VISA to enter Taiwan ROC. And that there was no Taiwanese consulate in the country and that the closest place I can apply for one is in Vietnam. On my birthday, I flew in to Ho Chi Minh City and was granted single entry VISA two days after. The day after my passport-pickup, I flew back to Vientiane to pack my stuff because the next day, I was off to Taipei. Finally.
Talking Back or Stuck in my Thought-Bubble
I was the earliest during breakfast. I was actually scared that the participants all left for the venue and well, I have to navigate my way in the whole of Academia Sinica. You see, Academia Sinica is like a small town with uniform buildings, clean streets, fresh air and they got a ridiculously fast WiFi in every single corner you reach –unsecured!
Then participants started to shuffle in the cafeteria, some names I recognized from the email thread and some new ones. I was wearing my sinh, as a sign of Laos plus that I am not comfortable wearing jeans. I seriously thought the workshop would be a formal one at that, but nope, I was over-freakin-dressed. And mind you, I got two more skirts in my luggage.
The walk to the venue was fun, I enjoyed walking and talking to the participants. After registration and few more chats, it was the opening session. The Flashtalk started, all participants were given five minutes to introduce themselves and what they do. I was half-expecting I wasn’t the only one working for the corporate world and was just doing blogging during their spare time. But uhh, nope, again I was wrong. Their careers are somewhat built around social change, causes, movement and research, most with the aid of the web and other digital tools. When it was my turn, you could have guessed what happened. But to give you a little detail, I faltered with my notes. I struggled with my words. I blabbed. Horrible.
Session break we went straight to discussion of the most baffling question I have ever encountered in relation to my practice, “What is politics?” Then came in more, “What’s political in your practice?”
You see, I do away with talks about politics just because the politics I was oriented back in my hometown was quite…the assertive and government-oriented one. And then come in this workshop, when I looked at the other participants, they were pretty much confident with the topic like it was just another episode of a sitcom to talk about. As soon as I opened my mouth, when I said I wasn’t interested in anything political –I died and have gone to ditz heaven.
The next day, yes, I was still in my skirt, but it was the typical A-line. Seriously though, I thought the second day would be harder. I was psyching myself out of what will happen during the second day. But expectations always fail me.
We had bar camp sessions and some interesting activities such as campaign-planning. I particularly enjoyed the campaign-plans discussions most because, well, that’s all I know. Campaign, or specifically communication-campaign planning, is one of the courses we had back in my university. So even if I wasn’t political and I was incredibly traumatized with the discussion about politics, I felt I was of good use to the activity.
For some reason, Talking Back had me rethinking on what I do online. Instead of them (the creators) finding some answers (hopefully!) to their inquiries, the workshop actually triggered me to make my time online somewhat a little more compelling. I became more conscious with my blog content, and if you follow me on Twitter or you’re my friend on Facebook, believe it or not…my posts are all filtered and/or coded to perfection. A skill, I have yet to fully develop!
And I promised myself that I will be participating in every way possible in the project. I don’t know, like how my relationship started with anything digital, the reason for my participation is beyond me.
Asian Girl’s First Continental Cross
When the news of going to the Hague came in my Facebook first, this time I screamed.
But I started freaking out when I finally met the figures and personalities I will be conversing with for the next three days. They all seemed –academic to me. But then again, I thought, listening and processing, and not necessarily always responding to every statement, I could function as well. The discussions tackled on a range of topics and questions about the Digital Natives’ role in social transformation. And if, in fact, DNs play a role in social transformation –what role will our traditional actors play? How will such actors (digital natives, researchers, development agencies, policy-makers and the corporate world) collaborate?
Some discussions went back on how we determine who the digital natives are and what they do, like is there any specific behavior which we can relate, if not equate, to being a digital native? We also came up with action plans on possible collaborations in every sector, held more discussions on how we see the project’s direction and more interesting views on media, communication, technology, the Internet at that, are clicking in sync for social transformation.
I felt so overwhelmed that I was in the same room with all these experts. I’d like to think that I’m speaking on behalf of the digital natives –that I’m representing that part of the population who’s not very much keen to the talks of socio-political transformation or at least speaks a different language when talking about it, but still equally interested in social change. My interest in social change started during my undergraduate training and I chose the web and the Internet as my extension for my messages about culture and travel. I blog because I have something that I want to say; I am glad that we are constantly creating a space for our thoughts and our causes. My blog was my entry to participate in this project and really, I will be walking in anytime, if asked.
So far, this is my Project Digital Natives story. How about yours?