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HiperBarrio: Local Stories, Global Audience Podcast

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Rising Voices August 10, 2007. This is the Rising Voices podcast. I'm David Sasaki, Director of Outreach for Global Voices, and this is the second installment of a two-part podcast about Medellin, Colombia, and a new citizen media outreach project called HiperBarrio which is taking the tools of citizen media to Medellin's hillside slums. In the first installment, we spoke with torture survivor, Hector Aristizabal, about his violent upbringing in Medellin during the 1970s and 1980s. But today's podcast isn't about violence or history or politics. It's about creativity. It's about learning the 21st century skills to express ones self online. To learn about others and to converse with them. In 1989, Hector Aristizabal escaped to the United States. A year later, he had to briefly return to Columbia to identify the body of his brother who was killed and dumped in a ditch. Hector says that the rage of seeing his own brother's dismembered body made him feel vengeful and violent. But instead, he returned to the United States, settled in Los Angeles, and started a theater group which promotes the use of the stage as a place of terror, mourning, and rebirth. >> [Hector:] The theater has definitely been a very important aspect of my life. It has become the art form that has allowed me to process not just the feel of culture, but many other situations in my life that had been very difficult. So the possibility to create using our own stories, using our own wounds is what art has always offered human beings. In art, you transcend a situation, and you transform it, and you attempt to take out the meaning out of these horrifying moments in life. And for me, theater has been that catalyst and that place where -- where I can take a story that is personal and connect it to the collective and also create a ritual in which, when I share my story with others, then those others, the audience, help me carry the story. >> But Hector doesn't just write his own plays. He also travels to afflicted communities around the world and uses theater to inspire action. >> [Hector:] We go to a community, and we find images of what the issues are for the community -- some of the main issues. And then we develop short plays in which the contradictions are presented but not the solutions. So once we present a 10, 15, 20-minute play about an issue -- call it rape, call it military recruitment, whatever -- then the audience will start the play all over again, and the audience is invited to stop the play, replace the protagonist, and try a different alternative. So, in that way, there is not one solution, but we can see many, many different alternatives as offered by the community whose issues we're dealing with. >> Throughout our conversation, I started to catch on. The stage becomes much more than just a place of acting out. It's also a place for dialogue and participation, a place for trying to imagine something better and figuring out how to get there. And then, all of a sudden, it hit me. Wait a minute. Isn't that just like blogging? >> [Hector:] I'm sure, as we are all experiencing, the Internet is such a new language and such a new universe for all of us, that every day I see new -- as you are describing to me -- new ways in which people are becoming -- are using their imaginations. And they can then create such an ocean of creativity and change and globalization. I think no one could imagine this happening. And it's fascinating. Of course, there is a lot of garbage out there and a lot of other things, but what has happened with YouTube -- when people can create images about their lives, of little blogs or stories, and share it with others, and then immediately, all those people can respond to them in both words and -- spoken words, but also images. It's such a powerful tool. And people isolated, like from Santa Domingo or any other community in Colombia whose stories have never been heard by anybody, now being able to put themselves in front of a camera and tell the world what their lives are like, and maybe receive a response from Mongolia. A kid in an isolated place can get on the Internet and tell them what their lives are like. >> That happens to be the exact objective of Juliana Rincon, Jorge Montoya, and Alvaro Ramirez, the three project leads of HiperBarrio, a Rising Voices outreach project which is teaching young people in the working-class northern hills of Medellín how to use citizen media. >> [Juliana:] Most of them are teenagers, the ones who are interested in the technology and the computers. But they basically chat, and they watch videos on YouTube, and for them, it's like watching TV where they can change the channels, and we're trying to change that. To make them realize that it's a two-way communication with Internet. That they can not only see what other people produce in YouTube or in different video media, but they can also make things for others to see. They can not only read what other people write about their favorite bands or groups, they can write it themselves. And that's the whole point that we are doing these workshops at the libraries for blogging and online media. >>Most of the brand-new library parks in Medellin are also equipped with brand-new computer labs full of brand-new computers. But Jorge Montoya says the librarians were worried that the neighborhood's youth wouldn't know what to do with the computers other than play games and chat with friends. >> [Jorge:] They didn't know how to prove better ways to use the computers and the online connections, so they saw our idea and our projects like a good opportunity to start an educational program of showing the people better ways to use the Internet in a productive way. >> [Juliana:] The people there, there have stories to tell. They have things to say. They have a need to express themselves. And just giving them the possibility to learn the tools, I think that that just makes it worth it. >> Before even having received any funding, Jorge and Juliana have already put on two successful workshops, introducing dozens of young people from Medellin to the blogosphere. But before learning more about each workshop, I asked Juliana, who is a recent arrival to Medellin from Costa Rica, how she met Jorge. Costa Rica has an active and social blogosphere. The bloggers in San Jose seem to interact offline as much as online. But Juliana says that just wasn't true of Medellin. >> [Juliana:] When I came to Columbia, it was completely different. I didn't know that it was different, actually. I thought that what we did in Costa Rica was normal, that that's what bloggers did around the world: they just blogged and got together and talked. And it wasn't like that. It was quite lonely. I met one lonely blogger who posted about the flash mob that they had in Medellin. There was this pillow fight flash mob where three people showed up. So it wasn't much of a flash, and it wasn't much of a mob. But he documented it, and although his pictures only show a couple of people -- like two people hitting each other with pillows, because the third one was taking the picture. He was the first person I met in Colombia. So meeting Jorge, we started talking about it. I commented about what we did in Costa Rica. He mentioned that that didn't happen here. That we didn't even know who blogged in Medellin. Apparently, according to the flash mob, not many. So we decided that we wanted to know who else was blogging in Medellin, that maybe there was someone else who also wanted to meet other bloggers and have friends with whom they shared this weird hobby here of writing online. In Medellin, I hardly see people writing. Like, I don't see people using -- sketching or journaling, or using moleskines or any type of those activities. You don't see it. So when you do it online, people assume you're just -- if you're not working, you're playing and you're goofing off. So it's not a very well-understood activity -- blogging in Medellin. >> What Juliana and Jorge did not know was that at the University of Borgen in Norway, media and communications professor Alvaro Ramirez was also wondering how he could use the advent of new media to make a difference in his native Colombia. >> [Alvaro:] I am a Colombian living in Norway since 1990. I have been working at the University of Bergen since 1993, since I graduated from New York University. And I have been recently interested in working with new media. In the past I worked mostly with documentaries and script writing for television-- dramatic shows, mainly in Colombia. Here in Norway, now I am interested in projects that have to do with participation and citizen journalism. >> Along with his friend and colleague, Mauricio Munera, Alvaro set out to find a community where participatory media could make a difference. >> [Alvaro:] We were lucky to find San Javier La Loma. The barrio in Medellin was tipped to me by Carlos Alberto Ramirez, an ontologist, He told me about the cultural life being lived in this poor, suffering neighborhood in Medellin. They have many musical groups, theater, and different expression. They have a strong cultural tradition who has people of all kinds working within it. Guillermo Alvarez and his family is one of the main mentors of this cultural life in the barrio. >> Now, Alvaro, Juliana, and Jorge have all teamed up under the same name: HiperBarrio. And all three of them have already led separate workshops in the neighorhoods of Santa Domingo and La Loma San Javier. Over 30 young people have started their own web logs because of these workshops. They're creative, imaginative, sophisticated -- in fact, they're a lot more interesting than many of my friends' blogs. So what were Alvaro, Juliana, and Jorge doing to get these kids so excited? I asked Juliana to tell me about the first workshop that she gave. >> [Juliana:] It was a mask workshop, and they learned how to upload the pictures of their projects, and write about the workshop on their blogs, which they also began. It was amazing just getting up there and telling these kids about blogs, and finding out that they had no idea that there was something like a blog, that they existed, that you could write online and have like the virtual space to keep your writing, the videos you like, and pictures. >> Juliana had the participants make the masks in order to show how our individual blogs are also like masks, facades that we both identify with and sometimes hide behind. >> [Juliana:] The students are the participants. They all change their masks to suit their taste, their personal values, what they liked, what they thought was pretty or interesting, which is basically what happens when someone opens a blog. They decide how they want it to look. And a blog is basically our face on the Internet. But it's not really our face. It's what we want to show others that we are or what we want to hide from others. So that was the whole idea of the workshop was to unify these concepts. The blog, which is like an online identity that we choose -- we can decide for it to look like us and to express what we are, or we can make it completely different and have it not reflect who we are. Or like a couple of participants, for example, they painted their mask in their soccer team colors. And in that case, the mask is reflecting their particular interests. And it was funny, in one of the cases, the blog was also about the soccer team. So, I guess it was a very -- I think it was a very good analogy for them. >> While Juliana was helping her participants both make masks and document them on their new blogs in Santo Domingo, Jorge took his participants for a walk around the barrio of La Loma San Javier. The point was to describe the community on their blogs, but they ended up seeing things that they never had before. >> [Jorge:] One of the moments of the workshop is travel around the barrio that we are working. And this time was in La Loma -- La Loma de San Javier is a barrio on the top of the mountain in the western of the city of Medellin. We want to work with one of the people who lives there in La Loma and other people who came from another place in the city to know, to recognize their own spaces. And these people who live in La Loma, even they didn't know the places that we were walking around. There are places that they see all day. They are living there all days. They were trying to see that place with a different perspective, and more important, show that place to another people who are visiting who never, never came to that place -- whoever saw that place from the center of the city, you can see the mountain and you can imagine a lot of stories happening in that barrio. >> And it's true. When you start telling your life as a story to others, you start to think about it differently yourself. Hector Aristizabal says that young people are constantly trying to express creativity, but that it often comes out in baggy clothes and spray-painted walls. >> [Hector:] To see who is behind the baggy clothes and the tattoos, the piercings -- What is it that is trying to erupt? The weird colors in the hair, the weird dance moves. Something is trying to come out, and what is trying to come out is the imagination of the culture. So for people who work with youth, I highly recommend that they work with either an art form or a discipline. Not just the experience, but something that would help them recognize in the youth, their gift. >> Empowering the participants of HiperBarrio is an important part of the project. But Jorge, Juliana, and Alvaro have their sights set even further. Jorge expects the project to affect the entire community. >> [Jorge:] It is not only the people who will take part in the workshop. After that workshop, the people know the project that the boys did. So they can know about the work we are doing, and they get excited to keep doing things. >> [Juliana:] The idea is for every participant to become a replicator, to tell their friends, to explain, to sit with them and let them know how they can open a blog and upload videos, and put pictures, and not only that, but also for participants to be able to create their own online media, not to have to sit and watch, but actually to say: Let's make something that others can sit and watch. >> And according to Global Voices Colombia contributor, Carlos Velasquez, the established Colombia blogosphere will eagerly receive its newest members. >> [Carlos:] I think the people will be quite interested in how these people manage to express themselves thorugh this tool. I think blogging is a tool to express yourself and to say what they want said. To have their voice heard or read. I think Colombian bloggers will be quite interested. >> And I hope that you will stay interested, too. In the next couple weeks, we'll be posting our first introduction to the HiperBarrio participant blogs on Global Voices. Excerpts of their posts will be translated from Spanish to English, and from English to many more languages, thanks to our lingual team of volunteer translators. Whatever your language may be, I sincerely hope that you reach out to these young bloggers and encourage their work and creativity. Just a decade ago, the working-class barrios of Santa Domingo and La Loma were isolated from their own city. Today, thanks to Medellin's new library parks and thanks to the HiperBarrio project, they are connected to the global conversation. [♪ soft instrumental music playing ♪] ♪ I am crawling through land mines, ♪ ♪ Just to know where you are. ♪ ♪ There's smoke in my eyes ♪ ♪ 'Cause you're burning the ground ♪ ♪ I'm crawling through land mines ♪ ♪ Just to feel where you are. ♪ ♪ Under cover of night ♪ ♪ I put a pearl in the ground ♪ ♪ Where'd you go? ♪ ♪ Not so far ♪ ♪ Please don't go - Not too far ♪ ♪ Where'd you go? Not so far ♪ ♪ Please don't go - Not too far ♪ [♪ soft instrumental music playing ♪] ♪ I found your ring with the feather on ♪ ♪ One arm in and one arm gone ♪ ♪ Save this ring, let's bring Paris right here ♪ ♪ Oh, my dear ♪ [♪ soft instrumental music playing ♪]

Video Details

Duration: 19 minutes
Country: Colombia
Language: English
Producer: David Sasaki
Views: 429
Posted by: oso on Aug 12, 2007

This is the second installment of a two-part podcast about Medellín, Colombia and how the HiperBarrio project is taking advantage of the city’s new network of library parks to teach the skills of citizen media to young people from the working class northern hills.

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