Some thoughts stories, civilization and intercultural education (my application to Palomar 5)

I should start saying that this curiosity for the world started with childhood stories. Thanks to our origins and to my parent’s curiosity I had the privilege of growing up among Greek gods, Indian legends, indigenous spirits, African drums and tales from the Arabian Nights. I started to learn stories, then literatures, then languages (or at least I’ve tried). That’s how, through all those codes, stories and images, the world showed itself to me as an immense creature, complex and diverse.

And along came the questions…

First: who am I? Then: who are you? And at the end: who are we?

A civilization? An identity? A generation? A piece of dust?

And where is this piece of dust going and how?

Here is where I bring technology to the subject. Through its big window there are certain facts about our current world that have become clearer. To me, one of the most important ones is that the world is shrinking fast, and it’s placing us in front of neighbors, communities, beliefs and traditions that most of us don’t (and should) know.

Societies borrow characteristics from one another and at the same time join a distressing battle against the possibility of vanishing inside a single culture. History, the news, and everyday life take me to see young groups trying to copy older and richer ones; and also old communities redefining themselves, fighting against a wave of global uniformity that menaces their praised authenticity.

I also see communities and countries that, like mine, are fighting hard to find their place in the identity menu, drawing new images and trying to erase others (uselessly).

However, and unfortunately, in most of my experience (trying to set up professional projects, for example) the cultural question has been seen as a burdensome problem instead of an advantage to overcome obstacles. Nevertheless, I keep myself inside the group of people that believe that this is the era in which, through communication, we’ll get to know each other and hopefully, understand each other. I believe in the attachments people can make through art and traditional expressions; and I believe information technologies to be one of the most powerful tools for education, understanding and therefore, peace.

We can learn about the others studying their stories about themselves and about [their] others (…) and we learn about ourselves, since we are the others in other people’s stories (1). This exchange opens new possibilities to encourage cultures to regain their sense of tolerance and to release themselves to the contemporary world, all the while celebrating its ethnic and cultural multiplicity. We are witnesses and participants in the creation of new bridges inside these exchanges; and this will allow us to see and to connect to each other thanks to the new people’s web. I found, for example, my most beloved childhood story on YouTube (a Russian animated film I saw almost by chance in Venezuela when I was a child). The same has happened with lots of songs, poems, stories, films, books, paintings and people. Through ICTs I’ve been able to discover, express, understand, find, and share things. I’m proud of being part of the creation of a universe full of elements that inspire and excite.

These sharing information phenomena, with their advantages and disadvantages, permits a fascinating new way of observation of the self, and of the Other (if there’s really any). That is why this tool needs work, classifying and observation. I wish to participate in Palomar5 by opening the door to lots of points of discussion and solutions to be proposed. Among those issues, I point here the authenticity and reliability of the information sources, the use of English, the translations to other languages and their quality; searching tools with easier access to cultural sources, (full) access to (more) libraries online, the role of education, the individual as an active communicator and an independent thinker; the importance of ICT access for development…

As a culture dreamer I’ve had a lot of dry responses arguing that the field is not a primordial one. Nevertheless, urgencies in education are arising; and ICTs as instruments for education are becoming more and more used and needed. This has made possible for me to study the possibility of adapting an informal education program based on ICTs from Bangladesh to Venezuela.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one expressing the wish of being part of this experience through communication technologies and the web 2.0. However, I think this lack of originality proves a point. This big movement of people having new ways to express themselves to the world is a phenomenon worthy of observation and improvement. The number of possibilities is enormous and the list of ideas grows with every paper, author, conversation and web trip. Seeing how life is in different points of the world won’t necessarily lead us to answers; but it will help making better questions every time. I’m sure that being one of the dreamers in Palomar and have contact with this group of experts, observers and participants will enable thoughts to bloom in every direction… making them clear, possible and promising.

(1) Wendy Doniger, Other People’s Myths. The Cave of Echoes, 1988… Poetry belongs to those who need it

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