Archive for March, 2008
No time is more apt than right now for me to post an audio interview I conducted a few months ago. The time is apt because of what’s happening in Tibet over the past two weeks (best reports are at the BBC – search for Tibet). During most of its human history, Tibet was an isolated and difficult-to-reach high plateau, which only remotely came under the influence or control of the Mongols or the Chinese from time to time. The Dalai Lamas were in fact assigned their name and governmental role by Mongol overlords around 1578.
Tibet only “opened up” to the non-Asian world in mid-twentieth century. My introduction was via Lowell Thomas Jr.’s book Out of this World (published in 1950 – I will have more to say about the book elsewhere). And I read this book when I was a teenager in middle America, some time after Tibet was occupied by the Chinese army and just before the 14th Dalai Lama went into exile in India. The Chinese government claims that Tibet has always been a part of China. Those of us who have come into contact with Tibetan people know them as hard-working and dedicated, open and welcoming, and will never forget our encounters.
Last year I met Jane Bay. Jane has worked within the film industry for some time, and Jane came to know Tibet thru some interesting events – but most directly because she sponsored and adopted a Tibetan refugee daughter. Initially her daughter, Namgyal, lived at the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala, India, but due to circumstances and political pressure she moved back to Tibet. And Jane lost touch with her. This story is told in Jane’s first book, Precious Jewels of Tibet.
Rob Paterson writes (today on the FASTForward blog) about The Power of the Personal – Voice? He visualizes this with an Alexa Internet chart/data showing how quickly the recent web sites that allow individuals to broadcast their personal voice have risen.
Most particularly, the data show that Wikipedia rose from zero to “Daily Traffic Rank” of about “10″ in about four years, and YouTube rose to “10″ in about a year and a half. (Making them among the top sites on the web.)
You’d have to attribute this to the fact that these sites are created by, or at least “formed” in some way by, their users. That belies the suspicion that people are couch potatoes and won’t lift a finger to create their own media entertainment, other than to channel-surf. Yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of channel-surfing going on at YouTube, but there’s also lots of participation, even if 90% of it is deadheaded talking-head responses. And Wikipedia is certainly a creation of its readers (even though there’s a core group that does a huge percentage of the heavy lifting).
So, I want to know if this phenomenon only gives “voice” to those with broad Internet connections, or whether it can be used by those with only occasional access to the net. Can conversation take place offline and then be put online in the form of blog postings, or wikipedia entries or online video? (continue reading…)