Sunday, August 31, 2008

Blog Day

Blog Day 2008

Here's the deal with Blog Day:
BlogDay was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On that day Bloggers will recommend other blogs to their blog visitors.
With the goal in mind, on this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. This way, all blog readers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.
Am I prepared? Heck no! But I was forewarned because I read Erik Hersman's White African blog and remembered that today is Blog Day seeing his post 5 Great African Blogs for BlogDay 2008.

These are my five picks:

White African
My heart's in Accra
Busoga Shining Light Association
Kampala Junior Team

I love blogs. I spend an hour or two everyday reading blogs. It is true that some of the blogs I read are American political blogs with big audiences. I'm something of a political junkie, but wouldn't really call any of those blogs favorites. Almost everyday I read something a blog that touches me deeply, such that I can't help but to feel affection for the bloggers. It's hard to pick favorites when there's a personal stake in it. Of course Blog Day really isn't about favorites anyway, but about discovery and broadening our social stake among people everywhere.

Probably anyone reading this blog already knows Ethan Zuckerman's My heart's in Accra. If not link there now. Zuckerman perhaps more than any other blogger embodies the ethos of Blog Day, the value we can gain from expanding from our narrow comfort zones from where everyone is more or less like us to discover and listen to others.

I'm not very technically savvy and was late to discover the Internet. It was all very cool when I did, except geek talk just seemed impossible to understand. Among the many virtues of the Zuckerman's blog is he's a geek who knows how to say interesting things about technology in ways ordinary people can understand.

There are too many great posts to choose from. A recent one WE Magazine provides a great introduction, especially if you're able to watch a video interview on your connection. There's a transcript at the same link so people with slower connections can read the interview.

I think it somewhat an advantage that I got online later than most. I'm old enough that electronic games weren't part of my growing up. In fact, I can remember the fascination transistor radios had when they were new. ATM machines still have a bit of a "what will they think of next" feel to me. So the possibilities the Internet opened up were quite startling to me. Zuckerman wisely warns about cyber-Utopianism, I think I caught a dose of that. But just surfing around and seeing some of the craziness provides an antidote of sorts. Nevertheless, the Internet changes things, and the exciting thing is that we get to decide even in small ways what sorts of difference will make a difference.

About the same time that I discovered Zuckerman's blog, I found Phil Jones. Phil has several blogs and other Internet sites he maintains. He links to them under the heading Synaesmedia at his blog Composing. Phil's posts are mostly links, sometimes with a short comment. Occasionally he writes longer essays, but always has something important to contribute.

Phil demurred at my calling him a "public intellectual" pointing out that most of his time and effort is engaged in his day job as a coder engaged in supply chain management. Still I've learned more from Phil about how the differences a world of people connected with communications technologies make than anyone else. I also love that he's a Brit living in Brazil. So I get look at Brazil I otherwise wouldn't.

At the end of the WE Magazine the interviewer asked him if he could have three wishes what they'd be? One of Zuckerman's wishes was this:
I think maybe my second wish was that everyone had someone who was emotionally relevant to them who lived in a very different place.
I've been corresponding over the Internet with my friend Nathan Magumba almost ever since I got online. We've never met in person, but we're good friends by now. Nathan has long been strived to be of service to his community. He founded a community based organization called the Busoga Shining Light Association. For a while I tried to convince him of the value of blogging. That didn't take, but recently without any prodding on my part took the plunge and started blogging. Check out Busoga Shining Light Association. One of the reasons I'm excited is now that he's talking online, it makes it easier for me to talk about our common interests too.

It is quite possible for people we meet online to be emotionally relevant. I haven't known Kayiwa Fred so long as I've known Nathan. Kayiwa is in Kampala and Nathan in Iganga. They've never met, except for the Internet. I think Kayiwa was really surprised when he found out from Nathan how long we'd been friends. While attending college Kayiwa is actively involved with youth football (soccer). Like Nathan Kayiwa really wants to find ways to contribute to his community in uplifting ways. He's discovered social media, even while like me finds it hard to understand most of the time. Still check out Kayiwa's blog Kampala Junior Team. From the links on the sidebar you can find other online ways to make connections.

A friend of Kayiwa's in Wales has started The KJT International Supporters Club. Kampala is a different place, and Snowdonia is different too. I've never been to Uganda. Now since I have good friends there I hope to be able to travel there one day. Many years ago when I was 17 I did travel to Wales. Zuckerman's first wish in that WE Magaizne interview is that people would have a chance to experience a place radically different from what their own like he was able when at just 20 he went to study in Ghana. He says:
And it really changed how I view the world in a very positive way.
Perhaps Wales wasn't so radically different from Western Pennsylvania as Kampala might be. Still it seemed far away to me then. Perhaps what travel changes most is to open up our imaginations to how complex and beautiful living is. We live in natural communities and in communities of people. Being in a different place makes it impossible to take our communities for granted--makes it hard anyway to. Travel is a very important form of education. The Internet makes travel more possible than ever before; if we make our stories available and if we are willing to listen to the stories of others. Ethan Zuckerman is right to think that makes all the difference.