I just finished giving a TEDx talk about digital storytelling for the TEDxWomen in Port au Prince, Haiti. may have been up against Jane Fonda talking about the new old age at 5 pm (ET) in the Big Deal TEDxWomen today. Who knows, and I don’t care. I had less than 24 hours to prepare a Skype talk to inspire Haitians to begin to use digital storytelling in their efforts to make life better there, and way before I finished, they were talking about how to do it.
That’s what TEDx is all about. Marlene Sam, a Haitian techie, best Skype moderator I’ve ever worked with, positioned the camera so that I could see the side of her face — close enough so that I could get feedback from her, and see the audience farther back.
My message was simple. In the old days, we actually had to walk with each other to see the world through the other’s eyes: mind-to-mind, heart-to-heart. This isolated us in our own villas and cities and tribes and nations.
In our interconnected world, we need to be able to feel and see and think about the world with open eyes. If you can travel somewhere and talk in someone’s shoes, you can still open your mind and heart in the traditional way.
The reality though is that most people can’t afford to travel, especially children and teen-agers. Now we can have conversations on Skype to talk together across boundaries, but quick impressions based on the rooms and facial expressions take a long time to develop into real relationships because meeting someone on Skype don’t show someone’s heart.
Like the Skype “conversation” I had today in Port au Prince. All they could get was a “blink,” a quick, maybe faulty reaction. You probably won’t see my heart.
I asked the audience to imagine what can happen when you combine an nice-to-meet-you Skype conversation with a digital story– an honest story that you tell about myself, that you illustrate with photos and drawings and a soundtrack. My plan was to show how their understanding would expand or change about me if they saw a digital story that I made. I said that our conversation would shift even more if I saw a digital story they had done about themselves. Then we could begin a real conversation.
At least that was my plan, and then I’d show them Ali and Me.
However, Marlene and the TEDx Port au Prince group were ahead of me. They’d alway watched the video earlier.
No problem. They already knew me; they knew digital storytelling and the TEDx lecture became even more of a conversation.
What will happen next I don’t know about Haiti, but Carlos Miranda Levy, my fellow Stanford Fellow (Reuters Digital Vision Fellowship) friend is talking about me coming down to the Dominican Republic in January to give a workshop. [Update 12/2/11: Now Carlos is talking about workshops in the DR and Haiti. I want to figure out how to make this student to student, teacher to teacher, too by including our students and teachers at Cèsar Chavez Prep Middle School.]
[Note: I volunteer two days at week at Prep.]