This is a conversation I had today (via email) with a friend who works in the Kimberley. The Kimberley is in north-western Australia. Properties can be the size of small countries and neighbours may be 100s of kilometres away. It’s like a different country. There’s lots of space and very few people. It has two main seasons – the wet (during Nov – March) when it’s wet, hot and humid, and the dry (pretty much the rest of the year) when it’s hot and dry. BTW, it’s also the home to one of my favourite birds – the Gouldian Finch.
My friend Dave works with landholders on water issues. He’s an excellent communicator and facilitator. He gets frustrated though when it’s just about impossible to bring people together for face-to-face meetings and workshops. He understands the importance of connecting, of dialogue, and of authentic consultation.
Dave wrote: “…unfortunately like most things that are run in either the west or east Kimberley no community people can afford to travel to attend…”
I wrote: “…have you considered some of the Web 2.0 solutions such as wikis, social network sites, like ning, and on-line meeting solutions such as dimdim, moodle, etc…”
Dave wrote: “Holy crap! I am so backward on this stuff. Will check it out.”
Apparently, because I have a blog, use Twitter, Facebook, and social networking to connect my clients, flickr, and try out things like SlideShare and VisualCV, I’m an ‘early adopter’ and a bit of a geek. To paraphrase Dave: ‘Holy crap!’ I use these tools because I can – and not very well. My learning style is an ‘active experimenter’ and that’s what I do. I experiment. I have a go. Try things out. I’m a bit wary of Second Life, Spore and and WoW because I suspect I may have an addictive personality and don’t want to open that door!
People like my friend Dave, though often don’t have the option to explore and experiment like I do. Their organisations block access to much of the internet. It reminds me of the 70s (OMG – I’m old enough to remember the 70s!) where you couldn’t possibly provide everyone with a telephone at work. Surely they would abuse it and make personal calls.
I am increasingly frustrated at the control exerted by IT people in organisations, especially Government agencies here in Australia. Access to YouTube, social network sites, podcasts etc is verboten. There may well be good reasons for this – something to do with technical stuff about how much data can be downloaded before a system collapses or something. I once had dinner with the IT manager of a major government department and he tried to explain why it wasn’t possible to allow unfettered access. Sigh. And there’s something else about ‘hygiene’. What the fuck has hygiene got to do with it?
People are missing out on a whole range of tools to make their lives easier – to enable greater access by the community – to save fuel and energy by only having face-to-face meetings when they really matter rather than the default position.
I’m glad I have none of these restrictions. Sure I have no IT support either. When something goes wrong, or I can’t work out what to do, I have to call on a helpful friend who does know what they are doing (thanks guys!) or I just keep plugging away until I work it out. Sure, I waste a lot of time, but I’ve also gained a lot of knowledge. Enough for people to see me as an ‘early adopter’. If only they knew!