[Reposted from http://brianconley.info I saw an interesting discussion on Twitter this morning(late night their time, remember I'm in India at GMT+5.5). A variety of #mediaagitators were discussing the term "voiceless."
Here is a selection:
@digidem "Tweets and Blogs: Social Media as a Voice for the Voiceless" @emjacobi invited to give talk at American University on community empowerment
@SamGregory @DigiDem Is anyone truly voiceless? Or they are just being ignored if/when they use their voice?
@maymaym Yes! We're not voiceless—they're not listening. ♺ @audaciaray: Hate it when ppl are referred to as "voiceless." Patronizing & disempowering.
@emjacobi @audaciaray @lksriv @samgregory – i've been off twitter all day, but i agree completely that no one is "voiceless" & said so.
I fully understand that there is a distinction between being voiceless and being unheard or ignored. I am concerned that for the privileged, and lets be clear, anyone who has direct access to Twitter counts as "privileged" in my book, it can be problematic or worrisome to spend too much time discussing the semantics of our relationship to power and privilege.
Perhaps we can work toward an effective and meaningful definition of those we'd like to be collaborating with?
The primary issue I see with the term "voiceless" is that by defining someone you'd like to collaborate with as disempowered you have immediately created a power divide. You cannot help but stratify your relationship if you define your relationship as one based on their need and your support.
At Small World News we have primarily worked to see how we can use our privilege to support others to magnify their voice, to strengthen their broadcast, and, at our core, provide the skills and support that is asked for, and then get out of the way.
However, I've tried hard not to fetishize semantics such that I might exaggerate the capabilities of those with the least access. It can be equally difficult to help those who have never spoken for themselves to know what they have to say. How do we describe someone who does not know what they'd like to say, as a result of generations of disempowerment?
Today I am in India working on creating a loose network of Community Producers, social activists trained to be journalists who will help shed light on the disparate issues facing their communities that have, until now, never been accessible to the commons, to a wider community beyond a small geographic area. It is likely they have as much a need to be heard as to understand what they might say and how it might benefit their local community.
The willingness to listen and ability to have patience to a fault may be more important than trying to provide the tools for others to access the digital communications space.
Do you think the term "voiceless" is at all helpful?
Can we work together toward a more meaningful definition of those who lack access to the media commons, to the digital commons, who have never been listened to, and reflexively may at first appear to be "voiceless?"]