How to Listen To Global Voices

I have been enthralled watching the following TED Talk (Ideas worth Spreading)

How to Listen to Global Voices by Ethan Zuckerman:

Sure, the web connects the globe, but most of us end up hearing mainly from people just like ourselves. Blogger and technologist Ethan Zuckerman wants to help share the stories of the whole wide world. He talks about clever strategies to open up your Twitter world and read the news in languages you don’t even know.

Take 20 minutes to listen to the following TED (Ideas Worth Spreading) video. Ethan Zuckerman is making a great point of the urgency to widen the orbit of information, communication and global world we are perceiving to be part of.

In an attempt to listen more closely, summarize and share the main points I took away from the talk, I am blogging, linking to examples and sharing my notes below (Am thinking that would be a great activity for students to do with any educational video. Am thinking summarizing skills, Information literacy, hyperlinked writing, media literacy…just thinking out loud 🙂

Quotes that immediately caught my attention:

“What happens on a Social Network is that you interact with the people you have chosen to interact with”

“We end up in filter bubbles…where we see the people we know and people who are similar to people we already know. We tend to not see that wider picture.”

Zuckerman makes the point that it is relatively easy to purchase bottled water from Fiji, but it is surprisingly hard to see a Fijian featured film, listen to Fijian music or to find news reports about what is going on politically in the country.

“We tend to look at the infrastructure of globalization, the framework that makes it possible to live in this connected world.”

Zuckerman compares the two images below and makes the point that in the first image, a seemingly connected flat world is portrayed. It is very easy for us to hop on a plane and fly to any place in the world.

Connecting flight

A different reality emerges, when you look at the image below that shows hoe the global plane flights move. The world suddenly doesn’t seem to be close to being flat. There are almost no connections between South America and Africa. The majority of plane connections are within the United States.

“There are parts of the world that are very well connected. There is a giant pathway in the sky between London and New York … and parts of the Earth that are systematically cut off.”

Flight Routes

Zuckerman is interested in and asks the following question:

The world is getting more global and connected, more problems are global in scale, the economics are global in scale, but the media is less global by the day.

Percentage of Interntional News in US Media

The following image demonstrates the distorted view of the world we get from being “manipulated” by the choices of news coverage.

Cartogram:Distorted view of the world based on what American television newscasts looked at for a month.

Zuckerman points out that:

“The world on American news is basically reduced to the giant bloated US”

He then concludes that “new media” is not helping us that much either. The shows the example of geo-coded articles in Wikipedia. Turns out that there is a heavy bias towards North American and Western Europe authored articles.

When you look at the top media consumption in different countries you also find out that 90+ percent will come from a domestic news site.

Ethan Zuckerman then proclaims that

“We live in a state of imaginary cosmopolitanism. We look at the Internet, we think we are getting this wide view of the globe […] but this a problem, because we live in a world with global problems that require global conversations to get to global solutions.

When it comes to finding information on the Internet most people seem to search with Search Engines or are relying on their Social Network to funnel information to them. The problem with this method, according to Zuckerman, is that you end up with the”knowledge of the flock” and it is hard to get other knowledge from other flocks from parts of the world where people have discussions as well.

In order to do make connections with other “flocks’, Zuckerman says that you need a guide. People who are planted firmly with both feet in two different flocks and can mediate, translate

He gives the example of Amira Al Hussani , the Middle Eastern editor for Global Voices. Her job is to figure out what would interest her readers about the Middle East. She is trying to get the reader

“out of their normal orbit and trying to get your attention about a story of someone […] basically she is a D.J. She is a skilled human curator…

People have to choose to follow and read others, like Amira, who will widen their orbit (I really like that term and the visual it produces).

Another example Ethan shares is of Erik Hershman, the white African. Ethan considers Erik a “bridge figure” with feet in two or more cultures who is able to find a way to “communicate a story from one world to the other, both of which he has deep connections to”. Ethan is convinced that:

these Bridge Fgures are the future of how we try to make the world wider for using the web

From the Bridge Figures, Zuckerman moves on to Xenosphiles, which is defined by the FreeDictionary as:

A person attracted to that which is foreign, especially to foreign peoples, manners, or cultures.

Ethan gives the example of Dhani, a football player and his  (off season) TV show “Dhani tackles the Globe“.

Ethan Zuckerman closes his (amazing!!) TED talk with the Challenge

Make a personal decision that you want a wider world.

We have to figure out a way to rewire the systems that we have.

We have to fix our media, Internet, education, immigration policy.

We need to look at ways of creating serendipity of making translation persuasive.

We need to embrace and celebrate Bridge Figures and cultivate Xenophiles

Ethan Zuckerman's Challenge

What are YOU doing to make YOUR orbit of global communication wider?