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Communication for Societal Transformation- Jirmanus

by on October 26, 2011

Mary Jirmanus’s article, “Communication for Societal Transformations”, discusses the ALKU or Aldea Komunicativa program established in a small town near the Ecuadorian-Colombian border named Mira. The ALKU project founded in 2006, involves youth in the area creating short films about their lives in terms of political, economical, social, and cultural issues. Jirmanus states,  “Media is the tool we use to converse with the youth participants about their reality, and the structural limitations placed upon their personal and community growth, development- as well as their agency to alter that reality”. What this is in reference to is the conditions in which the youth in this town live where poverty is at a high 87%. The youth in this town work for the bulk of the week and are able to go to a secondary school twice or so a week in a distance-education program, as there are a few schools that are more geographically accessible to the farmers living in the rural areas.

These projects are ways for the members of these small agricultural towns to not only bring up current issues relevant to their community but also a way for them to stay connected to the people who come from cities to purchase their produce. In addition, their main focus is to help change the social and economic conditions they are in. The films are broadcasted weekly in a regional weekly television program called Via Communidad. This gives the youth a chance to not only express themselves but gain encouragement for continuous work. This is envisioned to be a long-term program which helps youth move into leadership roles. These roles would allow them to encourage and effect change in their communities by assessing the local history and the challenges these rural areas face in terms of education, health, economy, etc.

Jirmanus then moves on to discuss something we’ve been talking about in class for a while- the way we utilize media to represent certain ideas as well as how our perception is altered through a lens. She mentions, “The ALKU collective members teach by jointly looking and listening- through the lens of  the video camera”. This touches on Cronon’s ideas about how we jointly see through a filter as well how we provide a filter for someone else to see. These films while they show the harsh realities of these rural towns, also show the cultural background and the ability of these people to be multifaceted in terms of cultural celebrations. These short films are meant to showcase their lives- good and bad. This program allows people to play a direct role in the decisions and realities of their lives. How effective do you think this type of a program would be in an area which while poverty ridden, may not have the main educational issues of this area?

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5 Comments
  1. janellekramer permalink

    The students in this program are lead to understand that they are making the films to help other people understand the strife they go through just to be able to sell a tomato at the market. However, after reading the article, it seems that making the films are as much about teaching the students as it is about having the students teach the public and policy makers. It seems to me that the program teaches teenagers to understand when something in policy or society needs to be looked at or even changed. This, to me, is just as important as teaching the public what these poverty-stricken students think because if the students don’t learn how to speak out, they will never be heard.

    • Exactly Janelle! It’s a cycle- If the kids continue to allow what has been going on in terms of their society’s progress then they will never fall out of the cycle that their parents and their parents before them have been in. This program brings awareness to the teenagers for a way to get out of the cycle. If the kids are aware they can at least attempt to progress towards a better future.

  2. 242colleencarey permalink

    I think this is a wonderful portrayal of what a culture is doing. However, what the videos are bringing to the table are indeed from another person perspective and we are seeing their culture through their eyes. Does this fact degrade the video though? No, I don’t think so. Like Guran’s article, images inded have a “truth” to them. What we are seeing is there and these children aren’t manipulating the environment or the video itself to please thair viewers. They are merely children with a videocamera capturing aspects of their culture which they deem as important.

  3. While I agree that there is no manipulation or malice to what the teenagers are doing- I still see what they “deem as important” to be a filter which we see things through. The culture they would capture for us on video camera would have a bias. As someone who has grown up in a more privileged environment, everything I would see from the perspective of those children would be in favor of the village. It would also bring up a feel of grief at the level of poverty. This is a filter provided by the feel of the video. We would only be able to see the situation they’re in currently rather than how they got there. This is only one perspective of the situation- provided by the teenagers in rural farm towns. I think it’s important to also see the viewpoints of not only the elders who live in that area, but also of the policy makers. This would provide us with a less biased view as well as a more thorough understanding I feel.

  4. amygraceaustin permalink

    I am really intrigued by this project and it reminds me of Paulo Freire’s work in a field known as “critical pedagogy”. This style of education seeks to heighten student consciousness regarding their own oppression. By students having the opportunity to film their own lives they are becoming critical actors in their own reality instead of passive acceptors of their own fate. Engaging students in the ability to understand their own oppression is the first step towards systematic change. I believe this is one of the best projects that can be done. While some could argue that money spent of film equipment could be spent better on food or medical care, I argue that taking the steps to build conscious, confident young leaders is an absolute necessity in the hopes that they will then be the ones enacting change. However, my main question is to what extent could these videos ethically be shared outside of this community? They obviously portray one story and could easily create misconceptions. Is it even possible for a project like this to stay within the community and maintain its original intent? or is it likely to be shared with a global community? What impacts could that have?

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