Week one in the International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) on Media Literacy trip to the US has concluded. What can I say? The whole experience has by far lived up to its high standards promised and beyond. If you missed part one to this series of articles / blogs, please do revisit to get an overall gist of what I'm doing here (at least what I thought I was here for).
The trip commenced in Washington DC, a city of superlative attractions. Here, I was introduced to the fellow participants chosen from around the world, all from various backgrounds in the media industry. It would be a sheer understatement if I were to say that these minds are truly and utterly remarkable. Just sitting in the conference room, introducing ourselves one by one was inspiring. Within our group you will find a rich diversity of culture, experience, skills, backgrounds, age, religion, tradition, intelligence and last but not least, humour. Countries represented range from Bangladesh to Bhutan, Egypt to Estonia, Nepal to Nigeria, and United Arab Emirates to, of course, the United Kingdom. Each participant (who in such short space of time I can call friends and colleagues) has a certain twinkle in their eye, a mission, a history, a passion, something special to share.
We have so far been exposed to several aspects of how several DC based government and non-governmental departments and institutes are using social and digital media to enhance their operations. The meetings have generally followed a generally efficient format, whereby we are introduced to a senior representative of the institute, then what their institute or department does, what their remit is focused on, and an overview of how exactly digital and social media plays into what they do. The workshop is then passed onto the floor, where all colleagues are given the chance to question, debate, explore, question again...and again. It's truly fantastic; like being in the United Nations General Assembly, actually even better, because here we are all equal regardless of diversity of knowledge and experience.
From one of our first workshops, we were introduced to the massive emphasis and importance of the role and concept of the individual in American society; the journey and pursuit of freedom, and freedom as a tool to pursue happiness (on that point, did you know that in Bhutan they have a Gross National Happiness Commission?). From the role of the individual, civil society is therefore a fluid concept, we explore the ins and outs on how digital media mobilizes such a society today. We were given an insight into several aspects of how the US Government system is constructed, the role of government in the economy, and the degrees of separation between the three branches of the US Government. This was an exceptional introductory workshop that paved the way for all participants to start to fathom how the media operates within the world's largest exporter of media and civil society values and principles.
Within workshops that followed, we have been exposed to mapping digital media in various countries around the world. I was given an exclusive 90 page report focused on the UK media scene - no doubt, I can't wait to sink my teeth into that to further enhance my healthy media diet. One of the most attention-grabbing presentations was where we were introduced to how the US are using various media initiatives to build (or rebuild) peace in war ravaged countries, the debate that occurred after that particular workshop consumed every bit of my attention, it was remarkable, and defines the whole purpose of us all being here, enhancing knowledge, trading thoughts and sharing practices.
As it's election year, one workshop was dedicated to exploring how social media is being used in the Obama 2012 campaign comparing to 2008, off-the-record boundaries prevent me from delving in deeper, but what I can say is that whoever the Republican candidate ends up being better have a social media trick or two up their sleeve in order to even compare to what the Democrats are doing. I'm talking about a well-oiled social media machine behind the Obama campaign scene.
On the more social side of things, it's been a real delight to get acquainted with everything that DC has to offer; it's culture, it's architectural superiority based fully on American Forefather values and visions, it's ethnic diversity and it's modest yet very fun nightlife (if you know where to go and who with). My colleagues have been the biggest equation to making the whole experience truly a once in a lifetime trip. The organisation by the Department of State - and the International Development Consortium that run the programme - has been precise and very carefully thought out and planned, logistically 'awesome'.
We have just arrived in sunny Los Angeles, where we will be looking at ethnic minorities in the media, marketing and social / digital media techniques and of course, a jam-packed four day schedule of official and semi-official cultural excursions (use your imagination for the latter).
We are living in an era of knowledge revolutions...
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