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Last week, I had the opportunity to guest lecture in Global Poverty 105, the course that all Global Poverty students have to take in preparation for their practice experiences. I spoke about blogging – both the mechanics of setting up a blog, and addressing some of the challenges and critiques of blogging as a discipline. The process of putting together this presentation in itself was a useful experience, as it helped me to redefine my own notions of blogging within the context of reworking this blog for my upcoming job in Guatemala. These are a few things that came up in my presentation:

First, what is a blog, exactly? I originally started blogging as a way to keep track of what I was up to while working abroad and to communicate that to friends and family – but really, it’s so much more. In essence, blogs are this interesting hybrid between “journalling” and “journalism” – part documentation, part reflection, and part opinion – with a cool multimedia twist thrown in. But when it comes down to it, there’s always a reason why blog posts are posted online and open to the public (privacy, or the lack thereof, was something else that came up in my presentation), rather than simply using a handwritten journal or the like.

In putting together my presentation, I was also challenged to think about the idea of participatory blogging – that is, how to take blogs to the next level and actively involve local communities in the blogging process, rather than just passively writing about them and presenting my thoughts and reflections as external. We’ve talked so much in the Global Poverty minor about our own positions within the project of development, and who we are in relation to the communities whom we are trying to help, and my challenge for myself moving forward is going to be working to adopt some of these ideas into both my blog and my personal reflective processes. Some ideas we brainstormed: guest posts from community members (either directly or through translation, but focusing on external perspectives rather than my own), citizen journalism, and participatory photography projects.  I’m excited to hopefully integrate some of these ideas into this blog in the next few months!

For some examples of more participatory web/media projects, check out the following:

An interactive news network of professional journalists, citizen journalists, bloggers, amateur writers, and average citizens.

A youth citizen journalism project in Guatemala, conducted during the most recent elections.

Thirteen Threads is the NGO that I volunteered with the last time I was in Guatemala. In this pot, a more recent volunteer interviews and recounts the story of one of the organization’s local community facilitator’s first visit to the U.S.