The Challenge

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How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation? read the brief

Entry

How free expression on the internet changed my world!: A mashup of stories, images and sounds on how internet freedom changed people's lives.

Drawing on social justice activists and development workers of all ages from around the world who have been part of the APC community ‒ directly and indirectly ‒ since its founding in 1990, we will collect stories of how free expression on the internet has brought about positive change in their worlds. Some stories will be very personal, others will be about massive political changes, and some stories will be about survival, about finding ways to survive when faced with violence, drought and despair.
 
The impact of these stories, images and sounds will send a message that cannot be ignored: the power of the internet to be a positive force is rooted in the freedom with which people can express themselves on it.
The increasing limits placed by governments and private actors on freedom of expression (FX) on the internet demand a response from those it affects most: people for whom this right has brought about life-changing experiences.

APC was established in 1990, made up of pre-public internet email and online discussion networks from all over the world. In 2015 APC will be 25 years old. There is no better way to celebrate this than to document the power of free expression on the internet in a way that we can use to ensure that internet users of the future will have this right.

From 1992 to 2000 APC worked with the United Nations Development Programme to set up networks in more than 49 countries from East Timor to Ethiopia to Chile to Cambodia. APC membership grew rapidly to include online activists from more than 40 countries ‒ all using the internet for social justice. And in the last 10 years APC has worked with thousands of journalists, human rights defenders, women's rights activists and others from civil society to fight for policies that secure internet access and FX, and to build skills that empower them to use the internet for change.

Drawing on social justice activists and development workers of all ages from all over the world who have been part of the APC community ‒ directly and indirectly ‒ since its founding in 1990, APC will collect stories of how the ability to express themselves freely on the internet has brought about positive change in their lives. Some stories may be very personal, about political exile, or about exploring one’s sexual identity online when doing so offline is impossible. Others will be about massive political changes, as was the case for example for activists who fought for freedom from the Soviet Union in Central and Eastern Europe, independence in East Timor, or to end Apartheid in South Africa during the 1980s and 1990s. And some stories will be about survival, about livelihood, about struggling for better working conditions and about finding ways for families or villages to survive when faced with violence, drought and despair.

The impact of these stories, images and sounds will send a message that cannot be ignored. The power of the internet to be a positive force is rooted in the freedom with which people can express themselves on it.

As part of its 25th anniversary celebrations, APC would release a worldwide call for story ideas to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been touched by or formed part of the APC network and community for the last quarter century. APC will create an app on which people can submit their stories, images. Editors will work with the storytellers to compile a mashup that brings their stories together in way that is powerful and accessible.

The platform will enable users to view the stories through different lenses, such as a policy lens, a social movement lens, an issue lens, an access lens and a gender lens. For example, through the policy lens one would gain an understanding of what policies made the stories possible, or what policies are needed to have more stories like this one.

APC would then bring together the top storytellers in February 2015 for a four-day digital storytelling workshop (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_storytelling) where they will develop and present their stories in a way that can be used to campaign for internet freedom at global, regional and national level.

APC has been facilitating digital storytelling workshops since 2007. The methodology ensures that the voice and experiences of storytellers is primary in the process of storytelling. Storytellers control the medium, narration, pictures and music. The process is as powerful for the storyteller as the end product is to the listener. The participants are the narrators and curators of their own stories ‒ unlike employing video “experts” to tell the stories of “the other”.
In ONE sentence, tell us about your project to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.
The stories of how free expression on the internet has changed the lives of specific people who are all connected in some way will demonstrate why internet FX is so important and inspire others to keep it that way.
Who will benefit from what you propose? What have you observed that makes you think that?
The storytellers, and those who are not yet telling their stories. Those who value internet FX and want to keep it, and those who have it, but who are not making use of it for social change. Every person has stories to tell, and it is in the telling that we discover how much of our experiences and learning we have in common with others. Telling stories can also have a profound impact on the storytellers themselves – it is in the telling that we are able to interrogate and deepen our understanding of our experiences and assumptions about the world we live and work in, and also about ourselves. Our individual experiences can be woven together to reveal a picture of a community, a group, a vision or a shared value.
What progress have you made so far?
We have built a network of activists, from women’s rights defenders, to LGBTI activists, to policy wonks, geeks, bloggers and techies. We have documented the history of APC linked to political and social change over the period (http://vimeo.com/27055051). We have expertise and materials in digital storytelling training and producing digital stories stories (https://www.takebackthetech.net/digital-stories). We have built a culture of trust and of valuing people's stories and experiences.
What would be a successful outcome for your idea or project?
Increased awareness about the importance and the impact of free expression online. And a better understanding of the challenges, limitations and policy/regulatory developments needed for strengthening the exercise of freedom of expression online.
Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?
Since 2007 APC has trained many people in the use of digital stories for activism. We have worked with women who use their stories to combat violence against women, LGBTI individuals and organisations, and people living with disabilities. Telling their stories has helped them recognise their own strengths, celebrate their achievements, raise awareness and inspire others. We have also hosted train-the-trainer workshops. Team members: Anriette Esterhuysen, Joy Liddicoat, Valeria Betancourt
Location
Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

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Francesca Rodriquez

April 08, 2014, 10:19AM
Hi Alexandra--Thank you for submitting to the Challenge.
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