Interdisciplinary Inquiry

03/30/2012

Saybrook Represented at the 2012 International Studies Association Annual Convention

Transformative Social Change MA graduate, Angel Ryono, and current Human Science doctoral candidate Rebecca Joy Norlander are each featured on panels at this year's ISA conference, being held in San Diego from April 1st - 4th. The theme of this year's convention is Power, Principles and Participation in the Global Information Age.


Ms. Ryono will speak on the topic of “Pre-Social Media Cambodia,” intending for readers to invest in understanding the story of the Cambodian people and their peacebuilding process, thereby learning lessons about social change. One such lesson is to avoid superficial examinations of the interplay between politics and technology. What is required for social change in Cambodia is intertwined with what is needed to transform a socio-political system that is shaped by the Khmer Rouge atrocities. In pursuing a national communications technology infrastructure, Cambodian citizens, and the foreign organizations that support development in Cambodia, confront significant social and political obstacles. Overcoming these obstacles simultaneously serves the goals of peacebuilding, reconciliation, and healing as well as the goals to increase Cambodian users access to communications technology. The abstract for the paper to be presented by Ms. Ryono is as follows:

Upon first glance, the enthusiasm in which urban Cambodians approach communications technology would suggest that Cambodia is likely to experience the next boom in ICT use and development. Some might even believe that the assertiveness towards communications technology can spark a Cambodian version of the Arab Spring, especially to oppose the long rule of the authoritarian and corrupt Hun Sen. The truth: Cambodia has yet to arrive at the age of technology-based social change. The obvious reasons relate to the fact that Cambodia has not undergone significant infrastructure development in communications technology. What underlies a disappointing progress reveals more about the following: a) shortcomings of Cambodian leadership and how a poor performing government affect Cambodian citizens ability to access technology; b) the remnants of a culture of fear and distrust; c) a culture of impunity, and d) a society that is slowly transitioning out of a history of great violence. Cambodian grassroots organizations have long been aware of the challenges and opportunities that new communications technology present in their work towards social change. However, the bottom line is that peacebuilding, reconciliation, and healing is required to establish a culture of trust. A culture of trust, especially after experiencing mass violence is fundamental to growing a people-based social change. The Cambodian case with regards to peacebuilding forces us to review the basics of doing democracy, in which media technology is de-emphasized as the agent for social change.
 

Ms. Norlander will be participating in a panel entitled Power, Technology and Global Information Literacy: Their Implications for the 21st Century Curriculum. She will speak about the topic of her dissertation research, using the tools of digital technology for building a culture of human rights. The world has experienced a dramatic shift in technological capacity, allowing people to connect and interact in ways previously unimaginable. This new capacity has implications for education, specifically education for human rights. The intersection of these two rapidly changing and expanding fields - communications technology and education - will be explored in her talk.

Formal human rights education (HRE) - occurring in traditional school environments - must be increasingly supplemented by informal methods that incorporate the tools of digital activism. Using new technologies, people can more effectively learn about human rights standards and subsequently turn their learning into action and advocacy, documenting human rights abuses and promoting awareness and accountability. Her doctoral research analyzes the evolution of both mobile and Internet technologies and offers examples of current initiatives that align with the work of human rights educators. While many challenges remain outstanding, the idea of connectivity as a human right has become a vital consideration for educators and activists alike.

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