It’s not good to take 10 days out of the middle of a course – especially if you travel to the other side of the world and enter what feels like ‘a different universe’. Or maybe it is good – as a reality check – for keeping grounded.
This photo – which I took last week on a trekking holiday in the Kashmir Himalayas – shows a family in front of their home. As I passed, the woman was washing her clothes in a mountain stream. She stopped and gathered her children around her for the photo. I doubt she even knows that the internet exists. There was no internet or mobile phone connection once I arrived in the Himalayas and these families were shepherds living in the accommodation shown in the photo. Their living conditions were harsh by our standards. There was no school for their children although an NGO was working in the area to try and provide a school/education for these children/families. But they were skilled at living in these harsh conditions, at tending their goats and sheep, at ‘reading’ the environment – definitely more skilled than me. They could control their animals, goats, sheep, horses with a whistle, cross a raging torrent of a river by running across a fallen tree, light a fire in pouring rain, produce an amazing cake without an oven, climb mountain slopes as if they were a stroll in the park. They did not ask for money. They did not want to ‘talk’. The only thing they asked us for was medicine. Without basic medical services, the potential of sickness (so possible in these harsh conditions) meant that they would not be able to tend their sheep and goats, or climb the mountains, or raise the minimum income they needed to survive. Critical literacies – if at all on the horizon of these people – would be reading and writing and they would be lucky to access even this.
Would a critical literacy of our networked world be to remember this digital divide and to try and bridge it?