Information & Knowledge Issues in the citizen’s sector
– John D’Souza, Centre for Education & Documentation.
KICS sharing Forum no 6 : 31-3.2007
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a part of the voluntary sector. In college itself, I involved in social work as part of AICUF, and that is where I got my first introduction to Documentation Work.
AICUF Chennai centre is probably the first documentation center in the voluntary sector. Documentation work was started by Fr. G. Some of you might remember Fr. Paul Gueriviere - a french priest who would just sit quietly in one corner, collect documents and keep circulating them to Study Groups (the In thing those days), This activity spawned many organisations and action groups. So I can say that G taught us our first lessons in documentation and information dissemination.
Those were the days where we used to work as small Study Groups. Activism meant that you started of with small study groups, and discussed issues and topics like mode of production. Later the group would move to political work and social activities.
After AICUF, and college level activities, I got invovled in a group called VISTAS. This took us to Ahmednagar, to do development work. But almost as soon as we started, we realized that we were very naïve. In college during the holidays, we used to go and dig wells or make bunds. The next year we would come and probably do the same thing. We thought that the main problem was that we needed to work full time. That is all that mattered. But when we went to work full time, we realized the other dimensions – the political dimension, the social, cultural and the systemic issues, and that where the first idea of CED - documentation center was formed.
It was born because, first and foremost we just needed to have a better analysis of the surroundings around us. And we knew that we did not have it.
Secondly, we were the first of such groups, which was outside the missionary or the Gandhian fold, or the rotary club type organisations. Our aim was to be independent and full-time. But how do we see ourselves in the larger context of left parties, Gandhian groups, Church groups etc. Also how do we see ourselves in the context of systemic issues and problems? We needed to be more informed. Also other groups like our started forming. So it seemed like it was going to be a trend., a movement, perhaps a paradigm. So I was sent from Ahmednagar to Bombay to set up the Documentation center. That was in 1975. Many doucmentation centres were set up all over India between then and mid eighties. In fact, at one time we had more than 35 active documentation centres meeting under the aegis of DCM.
In 1975 when we set up, one of the questions that we faced was how do we support ourselves, to do this work. We decided to take up jobs on the side. So I got trained in Television production and in journalism and worked in Doordarshan for many years. I also worked in advertising, alongside working in CED. Other members too were involved in the media is different ways. This gave a useful media and communications focus to the effort of documentation. However at one point it became very clear I could not work two jobs, and I had to leave one, and therefore for many years now, I have been full time in CED.
I have done all kinds of things. But by and large, a large part of my life has been spent in information work. So most of my reflections and information comes from there. They also comes from the fact that I have an abiding interest in Television. You will see me spending most of my free time in front of the TV ---watching the same news and news programmes again and again. You will see me screaming at the anchor or reporter. So there is an engagement with the media, even though I have been in the documentation field.
For the other part -- Shambu has very flatteringly said that I am engaged in many organisations. I have always been part of the NGO circle, and also earlier much more part of the political stream which has now become more diluted. So that is by way of self-introduction which Shambu has asked me to do.
I will start my sharing with something mentioned in the morning session – the latest utterances by Montek Singh Alhluwalia, after his great triumphant agreement with the US on agricultural cooperation. Some of the words that he used are very pertinent to this discussion, because it represents a corporate model of knowledge, whereas we are talking about a citizen’s model of knowledge.
He said that the main agreement was on sharing knowledge on technology, knowledges about extension advice, marketing and logistics. There were four points that he made and the examples that he gave are very pertinent to many of the people here.
He said “climate change is an issue of technology”. So that is what it is.. Nothing more. And nobody contested that.
Then he said, “extension is to promote viable commercial varieties”. He spoke of extension advice of being the answer, as if there is no debate about it. Whereas in the morning some of you were speaking of the problems arising from use of some of these so called commercial varieties. There is also someone from Dastakaar here, who spoke of retail in the morning session. But when Montek Singh Aluwalia spoke of it, he spoke of modern retail practices, of packaging etc, as otherwise we would not be able to sell our agricultural products.
Then he spoke of energy. Sreekumar is here from field of energy. Montek said that energy and other resources like water are easily sorted out -- you make people pay, and automatically the resources will take care of itself.. This were exactly his words.
The issue that I have with him is that the rhetoric presumes that a certain set of knowledge is acceptable -- it is agreed at. There is no dissent. There is consensus. It is not that he doesn’t know about what we are talking about. I am sure that he has read articles by some of you present here. It is not that he does not know that many people oppose it. But somehow, the whole establishment, either conspires or for some reason decides that this is what it is. There is no argument. I mean it is made out that we have sorted out the problem. We must be friends with the US, and that is also accepted. There is a manufacture of consent. Chomsky has spoken about it.
The Proposition and the Practice of "Economics as if there is consesus" is to my mind the biggest issue that we are facing today. And what are we doing to battle this, is at the core of today's topic - knowledge and information issues in the citizen's sector. We realise that somehow or the other, despite vehement opposition both from the people as well as our workshops, the choices based on this manufactured consent, go on.
In the morning some one said that the reason for this is that we don’t have the courage to dissent. Some others said that this is elite Sanskritic knowledge. On the one hand, Prakrut or folk knowledge,fold art is not accepted by the more formal traditions of Vedic disciplines, and on the other Positivist Science will not recognise it. Thus there is a hierarchy of knowledge. The way we consider some notion or practice as validated, or the value that we give bits of information from the field, or even what information and whatr form of inforrmation, we s considered useful to classify and keep, and make inter-subjective, is determined by this hierarchy
But there is another side of the coin. I wish to propose that we dotn have a choice. That's why there is no point in dissenting the way we do - or rather it does not get us anyway, besides just slowing things down a bit. There is no Alternative or what Thacther called the TINA factor, stems from the fact that there is percent necessity or imperative for us to chase foreign capital. And today if we have to chase foreign capital, we have to do all these things. Problems at Nandigram is the same thing. The problem of Cauvery is the the same thing.
If we have not choice, then what is the use of our vote? If we are citizens can we change the government? The new government , ( even if it is the CPM government) it will follow the same policy. They are not going to have any progressive Agriculture Policy, not going to have progressive Health policy. In fact probably CPM is likely to be worse as it follows the same developmental model. They are not going to have any change in water or energy systems and things like that. So what is it. What do we vote for?
Then we come to this whole question of what should any groups like KICS do? We are into policy intervention. So I think about it and I say we should include policy intervention so we can change policy. But now I am saying that policy does not change because policy is happening somewhere else. So where do we fit in? Where is this so called citizen sector in terms of the kind of the issues that is there before us. On the one hand you find all the doors closing on us. It seems like a battle. We have to try and situate ourselves as intellectuals, or as people that who have seen some light. And we have to find a role for ourselves. What do we do? where are we? There is a certain amount of knowledge that we have. Certain amount of insight that we have and a certain amount of passion. Because we say we cannot allow those things to happen and therefore we have chosen what we are doing. To say that yes we want to make a difference and somewhere down the line we keep on fighting these same battles and we reach dead ends. So the issue is how do we make a break from there or what are the kind of things that we need to do to change things. Obviously this is such a big question and I have the answers. What I hope to do is to posit some of the things and issues that have come to us. How we are taking things up. What are the kind of differences slowly over a period of time and changes that have taken place. That’s where we are and I hope at the end of it we can share some of the kind of issues that various people are taking up and how they contribute to this particular effort or address this issue.
At the international level, there is some problem. We just spoke about agricultural policy. There are many others but even at the inte-rstate level we are finding this. Hyderabad started growing like this – People’s balconies had to be pulled down, to make a road, because we had to pull some money from Infosys or Wipro to bring it down here from Bangalore. You found that kind of destructive competition for capital in other areas like water. And obviously no one can bell the cat. This same kind of rivalry for foreign capital is there, which makes people feel that this kind of issue should be decided at the higher that is the national government level rather than any lower level. Some would say that the courts should decide. But the courts as well as the national governments are also a victim of this thought process.
So there is a need over a period of time , not now. Just the day before I was at a lecture of one John Bansal. One of the things he said makes sense. He talks in terms of simultaneous policy. He said there are some problems which can never be solved unilaterally or one government cannot decide to start, because starting, put them at a disadvantage, as they have to compete for this capital. If at all anything has to succeed both have to simultaneously decide . And they are not going to decide simultaneously because they can only take decision for themselves. It is the citizens across these two groups, or here across two states or maybe internationally across two countries who have to build up a situation where a simultaneous policy is agreed upon or at least possible.
And that’s why I come to the point that somewhere down the line , a large part of all the knowledges that we have has to be geared towards the citizen. We can decodify the word citizen later either as the global citizen or the national citizen. Citizen is definitely not represented through the national government or anyInternational body -- Not the world bank. Not the WTO, as they are not going to change things.
So as far as policy intervention is concerned, besides addressing this category of government or whoever is governing, there is a need to reach the larger citizenry, or middle section of people who are vocal, and make them decide that they can take action . The problem is that the middle section think that their job is to vote or to ask the government to do things.
So the key to this kind of policy intervention is definitely information. When we are talking about acting locally there is some concrete project that you have to do, which requires information. When we say act globally, besides the once in a while Seattle kind of agitation, Action , is by and large just the act of saying No, saying that a lot of us understand what is happening and we we don’t agree with what is happening. When you are saying that, while the whole world seems to believe that globalization of this kind is inevitable, we don’t thing there is no alternatives. We say that there are certain alternatives. And to say this, the key is information.
Information, if we look at it, at a very fundamental level, is a way of moulding the mind. It is a part of the socialization process as much as education. For instance with children we school them on how to brush their teeth and how they get up in the morning and say prayers or wish their parents good morning and then go to school. Similarly information is a part of the socialization process. The information structure - the way information is ordered in society actually betrays the kind of society it is – the way in which it is organised. I have spoken about the corporate model of knowledge which Montek Singh Aluwalia is talking about . Generally information is handled in an ivory tower of academics. Then there is this simultaneous mass propagation of images now through TV and things like that which manufactures this consent on what the world is about, what is the solution for the world, what are the problems of the world.
Now you have this information that is totally googled – that is we are really bamboozled by it. For example the mailing list you are talking about. Many people in the KICs mailings list are probably members of twenty mailing lists, some of which they have not even subscribed to. So, even if you are not subscribed to twenty mailing lists, you will get all the twenty mailing list messages in your PC. It is like a Prozac for the cyber junkies. If you go to google you will get every bit of information the 11th plan, al the objections, and many of your articles are all there. Or you will get them somewhere on the Internet. But barring for a few people who can spent their lives, or are researching for one or two years, most people really cant find their way or understand this information. It is very difficult. You get Googled, I call it – just Overload. The first four entries will be all about UN, UNDP, WTO. Even Bill Gates may be telling you how to run your AIDS programme. That is the kind of information structure you have today.
Just a little bit by way of analysis -- to make a distinction between data, information and knowledge. Data is discrete, independent bits of information. eg There are so many children in the world, so many die of this.. xyz. Information is a little more organised. You may have it in a database. This may be ordered alphabetically or all the material on one topics like say health or maternity health is kept in a particular organised way so that it can be understood. But knowledge has got a slightly different character. Your understanding may vary depending on your school of thought but basically it is something like this- what ever information comes, has to be assimilated and go through what ever your view is, whatever your complete set of ideas, world view is. It has to be assimilated in that, it is either accepted or rejected or changed – for it to be knowledge. Even if you have rejected something it is knowledge. Whatever your frame of mind is, whatever your knowledge is, the new information passes through it, you assimilate it and then you can relate it to your own current state of knowledge. Then that particular information is knowledge. Till then it is pure information. It is there till you can actually use it. Now some people say knowledge is the structure of the mind, it is biographically determined and the post modernist would say unless you are a subject unless you are in the field you can never know it or understand it. The only way to know it is to be in that situation. So I’ll never know a victim situation till I am a victim. I presenting a very extremely example just for clarity. Whereas others would say this assimilation process is through an existing system of knowledge. It could be objective , it could be outside you. You don’t have to subjectively experience it. You could have just read it or had an intellectual experience of it. But nonetheless whatever is your wholistic view of something, information has to come to terms with that, interact with that and then it has something like knowledge.
So therefore what we are talking in terms of giving information around, maybe our knowledge, but it is still information when it is out there. It is only when we get a stage when that person is able to assimilate it through what ever view point /world view is, to whatever their experiences is, whatever negotiation they have to make with it, that it is knowledge for them. So what is one man’s poison is another man’s food. So it may be knowledge to you because you have integrated it but it makes no sense to the other person.
This is actually the dilemma, the kind of problematic when you hear phrases like Lab to Land or people knowledge or knowledge from the field. What is knowledge here is not knowledge there. So the knowledge here is not being assimilated there - both from the land to the lab or lab to the land.
It is not that the lab does not have anything to give to the land. There is something they have to give and what is that they can give -- is the issue that we are talking about. And then this knowledge gets codified into rituals, symbols and things like that. You have certain symbols that you believe in certain things – so it is then in that the cultural practises and things like that and encode that knowledge. So somewhere down the line in terms of our interventions when we are thinking of change, it is intervening at all these levels at different things. These are not one-time projects. Making an intervention is a life time occupation. Once you have this kind of understanding of information, work, knowledge and work sharing, development work -- its not a one-time project. It is an engagement -- a way of living. As much as you believe in any way of life eg a Gandhian way of life, this is a way of life. It is an everyday job. It is not like today we have this forum or it is a one-year or two-year project and at the end of it we will have enlightenment and therefore the world will change. It is something that will never be. So KICS will always be needed. There is always be a need for some kind of KIC-ing.
For work like this, we need to e understand how this information and knowledge is circulated. Today by and large, Information deviated through the media. In the media we definitely speak of a dominant and alternative media. Dominant on one side --you have the newspaper and radio. In the beginning when the printing press was formed people thought that would be the revolution- that would be liberating. They would print so many bibles and people would read them. Same thing when radio came we thought it would empower people. Similarly now we are thinking of the internet. We feel that we have a website and that is it. We have arrived. It is this kind of jumping into a medium that is a problem. The alternative also tend to go after the same media. Actually in structure we do the same thing which the mainstream media tries to do. In structure what we do is talk down to people . We have understood . I have brought out this booklet please read it. I have written this paper, I have got this presentation please listen to it . And there is something about that that it is not communicating. It is not making a difference.
Earlier, it was a big thing. CED was making information available. But now we cant say that information is not available. Somehow or the other, somewhere or the other you will get that information. Go to the net – something you will get – sufficient for you to act. So it is not that it is not available. But it is not in a form that average people can follow – it is too much for them to figure out. So what is it that we need to do in various areas to build up that information so that people who get intimidated by the internet, can have access to it. That is the biggest challenge. For example you had the study presented this morning by Shambu and (?) Srinath who showed how the sissent against the agricultural policy was there almost in the 1850s, and it was almost along the lines of the modern debate. Now how do you put this ind of study out there? How do you actually communicate that there was this rich body of dissent at that stage along the same lines then as is relevant now?
This brings me to this whole question of NGO information or the information from the citizen sector. The whole informaton will go around ( circulate) in the same circle. To give the example of the HIV Information programme. The kind of studies that are done in HIV are hell of a lot -- very academic complex studies. So finally what do we do? The whole programme boils down, to making information education and communication (IEC) material. Here you will tell – Don’t Kiss, Use Condom, Do this, or Don’t do that. It is all already boiled down to these simplicities. But when brother or somebody gets ill or has contracted HIV, I want to find out what does these studies tell us? We had this problem for twenty years and what have these fellows done? I definitely can through some of the studies and I will learn because I need to live with that for the next five ten years. But that I will never get. I have tried
( Missing: so concluding.. so what one is saying is that processed information in the form of pamplets, IEC material goes out, it may not be sufficient, and the timing may not be as per need of the person/perception of issues/.. Pull versus the push system of information )
(Missing about CED, How it is organised. Clippings, as a source of information, form of inforamtion, classfiication as the non-academic organisation of Information.)
(The second this is that organised information which is useful, will be there in only certain specialised centres of knowledge like centres for development studies or Institutes of Social Sciences. ) If we have a centre far away in Mumbai , what is the use? Who is going to come. Oh I have this problem, and it is not such a big thing that I will go all the way to Mumbai. There is no point in us having a CED only in Mumbai. We must have this kind of information available everywhere – but believe me the amount of work that it takes, to painstakingly everyday regularly go through newspapers, magazines, mark them cut them and file them according to different topics is a hell of a lot of work.
So that’s when we devised what we know as DOCPOST where you could choose the subjects that you want information on. You could choose which dates you want them. You could choose whether you wanted it regularly every week . Or at any point you could say that on a certain topic you want information relating to the last five years – essentially you are getting the same thing that we have collected on that topic over a long period of time. We just photocopy it and give it . It was the age of the xerox machine before the age of the computer. So, this was what our attempt was – that at a very low cost you could have the same thing that CED had, in your premises. . The idea was that if an organisation in Hyderabad felt that what CED is doing there we should also have then they don’t have to spend the same amount of money. They can have it by just suscribing to it. You can be more focussed because you know the main archives is in Mumbai and in case you need anything, within twenty four hours you can have whatever you want photocopied and sent to you. That was the kind of service that we offered.
When we are talking of the structure of information in society: we talk of the information consumption society. We have been in dialgoue with various people. One of the things we are told is, you are just marking and filing, What are you bringing out? What is you your stand on any issues – say on globalisation, on the NGO sector etc. So we started working on Backgrounders. Some of you have probably seen it. We have done a thing on Globalisation, Gloablisation and Information, then on the on the women’s movement. Walter and myself we have done it on the NGO movement called the long and winding road. These are small backgrounders on various themes. Our experience with this has been good and it reaches a group of people committed to that topic and doesn’t reach the student.. the ordinary student who still comes to CED, when they have to do their projects. They do not relate to these backgrounders. They will just ask for information on particular topics which they have to work on – and the topic could be anything. It could be on advertising – what is the role of advertising today. Our job is to see how that is related to the issues we are talking about and get them to think about it.
So you now come to this stage where you have simultaneous images. You have KBC and you have got internet where you get googled by these masses of information and what is our role in this whole thing..
The most important thing is that the nature of overload is different. Earlier also we spoke about of overload. TV was an overload. There were too much of images, sounds etc. Now the overload is at a level that you just can’t navigate it or understand it – it is just so much. When you read in the internet you don’t know who is who. I may get something from Suresh, but actually find it was somebody else, as there would definitely be another V Suresh who writes on Agriculture. It has become very difficult for a young person, who doesn’t know a topic to decide where to start. There are hundreds of links and you can go click click and one goes mad.
Now the idea is that Networks of NGOs, or that is people like KICS ( which is a network of people, who dissent on Science and Technology, Another groups is working on group is working on localisation and local markets etc – basically they are entities – identifiable groups of people with certain amount of knowledge within their topics -- Can we build up this identity that says instead of going to google, you should know for agriculture may be you should go here and these people instead of just giving you a list of documents to read, will tell you what is the information on that. So when we have bits of data , we said that there is metadata, that is data on data, Information on data. ( In the computer: metadata is that which we cannot read, which is kept in brackets, which tell google what to show ).
So I think what we need to do is something known as meta-knowledge. That is you have to tell people see I am so and so and this is my background and if you want to figure this out this fellow has said this. , this is one article you can read or this one has an opposing view and this is the main idea. It is something like a guide, a teacher who will tell you depending on what you need and because of today’s technology you can have five different views for different people, where people can decide what they want to read—say I am a total amateur or I don’t know anything about this, I have only an artist background, somebody can say I have a scientific background, somebody can say I am only a farmer, but I want to understand. And so with the same backend data, that is the articles behind are the same, but in front, you can have at a low cost things which will tell different categories of people, what to read what not to read and that seems to be the biggest need and that cannot come from one centre for education and documentation , because for example, I don’t know anything about the topics that you are talking about to make such a judgement, to be able to tell a student ..you are from this back ground why don’t you start reading this, this particular part is good for introduction, this is good for definitions. How many such topics a documentalist work on? One? Maximum two.
So here is where I am saying that, given the nature of society as it is - the Network Society, the Internet – it calls , as far as we are concerned, for - not a google, but a kind of a networking which says I know this topic, okay let’s work on it. I’ll put it in a title, or the preface, where it gets known on this topic this is a good person to go to. And the identity of that organisation say KICS, is a thing that will stick. It is like a brand that people will identify with – brand not in a commercial sense, but some something that people will identify with. This is the brand therefore this is the value that these people stand for. It is an an expression of ideas of this group of people -- A group of people who are interested in meta-knowledge who are interested in the person who want to learn about that particular topic. If I go to google, I wont get it. Very much like how, if I go to Wikipedia. There is a certain understanding about Wikipedia. Right now, the site is such that you don’t know who is writing it. Sometimes you get totally “balta” information and sometimes very it is good or just right.
So, The challenge which I am talking about is that centres like CED have to work in various forums, in various networks – here it is science and technology, somewhere else maybe it localization or local markets. At another place it is on NGOs, or Timbaktu kind of initiatives, where we try to use our background with information and the Net and that kind of knowledge. We also have the backbone of keeping all the data, the documents at the backend and a good data base with a good entry and query modules. And in the front end you this is face, which represents a network which has a definite identity. It has a brand. It has characteristics that people can relate to. Otherwise it becomes too open. So you can start with a few topics. Among all our circuits, in fact here in this room itself, you will probably get a wide enough range of topics and concerns. Then each one of us, could think of ten people, who could work on other topics. It may not happen in one day, but it can happen over a period of time. The beauty of the technology today is that at any given moment of time, even if you have work in progress, you can put it out there as a work in progress. Nobody will hang you for that. And the other beauty of it , and it has got to do with being a documentalist as opposed to an academician. As a documentalist, I can just say fellow said this and that fellow said this. I don’t know but you should read this and this. As a documentalist, I am not called upon to go through the academic rigour, style. I can get straight to the point, and bother about communication rather than being academically correct. So the advanatge of this technology is that we can use the synergy possible by this technology, where you can start with something small – you could start with just two links to two documents, which you find interesting and say this is how you can read it -- How to read Donald Duck Or how to read the Agriculture policy - simple and slowly build it on a daily basis as you get time work on it but you make some kind of commitment and slowly the identity will come. Then it is the job of the documentalist like us to ensure that the identity develops. We go to other networks and get them to work and have some kind of cross pollination. So this is the kind of challenge that I am talking about. For me the citizen to citizen or from this section to that section or this state to that state. Like for instance in the Cauvery issue – if we have people from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu talking about it that this is all bull shit and we need to try and examine the and listen to what Himanshu has to say try to find a solution and argue on a simaltaneous policy for that. So we can start on that or lets say the 11th plan is also important. He has written something on the education policy someone can write on the health part as they have screwed it up. There is a common thread on all these cross sectoral issues and then we could also have other people doing it.
So That I am arguing for that type of a arrangment, that type of a network. The reason why I came here, even though I had little time to work out this paper, when walter said that I have to speak on this topic, because of the nature of KICS, which is just the kind of set-up with is needed for this kind of collaboration, I decided to come, and I am very glad that I have come.
M V Shastry, CWS: John Dsouza I k… You started with the pre-cyber era, and then you have adapted to the changing situation and you ways of handling information, ….Now I belong to the pre- cyber generation, and have nt been able to adapt ……. John started aroudn the same time as me, supposing I ask you and ced, what does ced offer for the generation who have not been able to adopt …
John: In terms of infomration, everything. We are able to as we still maintain the old system, because the students love it, even though they are very cyber savvy, and they have already gone through the net, they have already searched evrything. They will coem to CED and go through the same files, So there is something about it. The old system still there. Of course we don’t spend as much time, nor it is that exhaustive as we had earlier. Now quite a lot of the stuff that we get from the net also, we reproduce – there is always a print copy and it goe sinto the file. In Other words what I am trying to say is: walter also mentioned it, when he said that we have got these big articles, it is not possible to read it on the net, you get a headache. I also print out what I want to read, for my preparation of the outputs, I will print out what I have in e form. So the system has the ability to deal with both forms- for instance we are still bringing out on Habitat, in a project with Architecture and Development relating to post tsunami , the DOCPOST boht in print as well as in electronic form. We are having posters, and backgrounders also. We are setting up information centres both in electronic as well as physical forms – that too both in tamil and english. I don’t electronic will replace the physical, As of now both are there. Definitely electronic forms will allow you to project yourself to a larger audience, it will allow you to do much more collaborative work, it will allow this type of thing to happen. Now at any given stage, it is so much more easier now to print something. And send it out, at low cost, that I don’t need, if you work out something a paper, whatever, you do it using the technology, and that will allow you to convert it into a good web-page. Using the technology, it would take a one hundreth of the time as it took me earlier to bring out one pamphlet. That is how it works. You use this as a medium. Otherwise you would get inundated by the . eg I was discussing this with Shambu earlier, that if anyone in KICS wants to circulate an article ( in the yahoo groups) written by somebody else, which he had read, you should allow it only if he makes some kind of guide, or extract that shows how to read it, which paragraphs to read, or which part you found interesting , why you found it interesting.. Then I am, ready to read that part. And also I now that you are really serious, you have not just taken something and shoved it around, which I just forward, as now I don’t even have to write your name, I just click somewhere- KICS. So this is happening a lot. The unfortunate part of it is, when we are talking of the information which is in the physical form which is – the cycle of redundancy, has become very small in the electronic age , you think you are reaching millions of people actually it isnt so. Leo ( Fernances, one of the foudners of India-link) had done a study five years ago. He found that these email which go around, go to only about hundred people in the same left circle, and then goes back to the same people, that is why he stopped doing the mailing lists. He just found that the communications goes round the same group and become redundant. So there is merit in the old form, as it forces you to freeze some of the ideas that you have, and forced to you bring it out, So yes, if you are working on the eleventh plan approach, or the development approach in the plannign commission, that is the larger topic..you give yourself certain deadlines, some kind of marker.. You cant just say : it is in an electronic circuit, you can just go on changing, passing around, or that at anytime it is work in progress. You have to freeze it somewhere, so bring out a print or physical version.. At the same time, you don’t get totally locked into that marker. You can still change it. As you are righting something, you can publish it, make it relevant, make it availble to people. Get an identity for it.
??? The infirmation whatever you gave is useful to me, In my mahcine about the google and .. from each child, I just wanted to share about .. mailing .. As I working in CWS, I have access to poluttion and change, at the same time I want to register as a ..in Tamil Nadu, when I go and find the information there, I may want to acknowledge it, so I take pains … glad to organisations, is not a relevatn issue, But somehow, trying to,
John: The secon part is a trick question and so I will answer it later.. The first part actually, This is one of the biggest problems of today. We think that this media is free, the net is free.. But we are being gobbled up by these guys, by UN and things like that. If you notice the development gateway is run by whom? The development gateway and all thiese things, the money that has been put up by DFID, and the site is being run from the British Council, and it has almost three thousand members, (You can become members free) I know you can. What I am tryign to say is that you have to recognise that the Britsih Council which is the intrument of UK foreign policy, which is the one that has been invovled in things like Bombing Iraq, they are the people who run the development gateway, what is the hope for any kind of real radical ideas being generated from there?
They have taken over that space already. So the only way you can do something about it is, to then have netwroks, which refuse this type of thing. You saw how the whole MSSRF, Bill Gates, UNDP, all these fellows have made member of everybody, whoever has got two computers, they have made them members, and this same kind of caste system has been done.. This is what I call an electronic caste system. They say that it is open to all, but because they have this kind of imformation.. the computer has already decided this kind of information is for this guy.. this is person is good, this person is no, this person I tolerate, so by this whole thing, there is this caste system which has developed. You will say but that is the human condition. But it is the truth. Now what is CED’s policy. By and large we have an open source policy, Everything is accesible to everyone, in some cases there is some payments to be made, but that I think has been withdrawn now. We had a system of membership, that you can become a member and certain doucments you can download, which then gets deducted from your account, but then also if you went from another route you could get that document, But yes, there is this problem, that if you are going to have a site like this, how do you run, miantian this site? Today you find that we are not being able to raise even on hundreth of the kind of money that say one world or these guys have riased for runnign any of the kind of activiites that we have. I don’t know for what reason, but definitely the way in which the world is organised, the way even the NGO donor framework is organised, it definitely sems to favour, those who put themsleves up, as large NGOs, and are able to absorb, have capacity, they call it absorption capacity, to abosrb those large amounts of funds.
Nowadays to run, the agency requires a certain x amount of money, which is high because salaries have gone up, and then agancies can spend more than 7 or so percent , or whatever is their figure. So they have to have expenses or projects of proportionately that size. And I don’t do field projects, and therefore all these types of support NGOs, require hugh budgets, to consume. So – slowly there has been that particular thing that has happened. (what – increasing bottomlines, fancy projects). Ten years ago, this became a bandwagon, I am doing digital divide work, I am doing kiosk work, and it just went beserk. So much so that it is very difficult to get any one in the development sector, who has some kind of perspective, and who are willing to work for the kind of salaries that we have to offer. They want salaries which are equivalent to working in Oxfam, Novib and things like that. Because that’s the starting job that they can get. So we are finding it difficult to get people. And this comes from this whole caste system , of acknowledgment of what is your station in life. Yes, There is that. That’s there. So ou cant be a field based NGO and be a straght forward contribution to the …They may take your ideas and re-write it, and then put it like a label – we thank so and so for the field contribution. I have see that happening. Somebody will take you diary, report, four or five experiences from the field, and then make a big report, and a nice presentation out of it, because after all you don’t know how to write English, you don’t know how to present, I will present it, and then they will get, because they also need to show their legitimacy, as someone was saying connection to the field – that I have done this, this and the other..So they will say – Hah, we have worked with so and so, groups in the field – so that;s possible. But now the technology allows groups to be able to interact directly , so you odnt need a mediator,
Sanghvi.. There is an ..
Srikumar, working with .. I have two questions. The first question is: ou alread talked about the availabilit of information. In my area of work, ……. I don’t find where I can see some credible data. Why cant credible source of information, not so positive. Okay enough to survive, what’s a blog doing there. Question no 2: relating ot the relevance of print media as of now: Considering the fact that man of the things have to go in the local languages, so that being the case, what actuall is the potential (tape break)
Q- we work on food and health. In health , people could come andthe work is that .. in this era of .. what is information, what information do I need..
John: This payment thing, I agree with you that it will be increasingly a problem, So one of the projects that we are working on, is trying to have a system whereby, different organisations pool in and have one identity very much like how a University has its different affiliates subscribe to it., and in turn that entity subscribes to the publication, so that all members of member organisations can login through that entity, and get access to the subscribed journals. We are working on that system but it does take a little bit of time to get people together, organise the funding and develop the programme. CSCS has already got some kind of plan, but the technological part of it, we will have to worked out. Basically, the design is a common website which accepts all members of constituent organisations are able to log in, and from this website they search the different databases, and journal website. Hopefully, we will get an opportunity to do this. . We will have to step up our systems both hardware and software, which is currently at very very basic level set up of low or no cost basis. This means that we are currently still running our server is in a semi-professional mode. Under this system, we would have to do it professionally. We have to get into that mode. We are working on that.
The issue of translation and audience: I think that the audience is only increasing. But the issue of reaching the audience that you talk about, is the same which faced the earlier mediums like radio and television. Pedagogic communications requires the animator, the intermediary, the middle person who could be the local leader, the local NGO, the local teacher. So In any case for really good two way or interactive communication to take place, information bombardment is not sufficient.
So we have to work through our networks, through the various organisations and what they have to offer. They will use only what they are interested in. And this is something that you have to accept. You may put out something on energy which according to you, is needed by all, but that doesn’t mean that they will take it up. But our job is to place it in such a way that when people want it, they can access and use it.
In the current system you have to print something and send it out.. So from the user point of view, at the time that they received it, they may not be interested. So they may just put it aside, thinking that they may use it later, and much later particularly if they don’t have a sophisticated storing and retrieval system the chances are that they would just throw that material out, as ruddi.
Internet and this type of technology allows you to put up this kind of information, and when it is required by the user, they can access it. It is more the PULL technology. They come to you when they need it. That is the advantage of it.
Now is it possible to do it in different languages: definitely.
It is easier for you to put it one language and have other language versions, even if there are few users. Now you have online translation programmes, which can to a word for word translation to your language. Like Who are you Kaun hai aap. Now it is presumed that the receiver knows his language well enough to be able to decipher the meaning.. Obviously, it is not a pretty or culturally sensitive translation… But I am saying that at least that kind of translation is far far better than not have anything.. Or at least one you have that transliteration, you ( the animator, middle man, teacher etc ) could re-write it.
So it is possible. I am not saying that right now the answers are there, but it is moving in that direction.
When I was talking of using the print, I was talking of using it in the last stage: the distribution takes place electronically, and now you are getting more and more sophisticated programmes where you can print different quality and quantities at a local level, and that too with adaptations. You can print only as much as you want, when you want. You got a small group of five you print five copies..You ddon’tneed to print two hundred like earlier..I remember when Suresh finished translating the Permaculture manual, we had to think to straightaway printing thousand copies. We couldn’t think of say ten copies. No we can. You can also print only certain sections that you required.. so the advantage is that.. You get a certain kind of flexibility.
About Food, accessibility choice etc: When I have a problem with Food, when somebody tells me that the reason why your daughter is having this kind of problem, which is linked to MSG, maybe your daughter is eating too many prepackaged noodles. Then at least at that time I will go and check. I may not have read it earlier. I do see that some of the information, if I know that this is the place that it is available, and when I know this is the kind of person who has put out that information, this is a reliable person that I can go to, then there is more likelihood of me checking out, particularly when I am affected by the problems.. When I am not affected by the problem, then I don’t check it. So my suggestion would be that if you have a set of information on food, different types of food etc, if you arejust tryign to make a propaganda thing out of it, viz : Boycott so and so, then it is the old propaganda style. Whereas if you are talking about facts like this particular company, this particular product has this problem.. no body might listent to you at the moment, but you can put it there.. When they need it, they will look fo rit.
People are also fed up of the kind of propaganda that we have been putting out. For example the propaganda that when you put a tooth in a coke the tooth dissolves, is shall we say, half lie or half truth, that we have perpetuated.. Because the journalist who has written that has accepted, in a public forum that the same affect take place in soda. Then why did you not say that in your article. Perhaps because at that time the activist had a problem with plachimada struggle against the coke facotry. So who are you wedded to: your own agenda or the truth.
What happens is that when people experience this kind of half-truths again and again, then when the real story about the pesticide content in this is this or that much, they tends to say this is another example of environmental terrorism. Some where it is there at the back of their mind, all people who love their rum and coke, and I am one of them, yes it maybe partly true, but forget it, it will not affect me, or most people. Thus at that point I am alrady compromising some of the ideals that you have given. So what I am trying to say, is that whatever our aggenda is , it is not going to be accepted hundred percent, tick mark this point..etc.. you are not going to change the world like that. But you have to do that, because you are passionate about it, and you want to say it.
How valid is inforamtion and knowledge. Data seems to be factual,
The big problem is that now more and more people are putting out information. And it becomes difficult to relate to the person.. My simple answer is that everyone, finally whether it is whatever you might goive as credentials, people accept or learn how to accept on some other basis. There are very few scientists, or when you are in you academic community , when you are doing your phd and thing sliek that you will about about validating data by some objective criteria. Otherwise people use someother guide. Sometimes evern things like how good that fellow looks,
So this question of validity is slowly becoming a question of faith. We are putting the information out there, now you decide. Somebody has put this piece. How can I say this is hundred percent correct. I don’t know. You will have to go through a whole process to check up. And the issue at hand may not be something that you want to go through that process, so you just take in that information, match it with what you think is reasonable and move on.. So my job is first to put that information out, Just because I cannoty validate it , I don’t put it out, means that I cant put out anything, because where am I going to sit down as cehck each bit of fact, its source etc. Did you actually get that quot from there? It is like the students who write assignments: We have this scholarsip programme where we invited students to write on various issues.. We found that the full text was a cut and past job from Internet, and some “balta” names, which you have not heard at all, are put by the student. How are you going to validate this? The teacher will catch some, and some they will miss out. So you, the reader has to decide finally when you accept. It is an article of faith. You cant have an aboslute. I don’t think as a documentalist I have a problem. Researchers have a problem. Academicians have a problem. I as a documentation, I don’t have a problem. I just put it out.
Information seems to be formatted, pre-determined, base on some kind of knwoledge, or design. So that in a way deviates and brings errors from data to information. Knowledge is a different part, because that is more of an individual thing, how that information is percieved and used. Either individual or the Community be it a certain scientific community or a certain group. They have a certain common knwoledge, that is true that is precisely the problem.,
The moment you format it you are giving a twist to it, and you whole minset come in, -- in what you include and what you exclude itself. It is a political statement. There is no way out of that.
Q: John, a quick word on the scholarship programme. I don’t think many of them know about it.
Q: Local Information: whay people are not interested to come forward to put this information in..
Q: CWS works with a grassrots organisations thos who are working in rural areas, here I would like to know what is the best method we can adopt to share this information knowledge. What I feel here is , informtaion and knowledhe is fine with Internet, newspapers.. What is Infomration and what is knowledge. When the people at the grassroot level , people who are living in rural india, they do have their own infomration they do have their own knowledge, the researchers they go to the village, and collect the ifnormation, and they collect the knowledge of the people and they publish it.. But why that is not infomration at the village level. And how do you make that.. that is also not knowledge. So how we have tell the people to have greater information /knowledge.
J: This whole people knowledge thing: every one has a certain amount of knowledge, and they obviously have lived so many years, and there is a certain amount of knowledge production. And when a researcher comes and takes this information, processes it in a different way and gives back.. that is another kind of knowledge. What you are sayign is how is it, what is the problem with local information, local knowledge – that they are not able to make it, process it and call it whatever , or produce something which you can publish, at the local level. For me the issue is what is the idiom and what is the language of, what is the way in which communciation is passed on. Information is passed on and assimilated in that society. So In a a traditional society, there was a certain way in which the knowledge was passed on . whether it was by rote, or whether it was by just walking along in the field, or passing on from father to son, or through the guilds, or whatever.. So every system has its own method of generating knowledge, documenting it, processing it, passing it on. What has happened is that over a period of time, whatever you call it.. som may call it western, some may call it modern or positivistic, depending on your ideology, certain types and ways of processing and certain kinds of knowledge has been given lesser importance, and they are not developed : while others kinds of knowledge have got more currenncy. One because of what is recognised, where there is more money, those that are more supported etc. another is because the ways in which we can make information inter-subjective is not developed within th culture or paradigm that is being lost. By developed I mean we have not paid attention to it. With all the new technology, it is possible, to think in terms of doing doucmentation, or knowledge development, of local knowledge. We can do that. We have experiments where we have used video, we have talked to people about their problems, rolled the video back and had discussions, so these types of approaches are there.. But today you will find the rate of mas reproduction, that is possible, in this system, the modern system is so high that the other seems to be paling in significance.
Eg agricultural knowledge, the way in which the amount of researches th emoey that is going in , the amoutn of insitutionsm banks gives money to them , that is growing, while there is nothing this side. And then there is not future for it also, because that is not a cash related thing. It cannot support the kind of salaries that any one of us get. Are we willing to manage th two bowls od rice and one bowl of ragi like the brahmins of old would do, are we willing to do that?
Actually the issue is that most of the peole who generate this knowledge don’t speak the local language. Their first kanguage is something else. Now if I need it for my work, how much can I translate? I will translate one doucment, he will write something.. Suresh has done the maximum amount of tranlation that I know in telugu. I don’t know if he is doing translation now.. But at that time if he had a laptop, all of what he has done would have been availabel on the net..It is not that you will find more things generated. Whoever does this kind of doucmentation, they would definitely have a laptop, and hopefully an organisations like ced would ensure that they would harvest this.
The problem is that even in the email that we do, what ever he has done, the emails will be in English. So he wont share whatever in the laguage that he has written the English version goes out..So I put the English version, I wouldn’t know that he has got the language version.
Q.Can we communicate by email
A You can but please write a proper subject line saying KICS.. Unfamiliar emails are just deleted as we get so much spam these days
Suresh give vote of thanks
Shambu thanks sanghvi for chairing the session.