23 December 2008

Someone else's interpretation

Someone took the time to read through all my blog posts and summarize my thesis project and ideas. I am delighted with what surfaced. Thanks, Helen!

"Your thesis/project supports a number of Rwanda’s 2020 development goals and the MDGs by supporting a group of rural women to develop weaving skills that will help them generate income. One major additional benefit of this weaving enterprise is that it uses for raw material the invasive water hyacinth plant. This plant is degrading the environment on which people in the Bugasera region, where the weaving cooperative is located, depend for basic survival.

The situation for the weavers at present is that, although a number of organizations have helped them to learn weaving skills, start a studio, and a business cooperative—COVAGA, the women are still in the early stages of weaving skill and design development; consequently, their production is limited in quantity, variety and quality.

The women need further support to (?)
(I inserted: Build a suitable factory, design and create their own products, an understanding of quality and market needs, business planning)

Kara, when you got acquainted with the women, you were becoming aware of how so many development “solutions” are imposed on the “beneficiaries”. Often, little, if any, effort is made to consult the beneficiaries about what they need and want, what their ideas are about how their lives might be improved.

You also discovered that language was a significant barrier. Even when words alone might not be a barrier, there’s the language of culture that cannot necessarily be transmitted through words, especially the words of a foreign language and a foreign culture.

So, Kara, as a person who’s interested in how images convey values and persuade, you want to create the means, “a cultural probe,” in the form of a kit, which the women weavers can carry with them as they go about their lives, to enable then to convey their aspirations for COVAGA via media consisting not of words but, rather, drawings, photos, found objects, and (more?). These things, you believe, will give fuller expression to what words can only partially express about what the women see, feel and think."

Currently, I'm researching materials to make my bag for the field kit. I have started by looking at the blankets often used by NGO's in humanitarian aid. From what I can gather, this material seems to be accessible in many countries thereby making it possible for the kits to be made in the respective country of research. Next step is to find the appropriate strapping material for the handles.

While the focus of my research isn't on the bag itself, I am pleasantly surprised by the process I've had to go through in thinking through the functionality of these probes in a rural situation. Gaver's examples used a Ziploc bag as a simple inexpensive way to give the probe to his participants. In my case, this isn't really an option (especially since plastic bags are technically banned in Rwanda!) How will they carry it? How will they write or draw if they are not sitting at a table (which isn't a guarantee)? I am most interested in the visual outcomes but without the infrastructure to acquire these, I would likely be wasting my time. It is as though the bag has as much to say about this research as the contents that will go into it. I can imagine something extra emerging just by engaging the process of making and sending them out.

Still to go:
1) Finalize probe activities
2) Translation where necessary
3) Sew bags

No comments: