Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Keynote talk for the Oromo Studies Association, Oslo

Been an amazing few days in Oslo. I was there to deliver my keynote speech at the Oromo Studies Association mid-year conference. When I was invited for this event, I have to admit that my knowledge of the Oromo movement was rather basic. Since then, I immersed myself in the decades of research and news that has emerged regarding the Oromo people. Of course, I didn't pretend to be an expert but rather, gave the talk from an outsider point of view, putting into perspective the role of social media in social movements, comparing the Oromo movement to other struggles across the world and how they use the internet to further their cause.

It shocks me that human rights violations of about 40 million people in Ethiopia are relatively invisible in the mainstream media. Generations of Oromo people have struggled to claim their identity, their culture and their right to self-proclamation and yet, have been unable to gain that right in spite of their ongoing protest and lobby work among the Oromo diaspora around the world.

I was impressed by the fact that the audience came from diverse professional fields, few linked to the social sciences and yet they were able to engage deeply and passionately. I met surgeons, biochemists, travel agents, chefs and others who came from across Europe and even the US to be part of this event. Clearly, you can see this is not just a theoretical exercise but a forum to reconnect and further their pledge to the cause.

What was more impressive was the online presence of the Oromo people, as they viewed and commented on the talks including mine on the Oromia Media Network. In just the weekend, there were about 30,000 views, 400 comments and about 1200 shares of the keynote talk. This is a humbling reminder that sometimes we academics are not just pontificating but shaping real narratives that can affect the lives of people around the world.

Click here for the full video of the talk

https://www3lmantra.blogspot.com/b/post-preview?token=vdcuO1sBAAA.QjoSLfkF71Ldc3eKHq-ZgOWZ398sqw6mHloj4nbiF1OYS4MQ5wT6aYO4h-NPGnccIzg9MhSUERk8LGJHFU3IbA.09LZB_On94AsaxJrs_qzSw&postId=7401790715108038381&type=POST

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Speaking on Digital Cultures at Collège des Bernardins in Paris


This international conference at the Collège des Bernardins was on the topic of "L’humain au défi du numérique". Basically, it focused on digital & cultural diversity. Following the work of Milad Doueihi, the Chair of the Collège des Bernardins on "The human being with the digital challenge", the study day "Numerique & Diversité culturelle" proposes to examine the digital experience in other regions of the world and the possibility of thinking differently, using different methodologies and categories of thought. Can we still study digital culture, or produce an audible discourse on it, without systematically discussing the issue of digitization, encoding, mapping, data and usage? The meeting of computer science with the human and social sciences seems to have tightened the perimeter of the latter. The suspicion that weighs since their origins on their scientificity and their social utility is thus based, at a time when public funding is always demanding more "results" applicable.

Faced with an institutional restructuring in progress, which imposes laboratories a hard model of scientificity, the colloquium "Numerique & Diversité culturelle" draws from diverse voices. What should a number of academic disciplines (anthropology, communication, etc.) and actors (artists, engineers), usually little understood, have to tell us about digital culture? How does the latter, for example, work our perception of ethnic groups? What relationships do we have with these "non-human" robots? What are the alternatives to western platforms, such as Google or Facebook, and what new culture do they create? Etc. The notion of "diversity" is thus to be understood in two ways: diversity of approaches to studying digital culture; Diversity of its "inhabitants", which deserve our attention.

To respond to this program, the colloquium "Numerique & Diversité culturelle" of the Collège des Bernardins brought together international actors whose work focuses on several issues (activism, robotics, standardization of Internet standards, etc.) and Other parts of the world, such as Asia, the Middle East or India.