picture time.

so about 3 weeks into my trip, my smart phone had a heart attack and died. since then, i’ve only been taking pictures on the point and shoot that i stole from my sister before coming down here. this means all of the things i would be saying i plan to say once i can get the pictures to match them. they’ll make more sense in about 3 months once everything is developed and uploaded. all in all, hang in there, i’ll get everything up soon enough.

til then, excuse me while i run around and see what this world can be.

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posted

buenos aires is a lot. like any city, theres the good and the bad. i’ve been posted here for about 3 weeks now. i started working my second week in. i’m at a tech non-profit called Wingu Web. it’s main goal is to help other non-profits make the best use of this whole ordeal that is technology, including everything from management tips to hackathons to workshops. it’s a company that believes in the do it yourself idea, but they want you to look good while you’re doing it.

the whole company is founded in an understanding of one’s responsibility to the society, to those around you. in sum, the work done is for the benefit of the community such that everyone can use the same tools as effeciently as anyone else, if that makes sense. what i see here is the main difference between the startup world in the us and the startup world down here in argentina.

here, the majority is focused on helping the community rather than the individual. i must say, it’s a nice model. they’ve got their priorities in order because there’s a baseline expectation of making a positive societal impact. that isn’t to say that the startups in the us aren’t thinking like this, many of them are. the difference is that i don’t see a general push toward using technology to systematically progress the social and political standings of a community.

the first example that comes to my mind is a project that we’re working on now: Desarrollando América Latina (DAL – Developing Latin America). it’s a hackathon to end all hackathons. it’s an epic month long meeting of the minds. we’ve got developers, designers, scholars, students, journalists, and pretty much every other type of expert from 15 different countries coming together from all over Latin America. the goal? make an app, something live and functional that seeks to solve a social problem. that can mean anything from education to health to safety. the general idea is to hone in on finding an answer to a problem we see everyday. it starts this thursday, the 18th and ends in november. unfortunately, i won’t be here to see the final products, but i don’t really mind. all that I really care about is being part of something that is moving the world I live in in the direction I want to see it going.

i figure 2 months is a good amount of time in a city. of course, i want more time. of course, I want to see more of the city than 2 months will give me. with one month already gone, i know this second one will fly by even faster. but i figure if I can help make something like DAL happen and get to see even a part of it go down, that to me would mean this was 2 months well spent.

made it.

for the last year i’ve spent all my spare time planning a ridiculous trip: 5 months, 3 countries. all this started when i realized how little i know about anything outside of the US. it began with a class on afro-latin americans and blackness in the americas. it began with a nice long series of questions that can all pretty much come down to: what does it mean for me to be running around in this world as a black woman who studies computer science and Africana studies? first thought was get out of the country and give my eyes something new to deal with. get out of the world i had crafted for myself and jump into a place entirely unrelated. moral of the story was lets mix it up, lets not think about anything that has to do with academia for a nice long time. let’s take a break. so i gathered myself, told everyone i’d be back in a while. i needed space. i needed time. I needed to stop rushing myself and I needed to stop following all the steps that had been laid out for me since day 1. so i started planning. first stop is brazil for a month, then off to argentina for 2 months, finally finish it off with 2 months in chile. 

everything started July 14th. i checked out of the states, said my goodbyes to the bay, and took off to begin phase 1. i landed in salvador without a hitch in the travel plans. made it to my host family and unloaded. i then proceeded to have the most incredible month i could ask for. to preface, i was supposed to start my storytelling on July 15th, but then life happened. i’m not even a little bit sorry that i haven’t posted anything because i was a little busy doing everything i possibly could in this amazing city. so now, on the eve of phase 2, i figure it’s time to play catch-up.

swimming in data, drowning in wisdom

i was just watching a video from the Digital-Life-Design(DLD) conference that was in Munich, Germany in january. the video was a talk between Arianna Huffington and Paulo Coelho, called On Mindfulness.

it was about a half hour in which they discussed Arianna Huffington’s new book and the effects of living in this world of constant movement. to me, it sounded like they were talking a lot about regret, or rather warning against it: regret of missing out on the beauty of life, regret of getting lost in routine,  and most importantly, the regret of losing sight of one’s values.

Paulo Coelho seemed particularly insistent on this last one, but i think losing sight of one’s values is the result of the former two. what i see happening to myself and to many others around me is the idea of getting lost in a routine, being caught in the never ending cycle of to-do lists without really paying attention to what is being done around me. it’s too easy to lose myself in whatever i have to do that day and ignore what i need to do for myself. it’s too easy to keep going, and harder to stop to take a look around.

this is when values are jeopardized, when one doesn’t stop to check in and realign their actions with their intentions.

i write this in fear of sounding like a broken record, but i say it mostly as a reminder to myself. i’m full of regret if we’re looking at the way Paulo described. i’m absolutely guilty of getting lost in my daily work, getting absorbed by what is due, what i need to get done. but as a student, by definition, there’s almost no getting out of that. so how do i work inside of it? how do we as a wider community incorporate Paulo’s warning into daily life and bring value back into our daily interactions?

each person has to ask themselves these questions to get to their own sense of the truth. for me, it means just taking everything task by task. i love to let myself dive into projects, i wouldn’t be myself if i didn’t. but once i finish something, i take a step back and see what i’ve done. where do i want to go? what can i do? how am i a part of something larger that effects not only myself? it’s a play between thinking about what i am doing, what makes me happy, and what i want to be doing. when i get these answers right, that’s when my values sync with my actions and i’m off and running.

Paulo Coelho and Arianna Huffington referenced meditation quite a bit in their talk. since october, meditation has quickly moved to the center of my life. i meditate at least once a day, and every other day if things get crazy. it brings me back and allows me to create a space to step away and reorient myself. for me, meditation a chance to reset. if you’re looking for something to help you reset, try it. no harm, no fowl.

future now

there’s not much debate around the idea that technology portrayed in movies and tv shows has a strange way of becoming actualized. many a time, pop culture predicted the future. there was a mashable article not too long ago that threw us back to a few commercials that did exactly that. at&t saw the gps on the way in 1993 and apple knew touchscreens would be around in 1987.

while it’s pretty terrifying to think of Gravity or Avatar as omens for our future reality, the technology used in these movies can guide the way for the next round of programmers that roll through. think about it, some 13 yr old is sitting watching George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in space, they see some ridiculous holographic computer, and the next thing we know, we’re living in a world full of communication based on holograms.

as of right now, we’re not too far off. this morning, a Swiss UI company, dizmo, reached their goal on kickstarter to fund their new interactive user interface. any smartboard surface would facilitate the a pretty ridiculous digital experience. just like Tom Cruise in Minority Report or Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man, you can whip your files around, blow them up, spin them about, and swipe them away. sounds like the most natural way to let your files materialize before your eyes and save trees while you’re doing it. this new digital gizmo company is bringing Tony Stark’s lab to us.

the best part about all of this? give it a few years and anything like dizmo is going to be so casually the norm.