Pondering the now

What has changed dramatically in the last ten years has been the amount of competition that now exists for the average person’s attention. It should be noted that with the increase in access to TV, computers and phones that carry visuals, the challenge is to see through the mass of visual material and pick what is relevant and useful to you. There are still pockets of poverty where a lone health worker or teacher can command a lot of attention but on the whole access to mass media makes their jobs more difficult. The idea of sharing knowledge is now also in the hands of friends and family and their new communication devices/methods as much as it is with the authorities.

Recently the Guardian newspaper published findings from social websites showing that from 2004 till 2011 over one hundred billion images had been uploaded and shared. People this year are posting up to 300 million photos per day on Facebook alone. These are not images sent down a chain of command (ie sent from a UN Agency HQ down to a rural village or from a government to its people) they are images across the board from a son to his family from a boy to a girl. They show visually what each other looks like at that moment, they bringing into the picture the goods they bought, places visited and friendships they are all having. The ability to compare your life to someone else’s has now grown exponentially. African children like children everywhere are no longer limited to comparing their football skills their hero on the local championship team… but also to Lionel Messi. It is visual images that are driving this change in a way never before experienced.

When I read questions such as ‘Does Development work?’ and read the opinion of many people that think it does not, I feel like taking them out on a field trip to a remote area to watch a mother in Nepal who signs up for her first ever bank loan, then goes home and discusses with her husband the importance of her daughters education. These at one stage were development goals of a humanitarian organization… now they are a talking point in a home. Some of the best ‘development’ (for want of a better name) ideas have been adopted by the private sector and the media, and absorbed into a nation’s consciousness alongside the work of all governments, humanitarian agencies and NGOs.

Being able to compare their situation with those in other communities and countries has in many ways raised the ambitions/desires of almost every human. The ambitions of human development have been raised by simply seeing how people live, possible more than by hearing, than reading or visiting. The inequalities have put more focus on the problems… but we must also give credit to the issues that we collectively have been able to bring under control.

The UN humanitarian organizations produce a wealth of knowledge every year about the conditions we all live through… but these facts are not harvested for their worth as much as they should be. Part of the problem is within the UN itself (as it is within most governments) in the way it distinguishes between what we are told and what we need to have explained to us. Too often we are told, rather than having something explained. Animation has a role to play in explaining how things work… in leadership as well as explaining how to protect clean water to a village mother. Most definately animation will used more and more in the future, hopefully for all our benefit as well as our entertainment.

George McBean

December 2012

George McBean 2012