03 April 2009

Oral Communications Culture

The last days and today I have worked with many local talent and teams on documentation. One realizes in rural Africa what oral communication culture means. In such culture information is processed differently than in those cultures where many had the opportunity of many years of education and are part of a 'book culture’.

One who reads widely, and has paper and pens in abundance, can easily assume that others receive information in the same way. Wrong! It cannot be assumed that one can work with rural Africa using the methods that are predominantly in writing, through literature, books, and abstract papers.

Elements which are essentially oral communication methods are to be included in all that we do. Thus there are significant gaps to bridge, new avenues to explore. It is exiting to bridge cultures using new styles of web communication, for instance in preserving African culture. Actually, that is a crucial aspect of my daily activities in Macha. In the plethora of activities, dedication to preserve the African heritage is prerequisite, and needs energy and dedication, certainly in our cross cultural and cross-technological environments.

What may work well for a professional in the West may not be very accessible to people in Africa. Lectures, books, and many of traditional western methods do not relate easily to people I live with. Actually, interactive communications via the Web is arguably often much nearer to oral communication than printed literature.

Of course, what you see - what you perceive to see - influences how you act. Living in an environment different than the one a person grew up into is something 'to get used to'. Especially for me, living in an oral communications environment, so radically different than the culture I grew up in, needs lots of time for contemplation and study of the culture. One has to be able to see reality from the perspectives of the local person, the common perspective as defined by the prevailing culture in the area. And that understanding is mostly available in oral communications format, with emphasis on stories.

So I wrote.