20 April 2011

Even More IRB and the Honors Thesis Proposal

I have an abundance of good news!
  1. My IRB protocol was accepted with changes!  I have 29 days to make the changes the IRB board requires and resubmit my protocol.  After that, I am cleared to begin my research in Dharamsala!  This is a huge relief equal to the huge burden that it was to write the protocol.
  2. I finished my honors thesis proposal and submitted it to Dr. Burton and Dr. Dean, the English department honors coordinator.  It is 25 pages long.  If you keep in mind that my IRB protocol was 24 pages long, you might become a little bit worried about the length of my honors thesis itself.  I guess I'm just long winded!
  3. Google voice.  Who knew that Google would change my life again?  Google voice is a free tool that "gives you a single phone number that rings all of your phones, saves your voicemail online, and transcribes your voicemail to text.  Other cool features include the ability to listen in on messages while they're being left, block unwanted callers, and make cheap international calls."  It costs $.02 per minute to call London and $.06 per minute to call India.  I am now planning to bring my cell phone with me so that  my family will be able to contact me in the case of an emergency.  We're planning to use Skype most of the time since it's free, but Google voice will be perfect for emergencies.
  4. I just booked my train and hotel for Paris.  I will be there for two days, speaking French with French people!
  5. I have a killer prep class final in five hours and a meeting right after that is going until midnight.
Okay, so number 5 isn't really good news, but it's the reason that this blog post is so short.  I just wanted to give some updates so that my faithful readers know what's going on with this whole project :)

13 April 2011

Technology in Exile

I revised the background, significance, and literature review section of my project proposal.  Here's what it says now:

We live in the midst of a digital renaissance, reflected in swift technological advances and cultural revolution.  Often, those living in the United States have nearly constant access to technological resources, especially the internet.  Developing nations like India, however, have significantly limited access by comparison (Fink and Kenny 20).  The Tibetan community living in exile in McLeod Ganj, India is a contradiction--residents boast a high level of digital literacy but usually lack computers, particularly in personal settings like the home.  The high level of digital literacy in the Tibetan community is a phenomenon that academia is just beginning to understand, one that links the digital natives in India to the digitally literate around the world and challenges the Tibetans who are seeking to preserve their culture as they live in a foreign land.

08 April 2011

Cultural Attitudes of Tibetan Refugees

Do you ever find the perfect source after you write your paper?  Fortunately, I haven't yet turned in a final draft of my project proposal!  Here is the abstract of an article, "Cultural Attitudes of Tibetan Refugees toward Multimedia Technology," by Heather Tillberg of the University of Virginia.  The article comes from the World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications (EDMEDIA) in 2004.
Tibetan refugees are members of a population whose culture and language are in danger of being subsumed by dominant culture and language.  The Internet and multimedia technology (computer, television, radio) may present both direct conflict with traditional values for such a population, as well as opportunity to protect and promote use of an endangered language and culture.  Digital divide research is concerned not only with access to computers and the Internet, but also knowledge about and interest of potential users in using these tools.  Existing research suggests limited materials exist on the Internet for speakers of languages besides English, limiting the adoption of Internet use by some populations.  I will present data analysis from a series of interviews with four Tibetan refugees in the United States.  This analysis will help portray Tibetans' attitudes toward the impact of multimedia technology in their lives, and give insight into the complex issues of the digital divide.
Tillberg's analysis will rely on the notion of the digital divide, which I have argued is outdated by the new notion of "digital leapfrogging," but it's likely that her data is highly relevant to my project.  I'm looking forward to reading her findings and revising my proposal to include them!

"Now, we can do anything!"

Fortunately, my passport and visa are safely in my possession, and I'm 2.5 weeks out!  Here are some of the things that have been going on in my mind and life:

  1. I gave my project presentation to a wonderful audience of three people on Wednesday.  It went well; I showed the video that my group had made of the interview with Norbu last semester because it occurred to me that it would be the perfect introduction to my project!  Not only did Norbu give background of the Tibetans in Dharamsala and the TCV but he made many excellent points about digital culture.  Here is one of my favorite quotes from the video: "I think [computers and internet] are a wonderful thing for us, for everyone.  I think it's a new culture for everyone . . . .  With the coming of computers we can do lots of things.  Now, we can do anything!"  In addition, the fact that I even have Norbu as a friend (thanks, Facebook and Skype!) and the interview itself are excellent representations of my project--the things that you can do with technology have changed the way I do my project and indeed the way I run my life.
  2. One of the questions asked after my presentation was how am I practicing proper reciprocity with Norbu?  It is an excellent question.  Norbu has been so kind and helpful to me for a long time.  I certainly need to respond with some kindness and generosity of my own, and I have yet to decide what I can do for him.  One thing that I think I have done for him, however, is give him the opportunity to have his voice heard.  He wants people to know about Tibetans and their situation, and the video we presented at our digital civilization event informed our audience (including many college students and faculty) of just that.  I also published Norbu's statement about his culture on my blog, which has a respectable audience as well.  If all goes as planned, I may even present the same video at a much larger honors conference in the fall (more on this to come!)
  3. There are two main challenges that I see in my project right now: the first is that I am unbalanced in my field experience proposal.  I am leaning heavily on my academic project and I have not given nearly as much thought to my overall experience of cultural immersion.  I need to work on balancing my thinking here.  The second challenge is my methodology--I am probably trying to do too much (c'est la vie) and I need to revise my methods.
I have a great deal more to do, and not just with this field study preparation.  Let's see if I can get my life back in order!

04 April 2011

Coping With Culture Shock

"For most Westerners, operating abroad involves a fairly severe bout with culture shock."  I could spend this post discussing the symptoms of culture shock, as discussed in Ferraro's book Coping With Culture Shock, but I think it will be most helpful if I discuss ways to combat the culture shock.  Here are some of Ferraro's suggestions:

As soon after arrival as possible, become familiar with the immediate physical surroundings.  He suggests buying a map and studying it so as to feel more comfortable with the layout of the place where you'll be living.  I think this is excellent--I know that I struggled moving to college because I didn't know landmarks or road names, but if I could combat that by studying a map I'd be much better off.

01 April 2011

History of Tibet

Reading Thomas Laird's The Story of Tibet was probably the best idea I ever had.  The book is an interesting combination of history, culture, and folklore told through the eyes of the 14th Dalai Lama.  Certainly the book takes a Tibetan rather than Chinese perspective when it comes to that conflict, but I think the stance toward Tibet's political status is appropriately moderate rather than offensive. 

As an American, it is intriguing to read a book that delves more deeply than I have ever gone into Asian history.  I know quite a bit about the history of the Western world and the Middle East, but the histories of China, Mongolia, India, and Tibet have not been part of my education until now.  There is an entire hemisphere of the world about which I know very little, and I am fascinated to learn more about it now.  Here is a beautiful excerpt: