Guest Blog by Kris Rios,
AmeriCorps CTC VISTA Program Associate for the Digital Expansion Initiative
People’s Production House
I like records. I prefer the old dusty kind, usually from the 60's and 70's, that play soul, funk, or jazz music. For me it's more than a cool way to listen to music. It's about how collecting and sharing music on vinyl records creates community and how those communities share experiences and knowledge through the music.
In a lot of ways my interest is connected to the way I process information. I've learned that I retain information better when it's tangible. I prefer hard copies of almost everything: books, newspapers, magazines, music, and photographs. Information feels more real to me when it exists in the physical world.
This thing about me–having a preference for analog–may seem contradictory to my professional work. At People's Production House, we use digital media in our work to train youth, low-wage workers, and immigrants on how to tell their stories using radio. Despite my preference for analog, I recognize that digital media and the Internet are important tools in creating and sharing stories across the globe. It has made information more accessible across all sorts of boundaries. Digital technology helps our real world, analog communities connect with friends, family, and other communities near and far.
I use digital technology in this way. I have a blog DibbleDabbling.com where I digitize my records so friends and family can enjoy them. Digitizing music makes it easier for me to share records with friends, but it also compresses the sound and information is lost. For me, the ideal is to have my friends over to listen to records, because we get more of the soul and feel of the moment when the song was recorded (you also get to hear me geek out about records, but that may not always be a good thing). Still, for me not even a record compares to hearing music live. While technology makes music more portable, it doesn't make it better. Thinking of technology in this way helps me value each process (analog and digital) for their uses and helps me appreciate those opportunities when I get to see music live.
This is all to say that we should be thoughtful about how digital technology fits into our lives. Digital expansion is about expanding access to digital technology, but it is also about encouraging people to imagine creative ways for how that technology can fit into our lives. I recognize that my experience with digital media and the Internet is unlike most people's experiences. I've had the privilege to consider the role I want this technology to play in my life because access has never been an issue for me. While I use the Internet as a tool to create and connect, most people use it like an interactive TV; they watch you tube videos recommended by friends on Facebook. This is how their participation in a digital future is prepackaged. But I'd like to see everyone use digital media to also create and share and inspire. The Internet should be available to all, but how it's used should only be limited by our imaginations. A healthy Internet will make room for all kinds of people and will be awesome for all the reasons that we make it awesome, not awesome for the reasons we're told it's awesome.
Imagining a more creative, participatory digital future will help us think about the what role we want digital technology to play. This way we're not reducing all parts of our lives into ones and zeros. The digital future I imagine allows us to digitally share our lives, but also allows us to reserve aspects of our human-ness for the real world. Some people will use email, Facebook, and Skype to communicate with friends and family. Others will continue to post letters. I want our amazing and expanded Internet to understand and respect that for some people, some things are better not so accessible and tangible –and in the real world. To that end, I encourage folks to reconnect with their music through a record player and some vinyl. But I understand that sometimes it's just easier to carry 2,000 albums in your pocket. So if you're ever in my hood, you're always welcomed to come over, pick one of my records, and we'll listen together over a meal.
“Todos los Momentos Hasta Otoño” is a tribute to my family, recognition of my musical heritage, and a nod to those who still keep this good music alive. A small sampling of Cha-Cha and Salsa from the island of Puerto Rico, from the inner-city Puerto Rican Barrio that I call home, and from Salsa’s new home in Colombia.