Where I stand today

(I promise this is one of the only two blog posts I will publish using primarily the first person.)

I am an activist, and technology and media are my favorite pretexts to start conversations about the core of our human experience. I love reflecting about concepts and their underlying ideologies, but asking teens whether they know someone who decided to untag themselves from a photo on Facebook is still my favorite way to ignite discussions on privacy.

I don’t believe in universal pedagogical statements about technology (I very much doubt everybody should learn to code), and part of my pride as an activist is in having developed a vision that allows me to be strategic about technology-based interventions. And yet nothing brings me more life than those epiphanic moments in tech workshops: the precise look (because I do think it is a look) that people get as they wrap their minds around the process.

I find it fascinating and challenging to be from a context where the dominant technology throughout my growth, the internet, permeates many of the central conversations in the public sphere. Attempts to address structures of power and inequality now look at the technological landscape as the ultimate opportunity to end history, maybe for real this time – and yet, upon digging, none of this feels new, nor particularly self-aware.

The mission that made me get up twelve years ago has matured, and it still makes me get up today. At age 14, it was about finding how I could use technology to make change. In my early twenties, about finding the affordances of media and technology to go beyond isolated events, building processes towards the world we wanted to see. Today, I want to be among those tracing the roadmaps for action to bring grassroots work to its ultimate consequences: improving the relationship between technology and society at the levels of infrastructure, policy, curriculum and public discourse.

How does work in digital literacies support youth development and what exactly should this work look like for each actor in the landscape? What are the participatory methodologies that best support knowledge creation and grassroots work? What are the values and judgements at stake in our discussions on privacy, security and surveillance? And, really, how can we talk about the ideologies underlying technology activism to stop seeing false opposites when we talk about freedom and protection, innovation and long-term development?

I was born and raised in Mexico, where I am privileged for my education, my professional circle, my sexual orientation, the color of my skin. I have a vision for the world I want to see, my consequent personal plan, and mentors and allies that constantly make my path easier than it was for them. Now I get to spend two years of my life reading, writing, thinking the thoughts I always wanted to think. So how can I make sure that, beyond intellectual stimulation, I can weave this richness into action?

I forgot to say: Hola! I’m Mariel Garcia-Montes, an incoming grad student in Comparative Media Studies, and a research assistant with Sasha Costanza-Chock at the Center for Civic Media at MIT. I will be occupying this blog for two years, and I am looking forward to seeing where all of us are standing – and where I will be standing two years from now. This (and other reasons I mention here) is why I wrote this post.

(Thanks to Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze from the MIT Writing and Communication Center for helping me improve this post. All the clear sentences and moments of perfect syntax are her fault; all the broken and unnecessarily complicated lines are mine.)