Appropriate Technologies and Crowd Sourcing
I’ve always loved the term Appropriate Technologies. It evokes ram pumps that use the force of the water to do the pumping, low tech solar water heaters you can make yourself, and bicycle powered washing machines.
Wikipedia says that Appropriate Technologies is an outdated term and suggests that “sustainable development” has replaced it. These are not just trends in language. They are ideological differences. So many of the free thinking designers in the 70s had to figure out how to make a living. Ideas needed to be marketable for the masses and therefore consistent with the entitlement that our culture indoctrinates.
Wikipedia also informs us that Paul Polak, founder of a company called International Development Enterprises, declared “appropriate technology” dead in a 2010 blog post. He now calls it “affordable technologies”.
For the record (because apparently blog posts do matter) I’m in favor of keeping the term Appropriate Technologies in circulation. I’m glad to report that the Permaculture Activist is too. It’s the theme of their winter 2013-14 issue. Appropriate, to me, means that this design has been chosen because it really serves us and our world, not just an elite few, while forcing others into slave labor and destroying the ecosystems of less privileged nations. And it’s appropriate to me if it helps us streamline and organize our lives in a way that keeps us connected with the Earth and her cycles and her people and our own ability to learn new skills. Guess what, Appropriate Technologies are not just for the poor folks!
Most likely you are reading this on the internet. Can the internet be considered an Appropriate Technology? The main thing that I love about Appropriate Technologies is the idea that our social, economic and environmental stability is more important than making use of the next invention. We get to choose what tools we want to use in our lives. But so often it’s the marketplace that chooses. Like it or not what’s on the internet has shaped our lives significantly in the past five years. It can certainly promote consumerism, but it also can be a great platform for sharing and building community.
We’ve been hoping that crowd sourcing could be an Appropriate Technology. In researching our own fund raising needs, we’ve looked at Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Crowdrise, and other platforms. It’s amazing what people have been able to raise money for. I saw over $12,000 raised for “geeky sprinkles”- new shapes to decorate your cakes with like gears and lightning bolts. !!!
And it’s amazing what doesn’t get funded. Like campaigns for dire medical costs in life or death situations.
We’ve been asking around. Some say for a campaign to be successful, you need to showcase beautiful young women, you need to dumb down the information to sexy soundbites that make people want to click on something. It’s extremely disheartening to reduce one’s love and passion to a photo and a link, hoping people click the like button. I call that poverty.
So how appropriate are the crowd sourcing and social networking sites? For me the answer depends on how you use them. One thing I’ve learned from watching social networking sites is that if you treat people like idiots, they really can become them! So we are choosing to give the public the benefit of the doubt. We are not offering logo’d hats, t-shirts and mugs for our watershed restoration fundraising campaign. We are not filling our video with kittens (well maybe just a few). We are going to appeal to the part of you who wants the full story, who is called to support something they truly value.
And I guess this is just what it’s come to. We looked for grants and government funding to repair the flood damage and its just not there anymore. So if we are able to take care of our watershed and demonstration center through your pocket change, and this crowd sourcing technology allows us to do that, I’m leaning strongly towards calling it appropriate. So what if a few kittens need to be involved? Learn about our campaign!
Written by Amanda Bramble