When in low-income communities, our use of photography and social media can easily become exploitative. We can unintentionally act as tourists, capturing and consuming the materially poor’s images and stories as if they were a show to be observed. Further, we can capture images as a way of getting an emotional reaction from viewers in order to manufacture a certain response (often to give money), turning the people featured into tools that we use to get a desired result. All of the above dehumanises the people we meet, violating their dignity. Having said this, we need to not ignore the reality of poverty, otherwise we may fail to communicate the complexities of people’s lives. The aim is to portray the reality of people’s lives, while upholding their dignity and resilience in the face of struggle.
By communications, we mean all words (written and spoken), photography and video, shared by whatever means: social media, a public presentation like a school assembly, a private session with family and friends etc. Even if a particular type of communications, for example photos, is singled out in an activity in this course, the principles still apply to all of the other kinds.
Communication isn’t just about the message we send home, but also the message our presence sends to people in places like Cambodia. In order to avoid being a damaging presence we should dress modestly, avoid public shows of wealth, and behave respectfully.
- To help students understand the complexities of communication in a cross-cultural setting
- To establish the importance of the key ideas of dignity and informed consent
- To equip students with the ability to communicate ethically about their experiences in Cambodia