Thinking about the past few days in London and the challenges of the expedition and also thinking ahead to what Yorkshire might be like.
I never knew how much work went into building.
There has been a technology revolution. Back in the old days, memories were recorded on a bulky video camera and watched on a TV using a VCR. Now technology allows you to capture the moments using a recorder that can fit in your pocket. I was really amazed to see and then capture the videos using the flip camera that I first came across at the bold creative office during the film making exercise. It could store up to one hour of footage. One of the main benefits of using a Flip was is its ease of use. The camera starts up within seconds, and is very portable. It really made our work easy, all we had to do was point at the person we wanted to record, hit the button and we were recording. Not only that to upload the clips to a computer, we simply had to flip out a USB connection and hook it up. The camera is perfect for capturing random moments. However I don’t think it’s that good for professional use as the camera has auto-focus, and its 2x zoom limits its use. Furthermore we observed that they aren’t the best option for capturing good audio. The camera picks up other voices and noises around it and therefore it can be difficult to hear the narration. This was frustrating for us as we had spent a lot of time working on some of the videos whose audio was not up to the mark so we couldn’t use them. Therefore one has to be really careful when recording in order to ensure that the voice that they record is clearly audible.
I think this technology could be a very helpful tool for young students out there in Pakistan. It’s a great creative outlet for students. Students can express themselves by creating projects, ads, movies, trailers, and many more video projects for class. It can be used for simple things such as recording a presentation to more complex things like documenting a field trip, doing a demonstration, or performing a skit. Learning how to operate the Flip Camera should only take one minute without consulting the instruction manual and the buttons are minimal. However we also have to take into account its cost and also that they are easily droppable and therefore are likely to be broken in the process of use. As any other thing it has both advantages and disadvantages and I think people will definitely want to use it if they think its benefits outweigh its shortcomings depending on their use.
Inter-cultural dialogue is usually a meeting of seasoned diplomats trying to make others understand their society or civilisation. But the Offscreen Student Expedition is different.
Here, diplomats are replaced with college students and instead of boring monologues, their means of persuasion is art. Six students from Pakistan, including two girls from Karachi, have been chosen by the British Council to be part of a fully paid 15-day trip to London, Birmingham and Yorkshire. “All the students selected for Offscreen have artistic skills,” explains Shahid Ashraf, a British Council coordinator.
They will be armed with their paints, cameras, pens and musical instruments and will be taken aboard a tomato-red truck with a big ‘MashAllah’ painted on it to travel across England. The group will communicate their experiences and engage their peers in a “positive narrative of UK-Islamic world relations, aiming to send a powerful and positive message through the cross-cultural interaction among students, talking about politics, the environment, media and culture”.
Every day during the expedition, participants will use the latest communications technology to create a visual travelogue of their ‘expedition’, broadcasting their experiences live via satellite to their peers in hundreds of classrooms in their countries.
For two weeks, beginning July 11, these students will meet young people across the UK and engage in projects that discuss both global and local issues. “Through these healthy discussions, several stereotypes will be broken and improve Pak-UK relations,” says Saima Khan, a facilitator at the Offscreen Expedition 2010.
“This is a more relaxed way of engaging the youth of Pakistan and the UK in inter-cultural dialogue,” says Mashal Zawar, one of the two delegates chosen from Karachi. Mashal did her A-levels from Karachi Grammar School and aspires to be an architect. She was chosen because she excels in art.
Meanwhile, Salima Shahnawaz was chosen because of a video she made titled, “How much fun is your university?” She is a graduate of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and has always been a top student throughout her school life. “Academic excellence is only part of the story. My primary goal is to be a socially responsible citizen,” she says.
David Martin, the British Council director in Pakistan, said that they were “delighted [...] to offer talented people from all background this fantastic opportunity to travel learn and share their ideas and experiences with thousands more across both countries”.
The British Council’s Ashraf explains that it is called an expedition because it is a journey with a purpose. “In the popular mindset, expeditions are associated with the purpose of reaching a mountain top or researching a rainforest,” he says. “We want to reclaim this word to denote any journey that has a meaningful social purpose and relevance.”
The British Council has ensured that accommodation will be single sex, so girls have nothing to worry about. They have assured students that Halal food will be available along with a special place to offer their prayers. But the students have been advised to be well prepared with “enough underwear and socks, a good pair of trainers or shoes (not flimsy) and a pair of flip-flops (great for the evenings)”.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2010.