Flotsam: Our occasional series of pieces about ideas and views from other places.
We weren’t quite sure what to make of these web pages at first. Built by Gapminder in Sweden, they show two hundred and forty families, across forty six countries, and link a series of images of their possessions and homes to their average monthly income.
Was it voyeurism that made us uncomfortable? Was it the notion of ‘economic tourism’? Or simply the discomfort of being shown a stark reality, illustrating how individuals and families, often precariously, cling to hope, aspiration and dignity?
For the team at Gapminder the proposition for Dollar Street is clear. These are the facts and they should temper all discourse about the other – other people, communities and culture.
Was it our imaginations, or did the preponderance of families with incomes of less than five hundred dollars a month across the globe decline to smile in the photographs? Of course this could be a cultural thing, rather than a crude measure of some sort of economic level on an imagined ‘happiness index’.
However, the wealth of Creative Commons images on the site and the short biographies of the people photgraphed make for an interesting comparative study.
To counteract litanies of fear, prejudice and racism can be no small aim. Rendering global ignorance redundant by illuminating the world with facts. No small ambition for a small Swedish independent Foundation.
‘For the first time in human history reliable statistics exist. There’s data for almost every aspect of global development. The data shows a very different picture: a world where most things improve; a world that is not divided. People across cultures and religions make decisions based on universal human needs, which are easy to understand.
The fast population growth will soon be over. The total number of children in the world has stopped growing. The remaining population growth is an inevitable consequence of large generations born decades back.
We live in a globalized world, not only in terms of trade and migration. More people than ever care about global development! The world has never been less bad. Which doesn’t mean it’s perfect. The world is far from perfect’. Source: https://www.gapminder.org/about-gapminder/
For teachers Gapminder has a proliferation of resources and toolkits available to explore the world through data.
Gapminder World offers access to a series of global trends and an on-line/off-line toolkit to explore them. A teacher’s guide to 200 years of world developmental history and change. A Life Expectancy PowerPoint, with background information and a teacher’s guide.
Having wrangled with the intrusive nature of the Dollar Street image index, and having read the Gapminder mission statements, we felt their argument that the world is indeed ‘a better place’ to be much needed in troubled econo-social and educative times.