As human beings, we all have a natural, inborn need to share our stories and participate in the world around us. Democracy provides a system that empowers us to do just that – to freely think, express ourselves and work together towards creating a good society. Today, in the 21st Century, active citizens can no longer solely rely on their human voices to generate change; we must learn to leverage the power of digital media to create the world we want.
There are currently opportunities for youth to access ICT in cafes or youth centers in Thimphu and across Bhutan. The problem with these spaces, however, is that they rarely get used for anything more than playing computer games and ‘Facebooking’. Often, this happens due to poor management; those overseeing the space do very little to motivate youth, offer them trainings, and point them in more fruitful directions.
The Media Lab is a dynamic space where youth can access all sorts of digital media equipment and learn how to use it for the betterment of Bhutanese society. Ever since we formally launched the Media Lab in March, 2013, we have led several activities aimed to empower young people in sharing their voice in a democracy. Some of the activities led are-
- Photography training and photo exhibition
- Multimedia Storytelling workshops
- Audio-podcasting workshop
- Creative writing trainings
- Micro-documentary workshops
- Monthly Open Mic Nights
- Social Media Conversations
- Short forums and seminars
- Community Mapping workshop
- Youth Initiative
All of these activities has helped us realise the potential of youth in using creative tools in sharing their voice. The Media Lab continues to hosts activities such as open mic nights and social media conversations that bring together a cohort of young people from a diverse background and discuss concerning issues.
Located at the YDF Nazhoen Pelri Complex, Thimphu, the Media Lab is equipped with state of the art technology such as iMac computers with creative software to edit photos, videos and audios. It has still cameras and audio recording kits that can be lent out to the members of the lab. The lab also has a section dedicated to all sorts of books, board games and other sport equipments for the youth to drop in and hang out.
We have always invited individuals and institutions from a very diverse background for all our lab activities. Members of the parliament (National Assembly and National Council), representatives from civil society organisations, representatives from the government, teachers, representatives of the political parties and visitors from outside Bhutan have been a part of our programmes and at times led several programmes. However, our main target audience for the Media Lab has always remained the younger segment of our country’s population. We have worked with youths from schools, colleges, employed, differently-abled and out-of-school youths.