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3 Things We Can Learn From Porn, Sports, and Soap Operas

By Wayan Vota on December 8, 2016

soap-opera

Did you ever worry about the lack of porn in cybercafés? Or work on increasing World Cup viewership? What about a TV drama dissemination program? I thought not. So what can we learn from the most popular online activities?

Entertainment Matters

Too often, our interventions are devoid of anything fun. We are serious about people improving their lives, and we want everyone else to have the same focus. No jokes, no humor, not even a wink when talking about sex education. No laughter in a farmer’s field, and certainly not in the classroom.

Yet look where people go to willingly. They love porn and spend on sports. They enrich Hollywood as they pay to watch movies. And yet we pay stipends to get them to attend our trainings. Might we do better with a little more levity?

Heroes Matter

Quick, name your favorite sports star! Or your favorite sports team? Why do you cheer for them when they can’t hear you through the telly? Or would they even notice you in a stadium of 20,000? Yet there you are, yelling at the screen like it would make a difference.

Why do you care? Because they call to your emotions and make you feel connected to them on a personal level. Does your agriculture intervention attempt the same passion-first priority? Is there a line item in your budget for old-school team building for constituents?

Medium Matters

Do you know where most Americans first saw an interracial couple, or discussed divorce or abortion on a national scale? On soap operas (USA) or telenovelas (Latin America). While many of us might scoff at the fakeness of the shows, they were, and still are, cultural trailblazers, able to talk about taboo topics in a way that’s changed more minds than any development intervention.

Yet talk about infotainment for development, and you’ll be laughed out of the room. You shouldn’t be. If we could permeate Nollywood movies with gender-positive role models, real debates about contraception and HIV, and the need for girls’ education, like Brazil and Mexico did with telenovelas, we could see real change fast.

You have to work to get people to read your prenatal care SMS text, but they’ll pay to watch their favorite stars act the fool. Might you be a fool for skipping excitement in your education program?

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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6 Comments to “3 Things We Can Learn From Porn, Sports, and Soap Operas”

  1. Ronda Zelezny-Green says:

    I have been saying this for years. Even suggested this as a theme for this year’s mEducation Alliance to no avail. Hopefully someone hears you on this.

  2. Not Relevant says:

    Just want to remark that the title of this article and the line “Did you ever worry about the lack of porn in cybercafés?” is massively inappropriate for public dissemination, for many reasons.

    • Wayan Vota says:

      Sadly, porn is a huge issue in cyber cafes and one of the main reasons that women often do not feel comfortable using them. So while you might not want to talk about it, that doesn’t make it any less relevant an issue for ICT4D practitioners.

      • Not Relevant says:

        I believe then we are agreeing on the issue; no, the lack of porn at cybercafes does not worry us. Perhaps just re-working that sentence would help. Thanks!

        • Wayan Vota says:

          That is the point. We don’t worry about the lack of porn, or sports scores, or soap operas because people seek these services out w/o any of our assistance. But we should worry every day that our services are not as popular.

          But I also think we should not be shy to acknowledge that people will continue to seek out porn, regardless of what moral values we might have about it.

  3. Leocadia says:

    This really struck me hard. it is like so true. im African and the first thing I thought of is issues to do with homosexuality. the way it is now often being screened in these operas is surely changing our mindsets. people are becoming more tolerant and can even picture a future with probably homosexual children….. anyway, the point is the strategy will surely work if we decide to screen more of developmental issues. people will then be more about development and being productive