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Athabasca University

Project Courses: A Tutorial

Background of the SOLO idea

FootprintsA long time ago, in 1996, I was working with youth on the streets and raising a baby. We lived in a rural setting, with a wood stove and three television channels. Winters here are long, dark and rainy. Besides reading Dr. Seuss (no disrespect intended), there wasn't much to do with my extra mental energy.

I had a good friend at the time, who was an early-adopter of the Internet. We'd visit and he'd tell me about this new world of cyberspace. I read William Gibson's Neuromancer and argued about the need to keep in the real world. My argument at the time ran towards "It's all fine and well to create a new dimension to community, but you'll still need someone to pick the apples." It wasn't a very sophisticated argument in retrospect, but represents the beginning of my wondering about the line between cyberspace and real space, and how changes in communication were going to unfold. Many years later, and almost one degree completed, I am still working on the answers to these big questions.

I think it might have been the mid-nineties phrase, which has since passed into obscurity, information super highway that gave me the idea that became central to my later studies. It might have been my partner, who was also a street worker at the time. Or, it might have been my experience in Internet Relay Chats. Somewhere along the line I started to speak about the idea of taking the concepts of youth advocacy, peer mentoring and honouring the voice of youth into virtual worlds. I have worked with youth, many of whom have been sexually exploited, recruited and worked the streets for several years. I can't actually remember when I first heard that the Internet was being used as a tool to exploit children. But I knew it, and it was an idea that wouldn't go away.

These ideas had percolated for some time while I was doing a bunch of other things:

  • I was doing a sex education talk in the local high schools.
  • Was on a local action team looking at the prevention and awareness about the sexual exploitation of youth.
  • I saw Stolen Lives an NFB film on the exploitation of youth in Vancouver and Calgary.
  • I was asked to join the board of the Alliance for the Rights of Children.
  • And, I went to a four day institute on the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child at the University of Victoria.
  • How could I use these activities to launch the next stage of my career?

Updated February 18 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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