Uncommon projects
- Karen Bolilia () - November 18, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - In 2010, Clay Shirky released a book called Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, on the shared, constructive online work that we do with our free time. Off the bat, you’ve got at least a couple of questions: first, who is he; and second, why the hell should I care?

Points taken. The SparkNotes version of why you should pay attention comes down to a few things: the Internet, the world’s accumulated free time, and well, you. Though this isn’t about the amount of available spare time we’ve got (but for the record, trillions according to Shirky), but what we make out of it. We don’t have to look very far to find cognitive surplus’ spawns. 9gag is a product of cognitive surplus. So is Suri’s Burn Book. So is every hash tag ever created about a Kardashian (in its most recent vernacular: that 72-day circus of a marriage). But so are human rights forums. And the MMDA Traffic Navigator mobile app. The mundane shares the same genus as the civic; but what elevates the latter from the former is its purpose.

In an age where anyone can be someone and where social media’s enabling powers need no sitting, waiting and wishing, it becomes necessary to draw the line somewhere within the cosmos of cyber-Sims. Clay Shirky’s lending us a hand in making that distinction. That line being a little less about personal rumination and a little more about citizen contribution. So you tweet about how inefficient the LTO is. Now what?

From efforts to promote Filipino literature to grassroots journalism, Young Star rounds up some new online projects worth a visit, the creators of which have been using their free time pretty wisely. Design-literate and civic-oriented, these new websites already succeed in our book because they’re products of what happens when you try. Here are some people who are creating something more collaborative—people giving a damn, urging you give a damn about it, too.

RoadTrip Zambales, http://roadtripzambales.ph/

Who:  Patricia Ann Cantero, May Umaly and Vanessa Cancino

Website team: Judd Figuerres, Joseph Pascual, Sasha Palmores, LJ Almendras and Aleli Mesina (video), Denise Santos (music), Carina Santos (web design and logo), Gabby Cantero (photography).

The goal: To capture the spirit and wonders of Zambales for the young, the techie and the curious.

What to look out for: The “Experience” tab, where entries inspired by recent visits to Zambales are to be uploaded.    

What’s striking about RoadTrip Zambales isn’t so much that it’s a tourism-inclined site, but that it’s a tourism-inclined site we’d actually read. With its interface designed as if it’s a blog, RoadTrip Zambales, with it’s charming videos and photos (all shot by one of Young Star’s perma-photogs, Gabby Cantero) it succeeds in showing a destination could be shaped so you’d want to go there—as soon as possible.

“RoadTrip Zambales is an invitation on several levels,” says the RoadTrip Zambales team. “It was natural to peg the tourism pitch on a road trip, because the physical and visual realities on the road are so ideal.” Whether you’re after some down time or adventure, what RoadTrip Zambales really proposes is a rekindling of sorts—a visual revival of what it means to have a good vacation. What could be better than that?

Recovery, http://recovery.ph/

Who: Carina Santos and Catrina Cortes

The goal: To get the word out about how brilliant Filipino writers are.

What to look out for: Modern interpretations of formerly published book covers.

Restoring the lost appreciation of Filipino literature has probably got Carina and Catrina at their wits’ end, but Recovery is evidently more than just a clever pun. “Recovery wants to ignite a passion for Filipino literature by writing reviews,” Carina says. “The difference is that we have also chosen to merge it with design, which is arguably a weak point in Philippine publication.”

Recently launched and currently boasting of a single entry called The Manila We Knew, Recovery’s design aspect is spot-on and obviously injected with a younger perspective. “Hopefully, we generate interest to help and cultivate the local scene,” she adds. “We want to create something that will make people love Philippine literature, and we hope to somehow inspire better covers.”

Spaces, http://spaces.withstrangers.com/

Who: Zet Diaz

The goal: Exhibiting different perceptions of “personal space” by different kinds of people from different parts of the world.

What to look out for: Not what, but who. Author Deb Olin Unferth (of Vacation, Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War) is one of Spaces’ recent contributors.

“It was such an abstract idea at first,” says Zet, “but when I started writing to participants, people I deeply respected, most of them somehow understood what I was going for.” She’s talking about Spaces, a voluntary global collaboration that involves people and their personal space. Though born and bred in Manila, Spaces has already clocked in thousands of virtual miles from stopovers at Spain, USA and Norway.

Zet got the idea for the project after studying abroad and observing different cultures. “It triggered a curiosity in how people are in their own, natural environment,” she says. From the original video of photos and words, Spaces will soon feature artworks and videos as well. “I want to keep going and hopefully cover as many countries as possible,” Zet adds. “Ideally, I want to exhibit the project physically in a gallery somewhere.”

Lagarista, http://lagarista.com/

Who: Mikh Vergara (EiC), Noel Vergara (executive director), and Zig Marasigan (executive producer)

The goal: To become that centralized hub for Filipino Film information. Indie or mainstream, professionals and fans — a place where the community can all stomp around in and interact.

What to look out for: “Trip to Quiapo,” weekly reviews of the less-current films of Philippine Cinema.

Before you even ask—no, this isn’t like Rotten Tomatoes. Lagarista is all film and all-Filipino, with a Vulture touch. Its key elements—news, trailers, reviews, shorts and festivals, all take full advantage of the scroll function. What separates Lagarista is how they unify things together, enough for a cineaste to be satisfied and for an occasional moviegoer to keep looking around. This is the SM Department Store of film sites/blogs—it’s local, it’s accessible and they’ve got it all for you. They’re a pretty friendly bunch as well. “Add us up on Facebook,” Mikh Vergara says. “We’re decent and chatty folk, and we could use the likes.”

Lagarista refers to the boys on bicycles who deliver cans of film reels from one theater to another, which also happens to be a film starring Piolo Pascual (pre-Papa P, pre-everything stage). In one of its reviews, Richard Bolisay said, “Lagarista does not aspire for greatness…but it was able to achieve a feat so little but heartfelt, capturing a phase in Philippine cinema when filmmakers cared less about stars but the stories they earnestly wanted to tell.”

Tao Po, http://taopo.org/

Who: Changeneers Digital Corporation

The goal: To collect and respond to stories of dissatisfaction, satisfaction and citizen initiatives regarding government services.

What to look out for: Tao Photo, wherein you can submit pictures of daily circumstances to be uploaded on the site.

Tao Po’s only got one memo for everyone: to remember that efficient government service is our right. “It was a result of several kwentuhan sessions amongst friends about how inefficient some government agencies are, “ says Vangge Giorgetti. That group of friends being media and news veterans hoping to create an advocacy. Essentially, Tao Po is a government agency reports portal—a site where you can read and watch news that happens inside the different government offices.

“The website is not meant to be a news and current affairs website, it’s more micro and LGU yung dating niya—grassroots journalism,” Tata Yap, contributor and designer, adds. Tao Po makes user-generated content a collaborative experience, empowering one dissatisfied citizen at a time.

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