Sunday, November 23, 2008

Activist Project

Free Rice is a non-profit organization that allows you to help feed some of the world’s less fortunate by answering trivia questions. What? When one logs onto the site, one can get started with grammar and language questions, then switch over to French, geographic, art and other multiple choice questions selected at random. For every correct answer, Free Rice donates 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

This is one of those organizations that no one has any excuse not to participate in. Consider all the hours you piss away Google-ing your own name or Facebook-ing in class. Twenty grains isn’t much, but multiply that by the number of people on the site at a given time and multiply that by the number of correct questions you answer and you can actually make some kind of a different. And it doesn’t require a credit card number or any significant amount of commitment. You can give someone a meal by sitting at your computer for a little while.

I feel like this brings to fruition McLuhan’s vision of a real “global village”. Those located in the third world (we’ve isolated them so much we’ve given where they live a name that suggests they’re not from our world) are now interconnected to the point that one does not have to travel many thousands of miles in order to help, even a little bit. We can agree that we’ve essentially made the shift from print culture to a more encompassing culture – a website organization such as Free Rice could not have existed before the advent of the internet. This enables us to act on the issues whether we like it or not, after all we’re not really doing anything whilst feeding someone far away, apart from answering trivia. While a great idea and organization which I still stand by, I can only hope it doesn’t lull people into a false sense of thinking they’ve accomplished a terribly generous act by answering five trivia question. I think the purpose of such a website, as well as the main premise behind McLuhan’s Global Village, is to stimulate change and action in people.

When the site first began operating at the beginning of October of 2007, so many people logged on and played that by the beginning of November, they were able to help feed 50,000 people. [1] In about half an hour of playing on Free Rice, I got 4000 grains of rice worth of questions right; that’s 83 grams of rice. It takes about 400 grams of rice to feed a person for a day. In half an hour I might have spent updating my Facebook, I didn’t change the universe, but I did something – and I learned that Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas (holla).

[1] "Web game provides rice for hungry." BBC News: Europe. 10 Nov 2007. BBC News. 23 Nov 2008 .

Playboy, "The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan." Playboy Magazine March 1969. 23 Nov 2008 . <>.

1 comment:

amanda. said...

so i totally love this entry
and that website is my new favorite
website. you make so many good points! thanks for talking about
free rice as your activist project, i plan on telling anyone who will listen about it :)