Global Voices: The world is talking

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Global Voices: The world is talking
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Social media is becoming increasingly influential in coverage of international news events and political uprisings, as we’ve seen in the Middle East and North Africa in recent months. One group that has pioneered this form of news coverage and international dialogue between bloggers, journalists, and activists is Global Voices Online. It is a dynamic online community of more than 300 bloggers and translators around the world that curate and highlight the most fascinating conversations and uses of citizen media with special emphasis on the developing world and anywhere freedom of expression is limited. In this talk, meet Solana Larsen (managing editor) who describes how Global Voices works, what they have learned in the past six years of following blogs in places people rarely hear about, and how you can get involved as a reader, volunteer writer, or translator.
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some have had a little if alcohol
who hello hi heat this is a
picture of the Revolution in Egypt which you've
probably all heard about it the reason that I believe this is because it's global news stories that everyone in the world knows about and you could easily follow it and like he said he could easily follow it just through mainstream news and through television through newspapers or you could also be following it online on the website that I help manage is called Global Voices and ironically sometimes if feel it's and more known in places like Egypt or around Africa in places where are the Internet is less free and less
ubiquitous than it is in places like Germany or in Denmark and where I'm from
and I'd like to just give you an idea of what Global Voices is the kind of universe that we work it a website and but more than a website it's a community of bloggers and digital activists who are working together all over the world and especially in those parts of the world that you rarely hear about in mainstream media and throughout the program here at Republican you had seen them some of them sort of peppered around the different channels and earlier today we saw a mere al-Husseini and
clearly and that tomorrow know-how and at test from Egypt and also somebody who's affiliated with Global Voices and later this afternoon and there is Julien York I am also someone who is been working with Global Voices n it's because it's a community of people who do lots of things on their own and who are involved in local blogospheres all over the world and who are very active and we're working together on this 1 shared project at the same time as they're doing lot of other things around the world so on a day-to-day basis it's a website with we track what's happening around the world through the words of bloggers and people on Twitter and we translate into English and other languages what they're saying so that you can follow it as an alternative or a supplement to the mainstream media
and there this is a photo from the Global Voices
Summit in 2008 and and it just helps illustrate that you know where the actual people who are working together and we're building friendships the and there working together in a virtual environment most of the time and Global Voices has no physical location
and occasionally were able to meet at conferences or at the Global Voices Summit but most of the time we I don't really know the gender for the geographic location of the people were talking to and but we still manage to communicate in the shared project and this picture shows we
are co-founders on both sides as easily Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon wage very well known in their own right online on and they study Global Voices and about 6 years ago this is our Egypt special coverage page
from which a mirror of tiny helps which is the Middle East editor and she's been responsible for a Middle East coverage these past many months and there I traffic has grown dramatically in this period and I think because you know blogs really show their value in this period of and people were so anxious to hear the news all the time and that they kept checking globalvoices frequently and so this kind of special coverage pages that we set up for Egypt and we also set up for so many other countries in the past month and tracking and following trying to understand what people were living and the places where things were happening the Global Voices many
many different countries you probably can't see it from there but this is like a tag cloud that shows the different countries that we cover and I think probably usually for most but news
publications and we have more coverage of Trinidad and Tobago than we do of Germany and we have more stories from that China than we do from Denmark as
any so however sort of interest bias is against the grain of what the rest of the media does and with the exception of breaking news coverage where we as much as possible try and supplement what mainstream media doing with our sort of special style of reporting and to give you an an example of this style here's a story as written by an Egyptian blogger named Tariq Ahmed and then it's called the KFC revolution it's an example that I like a lot because it it shows the Revolution from a different perspective than you would ever get from any sort of mainstream media newspaper it's a story based on what
bloggers we're discussing on the internet it's about how at the height of the protests that mainstream media in Egypt state national television was and broadcasting
these some collars people who were calling in information from various parts of the city of supposedly calling in information but is propaganda but what they were saying where that they had evidence that the protesters had foreign agendas that they were supported by foreign governments and 1 of the reasons that they knew this was because he had the protesters going into Kentucky Fried Chicken on to square and so if this funny situations where I mean it's super serious situation people getting have beaten up on the streets and the police attacking people yet there's this online joke
this internal joke that start spreading on the
Internet and then even makes it onto the square itself so from bloggers discussing the idiocy of state television saying that people have for agendas just because they eat fried chicken from an American restaurant trade it turns into another there's and a picture of the
KFC restaurant and square and in the window There is a sign that says we want the Internet and later on it was occupied by the protesters and turned into an impromptu Medical Center which is kind of you know another continuation of the joke that most people would never have heard of you know I requires too much explanation and here's a
picture of the guy holding up a piece of bread and the piece of paper that glued onto it says this is our KFC so you can see how these these Internet memes are they almost arise out of nowhere and then they get
perpetuated and they get shared really broadly in Egyptian society and I mentioned it as an example because I think you can all imagine you know we was considered in videos of people being beaten up and and you know Mommy shooting at people but this kind of subtle humor this kind of an inside joke that is shared between a population that is very far away from here and you don't parents in the West there's terrible stereotypes that Muslims Arabs have no sense of humor you know that from me stories like this challenge so many of the preconceptions we have about how people think in different parts of the world about what makes them tick and about the language the culture that you know that that would be the fear of of what is happening in a place that's far away his his I think this 1 is really funny this is Tariq from toxic
personal blog he made his own foreign agenda and it's it's it's an agenda and if it's foreign agenda on it but and if people are constantly on playing with these tools and much of it never really gets translated so that the rest of us can be in on the joke explains in those local spheres and part of Global Voices does is translate those things so that they can be more readily I mean it's almost like being able to share a joke with someone is just
that the most basic thing of human relations and on when it comes to the revolution themselves I think also you know being able to make fun of a very serious situation on being able to make fun of uh terrible dictator is 1 of those things that helps people build courage not just in in this revolutionary moment but in many throughout history and humor is something which is really important so when you know Gaddafi's speaking and he says that he's going to go he's going to get people to go door-to-door and murder everybody and kill everybody and you watch on the 1 hand this
terrifying speech and then on the other hand you watch the banter on Twitter you watch people you know on the same hashtag discussing and making fun of him and making jokes all throughout the Arab world it really it that such a human understanding to what it is that's happening and then you know people start uploading photos of their shoes to Twitter you know the sign against Qaddafi or you know they're really makes this speech the YouTube videos or at the neighboring tones from the worst parts of the speech and I mean those kind of behavior and those are the things that have a kind of humans but serious and something that we do all over the world and that is how we use the internet and 1 thing that I think reminds us always of our shared humanity is you know the silly things we do our as well we all
do this no no matter where we're from or how repress we're so this is immediate has has grown a lightning point and you know it's not just globalvoices realizes this sport news consumers but also newsmakers themselves
so for the 1st time I think on a massive scale we've seen mention media news organizations follow blogs follow Twitter and use citizen media to an extent that we've never seen before and and again
I think you know with mainstream media going more and more into this field at and realizing the importance I think where global is different because we have less resources we have mostly only volunteer
writers but where we're different is that the people who are writing these stories are part of the communities that they're describing they speak the local language that there they can filter the things that are happening in a way that an outsider has a lot of difficulty doing and
another thing which is really important about the way that our coverage fields is that we do these stories all year round I mean there is a revolution now and there's been a lot of attention but we've been covering each of 3 years the you know even when mainstream media doesn't care and the cover story on over a long period and build relationships with people and we let the bloggers themselves tell us which stories we should be interested in so as an editor of of global newsroom I have surprisingly little control over what gets published on the site I would never turn down a story because I thought it was newsworthy or it didn't fit you know and news agenda the way our newsroom where is inverted I don't speak chinese so I need the Chinese bloggers to tell me what is being what is happening where you are and what is the story you feel needs to be told to the world and that sort of shift in perspective I think you will you can feel it on the site and so we have I mean we do have some some pretty strange story we had a story the other day about an songs about Facebook in Cambodia all these new popular music sounds about Facebook or it could be be you know whatever people using the same on Twitter for the Peruvian elections for you know it it really is so broad and so global found that it requires I think for readers to really sort of peak their their curiosity levels you have to be curious about what's happening in different parts of the world to really be curious and interested in reading Global Voices this is our Tunisia special coverage page and you know this point I was making about how we're covering things for longer and because we have Tunisian bloggers who are part of our community we were covering this story I think a full month before mainstream media was and you have bloggers who is saying when is the mainstream media gonna
come when his Al-Jazeera then account when is the BBC going to come and it was like nobody could see that this thing was happening and so he had already you know and so Ben Ali had had already left the building and this is that experience with Egypt was very different but I thought this was really an example where if we hadn't been covering this as I feel like an important moment in history almost would have been documented in
as many languages as it was right now I could do
what is probably our main story and this is also a story that we've been covering for months and just watching it grow uglier and uglier and again wondering when is the world going notice how can we get the story from the bloggers who are desperate to tell the story who are desperate to explain what's happening in the country how can we get journalistic care activists to care how can we get this kind of energy around the story that means that there will be on a bigger and sense of responsibility felt by audiences and other people who can help and at quot utilized kind of a different sort of example you know that the story I told him Egypt is a humorous lighthearted and you know the quirky thing that you wouldn't have known about the Revolution and In the case of of equity why 1 of the things that stood out what stands out the most for me is as the hatred has the raw hatred that you see on the internet and here's a quote from a post from several weeks ago that says we're on the brink of a genocide all drift people were describing what was happening in the streets in very very strong in terms with a lot of fear so what was about to happen and this is an example of 1 of the many many horrible things that we've seen on on Facebook and another citizen media forms where and in this case it says it's a video and music video that derives from 1 ethnic group and they compare these people to mosquitoes and they talk about how they're going to repel them with mosquito repellent and beat them down and you see the people in the comments cheering on and cheering on killings cheering on violence and to really horrific level and we've also seen videos of people being stoned alive and for being of the wrong ethnicity and also really atrocious things that sometimes if nobody else is telling the story in the mainstream media isn't listening somehow we want have been situation where we feel responsible to at least and help some of this stuff get out and presented in a way that explains it in context the
stories are so complicated and it's not a case of good and bad or you know black versus white as it's often presented in the mainstream media it it means it needs more of a local localized explanation and we do
we do try and at the end of the deck our focus is to try and tell it as positive stories as
possible to try and focus on users of the Internet and citizen media that help the situation rather than make things worse and in this case this is also from could do watch and it's an example of how some bloggers
noticed that the main hashtags for the unrest in Cote d'Ivoire I was becoming full of hatred and negativity and so they decided to make a new hashtags which would be solely focused on aid helping people and I'm asking for help and and day there were people who pledged to watch it and to do what they could to assist people who use this hash tag for important information it's 1 example on another story right now which is unfolding and which I am team of a francophone offers has been following is bond for months and months and then In this photo that they're holding up from from at from February and its people holding up a sign that saying in Tunisia have been is gone and when is it going to be our turn and dampened protests for weeks in a very interesting political situation but again
most people don't even know where Gabon since they don't know that they should care about it and even in French language media it's very difficult to get these stories out so why should you care for and I
think if if you're at a conference like this 1 you know what the possibilities are of the internet and and you know how much content
is being uploaded and downloaded around the world but you also know how easy it is to get stuck in your online reading habits and that in spite of all the content that exists on the Internet you probably only check a couple of websites on a daily basis and
probably most of them and newspapers that you could read line anyway so you know the idealistic promise of the World Wide Web you were all the citizens would be connected to 1 another but would be communicating and there would be greater dialog and understanding between people I think it you know some of the heads some of it has been realized as but the dream that
bloggers in 1 country would read bloggers in another country and that they would you know be more frequently in touch I think that there has to be realized and it's very rare that even bloggers who can report foreign news issues regularly that they you know as a as a matter of principle would say OK well here's the big story about Russia or Japan and let me go see what
bloggers they're talking about most of the time which is relaying secondhand information and not really using the web I think folks for what it was intended in the most idealistic sense and so a Global Voices which aim to encourage different behavior trying to stop that and try get people to talk to 1 another trying to get journalists to understand better how they can use blogs efficiently in their reporting trying to encourage audiences to be curious and trying to make the world feel like it's a smaller place where people understand each other better and we also I think as a community believe in this transformative and revolutionary power of citizen media in countries where there is even little or or no freedom of expression and I think if you believe in that and if
you support people's right to communicate then
I think you also need to feel kind of sense of responsibility to listen to what people are saying because if people are risking their freedom in China or in around to speak about injustice then what does it matter unless people like you and me are listening it has no effect and so that's kind of the motivation behind Global Voices and the thing that gets you know 3 400 people around the world to go to the website 1st thing in the morning to contribute their time and effort I want to walk if you just a couple of our project and it's not intended to be that kind of ad for Global Voices or whatever and what I'm hoping is that it will inspire you can either to connect with the community the kind of things that we're doing on that it might be you know something that would inspire you to think about what you can do with the Internet to try and make the world feel like a smaller place the idea with our stories I mean it's it's not people here that we're a bunch of bloggers in different countries and they sometimes assume that and that we're doing firsthand reporting from different parts of the world but actually it's 1 it's 1 step removed so we're reporting on what bloggers are doing and so our stories like this when you see on the home page and from this morning this is Japanese bloggers who are discussing the nuclear situation since the earthquake and for as set so we would translations are directly from the Japanese blocks and and when globalvoices started initially the goal was to try and find people in different parts of the world who were talking in English and that whenever any bloggers in the world so you would have you 1 in 1 in Madagascar when in in China 1 here there and then they would be writing about what bloggers are saying in English now the the bloodiest years have expanded all over the world even those places where the Internet is scarce you also have a growth in different regional language blogosphere so you now have a very big French blogsphere in Chinese and Arabic so In the 6 years that Global Voices has existed with now involved to have translations really be at the heart of what we do because that is really 1 of the biggest barriers to understanding around the world so these are
the stories that you see on the English web sites
there may be be written by a japanese blogger translating into English but then we also have a global voices in Chinese where
volunteer translators in Taiwan primarily but also in other parts of the world in in China are translating into Chinese what has been written by colleagues in other countries here's Global Voices in Arabic indeed reversed
and and there here's Global Voices in German and we actually have globalvoices sites in about 20 different languages and almost 20 and some are more active than others and but each hits bridging out in their own community so we have the Italian Global Voices is working with Italian media we have the French Global Voices which has a very large translator community and is working with French media and drawing in more bloggers from francophone Africa and who would necessarily be able to participate in the same way on the English web sites and so we're spending almost like rings in in the water trying to encourage this kind of behavior where people work together line and for a common cause this project is called
Rising Voices and we set up a few years ago to try and address some of the issues of digital divide that you have a lot of countries so we give small micrograms has granted about 3 4 thousand dollars 2 new blogging projects In either countries or communities that you rarely hear from we just
gave another 5 grants and I think last week we announced we had a Guinea-Bissau Brazil India and Mali and also a project in Greece and where we hope to start a project with blind bloggers and a school degrees if it would be yeah but this rising Voices community has
had some successes as well and 1 1
project that we started in in Madagascar a group of youths bloggers and there ended up becoming this very very important voices in
covering uprisings in Madagascar a couple of years ago and it just shows how in in these places where you have very few people doing this kind of thing even a little bit makes a really big difference I mean from having a small blogger project and then all of a sudden having you know group of 10 people all of a sudden quoted in CNN and BBC and in New York Times you know all over the world media just shows how little information we have coming in and
out of these countries and so very small effort can have very large transformative effect in areas where you have almost no communication coming up rising Voices also helped to support this project and which is the technology for
transparency network a lot of the energy in digital activism right now is focused on communication projects that track for instance corruption and it said Citizen Information projects and to hold local government accountable and to get citizens involved in fulfilling tasks that you know could be the role of government and civil society and and we've tracked a whole bunch of projects in many different parts of the world in different languages and it's 1 and 1 of the ways that we have begun to use globalvoices as a resource you know the community is so big that we can find out what's happening in so many different parts of the world and and the truth is that where 1 of the few people who are actively asking what is happening in Africa or Latin America and the issues a lot of the times in the west I think there is an assumption that there isn't a whole bunch of stuff going on that we could learn from them and increasingly I think that's changing a lot of the
innovation we're seeing in these fields is happening in the places where it's most necessary you know where the incentive is as high as possible and where there is so much work to be done this project uses the same software as the other 1 it's called
threatened voices and similarly it's a mapping project and where we crowdsource information on threats and arrests of bloggers and because as these online communities are going to growing and stronger and more influential and they're also
unfortunately becoming more and more targeted and so we see so much harassment and so many so many threats and this project isn't this sort of and am a side project
of global Voices Advocacy which is run by my colleague and Sami Ben Gharbia from Tunisia and here we follow on these digital and free speech issues more broadly and you can see here last week an Egyptian by this week this week an Egyptian blogger was sentenced to 3 years in prison for insulting the military and so you can see that there's a lot of work to be done and and as much as we celebrate what's happening I think our
community knows as more and more than anyone how much work there still is left to be done and which is why was the following these issues and covering it while many others may have moved on to other stories so this is that a photo from that the global once the summit and insulin last year
exactly a year ago actually then I think you have finished with this 1 because I think 1 of the main achievements has been to build friendships between all these many people I think there's no doubt that the connections that we've made between these activists have inspired and encouraged new projects and I think overall it's also raise the level of ambition for what's possible what you can do with this kind of technology and citizen media use around the Middle
East revolutions is definitely you know indicative of this but as this just there's
nothing obvious about 0 Russian blogger talking to an African blogger in Kenya and you know unless you make a conscious effort for these connections to be made between people it just won't necessarily happen on its own Chinese bloggers aren't always talking to Tunisian bloggers unless there is a shared forum for these conversations to take place on and at the same time well we need these people to talk to 1 another it's also enormously implied that there
is an audience for the type of work that they're doing
that there are people who are at their computers were curious enough to click on a link here from globalvoices anywhere else to just visit that talk to that person or leave a comment and acknowledge how people are risking their lives to get this information out and who were trying to to make the world feel smaller like I said and and who were trying to reach out 2 people from faraway so thanks for listening this is a long but do we
have any questions don't see anyone standing at the microphone someone wants the way the hands no questions come on although we have 1 a look if someone is too far from the microphone I can just and according to current and
Thomas Spiegel to of moderate also a journalist by training on of broader talks of fluorescent was we're always mention I'm wondering is so because of professional journalist accredited I'm wondering is there any safeguards URI using because I have no idea what would Chinese might be you want to
trust or isn't and the State Security in some countries using this form of media to influence the rest of the world so what what ways you save but I think this is
this is the point where it becomes super important to have a trusted network of individuals know not random people that individuals who you know from their own blogs from their own writing who are explaining the
situation as a whole you know and I rely on on carcasses editor to tell me who he thinks is a is being funded by the
Armenian government in the blocks and I know that our Russian bloggers are keenly aware of and what people's political affiliations or and that these are things that it's very difficult to see is an outsider and it's very difficult to parachute in to the blogosphere and get an overview of who is who and how people are connected to each other that's the kind of thing that you need people monitoring overtime you need to know who the players are and you need to know who's worth listening to and you know I think on the 1 hand you could be due by some people and on the other hand just like in any other medium you can you have you run the risk of looking too narrow only 1 example that I use you know that was all the Iranian protesters there was so much mainstream media coverage of Iranian blogs in the aftermath after the election in the protest and you would think from reading Western media coverage that all Iranian bloggers support on
you know freedom of speech that they all want to get rid of the government that they all hate Ahmadinejad and the truth is actually that there is an enormous blogosphere neurons of people writing person who support the government who support you know hard hardline Islamic who want the president to be in power and just the other day we we had a story we and there was 1 blogger who was
against the protesters who wrote a very you know colorful post about how he went out to beat up protesters and how he prayed for the security forces to come and help speed up the protesters they came and you know it's another it's another outside of what we usually here so I think sometimes when you're looking from the outside you can even and mistake
people for having 1 opinion or another or you can have only looked to 1 side 1 version of the story not look beyond as a close circle of people who are having a conversation so I mean it's just like with any other kind of journalism you have to be thoughtful about how you approach a story you know if you go into your personal history for an ordinary article that you know you can just
trust that person face value online at least you know there's a there's a trail you can follow what people have been saying over time but I think you know the same journalistic principles and need to be a problem we need to be carefully to check sources and hopefully you should know what you're talking about any more questions the body so Salonika maybe for the people for the 1st word of Global Voices is there 1 single article where you would say OK you really should stop with this is that he catches fire on Global Voices I
think that the way I would like and is probably not by a single article maybe by a single country you know the it's it's usually the 1st thing people do is there is 1 of the slide that I showed earlier has take back to it has the has the country tag cloud yeah so when you come to the home page if you click the green the green tab at the top distinct dropped down and it had all the different countries that we've covered and what most Europeans do which is kind of annoying that they go look for their own country the click on Germany and Denmark or whatever and will never have any stories from their constituencies over the nor Europe and that maybe there's another country that you follow politically that you're interested in or maybe somewhere you're going on holiday all something like that to pick a country and then read a few stories from there and not just read the story but click on links come to the event feels like it's almost like people a Shiites intends to see what it feels like to read you know if you're going on on holiday too great you check out what's Greek bloggers talking about and find out what the flavor of the political conversation is right now and you know if you're compelled by something you read the notes and the person the e-mail has to visit them most of the people here are people who are digitally interested in or inclined and then you can have things in common with people and you know they live far away I think what we want to encourage this kind of sense of solidarity between bloggers and people who were doing interesting things with technology around the world and that extends to here you know it's not just about getting African top the Chinese people the talk American people I think you
know we in the west need to be part of that global conversation as well so thank you so much that was so interesting applause a level of things formal
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