July 03, 2008

Looking back at the GV Summit '08

It has been a fascinating 7 days in Budapest meeting more than a hundred bloggers and more activists, Gurus, techies and journalists from all over the world. Words cannot describe the moments I had with these wonderful people. So I will highlight here what others had to say about it.

Mialy Andriamananjara from Madagascar described it as United Nations of Bloggers:
I met some amazing people at the summit. Everybody had this international mindset, spoke at least two languages fluently, and had lived, not just visited, in 30 countries!
Neha Viswanathan, the South Asian editor of Global Voices is a amazing entertainer and you never feel bored when she is around. She literally made everybody dance to Bollywood music. She tells how it felt in the company of strangers:
To be able to put a face to an email id and to watch their quirks unfold is delightful. We otherwise tend to border on the morbid - covering censorship issues, conflicts, inflation, politics and the lot. But to see these strangers be able to have so much fun, watch them collapsing into laughter every ten minutes over the silliest of things is comforting.
The humble molecular biologist Lova Rakotomalala from Madagascar says:
I learned an awful lot of new procedures, shattered a few of my prejudiced views, met incredibly knowledgeable yet very low-key people.

Steve Sharra from Malawi probably said how I feel about all of this the best: " You sometimes find yourself a bit pessimistic about the fate of the world, yet, an event like this summit makes you believe that maybe, just maybe, we have a chance to be efficient about increasing our understanding of the world and each other".
The legend Joi Ito, also a board member of Global Voices Online says in his blog:
It was amazing to see so many countries and regions discussing issues face to face in combinations that only the UN would come close to.

Global Voices is a super-important part in fixing what I call the "caring problem". There is a systemic bias against reporting international news in most developed nations. When pressed, many editors will say that people just don't want to read articles about other parts of the world. This is because most people don't care. They don't care because they don't hear the voices or know people in other countries. I think that by providing voices to all over the world, we have the ability to connect people and get people to care more.
Patrick Meier, a friend of GV tells:
This was also the most international conference I’ve been to, the diversity was simply astounding: Belarus, Japan, Egypt, Pakistan, Kenya, Morocco, Hong Kong, Burma, Singapore, Iran, Tunisia, Syria, Bangladesh, China, Bolivia, Madagascar, Colombia, Venezuela, Canada, France, Brazil, India, US, UK, Australia, Thailand, Germany and several more!
A delightful addition in this year's summit was the Rising Voices project and everybody was talking about this project after the session where bloggers and manager from the projects presented their works.

Global Voices Co-Founder Rebecca MacKinnon was brought to tears listening to the presentation:
Rising Voices is funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation. It gives micro-grants to promote blogging among groups of people who are - for various reasons, cultural, economic, linguistic, gender - not taking advantage of the opportunity to express themselves online. After Global Voices was created, there has always been concern by many people in our community that blogospheres in most countries are dominated by wired elites - and that unless we conduct more active outreach, Global Voices is really "Global Elite Voices." Rising voices it our first stab at addressing that problem.
Ethan Zuckerman, the other co-founder of Global Voices was blown away by Rising Voices' success:
Collins Oduor, from the REPACTED community theatre project in Nakuru, Kenya, starts his presentation with a story - my paraphrase of it:

"A young girl is very sociable and likes to play with all the children in the village. Her mother is worried that she’s too friendly and doesn’t want her playing with the boys in the village. So she tells her daughter, “You can’t climb trees with the boys because they will look up your dress and see your underpants.” So the next day, the girl takes off her underpants and climbs the tree."

Oduor ends his story with the single word, “Communication” and the room breaks into laughter. REPACTED specializes in communicating through community theatre. The productions use a wide range of techniques to get communities talking about HIV/AIDS.

Voices Bolivianas, led by Christina Quisbert and Edward Avilla, focuses on the voices of indigenous people, especially indigenous women in Bolivia.

I’m blown away every time I read about the work the Rising Voices grantees are doing. It’s a huge treat, and a major inspiration, to see folks like this on stage.
Ethan also discussed about the innovative collective decision making process which was used in the GV internal meeting.

Evegeny Morozov writes a brilliant article in Open Democracy:
Today, the greatest threat to freedom of expression online is not web censorship but mistreatment of bloggers. This trend again connects bloggers both with their antecedents in the communist-era dissident movements and their fellow-citizens living under authoritarian rule. In facing the threat, many bloggers share the same complex of emotions and reactions (including fears, doubts, and the self-censorship that often follows) that haunts other citizens. This reality was reflected in a recurrent theme of the Budapest conference: "bloggers are not aliens".
Evgeny's article in the Economist on blog standard is also a good read.

This was really a fantastic opportunity for me to meet and learn from all these great bloggers. Thank you Global Voices and I am proud to be a part of it since 2005. Needless to say my Facebook friends have grown after the summit.


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